In Canada you need to be 18 years old to vote, but more than 1/5 of our population is below that age. Who will vote with their interests in mind in this election? Will their parents do so? Some of them may, but unfortunately voter turnout in Canada is only about 57% among eligible voters and the turnout is much higher among seniors than among younger segments of the population. That means that not only are children not able to vote, but probably less than 50% of their parents are heading to the polls.
Who is speaking up for children?
Even though children cannot vote, there are several initiatives aimed at informing the electorate and getting the attention of candidates when it comes to children's issues.
UNICEF Canada has started a Close the Gap for Kids campaign. It posted some statistics on the issues facing children (lacking access to mental health services, high levels of poverty among First Nations children, too many children overall depending on welfare) and developed a simple Charter for Children that it is asking the candidates and the political parties to support. UNICEF sent out a questionnaire to each of the parties asking them to indicate if they support the elements of the charter and giving them the opportunity to comment on how they would address it. Four of the five political parties responded to the questionnaire (the Conservatives did not) indicating what their plans are to support children.
The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children is asking the political parties to support children's rights by:
- Treating all children fairly
- Giving children living in poverty a chance
- End discrimination that leaves some children behind
- Take effective steps to end youth violence and prevent youth crime
- Give all young children a good start in life
- Be accountable to children
Organizations like Save the Children are asking the political parties and voters to think about the health care needs of children in Canda and abroad (although their materials do seem to focus more on the needs of children in developing countries). Some of the themes, however, are similar to the issues that are facing Canada's rural areas - i.e. an absence of local health care workers because health care professionals tend to prefer the opportunities that exist in urban areas. Some of Canada's political parties want to work with the provinces to get more health professionals in rural areas to try to close this gap, while others prefer to download this issue entirely to the provinces and hope that they do the right thing. According to Health Canada's website:
Roles and responsibilities for Canada's health care system are shared between the federal and provincial-territorial governments. Under the Canada Health Act (CHA), our federal health insurance legislation, criteria and conditions are specified that must be satisfied by the provincial and territorial health care insurance plans in order for them to qualify for their full share of the federal cash contribution, available under the Canada Health Transfer (CHT). Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the management, organization and delivery of health services for their residents.
Personally, I believe that this division of responsibilities provides a lot of room for cooperation and collaboration to ensure universal accessibility of critical health care services across the country, which includes ensuring children have access to mental health care services and also ensuring that there are health care professionals in rural communities.
Voting for Parents and Women = Voting for Children
While there are many initiatives that can be aimed directly at children, ultimately since parents are the caregivers of children, policies and programs that will support them, will also support children. Initiatives that allow parents to spend more time with their children (parental leave, work-life balance), that help them access the resources they need to care for their children (health care, day care, early childhood education), and more will make the lives of parents easier and improve outcomes for children.
In the article Only Half of Moms Vote, Amy Willard Cross wrote:
As women, it’s especially important for us to spend our vote wisely. The more we vote, the more likely we are to get mom-friendly, woman-friendly policies. In Saudi Arabia where women can’t vote, they also won’t let them drive. If they could vote, wouldn’t they toss politicians who deny them independent transport? However, the Nordic countries that have the highest percentage of elected women 41.6%--also happen to have great parental leave, childcare etc.
She also makes the excellent point that "casting your ballot for more women candidates will bring more diversity and balance to decisions. Recent research has shown that diversity in decision-making (in the financial sector and tech sector) brings about better results. Getting more women at the table politically also changes the outcome."
If you are a parent, grandparent, or any type of responsible citizen, please do the right thing and get out and vote for May 2. When you vote, try to vote for what is best for our country, for those who cannot vote for themselves, rather than voting simply by what will suit your life the best. Please, when you vote, think of the children who do not have a voice in this election.
If you don't want your vote, my six year old has some pretty strong opinions on this election. Would you be willing to cast a vote for him?
More Election Coverage! I'm also guest posting today on the great American political blog PunditMom. Please go check out my post: