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National Roundtable on Youth Voter Engagement

Building Youth Civic Engagement through Collaboration

Report of the Roundtable on Youth Voter Engagement

September 4, 2012

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The Public Policy Forum is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of government in Canada through enhanced dialogue among the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Forum's members, drawn from business, federal, provincial and territorial governments, the voluntary sector and organized labour, share a belief that an efficient and effective public service is important in ensuring Canada's competitiveness abroad and quality of life at home.

Established in 1987, the Forum has earned a reputation as a trusted, nonpartisan facilitator, capable of bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in productive dialogue. Its research program provides a neutral base to inform collective decision making. By promoting information sharing and greater links between governments and other sectors, the Forum helps ensure public policy in our country is dynamic, coordinated and responsive to future challenges and opportunities.

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Elections Canada is an independent, non-partisan agency that reports directly to Parliament. We must be prepared at all times to conduct a federal general election, by-election or referendum, administer the political financing provisions of the Canada Elections Act, monitor compliance and enforce electoral legislation. Elections Canada is also mandated to conduct voter education and information programs, and provide support to the independent boundaries commissions in charge of adjusting the boundaries of federal electoral districts following each decennial census. Finally, Elections Canada may carry out studies on alternative voting methods and, with the approval of parliamentarians, test electronic voting processes for future use during electoral events.

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© 2012, Public Policy Forum

ISBN: 978-1-927009-37-6
This report is co-authored by the Public Policy Forum and Elections Canada, under the direction of Julie Cafley and Ryan Conway (Public Policy Forum), and Neil Burron and Miriam Lapp (Elections Canada).

Letter from project co-chairs:

On June 5, 2012, Elections Canada and Canada’s Public Policy Forum met in Ottawa with stakeholders from across the country to discuss ways to address issues of youth civic engagement, specifically youth voter turnout. The Roundtable on Youth Voter Engagement brought together over 30 representatives from civil society, the private sector and government, including educators, student leaders, and representatives of youth-serving organizations and the media.

We were pleased to co-convene this session, and to see the serious appetite for action on this issue that exists across different sectors of Canadian society.

Throughout the day, participants agreed that voter turnout is a broad societal issue, and that youth face a number of barriers affecting their engagement in democratic political life. Recognizing the complexity of the issue, participants proposed multiple solutions to address declining youth voter turnout based on a collaborative approach to engaging with youth on an ongoing basis – not only at election time. Participants agreed that civic education must be at the core of youth engagement, and that a multi-facetted approach to engagement would be most effective.

The roundtable came to general agreement that, while access barriers are not the main factor behind the continuing decline in youth voting, there are many ways to make the electoral process and our broader system of governance more accessible to young Canadians. With the diversity of youth in Canada, there was consensus on the need for multiple engagement strategies and more thorough tracking of progress. Perhaps most importantly, participants agreed that we must approach youth as responsible and capable participants in our democracy. It was also recognized that addressing this challenge requires collaborative action across many different institutions and social groups. Responsibility and accountability must be shared.

This roundtable was an important first step in the development of a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach to addressing youth voter engagement. While much remains to be done, participants demonstrated their desire to continue to work together, and to expand the network of partners in this initiative.

We invite you to review this report of the roundtable discussion and proposed actions, and look forward to working with you in addressing this issue of vital importance to the long-term health of our democracy.

Marc Mayrand Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
Marc Mayrand
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada
David Mitchell  President and CEO Canada's Public Policy Forum
David Mitchell
President and CEO
Canada's Public Policy Forum