Central elementary students (from left) Sophie Priebe

Central elementary students (from left) Sophie Priebe

Students make their mark

While they weren’t a factor at yesterday’s polling stations, they will be a factor in years to come. And if the Grade 5-6 classes at Central elementary had their way, the Green Party would be leading the country today.

While they weren’t a factor at yesterday’s polling stations, they will be a factor in years to come. And if the Grade 5-6 classes at Central elementary had their way, the Green Party would be leading the country today.

“They care about the environment a lot, and that’s something I feel very strongly about,” said Grade 6 student Kayla Bradshaw. “The root of every problem is connected to the environment and if we take care of it, we’ll have a better country.”

Central elementary took part in Student Vote Canada, a parallel election, coinciding with the federal election, for students under the voting age. Over a two-week span, students were visited by all six Chilliwack candidates: Dorothy-Jean O’Donnell, Marxist-Leninist Party; Gwen O’Mahony, New Democratic Party; Diane Janzen, Liberal Party; Mark Strahl, Conservative Party; Jamie Hoskins, Green Party; and Clive Edwards, Western Block Party.

On Friday, students went to the polls.

Of 57 students voting, a majority of 41 checked off the Green Party.

“I’m voting Green definitely,” said Grade 6 student Kane Tass, before ducking behind the ballot box. “Everyone’s always talking about pollution and global warming and I want to live awhile.”

Tass believes the Green Party’s efforts will enable just that.

Student Vote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing student interest in elections.

Voter turnout in the 2008 federal election reached an all-time low with just 59 per cent of Canada voting. In several communities across the country, voter turnout was less than 50 per cent. Figures for yesterday’s election were not available at press deadline.

Grade 6 student Linda Clarke-Harter couldn’t imagine not exercising her democratic right when she comes of age.

Clark-Harter comes from a political family with her dad John-Henry Harter a school trustee, who once ran provincially for NDP. She did not break the family line.

“We talk a lot about politics at home and discuss the different parties,” the 12-year-old said. “I liked how the Green Party candidate spoke to us and that he cared about the environment, but I didn’t want to vote for him because I wasn’t sure about everything else.”

Central’s election increased voter turnout this year for two families at least. Following each candidate’s presentation, Tass went home and talked to his mom about all he had learned about the different parties.

“And she started to get excited about all this stuff too and said that she was going to start voting,” he said.

For Grade 5 student Julie Pham, who is the reason Central got involved with Student Vote, the experience was more about finding the right candidate for her parents to vote for.

“My mom doesn’t know English very much,” said Pham, whose parents immigrated from Vietnam. “Whenever a candidate said anything about pollution and homelessness, I took that home to my parents … that’s important to us.”

Teacher Christopher Lister hopes the experience will stick with the kids for years to come.

“Right now, they get it,” he said.

“Through this, I hope that when the time comes they will exercise their right to vote.”

kbartel@theprogress.com