Part 1: What Mulcair means for the youth vote

How the NDP's plan for the country would affect young voters

Mulcair has plans for education, job creation and mental healthcare.
Mulcair has plans for education, job creation and mental healthcare.

Part 2: What Trudeau means for the youth vote
Part 3: What Harper means for the youth vote

At a time when low voter turnout among Canadian youth makes us an unattractive target for politicians, NDP leader Tom Mulcair views young people as a legitimate voting population.

Meanwhile, Harper and Trudeau’s platforms address new voters as a side note or exclude us from the conversation entirely.

Mulcair’s platform makes him the most appealing choice for young voters in the upcoming federal election. Like the other leaders, the precariousness of Mulcair's economic plan makes him a less than ideal candidate. Still, he’s the leader most aware of issues affecting Canadians aged 18 to 25, and has plans address youth job creation, mental health awareness and balancing the budget.

Two weeks ago, Mulcair identified the staggering 13.1 per cent youth unemployment rate — nearly double the national average — as an result of “the vicious cycle that exists: no experience, no job; no job, no experience."

Mulcair’s solution is to pledge $200 million for the creation of 40,000 jobs, internships and co-ops for young people. Additionally, the NDP plans to crack down on unpaid internships by requiring all companies that receive at least $10 million in federal funding to hire apprentices.

In a recent interview with the University of Toronto’s student paper, The Varsity, Mulcair answered questions relevant to the Queen’s community and students in general.

Mulcair argued that, while tuition shouldn’t be free, he could never have attended McGill University without the loans and bursaries provided by the Quebec government. This personal experience has informed Mulcair’s interest in providing affordable education.

He also addressed the precarious working conditions of non-tenured faculty members and teaching assistants, stating, “It’s not as if young people aren’t paying enough tuition for them to have a decent salary. So that is something we are strongly in favour of correcting.”

Young adults in graduate school often fill TA positions. As graduate school becomes increasingly necessary to supplement a general undergraduate degree, it’s important to consider how people pursuing careers in academia are forced into unstable working conditions. Additionally, strikes, like at U of T last winter, are a repercussion of insufficiently funded post-secondary programs and ultimately have the most negative implications for students trying to learn.

Mental health is near to the hearts of many Queen’s students. We’ve done a lot of work to address the mental well-being of our student body through initiatives and services like the Jack Summit, Student Wellness Services (formerly HCDS) and the AMS Peer Support Centre.

While Queen’s has excellent resources, there continues to be a lack of professional help readily available to students in need. It can be difficult for students to see a counsellor, and after a few appointments they will be asked to seek private counselling services.

As for the budget, Mulcair announced the NDP’s plan to commit $100 million dollars to improve mental health services for young people. This plan is also meaningful to the 1.5 million Canadians under 24 with mental health illnesses who, according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, are unable to access the help they need. Meanwhile, Harper has plans to cut billions in provincial healthcare funding.

Mulcair’s economic strategy provides the foundation upon which all other aspects of his platform hinge. Like Harper, Mulcair is campaigning on the promise of a balanced budget. According to the official NDP budgetary plan, by raising taxes on large corporations, ending fossil fuel subsidies and closing stock option loopholes — among other initiatives — enough money will be saved to invest in the above mentioned social services and have a balanced budget.

The economic promises being made by the NDP will be difficult to keep, as critics like former parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page have pointed out. Mulcair’s balanced budget was formulated using numbers from an earlier projection created by the Conservative Party, which assumes the value of oil will rise to $67 a barrel by 2016.

In reality, the value of oil is declining and sits currently at US$44.89 per barrel. In this sense the NDP, like the Harper government, has tethered their plan for a balanced budget to a failing oil industry.

That said, Mulcair is only attached to the numbers associated with oil extraction, and unlike the Conservative government, has practical plans for a diverse economy beyond oil. Additionally, Mulcair’s plan isn’t reliant on cutting social programs to create a surplus.

As Harper and Mulcair proceed with economic plans likely to lead to deficits, Trudeau has actually planned for one. Running a deficit is an optimistic economic approach aimed at kick-starting the economy. However, as young people, we’ll ultimately inherit whatever deficit accumulates in the next few years, intentional or not.

Thus, young voters are left with three muddled and uncertain budgetary plans. What sets Mulcair apart as a more appealing candidate is that he’s the leader who best addresses the challenges facing young people. Balanced budget or not, that counts for something.

Meera Govindasamy is a fifth-year sociology major.

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