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Climate policy may inspire young Canadians to vote in 2019: pollster

Last Updated Sep 30, 2019 at 8:49 am MDT

FILE - Young people walk to class at UBC's Point Grey campus in the fall of 2019. (Source: Kurtis Doering/NEWS 1130)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While a strong turnout by younger voters worked to the Liberal Party’s advantage in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s appeal among Millennials appears to have diminished.

According to Ottawa-based pollster Abacus Data, which surveys Canadian Millennials twice a year, climate policy may be the issue which inspires the country’s largest voting block to head to the polls.

People born between 1980 and 2000 represent up to 37 per cent of eligible voters in Canada, and the coming election will be the first in which people born after the turn of the century will be eligible to participate.

Voter turnout among Millennials surged during the last federal election, jumping nearly 40 per cent among those aged 18 to 24.

But David Coletto, Abacus’ CEO, says elections since then have shown that young people only show up to vote if they’re inspired by a particular issue or candidate. And that could be a problem in October.

“There’s still no overarching narrative or story. We’re telling people to go vote right now. That could change. I think climate change is perhaps the best issue that could do that,” he says.

According to Abacus, 87 percent of Millennials consider themselves to be either environmental moderates or ardent environmentalists, and that could make the difference.

“We’ve seen events around the world where when young people are engaged and they come out and vote, they can change the course of history.”

While young voters don’t yet seem to be entirely galvanized by the climate issue, there’s still weeks to go.

“This time around it might change, we’ve still got lots of campaign left but I don’t feel the energy or the pull that existed in 2015. So I do think there’s a high risk with the return back to a much lower turnout of young Canadians,” Coletto says.

The Liberals have so far made climate change a centrepiece of their campaign, promising to make Canada carbon neutral by 2050.

But Coletto says without that strong inspiration, young voters will stay home on election day.

“You’re not going to vote just because you should vote, you’re going to vote because there’s a reason to vote, someone’s asked you, someone’s compelled you.”