Doug Ford has steadfast priorities: building subways, cutting taxes, and maintaining an emphasis on the populism that won his brother, Mayor Rob Ford, an election in 2010.
But it seems that he’s forgotten about students, neglecting to attend student-organized debates and eschewing topics like child care and affordable housing – points that Olivia Chow has underscored in an effort to appeal to young voters.
Ford, who replaced his brother as a mayoral candidate last month in the wake of Rob Ford’s cancer diagnosis, is primarily focusing on lowering taxes and building subways in Toronto’s suburbs, many of which he says will be funded by cutting waste at city hall – echoing his brother’s “gravy train” rhetoric.
He also promises to “bargain hard” with city unions over contracts and fight traffic congestion. Although these promises address key issues affecting the city, the student voter demographic is something that Doug Ford has done little to address.
In most Canadian elections of late, youth voting rates are dismal. The 2008 federal election saw less than 40 per cent of eligible youth voters participate, according to Elections Canada. It’s a pressing issue, and one on which Ford has remained quiet during this campaign.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario branch launched a campaign called Generation Vote designed to increase voter turnout among Ontario youth. Students designed a questionnaire for all mayoral candidates asking to clarify their policies in areas considered pertinent to students, including child care, affordable housing, living wages, and transit.
Ford’s campaign has not responded to any of the questions or confirmed that they received the questionnaire. Ford also did not respond to an invitation by the Ryerson Students’ Union to attend a meet-and-greet at Ryerson University, CNW Telbec reported.
Ford is also hiring unpaid interns to help with his campaign. A York University Career Site job posting outlines the roles that Ford is offering students: roughly 15-20 hours of unpaid work per week at his campaign office. Fliers have also been seen around University of Toronto campuses.
Unpaid work is something that’s fairly typical in elections, where most staffers serve as volunteers. But it comes at a time of great debate over students working for free, with the Ontario government recently cracking down on businesses that offer unpaid work to students.