Trudeau’s ‘change’: How students can hold him to it

(Courtesy of Facebook)

(Courtesy of Facebook)

After months of election buzz taking over your social media feeds, from GIFs of Elizabeth May’s sassy peace sign, to too many voter status selfies to count, millions of Canadians await real change after electing Justin Trudeau as the new Prime Minister.

With promises ranging from welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 to investments in public transportation and radical reforms on marijuana – it’s understandable to question when, or if, the liberal party’s platform pledges would ever come to life.

This past federal election saw the country’s highest voter turnout in almost two decades and was the first time Ryerson University had a voting station on campus. If post-secondary students don’t witness a change, it could mean a loss of support for the liberal party in elections to come.

“It’s all up to us to make clear what we want the government to do down the road,” says Jacquie Chic, a Politics instructor at Ryerson. “The question is: how are students willing to come together?”

A few ways to get the government’s attention are protests, rallies and press events that highlight the needs of post-secondary school communities, she says.

But it’s important to be realistic in these demands. Chic says students should raise awareness on existing promises of the liberal party’s platform in hopes of bringing certain issues to the top of the prime minister’s growing to-do list.

One example is the federal minimum wage. Trudeau never said ‘no’ to the implementation of a national minimum wage, she explains.

If put into action, this demand could affect hundreds of thousands of retail sales associates, baristas, and waiters across the country.  

Ryerson Young Liberals' campaign (Courtesy of Facebook)

Ryerson Young Liberals’ campaign (Courtesy of Facebook)

Because Ryerson is located in the downtown core of a city bustling with thousands of post-secondary students, Toronto’s youth have a good chance of making their voices heard, Chic explains.

“Be bold and say, ‘We want to meet with a senior person in the government to talk about our priorities’.”

Toronto Councillor for Ward 27, Kristyn Wong-Tam, also hopes that Trudeau looks to Toronto when the liberals fulfill their pledge to invest in cities.  Wong-Tam explains that for Ryerson’s ward, affordable housing is crucial.

“We need safe and efficient housing in our area so that students can attend school without having to endure long, emotionally and physically draining commute times,” she says.

While she agrees that Trudeau is striving to move at an ambitious pace, the quicker that the new government announces and releases funds, the easier it will be to kick-start projects needed to improve our community. After all, apartments aren’t built overnight.

Jordan Hanna, a third year Ryerson marketing major, believes that it’s not realistic to expect to see the fingerprints of a new liberal government on our community.  “There’s a lot of filters from the federal government to our community,” Hanna explains. “It’s important to not be naive.”

The 21-year-old, who describes himself as “a pretty hardcore conservative”, respects Harper for getting Canada through the recession and the country’s national security portfolio.

Hanna believes that at the end of the day, it’s a politician’s job to make citizens feel good and respected. “It’s harder to implement a politician’s pledges than it is to get behind a podium and promise them.”

Ryerson student Salman Arif is optimistic with the new change of government. The second-year politics and governance student believes that his voice can be a marker of change in the liberal party.

During the federal election campaign, he worked as a deputy field organizer in the Mississauga Streetsville area after volunteering with the party for over a year. In this time, Arif already met the PM elect twice.

This past summer during a meet-and-greet following a speech at a mosque, Arif approached Trudeau to voice his support for party’s platform promises.

“Trudeau told me he intends to make all of them happen very soon,” the 19-year-old says.

Arif is excited for the possibility being on Trudeau’s youth advisory council. If established, students aged 16 to 24 from across the county would be able to meet with the prime minister and discuss non-parliamentary advice.

Until then, Arif is positive that Young Liberal groups, including the one at Ryerson, will continue to make positive, noticeable change.  

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Oct. 28, 2015.

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