“You don’t like Rob Ford? Get Involved”

(Russell Sabio/ Ryersonian staff)

(Russell Sabio/ Ryersonian staff)

John Tory, Karen Stintz, David Soknacki and the infamous Rob Ford talked transit, youth unemployment and budget cuts as reporter Bethany Van Lingen reported in “Ryerson’s mayoral debate puts Ford in the hot seat” on www.ryersonian.ca. Olivia Chow couldn’t make it.

On top of this, the four candidates talked about engaging the younger voter.

This was a problem for some of the students in attendance: a lot of talk about what they’ll do to engage youth and no concrete answers. “We want to know exactly what you are doing to engage the youth,” said Sara Joseph, a University of Toronto student who attended the debate.

“I don’t want to hear, ‘let’s keep the conversation going (and) let’s keep you engaged.’ How are you going to do that?”

In response to a question about engaging young voters, Stintz talked about the importance of expanding the conversation beyond Thursday’s debate. “Because one night is not meaningful when you are thinking about the future of the city,” Stintz said.

“Part of what every campaign needs to do is reach out to youth in the way they are communicating. It’s not through the Toronto Star at the kitchen table; it’s through social media.”

Staying engaged is youth’s responsibility too. Now is the time to take matters into our own hands.

Studies show that 15- to 24-year-olds in Ontario have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, at around 17 per cent in 2013. Some reports estimate a youth unemployment rate of 23 per cent, although that number is disputed.

It’s true; candidates need to do a better job about appealing to our interests and needs.

But unless we go to debates, voice our concerns and inform ourselves, refreshing our Twitter feeds will never be enough to fix these problems.

Candidates won’t hear about our concerns and won’t act on them unless we get out there and tell them.

As moderator Ralph Lean said, “You don’t like Rob Ford? Get involved. Don’t sit on your asses.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 2, 2014.

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