In the days leading up to the 42nd Provincial General Election, students in Quesnel and area elementary, junior and secondary schools had a chance to cast their own ballots in mock elections through the Student Vote program.
At Voyageur Elementary School, students chose B.C. Green Party candidate Douglas Gook as their leader with 18 votes and 43.90 per cent of the student vote, followed by the NDP’s Scott Elliott with 12 votes and 29.27 per cent. B.C. Liberal Coralee Oakes was third with 11 votes and 26.83 per cent of the vote.
Twelve-year-old Makenna Dodd, who is in Grade 7 at Voyageur, thinks it’s important to learn about elections at her age so she and her fellow students are ready and know how to vote when they are older.
After participating in Student Vote 2020, Dodd is more excited about voting when she is older.
“It’s exciting to vote,” she said. “I went with my mom to the polling station, and I got a sticker. It was so much fun.”
Leading up to their election, students watched videos of the provincial party leaders answering questions asked by other students. Dodd says one of the most interesting things she learned during Student Vote was how each party has something different to say about these questions.
The videos featured B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan and B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau answering questions regarding social and economic recovery from the pandemic, helping people with mental health issues, supporting First Nation communities, the overdose crisis, and climate action plan.
Dodd was not surprised by the preliminary results in the Oct. 24 election.
“I had a feeling [NDP Leader John Horgan] was going to win,” she said. “I didn’t like how the Green Party and Liberal Party answered some of the questions,” she said.
Eleven-year-old Ryder Nixon, who is in Grade 6 at Voyageur, wasn’t shocked either.
“No, I wasn’t really surprised,” he said. “I mean, the candidate is a good guy. And he actually answered the third question [in the student videos about helping Indigenous communities], unlike the Liberal leader.”
Nixon says one of the most interesting things he learned during Student Vote is that there is more than one type of government, “although I should have known that before we started.”
Nixon thinks it’s valuable to learn about voting at this age.
“I believe it is important to instill such a big thing in minds because it is beneficial to the community,” he said.
Despite that, he says taking part in Student Vote did not make him more exciting about voting once he turns 18.
“No, I don’t think I am going to vote because I am probably going to be swamped with other things to do,” he said.
Voyageur Elementary School Grade 6/7 teacher Meghan Sommerey feels Student Vote is important because it teaches students how to become informed citizens.
“They learn how to make informed decisions by fact-checking for information and making sure the information is from a reliable source,” she said. “It gives the students an opportunity to learn what the important topics are for election and how each political party is planning on handling the issues.”
With the program, which is non-partisan, teachers receive resources such as ballot boxes, and there are eight lesson plans, videos and PowerPoint presentations they can use in their classroom, explained Sommerey.
Sommerey has 22 students in her class, and she says they struggled a bit at the beginning when they were talking about different levels of government and rights and responsibilities, but the students got really into it once they started watching videos of the provincial party leaders answering questions posed by students.
“This year was harder because it was so quick,” she said. “Last year [during the federal election], they did research projects on the different parties and the leaders; this year, we just did the videos and listened to what the leaders had to say about five main topics.”
Teacher Ted McCart has been holding mock elections with students at Correlieu Secondary School since the 1990s.
“I started doing this before Student Vote was around, just to recreate a little bit of that experiential learning in an attempt to try and get students used to the idea of casting their ballot and letting their voice be heard in some democratic form,” he said.
Ahead of the vote, McCart says they tried to talk about the election policies, and he likes to get his students to do the Vote Compass personal survey to try to figure out where their political leaning is.
“One of my classes, we tried to watch the leaders’ debate, which quite often is a chore for students trying to decipher what’s being said, and sometimes just paying attention is a difficulty, but you go through the policies, what points they’re trying to make, and try to clarify what the political double-speak is going on,” said McCart. “We try to do some research into candidates, research into party policies.”
The CSS results are tallied at the school and then added to a province-wide tally, which was released after the provincial polls closed.
“One of the things I’ve impressed upon my students, the class that is actually going to be running the vote, is even though it’s a mock vote, there is still a credibility to the process, so we are going to keep our results confidential until polls close,” said McCart. “There’s a confidentiality, there’s almost a sacredness in democracy regarding the process of voting that has to be respected. Because often, you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it, and then it’s often too late to get it back, so hopefully we can convince or persuade students to become active, responsible citizens.”
At CSS, students voted in B.C. NDP candidate Scott Elliott with 136 votes and 36.46 per cent of the vote. B.C. Liberal Coralee Oakes was second with 105 votes and 28.15 per cent, followed by Green Party candidate Douglas Gook with 71 votes and 19.03 per cent and Conservative candidate Kyle Townsend with 61 votes and 16.35 per cent.
This year, Quesnel-area students participated in Student Vote from Voyageur Elementary, Heritage Christian School, Correlieu Secondary School, Kleos Open Learning, Parkinson Homeschool, Dragon Lake Elementary, Red Bluff Lhtako Elementary, Bouchie Lake Elementary School, Kersley Elementary School, Parkland Elementary, Quesnel Junior School, St. Ann’s Catholic School and Lakeview Elementary.
In all, more than 85,000 students across the province cast a ballot from 735 schools, representing all 87 electoral districts.
In the Student Vote results, the NDP won a majority government with 59 seats, and the Green Party forms the official opposition with 16 seats. The Liberal Party won 12 seats, while the Conservative Party and Christian Heritage Party each won one seat.
In the Cariboo North electoral district, Student Vote gave B.C. NDP candidate Scott Elliott the win after results came in from 788 voters at 12 of the 16 registered schools. Elliott earned 274 votes and 34.77 per cent of the student vote, while B.C. Liberal earned 254 votes and 32.23 per cent of the vote. B.C. Green Party candidate Douglas Gook was third with 149 votes and 18.91 per cent, followed by Conservative Kyle Townsend with 111 votes and 14.09 per cent of the vote.
This is a reversal of the Elections BC preliminary results following the provincial election, which show Oakes as the front-runner with 4,503 votes and 49.41 per cent of the vote, ahead of Elliott, who has 2,972 votes and 32.61 per cent of the vote. An estimated 2,000 mail-in ballots are still to be counted, and final results are not expected until mid-November.