By Heather Amos
Kyle Noftall is disappointed in his first federal election. The University of British Columbia student was excited to be able to vote for the first time on Oct. 14, but he is getting discouraged by what he sees as the “juvenile” nature of the debates and party dialogues.
Noftall has been researching the party platforms and following the campaigns closely, but he is feeling “let down” by the campaign process. He strongly believes in exercising his democratic right, though.
“If you want to get your opinion out there, you have to vote,” says Noftall, 18, who will be voting in the Vancouver-Quadra riding.
Noftall sees the candidates as the significant problem. He said the politicians are “a little bit catty”. “I thought they would be a little more professional.”
The UBC student is also having trouble identifying a clear leader, and separating the bickering from the platform and leadership qualities. He believes there is a difference between voicing strong views about key issues and just raising the volume.
“If you’re confident in your platform, it should just speak for itself. Don’t try to make the other parties look bad to make yourself look better.”
Noftall wants to vote for Joyce Murray, the incumbent Liberal candidate, because he agrees with the Liberal platform concerning environmental issues, tuition fees and the war in Afghanistan. The only thing holding him back is that he does not think party leader Stéphane Dion has the leadership skills required to be prime minister.
“It all has to do with leadership,” says Noftall, whose second choice is to vote Conservative because he thinks that Stephen Harper has the necessary leadership qualities. With the financial crisis in the United States and the opening of the North-West passage, Noftall says: “Canada needs to become even more independent. Canada needs to be able to stand on its own two feet.”
The UBC student said he is looking for a leader such as Martin Luther King, Jr. who was able to stand up for the issues he believed in.
“They have to be able to hold my attention,” said Noftall. “They have to have that confidence that makes you trust them.”
Noftall predicts that as long as Dion “keeps his cool” during the debates and shows enthusiasm for Canada, he will stick to his decision to vote Liberal.
He says that he isn’t alone on campus in thinking about the issues and that more students are talking about the elections and getting excited about the vote. Elections Canada reported youth voter turnout was lower than the national average in the 2006 federal election with only 43.8 per cent of 18-24-year-olds voting. Only 42.2 per cent of first-time voters participated.
Noftall grew up in a household where his parents voted but politics were only discussed “when something upset them.” His father votes Conservative and his mother Liberal. His parents have influenced his political opinions.
Since moving away from home, Noftall has had to rely on his friends to discuss politics. “They don’t really know much about politics,” said Noftall. Now he has found a group of peers at UBC to discuss the elections with. He enjoys hearing what people who support different parties have to say.
It can be a struggle voting for the first time because of the uncertainty, he says. “You don’t want to be voting for someone you don’t know anything about. It’s a trust issue.”
Noftall believes he will be much better prepared for the next election. “I’ll know who to trust. Right now I am just going on gut instinct.”