Julie Druker | Oct 21, 2015

On October 15, students at Harrowsmith Public School had a chance to experience first hand what it means to engage in the democratic process as they participated in the school's first ever Student Vote program. Students in Ms. Thayer's and Ms. Ranson's grade 4/5 classes took the lead in implementing the program and over 175 students in grade four and higher had a chance to cast their ballots for their party of choice in the riding of Lanark Frontenac Kingston.

Through the process the students gained an understanding of the country's three levels of government, its four major political parties, and how each party's platform differed in the 2015 federal election campaign.

Ms. Thayer said that the program ties in nicely with the social studies curriculum for the lead students, who are studying government and the democratic process. The aim of the lead students was to convince their fellow students that their chosen party had the strategies and policies that would best serve and benefit Canadians. Ms. Thayer said the focus was on the four major political parties and their platforms rather than the individual candidates running in the riding.

Lead students were invited first to research the platforms and to chose the party they most wanted to represent. They learned about numerous issues including the Syrian refugee crisis, the state of the economy, the environment, health care and more. Students were also instructed how to use various forms of media in order to get their information across to their fellow voters as well as to think critically about the media they were researching. The students gained a whole new vocabulary and awareness of the political process and you can bet that there were some very interesting conversations taking place throughout the school on voting day. After choosing their party, the students made numerous presentations to their fellow students and were also in charge of running and officiating at the ballot stations.

I spoke to two students, Emma Aitken and Noah McDougall, who were respectively campaigning for the Conservative and NDP parties. Emma said that she chose to campaign for the Conservative party because she “felt that Stephen Harper over the years did a good job in keeping Canadians safe”. She added that prior to this program she “did not know very much about politics”, but said that now she feels that she has become much more interested in the topic.

Noah said he chose the NDP because he felt “it was time to take a break from Stephen Harper and see what it would be like without him”. He also liked the NDP's stance on hand guns and their goals to create more affordable health care and housing.

Asked what qualities they feel a prime minister needs to run the country, Noah replied, “being enthusiastic about what they will do for the country, not being grumpy and caring about what things might be going wrong for people”.

Emma said that “being bilingual, not backing out of promises and helping other people in the world” are all important.

The results from the Student Vote Program are in and the Liberals won in a landslide with 67%, (225.8 seats), Conservatives, 20% (67.4seats), the NDP, 12% (40.44 seats) and the Green party 1% or 3.37 seats. As in the past the results reflect the decision of Canadian voters. By the end of the day students at HPS were not only well informed but were also thrilled to be able to have their say in the 2015 federal election.

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