With the summertime election call, student organizations have been hard at work encouraging the nearly 60,000 people studying in Nova Scotia to get out and vote under stranger-than-normal circumstances.
The Canadian Federation of Students is highlighting election issues like tuition costs, climate change and tackling racism in a non-partisan campaign to encourage student votes.
"Building a better future coming out of COVID means making post-secondary education accessible and addressing students’ immediate needs,” Kris Reppas, the chairperson of Nova Scotia’s CFS branch, says in an interview.
“It also means putting us on a path toward climate justice and taking action to address racism and colonialism.”
While students may or may not be in Nova Scotia on August 17 to cast their vote, Reppas and his colleagues have been working on a Vote for The Future campaign to inform students how to vote and highlight issues worth questioning candidates on.
Any Canadian citizen who has been living in Nova Scotia for at least six consecutive months can vote in the election. Voting for students can happen early through mail-in ballots for those out of town, at any polling station until August 14, or in the student’s assigned polling station on election day (which, FYI, is Aug 17). Permanent residents, however, are not permitted to vote.
"Of course, this does leave out many students, including international students and out-of-province students who have not resided in Nova Scotia for at least the six months,” Reppas says.
Those left out of the elector pool will still be heavily impacted by the provincial government, particularly in terms of school costs: “The province is responsible for deregulating tuition fees for international and out-of-province students and allowing exorbitant differential fees for international students—which mean international students pay on average three times more than domestic students," adds Reppas.
For those who can’t vote, CFS encourages political action through community outreach or volunteering “to ensure students’ issues are prioritized this election.”
It’s unclear how many students voted in the 2017 NS general election. Elections Nova Scotia doesn’t track student votes, just ages of registered voters. The last election had 55,400 registered electors between 18 and 24 years-old. This represents about 72% of that age-group’s population, compared to 57% in the 2013 election.
An Elections NS report from 2017 says this youngest age group is underrepresented at the polls compared to older residents—100 percent of Nova Scotians 25 and older were registered to vote in 2017. That year also saw the province’s lowest voter turnout rate since 1960.
Student numbers from 2020 put Nova Scotia’s studying population at around 58,500 people.