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Summer elections might be missed opportunity to engage youth: teachers

Nova Scotia has started the process of becoming the last province in the country to move to fixed election dates
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A student at Inglis Street Elementary School participates in a simulated municipal election (Photo credit: @InglisVp/Twitter)

Nova Scotia has started the process of becoming the last province in the country to move to fixed election dates.

Last week, Tim Houston's Progressive Conservative government announced it had introduced legislation to amend the Elections Act, establishing July 15, 2025 as the date of our next provincial election.

After that, Nova Scotians would go to the polls every four years on the third Tuesday in July.

However, holding provincial elections in the summer could mean missing an important opportunity to engage youth in the democratic process.

That's according to two local teachers who help organize mock polls at their schools.

Student Vote is a program run by national non-partisan registered charity Civix, which allows students to go to simulated polls, providing registered schools with riding maps, ballots and ballot boxes free of charge for municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Many schools even invite candidates to debates where the children can ask questions to help them make up their minds.

"I've been doing this for eight or nine years now, I've done three federal elections," said Island View High School teacher Trevor Pierce. "And the engagement that crosses the entire school, there's a buzz when there's an election and kids want to talk about it."

"It's a super-valuable tool and use of time and educational resources," he told CityNews 95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show. "There's nothing that can quite match it."

Bicentennial School teacher Wendy Driscoll said the program goes well beyond just having students play an election game.

"It really is an educational piece ... we teach through experiential learning and students are comparing points of view. They're using inquiry skills and critical thinking," she explained. 

"By removing this opportunity from our school year, we're really disregarding, in my opinion, the importance of engaging young people in the democratic process."

She added the move could also hurt turnout among post-secondary students who often cast their votes at on-campus polling stations.

Bicentennial student Elizabeth said she learned a lot from participating in the Student Vote program.

"Before I had that program, I really didn't know anything at all about elections. I would listen to the news and hear about them, but would not really be able to be familiar with any of it," she stated.

"Now with this student election program, I can really listen and be able to connect, like wow, I know what they're talking about there."

Premier Tim Houston has told reporters empty schools are an upside to summer elections because it's easier to set up polling stations in the buildings.

However, Bicentennial student Jimmy said he'd prefer a fall date.

"In fall, that's when the federal election happens," he said. "If you do the provincial election as well, then you'd be able to compare and contrast what's different or not between them."



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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