It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Getting involved in politics can be intimidating for young people, but it isn’t impossible.
Becoming a politician isn’t usually the first answer young people give when asked what they want to do when they grow up, but for Mark Whiffen it was. Since 2017, he has been a Grand Falls-Windsor town councillor.
“I volunteered on my first campaign when I was 15 back in 1999,” said Whiffen.
The campaign was for a family friend and it sparked an interest in politics that never left.
Getting more young people involved in politics, Whiffen says, is very important because they’re shaping the future of their communities and can bring a different perspective on issues.
However, it’s not without its challenges.
“It’s competitive, so to get your signs and your campaign out there costs a bit of money,” said Whiffen.
Whiffen says the amount of personal time required can be a barrier for younger people. Family, work and the financial aspects of running a campaign are possible reasons a young person doesn’t run.
Curtis Knee, 21, ran for Paradise town council last year.
“Networking is definitely very important,” said Knee. “I know that’s a barrier for a lot of youth getting into running an election. For me and my situation it wasn’t really an issue, but for a young person who wants to run not having a (support) base is half the battle.”
Sharing ideas, says Knee, is one way to become known and it can even help young political neophytes build support and a financial base.
Knee says these barriers aren’t impossible to overcome as getting yourself out into the public, sharing your ideas and meeting new faces can help in all aspects including the financial ones.
Young people may even have an advantage in some areas, says Whiffen.
“We have technology and we are very technologically savvy,” said Whiffen. “You could very easily get your message out and your perspective out there using social media tools that I think we are better at using than the older generation.”
There are also many groups that aim to help younger people get involved in politics such as the Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Parliament. They’re a group that wants to help youth experience the Canadian parliamentary system and politics in general.
Youth 15-21 apply and once accepted they debate issues facing the province, the country and the world. Knee was a member of the board until last year and says it had a huge impact on him.
“You get to meet a lot of political actors, different politicians and such,” said Knee. “So, that experience got me right into it because I met my local MHA David Brazil. He really pushed me to get involved in his stuff and I have been involved ever since.”