Katrina Clarke | Oct. 27, 2014| Toronto Star
If Toronto students had their way, Doug Ford would be Toronto’s next mayor, according to election results from a city-wide mock election.
Throughout the past week, Toronto elementary and high school students voted in mock elections organized by Student Vote, a program operated by national charitable organization CIVIX. The program lets students in on the adults-only democratic process and mock elections are held parallel to real elections.
At Central Toronto Academy, students were getting fired up as they voted Friday.
“Olivia Chow’s gonna care about us,” said student Lilianne Uwababyevi, but seconds later touting the Ford benefits. “Doug Ford and Rob Ford has been trying to get transit going around and stuff.”
Around 250 Toronto schools took part in the mock municipal election. On Friday, hip hop and rap music blasted through the hallways at Central Toronto Academy as over 100 students turned out to vote.
“We want students to be involved and be engaged and be aware of what’s happening in our city,” said principal Iwona Kurman. “Hopefully when these people turn 18, they understand the importance of voting.”
Student Jonathan Serrano, 18, said he’d vote in the actual election Monday.
“My group of friends, we all like (Doug) Ford more,” said the Grade 12 student. “We think the family’s interesting, unlike John Tory. He’s kind of boring.”
Although the student vote won’t enact change, it does give insight into the political preferences of young people. Interestingly, the student vote results often ends up aligning with the actual vote outcomes, said CIVIX president Taylor Gunn.
The final results indicated nearly 40 per cent of students voted for Ford, nearly 30 per cent for Olivia Chow and 26 per cent for John Tory. A total of 31,000 Toronto students voted.
Excitement was palpable, especially among younger students at Central Toronto Academy.
“I voted!” yelled student Ella Peck, jumping up to high five her principal after dropping off her ballot.
“If they’re excited at age 13, imagine what’s going to happen when they’re 18,” said Kurman.
Grade 10 civics students at the school have been researching mayoral, city council and trustee candidates in their ward, Trinity-Spadina, for weeks. Some gave speeches in front of the school, acting as one of the mayoral frontrunners, and on Friday they worked as scrutineers at the hallway polling station.
Most students seemed dead set on their mayoral choice – Kurman called the school Olivia Chow territory – despite not knowing much about their platforms. But many had strong, informed opinions about the issues they care about.
Selina Guiliano, 17, said she takes transit to school every day and wants to see faster, more frequent buses service around the city. She’ll be voting when she’s of legal voting age but has no interest in becoming a politician.
“If you promise to do something and you don’t go through with it, people hate you,” she said.
Sandra Brum, a civics teacher for English as a second language students, admitted Mayor Ford’s substance abuse and outrageous comments have contributed to heightened interest in politics.
But for her students, who grew up in countries without democracy and where women can’t attend school, the voting process itself is meaningful.
“I think they’ve got a different perspective than a child who’s born here,” she said.
It’s clear her classes are having an impact.
“Sometimes people don’t care about election,” said Eren Karakas, a 16-year-old student in Brum’s class, originally from Turkey. “And some students didn’t come (to vote) – but I care.”