CASA discusses top election issues for students

The issues range from affordability to climate change and food security

(Art by Kristen Frier)

(Art by Kristen Frier)

In 2015, voter turnout for ages 18 to 24 reached 68.3 per cent, and though they slightly decreased to 67 per cent in 2019, many post-secondary students are making sure to pay attention to the most pressing issues that affect them in this upcoming federal election. 


One of the biggest issues Canadian post-secondary students face is affordability when it comes to housing, which according to an Angus Reid survey, is a top issue for younger voters. 

Registering at a post-secondary institution, buying school supplies, and paying off student loans are other issues students face in terms of affordability. 

“Specifically, tuition is going up across many provinces and is making it difficult for students to choose to attend post-secondary or stay enrolled in post-secondary. And we never want a student to have to make that choice,” says Marley Gillies, board chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Association

“Our message is just empowering students to get informed and to feel like they want to be a part of the process. That’s really the first step,” says Gillies. 

In 2010 and 2011 average Canadian tuition fees were $5,138. Now that number has risen to $6,580 in 2021

Students are also facing financial concerns as many of them are faced with fewer job prospects. According to Statistics Canada, “over three-quarters of returning students (77%) were very or extremely concerned about their finances.” 

The graduate tuition fees for Canadian students in British Columbia increased by 5.3 per cent according to Statistics Canada. 

“In terms of student aid, or affordable tuition or affordable resources, such as textbooks or open educational resources … we advocate for that before and during and after election season, regardless of what government is in place at the time,” Gillies says. 

Climate change 

Climate change will impact the future workforce, which is why it remains an important issue for young post-secondary students. 

“Ecosystems provide services to economies and individuals through natural processes. These services include the purification of air and water, the generation and renewal of soil and soil fertility, the pollination of crops, the control of agricultural pests … support for diverse human cultures and aesthetic beauty,” reads a report published in 2018 by the International Labour Organization. 

The report also states that in 2014, around 1.2 billion jobs were sustained by the agriculture, forestry, fishing, food, drink and tobacco, wood and paper industries. 

As the effects of climate change worsen, they will also affect the food systems, making food inaccessible and expensive for many post-secondary students who are already struggling financially. 

Food insecurity 

Approximately 40 per cent of students at Canadian universities experience food insecurity according to Meal Exchange, a nationally registered food charity. 

Food insecurity might stem from “a variety of tuition and fees, lack of financial support from families, and the limitations in working while going to school,” according to a 2020 report that looked into food issues for Simon Fraser University and Fraser International College students.

The report adds that post-secondary students who recently immigrated to Canada might also face food insecurity because of a lack of accessibility to foods that they would otherwise find in their home country. 

“It’s been really tough to be a student right now, of course, because of the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of us have had to learn online. Maybe our job opportunities weren’t the same as they once were,” says Gillies.

Voting accessibility

One of the main reasons why some university students choose not to vote is due to a lack of motivating reasons and access, according to Elections Canada. 

In this year’s election, post-secondary students can’t vote on campus, which has many of them worried. Instead, they have the option to vote by mail-in ballot or special ballot at an Elections Canada office.

“Because of the nature of this election is coming up so quickly, we’re really past the point of being able to influence any platforms or policies that parties will be running on,” says Gillies. “So, we’re really just looking to students to cast their ballots and make their vote.”