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NL Votes 2019: Young people weigh in on the 2019 N.L. provincial election

Ben Callahan of Bonavista(left), a Grade 12 student at Discovery Collegiate, and fourteen-year-old Nick Barfett of Clarenville(right) give their thoughts on the election
Ben Callahan of Bonavista(left), a Grade 12 student at Discovery Collegiate, and fourteen-year-old Nick Barfett of Clarenville(right) give their thoughts on the election - Contributed

Making their voices heard

They’re literally the future.

While their voting numbers don’t compare to seniors or other, older age groups in the province, young people and students are a key demographic for the upcoming 2019 provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And while many of the people who will be affected by future government decisions may not even currently be old enough to vote, they will still have to live with any consequences of those decisions.

Ben Callahan of Bonavista is one of those young students who is graduating high school this June. The 17-year-old isn’t old enough to vote in this election, but the impact it will have on his future is not lost on him.

Ben told The Packet, while he’s not constantly immersed in provincial politics, he tries to keep up on the news coverage of the election because he knows it’s in his best interest to stay informed.

“I think it’s really important for anyone to pay attention to politics, regardless if you’re old enough to vote or not, like myself, because even if you don’t have a say that way it’s still going to affect (you) at some point down the road,” he says.

After graduating from Discovery Collegiate this June, Ben says he intends to go to Memorial University in St. John’s to study for a Bachelor of Commerce degree with the desire of possibly becoming an accountant.

He acknowledges political issues that affect education or students in the province will have a great effect on him over the next little while, but he’s also looking forward to the availability of jobs when he graduates from his post-secondary education.

“I think it’s an important issue for young people because it’s (been) tradition for young Newfoundlanders to go elsewhere to other provinces, especially out west like Alberta. Even now, I’ve got a few friends that plan on going out west and they don’t want to settle here because they don’t think there’s jobs here.”

He’d like to settle in the province, but says it’s tough to say at this point — especially considering the job market in the area. He’d more than likely be limited to living only in the St. John’s area, where he may get a good job in his field.

“I think it’s important that we have employment opportunities for young people and try keep them here and boost our own economy rather than having them go somewhere else in the country,” he says.

A politically minded young man

Nick Barfett of Clarenville is only about to turn 15, but he’s been following this election closely.

The Grade 9 student at Clarenville Middle School says the more you know about what’s happening in this province, the more understanding of life around you — no matter what age you are.

Nick says the changes that may be implemented in the near future can greatly affect major decisions he needs to make in several years.

“Even the economy right now,” Nick told The Packet. “That could influence whether or not I stay (in the province) for finding a job, going to school here. It all changes everything, really.”

And while he admits it’s still some time before he finishes high school, he currently is thinking of going to the Royal Military College in Quebec and possibly pursuing a career as an aerospace engineer.

When asked if he could see himself living and working in his home province, Nick said he would need to see more steady, permanent employment.

“You have all these mega projects going on, but they’re only short-term. There’s nothing long-term for me to do here.”

As far as coverage of politics in schools, he says they talked about the upcoming election for one day in class but adds most students could benefit from further discussion on the matter.

He says some of his friends aren’t tuned into what’s going on politically, and they aren’t likely to vote in the next election if they aren’t better informed.

For Nick, one thing is for certain, if he’s still in the province during the next provincial election and he’s old enough, he’ll be voting.

Jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

Twitter: @jejparsons

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