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December 10, 2020
Tyler Valiquette shares his thoughts on how to strengthen the connection between young people and elected representatives in a pandemic.
Tell us about Future Majority. How would you describe its purpose and what makes it unique?
Future Majority is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to amplify the voices of young Canadians so that every candidate, politician and party is an advocate for youth priorities. Young Canadians make up the largest voting block in the country representing close to 40% of the electorate. In the next 4 years, Future Majority will make sure that every politician understands that ignoring the largest voting group is not in their best interest. When politicians, leaders, candidates, platforms and policies reflect the priorities of young Canadians, millions more youth will enter the democratic process.
Part of what makes us unique is our strategy. Future Majority wants to disrupt the typical politician’s calculus on which demographics to court come election time. Given our limited time and resources, we focus on getting more young people to vote in ridings that are most likely to be decided by small vote margins. 1,000 new youth voters in a close riding will turn the heads of every politician running for office.
We are all navigating the global pandemic in different ways. What’s a key insight from how Future Majority is responding to the crisis?
Future Majority made major changes in our 2020 plan once the pandemic hit. Our strength is organizing in person, having face-to-face conversations. The pandemic forced us to move our organizing model online. We began phone banking our members across the country, listening to their stories on how the pandemic was impacting their lives. Once we had a clear understanding of the issues and their intersectionality we began organizing digital town halls across the country, bringing young people into direct contact with their political representatives.
We ran two sets of digital town halls. The first was the Canada 2.0 campaign, where our volunteer teams spoke directly to city councillors, mayors, MPPs, MPs and Ministers about how the pandemic is impacting their lives and what support they need. Our second campaign was around a Green and Just Recovery. Again, we brought volunteers into direct conversation with MPs and Ministers, asking for their support on climate action, racial equity, mental health care accessibility and affordability.
Over the past few months we have seen groups seize this moment of uncertainty to advance racial and economic justice in their communities. How is this affecting your work?
2020 has seen a continuation and proliferation of racism in Canada and the United States. When speaking with our members, we hear first hand the importance and desire of incorporating racial and economic justice into our work. Over the past six months, we have applied a racial justice lens when discussing issues like climate change, education and mental health. Our members have shared narratives about racism directly with political leaders. Our volunteers have asked MPs across the country what actions they are going to take in fighting racism in 2021. Minister Monsef in Peterborough reached out to our volunteers after one of our town halls about forming a youth working group in tackling racism in Peterborough. We hope to see similar outcomes in other regions across the country.
What’s one big challenge you see Canada’s democracy facing? How are you working on this challenge, what solutions do you propose?
For Future Majority and our members, one of the biggest concerns for Canada’s democracy is returning to “business as usual” after the pandemic. Covid-19 has revealed an inadequate system and highlighted just how many people are falling through the holes in our social safety net. There is a real urgency for our government to address the issues of climate change, mental health, affordability and racial justice. Covid-19 offers a unique opportunity for our country to build back stronger than before.
Our solution is to continue to organize in the most important political ridings in the country. Millennials and Gen Z’s are the largest voting block in the country, and if we continue to recruit volunteers, and train them to become organizers, politicians will take notice and they will focus on the issues young Canadians are passionate about. Our Green and Just Recovery campaign saw MPs across the country make specific commitments regarding climate, mental health, racial equity and cost of living. We will organize and support the politicians on following through with action.
Could you share an idea or initiative related to increasing civic engagement or democratic participation that inspires you? This could be related to your work or something you see happening in the sector.
Over the past six months we have 30 digital town halls, bringing together young people and politicians. Canada 2.0 discussed how to better address the needs of youth during the pandemic, with the Green and Just Recovery campaign sharing a vision for a stronger post pandemic country. The digital organizing model we created was effective in increasing civic participation and engaging youth in the democratic process using online tools.
In 16 locations across the country, in rural, exurban and commuter locations, Future Majority recruited and trained volunteers to run effective advocacy campaigns that bridged the gap between elected officials and their young constituents. Our volunteers used digital ads, SMS, email, phone banking and relational organizing to engage and recruit thousands of new members across the country.
Bridging the gap between politicians and young people, and providing the space to engage with elected officials has led to our volunteers creating their own grass roots initiatives. After our latest round of town halls, our volunteers have continued to self-organize around racial equity, universal mental health and various municipal issues.
Tell us about how Future Majority is making its work more inclusive and building engagement with different communities. Any tips or lessons to share with others in the sector about decreasing barriers to participation?
Future Majority organizes in rural, exurban and commuter communities. We have volunteered all across the country, from Moncton, to Thunder Bay, to Vaughan, to Saskatoon. Our organizing efforts are focused outside of major city centres allowing us to reach a diverse group of people. Because of this model, we are able to see the commonalities and differences between young people on the issues that are impacting their lives, comparing places like Regina to Mississauga. In each community where we have volunteer teams, we build strong connections with community organizations, places of faith, Indigenous groups and more. As a result, we have recruited and continue to recruit folks from diverse communities.
For people looking to engage with you, how can they get involved? Who can they contact?
Future Majority is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization. We bring the concerns of young Canadians front and center by organizing ourselves in the places that matter to politicians. We embolden the collective voice of young Canadians to shape the nation’s policy agenda for a more economically equitable and environmentally livable future.
This is an unprecedented moment for democracy in Canada so we created Sector Spotlight to learn about how leading practitioners are responding to it. Have ideas for our next Sector Spotlight? Get in touch!
Tyler Valiquette, Policy Director at Future Majority
Tyler Valiquette’s passion for grassroots organizing and civic engagement began when he decided to bike across Canada one summer raising $30,000 for food banks in need. The kindness and generosity of Canadians inspired him to continue organizing around the issues he’s passionate about. Since then Tyler has completed his Master’s degree in political science and has helped form two non-profit organizations aimed at youth voter engagement. Tyler works tirelessly with Future Majority to amplify the concerns of young people so that every politician and political party is an advocate for youth priorities.