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Alberta Election Q&A: Apathy is Boring’s Andrew Ng

Andrew Ng, VOTE Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Apathy is Boring, talked with the Weal’s Publications Coordinator last month during the SAIT Students’ Associations Executive Council election. With Alberta provincial election season in full swing, read below what Andrew had to say about Apathy is Boring and their involvement in Elections Alberta. 

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Andrew Ng, VOTE Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator Apathy is Boring. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Ng)

 

 

How did you make the transition from being in journalism to politics?

  • My transition away from being a full-time working journalist was less in my control than I would have liked. But during this transition time in my career, an opportunity came along with Apathy is Boring to talk to youth about Canadian government and politics. There’s a lot of political coverage in news and I spent a good amount of time at the Alberta Legislature and Edmonton’s city hall but it felt like a lot of people don’t pay attention to it. So in keeping with my desire to inform people of these things, I was excited for the chance to talk to youth directly and encourage them to stay informed in whatever way they like most.

 

What did your journalism career teach you about your role?

  • The best way to reach people or communicate an idea is to through a story. Concepts that might be difficult to grasp are definitely easier to understand and then share when it’s put into a simple narrative. That’s what I’m doing now when explaining young people don’t vote and what effect that has, and how things could be different if more of them did vote.

 

Tell us a little bit about Apathy is Boring

  • Apathy is Boring is a non-partisan, charitable organization that encourages young people across Canada to be active citizens. That could mean volunteering on a project that makes an impact on their community, which is what the ambassadors in our RISE program do. We also encourage participation in Canada’s democracy whether that’s joining a protest, signing a petition or voting. Thirdly, we counter the narrative of the apathetic and lazy Millennial by highlighting youth who are achieving amazing things.

 

How does Apathy is Boring educate people on elections in their area?

  • Apathy is Boring uses a mix of online and offline engagement to connect to youth. We go to where youth are instead of sitting back and waiting for them to come to us. So, we’ve really stepped up our game on social media and we’ve talked about exploring new online channels like setting up a Twitch stream. Our bread and butter though is our street teams, where volunteers head to festivals and other events where youth will be and speak to them face to face. We’ve seen that people are more likely to do something when they’re asked directly so we’ll continue to do that through the Alberta election and then the federal election.

 

Why is it important for Apathy is Boring to talk to young people about democracy?

  • The founders of Apathy is Boring first came together because they were troubled their friends and peers weren’t more interested in participating in Canada’s democracy. That has guided us ever since. Since youth are just as Canadian and just as capable as anyone else, we feel it’s important to remind them they are, in fact, able to make a difference and they have a say in how things are run. And when more people participate in our democracy, we start to see a more inclusive and equitable society.

 

What interested you about Apathy is Boring?

  • When I worked in news, some of my favourite stories to cover were about young people doing extraordinary things despite their age. It shows that youth deserve a lot more credit than older folks often give them. Apathy is Boring is all about promoting young people as difference makers so this seemed like a perfect fit.

 

You’ve spoke about building a nation of smart and caring citizens who are passionate about their communities and make life better for everyone. Why do you feel this is so important and how can this message be relayed to SAIT students ahead of the Executive Council election?

  • We’ve seen many times throughout history how complacency and apathy led societies down a path of regret because people just let others speak for them. See the Trump presidency or Brexit. That’s a macro-level thing. At a micro-level, we share space with people and animals, living together in neighbourhoods. When we care about each other at that level, it builds so that everyone can be better off. The same goes for students at SAIT. Whoever sits on the Executive Council has the power to shape the student community. Students have the power to decide who gets a seat. Therefore, students have the power to make their community better simply by voting for the candidate they believe can make that happen.

 

What are some things you wish people knew about voting and democracy?

  • I wish people knew how many other people say they don’t believe voting matters. I wish people knew it doesn’t take a lot to make what could be an impactful decision. Elections only come around once every few years and people don’t need to be policy experts to vote. Figuring out who to vote for can be as simple as having a conversation with a friend.

 

Can you talk about the VOTE Program?

  • Apathy is Boring’s VOTE Program seeks to increase voter turnout among youth, who almost always have the lowest turnout rates of any age group. We do this by educating them about upcoming elections, what’s required to vote and how that vote makes a difference.

 

What is the four-year project between Apathy is Boring and Elections Alberta about?

  • Elections Alberta is very active in their efforts to increase voter turnout across the province. They found a partner in Apathy is Boring to specifically reach out to youth. It started with a Get Out the Vote campaign in 2015. That was followed by a year of research and building connections with youth-focused community organizations across the province. Then we went back to some of those organizations to hold workshops with the youth, to teach them the ins and outs of Canada’s government and why voting matters. In Year 4, we turned our focus to actually registering youth to the Elections Alberta voters list, following the belief that getting more people registered beforehand will lead to higher turnout.

 

How can voter turnout rates be increased?

  • Voting needs to be more accessible and this means a lot of things. For the act of voting itself, access means convenience. A lot of young people don’t vote because they’re busy juggling a bunch of things at once. If they have to go to school during the day, and then work at night, there’s little time in there to vote. There probably isn’t any time for them to do any research into their candidates so they’d rather not vote than make an uninformed vote. Elections Alberta is trying to address that by allowing people to vote for their home riding at any polling location during Advance Polls.
  • Access also means politics that mean something to them. It means having candidates that speak to their issues. That’s rare and it’s a vicious cycle: politicians don’t campaign to youth because youth aren’t reliable voters compared to older generations. And then youth don’t vote because politicians don’t campaign to them. One side has to work harder to break that cycle.

 

What are some of the notable results of Apathy is Boring’s work so far?

  • We deployed our street teams in Edmonton and Calgary throughout 2018 to register youth voters. We did 37 in total and registered 360 voters. Most of them brand new while others got their contact information updated. But we couldn’t count the number of people who were just completely unaware an election was coming so it was good that we were able to let them know and then answer their questions like how to vote if they were away from home.

 

How can people urge their peers to be more involved in democracy, in non-forceful ways?

  • It starts with having conversations about things you and your friends care about. This already happens organically and they’re often more political than people realize. But dress it down to things that matter to you, them, and your community, and then connect it to some action. If you’re heading to a protest, or to vote, invite friends to make it more fun.

 

Is Apathy is Boring planning on working closely with SAITSA in the future? Did Apathy is Boring begin to work with SAITSA recently?

  • We’ve taken part in SAIT’s expo week twice now, setting up a table to register students to the voters list and give away some of our swag. We’re also sending some infographics and blurbs of encouragement so they can be included in the weekly mailout to SAIT students.
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