Island candidate one of several teenagers vying for office in B.C. election
SAANICH, B.C. -- Kate O’Connor is running to be the youngest MLA in B.C. history.
The BC Green Party candidate in Saanich South just turned 18 on Friday, making her the minimum age required to be a candidate.
“I believe we need the youth perspective,” she said, when asked what motivated her to run in the snap election, a decision that required that she put her upcoming year at the University of Toronto on hold.
“We need inter-generational leadership if we’re going to achieve climate and social justice.”
O’Connor is not the only teenager in this provincial election campaign.
BC Liberal Party candidate Corbin Kelley turned 19 on Monday, and is running in the Kootenay West riding, trying to defeat NDP incumbent Katrine Conroy.
Kelley says he knows Conroy is well established in the area, but he was compelled to run because he too wants to see more young MLAs in the legislature.
“Everything that happens today is going to have an effect on tomorrow and we are that tomorrow,” he said.
Jaeda Dela Torre is also 19 years old. He’s running for the NDP in Richmond Centre North.
It’s his second campaign, as he ran unsuccessfully last year in the federal election, but he says he loves politics.
“I believe the Legislature of B.C. has to reflect the diversity of B.C., and that includes younger folks,” he said.
The BC Green Party has seven candidates under 30 years old seeking office this time around.
The BC NDP has six and the BC Liberals two.
All these younger candidates are trying to shake up an older political system.
The NDP’s Bowinn Ma was the youngest MLA when the legislature was dissolved for this election. She is 35 years old.
“Five years younger than my mum,” said Kelley. “So definitely not that young to me.”
Fewer than 50 per cent of registered voters under 35 years old actually cast a ballot last provincial election, in 2017, reaffirming the stereotype that younger people often are less engaged in politics.
But there has been a groundswell of young political activism since then, notably last October’s climate strikes, including in Vancouver, where 17-year-old Greta Thunberg led a rally of thousands.
Max Cameron is a political scientist at UBC. He says he’s noticed a shift in interest during the past few years amongst younger people.
“I’m really struck by the degree of energy amongst youth and interest in politics and a desire to plug into the political system,” said Cameron.
But O’Connor says there remains a challenge facing young people — borne of stereotypes — that she and the other young candidates are trying to break.
“It’s the cycle where they’re criticized for not being engaged in government and then when they do try to run and seek representation, they’re told that they’re too young and they’re not serious,” she said.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll know if a young person trying to change the future is able to make history.