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Cape Breton students learn politics through Student Vote during municipal elections

Riverview High School Grade 9 students Ella MacArthur, 15, and Cohan Harries, 14, stand in the classroom where students cast their votes in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's mock 2020 elections.
Riverview High School Grade 9 students Ella MacArthur, 15, and Cohan Harries, 14, stand in the classroom where students cast their votes in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's mock 2020 elections. - CONTRIBUTED
COXHEATH, N.S. —

Fifteen-year-old Ella MacArthur wasn't sure who would win her vote for district councillor on Friday before Nova Scotia's municipal elections. 

 But she knew exactly which name she'd put her 'X" besides for mayor. 

"Amanda McDougall ... Because she is a distant relative of ours," said the Grade 9 student at Riverview High School during a phone interview on Friday. 

"She also sounds like she's going to do a very good job. She sounds very professional." 

Along with 15 other schools in Cape Breton, Riverview took part in Student Vote during the municipal elections and held voting at the school. School Vote is an initiative by a non-profit called CIVIX created to teach youth about democratic institutions and their rights and responsibilities as citizens. 

Across Nova Scotia, 145 schools took part in Student Vote for the municipal elections and learned about the candidates' platforms during the campaign.


STUDENT VOTE 2020
In Cape Breton, students voted in mock municipal elections on Thursday and Friday and here were their choices for CBRM council:

  • Mayor - Amanda McDougall 
  • District 1 – Andrew Doyle 
  • District 2 – Jim Dunphy 
  • District 3 – Cyril MacDonald 
  • District 4 – Steve Gillespie 
  • District 5 – Christina Joe 
  • District 6 – Glenn Paruch 
  • District 7 – Ivan Doncaster 
  • District 8 – James Edwards 
  • District 9 – Kenny Tracey  
  • District 10 – Matthew Boyd  
  • District 11 – Darren O’Quinn 
  • District 12 – Kim Sheppard 

Participating schools had voting stations for students to cast their votes for candidates in their district as well as for mayor. During the campaign, students learned about the voting process as well as the candidates. 

"(I understand about the voting process) definitely more this year. In previous years, we didn't really talk about it in classes. This year, we focused on it more," said 14-year-old Cohan Harries who has participated in other mock elections. 

"It's definitely a lot better that we get to participate now so we understand it a lot more when we have to (officially vote)," added MacArthur. 

Over the past seven years, Riverview has participated in Student Vote and teacher Peter Murphy said they've done the program for all levels of government. 

This year, due to COVID-19 health safety measures, mayoral candidates couldn't visit the schools but Murphy said engagement is still there. 

"We need to train students to understand how you vote, what it is to select your candidate, what it is to become a questioning citizen who wants to know more," said Murphy, who said the Student Vote initiative is in line with what students learn in their citizenship nine class.

"The goal of that course is to ... help students understand that nothing just happens. It's citizens, it's people, it's everyday average Joes and Janes that make things happen in our community. So we have to become engaged if we want the community to change in positive ways."

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