In what comedian Charlie Demers referred to as “the most positive use of an old porno theatre,” the Not-a-Party Election Party lit up the Fox Cabaret on Saturday night.
Put on by Gen Why Media and SFU’s Institute for the Humanities, the event featured musicians, speakers, and comedians, all offering their take on the upcoming federal election.
The party was the last in a series of events put on by Gen Why Media in order to engage students in discussion about the election. Tara Mahoney, creative director and cofounder, said that current party methods of engagement “are not capturing the attention of youth.”
Gen Why Media was founded in order to meet that need by using interactive events to engage with voters. On September 17, some SFU Burnaby students may remember there being a ‘vote’ sign that they could write on with chalk and an airstream trailer at Cornerstone where they were invited to discuss the election.
Unsurprisingly, the theme of the Not-a-Party event was voter participation, and although it was reportedly non-partisan, contempt for the current government was voiced throughout the night.
Emma Cooper, acting as emcee for the evening, joked, “You can say the statement ‘I hate Harper’ and that is not a partisan statement. It’s gotten that bad.”
Audrey Siegl opened the event with a First Nations perspective, calling the audience to action. Siegl has been an advocate and activist for years, recently confronting Shell’s Arctic drilling platform.
She explained that First Nations peoples aren’t accurately represented in the parliamentary process, and that voters should pressure the government to make decisions based on the welfare of people, not profit. “Use your vote,” Siegl challenged. “Do what you know is right.”
Leadnow, an organisation determined to push the Conservatives out of power, spoke about how they were working to get out the youth vote in this election. They also talked about how after the election, voters can still have a powerful influence on the government. The Tricities BC Field Organizer for Leadnow, Jolan Bailey, commented that “after the election is when we need to flex those muscles.”
Irina Cedric, a criminology instructor from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, also talked about engaging young people, but that she felt that media focus was pulling attention away from the real issues. “Every time I talk [to students] about real policy change, [. . .] it all comes back to the issues that have been spun,” Cedric said, referring to the niqab debate that some have accused as a conservative strategy to polarize voters.
Comedian Demers offered his take on the matter, asking the audience, “Remember when people would be privately racist in this country?”
The event also featured local musicians, and poet Meharoona Ghani, speaking to issues of discrimination and inequality in Canada.
Ghani, a community engagement specialist, recited spoken word poetry about her experiences with racism. She summarized the attitude she sometimes felt towards herself as: “Welcome to Canada. Where are you really from?”
Although the event ended with the highly unusual genre of political involvement freestyle rap and dancing, the overall sentiment was that change was not only possible, but necessary.
Mahoney explained that voting in the current system might not be enough, that “even the most ideal outcome won’t be sufficient for the problems we’re facing.”