Foggy Times Ahead

By: Benjamin Oates - Morrison Scholarship Contributor

February 16, 2021

Benjamin Oates is a First Year student at Memorial University, and an avid political watcher.

This article was originally written for the Morrison Scholarship.

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Several weeks ago, I set out to write an article for the Morrison Scholarship about the challenges we face in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the need for more young people to exercise their rights to vote. You see, this is the first election in Newfoundland and Labrador where I have been old enough to vote, and I eagerly cast my ballot. But what I hadn’t counted on, was just what a wild election it would turn out to be.

In the span of one week, we went from planning to conduct a normal election with hand sanitizer, to a hybrid mail and in person approach, and finally an entirely mail-in affair. With the resurgence of Covid-19, and the new B117 variant at that, the relative calm of a boring election was shattered.

The drama of this past week has been exhausting, with ever changing deadlines and rules, and confusion at times over who exactly is in charge. It shows us that our institutions, and indeed our entire democratic process are only as strong as the people who make them up. More importantly, it reinforces my belief that we all need to be better educated about the processes and institutions that we like to ignore, but which for better and for worse have a direct impact on our lives.

This election is about choosing the path our Province wants to take, and I want to encourage all young people to request a ballot by mail, and to exercise your demoractic rights. Make your choice, and be heard.

To get your ballot, visit before Friday, February 19 at 8:00pm.

It takes a serious effort these days to ignore the problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador, or to acknowledge that they didn’t all appear overnight.

Eighteen years ago, I was born into a province which held promise and had hope for a bright future. Indeed, in 2002 times were good - our GDP surged by 8.2 percent thanks to a 92 percent increase in oil production, and disposable incomes were creeping up. The province was breathing fresh air, and ready to leave the turbulence of the 1990s behind.

Fast forward two decades to the Province in which I have become an adult and a university student. A staggering $12 billion dollar debt which we neither voted, nor asked for, and which continues to balloon with every word I write. Like the debt, our demographic crisis is also deepening, and we seem powerless to stop either.

We remain dependent on an industry which could soon collapse, saddled with the highest debt-to-gdp ratio in the country, the third lowest minimum wage… and all of that before the pandemic.

It is exhausting to write, but we need to acknowledge how close we are to running aground. Our wellbeing is in the balance, and if we fail to act boldly now, I fear the scars will be deep.

My generation did not ask for these challenges, and we had no votes to cast against the policies that created them. But that’s different now. The provincial election on February 13th will be the first chance for many of us to vote - our first chance to stand up for ourselves in the political world, to have our voice, and to tip the scales.

In a place where our fate was once decided by a 51-49 margin, don’t you dare think your vote doesn’t matter. Listen to the news. Talk to friends and family. Talk with the candidates in your district. Inform your opinion, and vote on it.

You see, now that we can vote, we cannot take it for granted. Rather, it is our duty to ourselves, our elders and future generations alike to protect the vulnerable and voiceless of our society, who sadly bear the brunt of the blow. Those of us fortunate enough to still have homes, jobs, and some sense of security must speak up for those who, by no fault of their own, don’t have the same privileges.

That’s not to say that we don’t have reasons to be cynical. I believe my generation wants to see the end of us vs. them partisan politics, and we must push politicians and parties to run on policy, not pomp and circumstance. The adversity we are coping with, and the challenges yet to come are too great and too urgent to waste time on anything except objectivity and fact-based policy making.

If our Province’s course does not change immediately, it won’t matter what person, party or Premier was to blame. The facts will be the same, and our youngest generation will pay the biggest price.

What does matter is what we do.We must remind ourselves that we have all the qualities to take on the world. We are creative, bold, entrepreneurial, socially conscious, innovative, and thanks to COVID-19, we are strong.

We have had to adapt to so much change in the past year, but these experiences will serve us well as we push boldly into the future.

We must grow our innovative tech sector, and diversify our economy. We must harness the wind - if not the sun - to become a leader in the renewable energy sector. We must ensure that everyone benefits, and resist prosperity at the expense of the vulnerable. We must lower the voting age to empower our youth. But none of that can happen if we don’t show up and vote.

We are battered, and some days the prognosis is bleak, but I remain hopeful that our generation can lead the charge to get our Province back on track. But it’s up to you to take the first step. It’s up to you to vote.

We’re all depending on it.