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A Tragically Hip way to engage youth

Largely overshadowed by the race south of the border, Canadians are also in the midst of an election that will pick the nation’s next Prime Minister. But unlike developing trends in the U.S., it’s far from clear what the outcome will be.Earlier this week I had the opportunity to see the two main contenders back to back. While both leaders have the nation’s well-being at the root of their promises, all of the political parties have failed to resonate or stir debate among the digital generation.While movie stars and musicians have long been part of the U.S. political process, it’s still somewhat of a novelty up here. During one of those political events this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rob Baker, the guitarist from the Tragically Hip. He wasn’t hard to pick out of the suit and tie crowd in the room. While he was wearing a suit and tie, he was the only one sporting the a¼ber cool 1970s style beard with hair longer than most. After discovering we both had a great admiration and love of Gordon Lightfoot’s music (in fact a compilation of Gord’s tunes remains a permanent fixture in my vehicle), the conversation turned to politics and why he was involved. In very articulate and insightful reasoning, he carefully outlined why he felt it important to participate. It didn’t matter to me what party he did or didn’t support. What mattered was his engagement in the process -his interest to get involved had been tweaked. How can that similar interest be tweaked in younger generations?Voter turn-out within the youth demographic has been in steady decline and this election should prove to be no different. For successive election post-mortems the media, politicians, and voters have openly discussed what needs to be done to engage youth. Yes all of the leaders have been twittering, myspacing, facebooking, and using other types of social networking tools to attract votes -but just votes, not to engage them in a dialogue or demonstrate a clear vision on where technology and its tools will take us. Perhaps it’s partly due to a generation of political operatives who didn’t grow up with all things digital and who can’t see technology as the transformative tool it truly is. Large and small entities across the country have embraced collaborative change, yet Canadian policy makers still seem to struggle with the potential. Just like Rob Baker demonstrated no apprehension in standing out in a room full of political elites in order to help formulate policies that mattered to him, our elected leaders should be just as fearless by wading into a digital generation that views the world more openly. Rob, if you ever do decide to run for city council in Kingston, Ontario -I’m definitely signing up as a volunteer to help out.

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