Young people in Ontario are too often underrepresented and underserved by political parties. As the largest bloc of working-age people in the province — yes, you read that right — this is a big problem.

Fewer than half the voters under 25 voted in the last federal election, higher than any other demographic. Meanwhile, the last Ontario election had the lowest turnout ever.

It is easy to blame apathy on those who don’t show up to the polls. But young adults across Canada are volunteering more, participating in protests and donating to causes they believe in. They just don’t believe in politics as the vehicle to make a difference.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

But it’s going to take a new generation of leaders to show that politics can be done differently, that it’s the best way to drive change and that the answer is participation.

First, how we practise politics has to change.

Less partisan rhetoric, more honesty and authenticity.

Less centralization, more grassroots engagement and accountability.

We should be united in our values of competence, compassion and integrity, and we should all keep the promises we make at election time. But thoughtful and principled disagreement should also be encouraged because it is the only way we improve our parties and politics.

Young people just don’t believe in politics as the vehicle to make a difference. It doesn't have to be that way. writes Nate Erskine-Smith @beynate @OntLiberal #ontario #onpoli

More than anything, we need to include young people in our decision-making.

I ran for my local Liberal nomination at the age of 29, motivated by a commitment to generational and grassroots renewal. Since then, young people have always played a meaningful role in my work.

And I will take the same approach to this new challenge of running for Ontario Liberal leader.

Of course, generational change matters most if it leads to positive change for the next generation. Serious renewal depends on how we act and what we can accomplish.

Young people are rightly furious and frustrated about their inability to buy a home or find an affordable place to live. It took five years of full-time work to save a 20 per cent down payment on an average-priced home in 1976. Now it takes 22 years across Ontario, and 27 years in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

It’s not only a generational fairness challenge, it’s a challenge to our economic productivity. Understandably, young people are leaving home communities and our province because they can’t afford to live here.

Here in Ontario, housing and infrastructure haven’t kept pace with population growth because politicians have chosen their short-term electoral benefit over the long-term public interest.

And the same holds true in other areas that particularly affect young people, whether it’s the absence of serious climate action, the underinvestment in child care and education or the refusal to tackle wealth inequality.

On all of these issues and more, the best way to make a difference is through politics. That’s how we change laws, deliver spending where it’s needed, ensure people pay their fair share and build a society and an economy that works for everyone.

And if you want better from our politics, the answer is participation.

No party is perfect. But it’s through participation that we bring our politics closer to where we want it to be.

Too many young people who care deeply about public policy feel politically homeless. At the same time, the Ontario Liberal Party only has seven seats at Queen’s Park and is in desperate need of grassroots and generational renewal.

Rebuilding the party will take hard work. But there is a huge opportunity through this leadership process to shape our politics and be a part of positive change.

We found success federally in 2015 by engaging and including young people in our politics. And if we are to find renewed success in Ontario, that is exactly what we need to do.

Politics, for all of its faults, is the most important way we can make a positive difference in the lives of those around us. And there is no better time than now to get involved and deliver the generational change we need here in Ontario — for our party and our province.

Nate Erskine-Smith is the MP for Beaches-East York and a candidate for leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

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Big picture please. People of your generation urgently need to engage more with older generations for their irreplaceable, highly relevant perspective at this critical time.
Step back a bit from that brave new digital world that you identify with so strongly and feel so proprietary about, understandable though that is (because, after all, it IS literally and obviously compellingly in your hands with your phones, unique to your generation.)
But the big picture is that we're actually out of time on the climate thing as we speak, and how is that not arguably THE most important issue for your generation? And if the only real vehicle for action is arguably, ultimately political while you say your generation generally eschews politics (also understandably), possibly categorizing it disparagingly as another example of "adulting," well it has to be said that you need to grow up and join us in the fray.
marginalize the climate-science-denying right wing when that's the ONLY way to make the difference they want, you've got your work cut out for you.

I heard Douglas Coupland say once that the internet replaced religion for a lot of young people but it also needs to be said that what both of those worldviews have in common is they're not the real world. Politics is.

Newsflash: politics has offered nothing to half the population for decades now.
Not quite true: it's "offered" ... but never delivered.
Ditto for the poorest half of the country.
It's past time for the whiners and know-alls both to take a good look at historical and current realities.
As in get a grip on reality, man!

Agreed. It's also worth noting that there isn't a political party that is talking about what's essential in tackling climate change - moving away from an economic system with a growth imperative.

No wonder many people feel politically homeless.

The EU just hosted a forum called 'beyond growth.' It's not a radical idea. As Jason Hickel notes, the policy planks in a degrowth politics poll as widely popular. His brilliant short contribution to the conference can be heard here: