Fredericton vote mob wants to change how Ottawa runs

More than 200 people gathered in Officer’s Square in downtown Fredericton on a chilly Saturday afternoon to send politicians a message: young people plan on voting in the May 2 federal election.

Similar vote mobs have or will be held in more than 30 cities and campuses across the country. The mobs started after comedian Rick Mercer called for young people to vote in one of his rants.

On Saturday afternoon in Fredericton, people chanted, cheered, banged drums and waved flags as they marched across the walking bridge, adorned with a sign that said, “Surprise, we’re voting!”

Once the mob reached the lighthouse across the street from Officer’s Square, each person dropped a mock ballot into a box to signify their intention to vote.

Attendees at Fredericton's vote mob stuff a mock ballot box to signify their intention to vote on May 2. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)
Attendees at Fredericton's vote mob stuff a mock ballot box to signify their intention to vote on May 2. (Karissa Donkin/AQ)

Fourth-year St. Thomas University student Julianne Butt was pleased with the turnout at the vote mob. She showed up with a sign supporting local farmers.

“I feel really heated up, really rowdy, I feel like it’s just awesome to see people caring and to see people asking questions,” Butt said.

“This is definitely one of the most important [elections] if you’re dealing with public health, environment, education. Everything is really sort of not working for the people right now.”

Natalie Gerum, one of the organizers of the Fredericton mob, started a Facebook event page for the Fredericton vote mob on Tuesday. By Saturday morning, more than 400 people said they planned to attend.

All four candidates running in the riding attended, Gerum said.

“This election is really important to me because something’s gotta give, something’s gotta change.

“I don’t necessarily mean partisan politics – I mean the way politics happen. Who’s there, what issues get discussed and how they’re discussed. I think that youth as well as other citizens are really ready for something different and they’re disenfranchised a bit with how Ottawa runs.”

Gerum admits getting the youth vote out at a time when students are preoccupied with finals or are preparing to move is challenging. But she is optimistic that events like vote mobs will compensate for any toll a springtime election could take on youth voter turnout.

The energized mobs are proof youth do care about what is happening around them, Gerum said.

“To anyone that says that youth aren’t engaged and youth don’t care about world issues, I challenge that statement. Look who was here today and look at this movement spreading across the country.

“No way, I don’t buy it.”

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