First Vote Civic Engagement Conferences

The future is you(th) and now is our time to take action

Youth aged 18-25 have, historically, held the lowest voter turnout in all of Canada. This is what sparked a need to change that: to empower youth to engage in their communities, influence government decisions, and get out and vote.

A group of Political Science students took this need to action and began First Vote, a one-day crash course for grade 12 students on Canadian politics, networking with candidates, and youth advocacy, to prepare students for their First Vote.

That first conference sparked a future of youth empowerment initiatives, from federal-level civic engagement conferences, in-class workshops, media campaigns, and more, to showcase the power of youth voice in Niagara.

First Vote 2018

One team, four political candidates, 100 newly politically engaged students.

Student Debate

Political candidates from each political candidate for Member of Provincial Parliament, riding of St. Catharines, gave their undivided attention to students for this question and answer debate period.

Professor Heinmiller

One of Brock University’s most established professors in Political Science delivers a lecture on political ideologies and the political spectrum.

Hope Tuff-Berg and Nico Tripodi

Conference founders speak about the importance of the upcoming election, and opportunity for youth to become civically engaged

Student Brainstorming Sessions

Students broke into groups of 25 to discuss issues pertaining to youth, and to brainstorm questions to ask their candidates. 

First Vote 2018: Provincial Elections

In May of 2018, First Vote ran its first First Vote Conference. This pilot project sought to empower a select group of grade 12 students in the Niagara Region to pledge their First Vote for the 2018 provincial elections.

Students learned about Canadian politics, how government works, and engaged in a Q&A debate period with their MPP candidates who sat on the edge of their seats. We’re proud to say that this was successful, and we were asked to organize First Vote 2019 in preparation for the federal elections. 


The First Vote Conference is a great way for first-time voters to make educated choices in the voting booth. I wish all first-time voters had the chance to attend such a conference.

Tim Heinmiller

Professor of Political Science, Brock University

First Vote 2019: Federal Elections

On May 8, 2019, First Vote hosted Niagara students for the second time at this full-day conference that aims to improve their awareness, knowledge and understanding of politics. We focused on political issues which affect youth directly to help them learn about what is going on in the country and prepare them for their first vote in the federal election in October.

This event began with a keynote from youth leaders on the power of the vote. It continued with a mini lecture from Dr. Tim Heinmiller on How Government Works, followed by an explanation of the division of powers. After lunch, students engaged in a speed-networking session with candidates from each political party for the riding of St. Catharines, Brock University student clubs and civil society organizations, to learn about how politics impact their community.  

“Why I’m Voting” Media Campaign

At First Vote 2019, students brought their new knowledge, lived experience, and passion to an advocacy campaign called “why I’m voting.” This was wide-spread across social media, empowering youth to bring their concerns to government for the upcoming election.

Photo Coverage

One team, six candidates, four civil society groups and 150 civically engaged students.

Students Arriving at the Conference

Receiving 100 students for the conference

Opening Address

Opening address with Founder & CEO, Hope Tuff-Berg and Eve Nyambiya

Keynote Speech

Inspiring keynote address from former Brock University Vice-President, Brian Hutchings.

Mini-seminar on How Government Works

Insightful lecture from Dr. Heinmiller on the political spectrum and “how government works.”

Address from CAO, Kailene Jackson

NDP Candidate, Dennis VanMeer

Green Party of St. Catharines

Conservative Party Candidate, April Jeffs

Liberal Party Candidate, Chris Bittle, skyping in from Parliament

Niagara Poverty Reduction Network

Diana Huson, Regional Councillor addressing youth

Who thought politics could be this cool?

Sponsor, Brock University

Engaged teachers & staff

Final #GetOutTheVote message

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