Comedian’s Rant Sets off “Vote Mobs” in Canada

A Canadian comic's challenge to young voters has set off a series of "Vote Mobs" (and slick YouTube videos) in advance of the country's May 2nd Federal election.

Rick Mercer, sometimes called Canada’s Jon Stewart, had a bone to pick with young voters. So a couple weeks ago he took to the air on his weekly CBC television show, and called on young people to “Take 20 minutes out of your day and do what young people all over the world are dying to do. Vote.”

His rant actually began with a lament that Canadian politicians are targeting just about everyone but the country’s young citizens, because no on expects them to turn out at the polls.

“If there were more than five paraplegic lesbian Inuit women in Labrador, they would be a target. Everyone is targeted except for one group.  The youth vote. There are more than three million young eligible young voters in this country. And as far as any of the political are concerned, you might as well be dead.”

It’s rare that one comedian’s diatribe sets off a social movement. But within days, students at Ontario’s Guelph University were ripping off their winter clothes (watch the video below), writing out signs, and making a show of force in advance of the country’s May 2nd federal election.

A well-edited video of the “Vote Mob” set to Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over” then made the rounds on YouTube, setting off a wave of copycat events and videos from around the country.

The “Vote Mobs” - the electoral version of the "Flash Mob" YouTube phenomenon - are not necessarily large in number. The most publicized ones attracted only a couple hundred Canucks. But the trend has caught the eye of the mainstream media, garnering a positive editorial in the Montreal Gazette and turning the year-old grassroots organization into the de facto mouthpiece of  young, left-leaning Canadians.

This election is now being hailed as the first in Canada to largely play out through social medial.

Guelph students then got even more national attention when they set up an early polling station, casting 700 voters that were later sanctioned by the government despite an attempt by the Conservative party to have each one invalidated.

The results of all these efforts will largely be determined on May 2nd. If youth turn out in large numbers across the country, the “Vote Mobs” could be a blueprint for how young people will organize in advance of the U.S. Presidential election next year. But even if that doesn't happen, our northern neighbors have already proven that choice words, slick videos and a little grassroots gusto can get an entire country talking.