Sixteen-year-olds across the country could be heading to the ballot boxes if a new bill introduced in Parliament Thursday by Vancouver M.P. Don Davies passes.
The private member’s bill would lower the voting age in Canada to 16.
In a statement, Davies said Bill C-213 “is about trusting young Canadians with the right to participate in our democratic decision making.”
“Young Canadians often work, pay taxes and have a vital interest in the way they are governed. They deserve the right to have their say in the future of our country, and Canadian needs their perspective,” he added.
It’s an, ahem, age-old debate. Austria, Brazil and Ecuador have recently chosen to extend the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds and the Scottish Parliament chose in 2014 to give this group the right to vote in a landmark independence referendum. The referendum was a great success where over 100,000 16- and 17-year-old Scots headed to the polls, spurring legislators to permanently lower the voting age.
Proponents argue that lowering the voting age reflects the maturity of sixteen year-olds who are allowed to leave school, start working and drive, and it might encourage a higher voter turnout by allowing teens and politicians to speak on issues that affect them.
Critics argue that 16-year-olds might not have the best judgment or make the most informed decisions. They also argue that consistently low turnout numbers among voters aged 18 to 24 suggest that there is little point in encouraging even younger people to go to the ballot box.
As a private member’s bill, Bill C-213 has a limited window for consideration, and it most likely won’t be passed into law anytime soon. Davies also failed to get an earlier private member’s bill on voting age passed in 2013.
Until then, 16- and 17-year-olds can console themselves with all the things they can do before voting.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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