January 28, 2016 8:45 pm

Voting at sweet 16? A new Parliamentary bill hopes so

A new private member's bill wants to reduce the voting age to 16.

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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.”

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“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.

Things you can do before you can legally vote:

If you’re 16 – no more school if you wish.

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  • Move out (kind of): although you cannot legally leave home until you’re 19, many British Columbian youth do in practice. On the bright side, your parents are financially responsible for you until then (with some exceptions)
  • Make a living: you can start working at 15 (no parental permission required!)
  • Ring those wedding bells: you can get married with your parents’ permission at 16

Congratulations on your wedding (if your parents allow it)!

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  • Consent: the age of consent in Canada is 16, with some fine print
  • Join the army: regular forces at 17, and the reserve force at 16
  • Fly: you can get your pilot’s licence at 17
  • Change your name: you can do this with parental permission at age 12
  • Donate blood: you can start donating blood at age 17
  • Get charged with murder: if the crime is serious enough, a youth as young as 14 can be sentenced as an adult
  • Supervise your siblings: youths aged 16 and over can act as accompanying adults for minors (age 11 years or younger) on Air Canada
  • Compete in Olympic gymnastics: while there is no specific age limit for the Olympic Games, gymnasts must be at least 16 or turning 16 in the calendar year to compete

Canada’s Ellie Black competes in the balance beam at the Pan American games in Toronto, 2015.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press
  • Create a social media dynasty: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow anyone over 13 to create an account
  • Get a tattoo or piercing: there is no legally specified age to get a tattoo or piercing in B.C., although the Ministry of Health recommends that studios get parental consent for people under 19

– With files from The Canadian Press

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