Edmonton council narrowly supports backing request for province to consider lowering voting age to 16

Edmonton City Council debates supporting the youth council's letter to province to consider lowering voting age. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

In a close vote of 7-6, Edmonton city council passed a motion to support the youth council’s letter to the government of Alberta, asking it to consider changing the civic voting age to 16.

During the discussion leading up to the vote, councillors expressed concern that there wasn’t full public consultation on this idea.

However, the mayor stressed the request was that the province simply consider the issue. He said council’s letter didn’t indicate it endorsed changing the voting age, just that the province seriously consider the topic.

“I happen to believe, with the youth council, that it’s a discussion worth having,” Don Iveson said.

“It is my instinct, my reflex to support this,” Councillor Scott McKeen said. However, he added he got calls from the public saying they weren’t consulted.

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McKeen said he was comfortable with the youth council sending its request to the province, but was uncomfortable adding city council’s endorsement to it.

Councillors Bev Esslinger and Mo Banga expressed similar views.

“We need to be careful when we ask the province to do something,” he added.

“I struggle a little bit that we did not have a robust discussion.”

“Adding rights to one group doesn’t take rights away from others,” Marina Banister, chair of the Edmonton Youth Council, said.

READ MORE: Edmonton executive committee supports youths’ request to lower voting age to 16

Councillor Ben Henderson suggested amending the wording of the motion so that it include the word “consider.”

Other councillors said supporting this request could, in some small way, encourage greater participation in the democratic process.

“I think it’s important for us to stretch forward,” Councillor Michael Walters said.

Henderson said, given the wording of the motion, that it would absolutely be appropriate for city council to send a cover letter to the Alberta government asking it to seriously consider the youth council’s request.

“We’re not changing anything today,” Henderson said.

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