Sixteen year olds can drive and they can get married. But in Canada, they can’t vote. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver wants to change that. Weaver introduced private members legislation on Tuesday to lower the voting age to 16 in B.C.
“Young British Columbians have the greatest stake in the future of our province. They should have a say in the decisions our politicians make,” Weaver said. “Research shows that the cognitive skills required to make calm, logically informed decisions are firmly in place by age 16. Young citizens of British Columbia are old enough to drive, pay taxes and sign up for the military.
LISTEN: Simi Sara discusses Weaver’s proposal
This is the third time Weaver has introduced the bill. And third time may be lucky.
B.C. Premier John Horgan seems to like the idea and is working with Government House leader Mike Farnworth to see if the legislation is acceptable to support.
“I believe that if we can get more people involved in politics, that’s a good thing,” said Horgan. “I believe that young people are very much focused on learning and understanding our political process. We want to see participation levels go up.”
“If you start voting as soon as you can, you will probably vote for life.”
Based on Elections B.C.’s report into the 2017 general provincial election, just 56 per cent of 18-24 year olds who were registered to vote and only 46 per cent of 25-35 year olds registered actually showed up to cast a ballot. When you include all young people, just 28 per cent of eligible 18 to 24-year-olds voted , while only 37 per cent of eligible 25 to 34-year-olds cast ballots.
“Voting rights have been extended to 16 year-olds in Scotland, Argentina, Austria and Brazil. Evidence from those jurisdictions shows that enfranchising these young voters has led to substantially higher levels of political participation,” Weaver said.
Similar legislation has been brought forward in Ottawa. Vancouver-Kingsway NDP MP Don Davies tabled a private member’s bill in 2016, suggesting the voting age should be lowered to 16 at the federal level.
Proponents argue that lowering the voting age reflects the maturity of 16 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.
~With files from the Canadian Press
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