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.
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.
WATCH HERE: Should the voting age be changed to 16?
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.
Things you can do before you can legally vote:
- Take a road trip: you can get a driver’s licence with your parents’ permission at 16
- Quit school: you can leave school at 16
- 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
- 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
- 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