UPDATE: Council voted 7-6 on July 30 to ask the province to explore the idea of lowering the voting age from 18 years old to 16.
Calgary City Councillor George Chahal wants the Alberta government to explore the idea of lowering the voting age in municipal elections from 18 to 16 years of age.
The provincial government has indicated it’s going to make changes to the Local Authorities Election Act this fall when the legislature resumes. It’s set a deadline of July 31 for municipalities to provide their priorities on how to make a fairer election process.
READ MORE: Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?
While city council will likely debate issues of campaign finance reform and transparency issues as their goals, it will also decide whether to put forward the idea to lower the voting age.
Chahal said 16 year olds aren’t children, they are young adults.
“You can join the Armed Forces at the age of 16, fight at the age of 17, you can hold a job and pay taxes, so I think this is real important.”
The ward 5 councillor said other countries have lowered their voting age and youth today are very engaged.
“I’ve seen so many amazing and brilliant kids out there and they just want to get involved and I think this, at a municipal level, is a way to get them involved and get them participating in our democracy.”
On Thursday, city council’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee voted 3-2 to put the idea to council on whether to take the proposal to the province.
“One of the best things of my job is that I get to speak to people every single day from every single walk of life and oh my gosh, I have met some incredibly brilliant high school students between 16 and 18,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who supports the idea.
“If it does allow more people to get more engaged at a time when they’re taking social studies classes, when they’re learning about government, we know once you vote once you’re always going to vote. And increasing youth participation, I think, is something well worth looking at.”
Chahal said candidates would obviously have to learn to relate to a younger voter, jokingly he said that includes getting up to speed on the latest video game trend.
“I’ve heard of Fortnight, I think I’m going to start playing, learn a little bit maybe over August. I might try it out to see if there’s any youth in the community who might want to teach me.”