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Lowering the voting age for local B.C. elections gets vote of confidence from UBCM

A sign points the way to a voting place in Vancouver.
A sign points the way to a voting place in Vancouver. Simon Little / Global News

Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in British Columbia has received another vote of confidence.

A majority of local government officials have voted in favour of lowering the voting age to 16 for local elections. The City of Victoria proposed the motion at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) conference.

“At age 16, youth have jobs, drive cars, and they can even get married or join the military with parental consent. If we’re old enough to die for our country, we’re old enough to vote in it,” 15-year-old Nahira Gerster-Sim said.

WATCH (aired September 20, 2019): Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh proposes lowering voting age to 16

Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh proposes lowering voting age to 16
Federal Election 2019: Jagmeet Singh proposes lowering voting age to 16

Premier John Horgan says there is still work to be done before considering lowering the voting age.

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For now Horgan is focused on encouraging the registration of young people before they can actually vote.

“We are going to look at all the resolutions that were passed,” he said.

“I know reducing the voting age is something that catches people’s attention. But I think we have a bit more work to do to understand the consequences of that.”

READ MORE: B.C. premier considering lowering the voting age to 16

In 2018, B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver introduced private member’s legislation 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 after introducing the legislation. “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.”

It was the third time Weaver introduced the bill.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and federal Green Leader Elizabeth May have advocated to lower the federal voting age.

WATCH (March 6, 2018): Should the voting age be changed to 16?

Should the voting age be changed to 16?
Should the voting age be changed to 16?

Based on Elections B.C.’s report into the 2017 general provincial election, just 56 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds who were registered to vote, and 46 per cent of registered 25-to-35-year-olds 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.

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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.

Municipal leaders are hoping momentum will continue for change.

READ MORE: Majority of British Columbians support mandatory voting: poll

“We can see that our youth are clearly engaged in political issues,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said.

“The climate strikes are just one example. But the youth are doing more than striking. When they put down their picket signs and have conversations with us, they are demanding fiscal responsibility, sustainable jobs, and a long-term approach to governance. That’s exactly the kind of thinking we look for from our constituents, at any age.”

UBCM delegates are also supporting the idea of allowing Canadian permanent residents to vote.