The Right to Vote at 16 Act was introduced as a private members bill to federal Parliament by Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach on Dec. 13.
Bill C-210, if passed, would lower the age of federal voters to 16 years old and is a “fairly simple bill,” Bachrach said.
The idea is not a new one and has been presented to Parliament at least ten times in the past, the MP told Black Press Media, on Dec. 14. The last time a similar bill was presented to Parliament was in 2005.
Many of the issues being debated in the House of Commons and the decisions being made by the federal government have a huge bearing on the future that young people will inherit, Bachrach said, yet many are not included in the electoral process.
“This bill is not just about empowering the voices of young people but also strengthening our democracy,” Bachrach said.
“As we can see around the world, democracy is fragile. Turnout in Canadian elections continues to be the lowest among young people. If more people get involved in politics and feel their voices are reflected in Parliament, our country will be stronger. Lowering the voting age contributes to that goal.”
Bachrach said he has a lot of faith in young people and has been inspired by the youth he has interacted with during his career in politics.
The politician said that during his travels around northwest B.C. he has met many young people, such as those in the Prince Rupert Rising Stars program, who have struck him with their motivation and intelligence. Youth on Haida Gwaii have also marked their positions in his action to bring the bill forward.
“[The young people] on Haida Gwaii are passionate about issues around reconciliation and Indigenous rights, and the protection of our environment,” he said. “So, the issues that we’re talking about today are really important ones. Young people have a stake in the future. They deserve a place at the table and a voice in our electoral process.”
Countries such as Wales, Scotland, Austria, Argentina have all lowered the voter age, with Germany in the process, he said.
With 16-year-olds able to drive, donate blood and become organ donors, they need a voice on current-day issues such as climate change, housing affordability and student debt, the MP said.
“They can leave home and live by themselves and perhaps most importantly, they can work and pay taxes. Yet, they aren’t able to vote in elections, which in part decides what those taxes will be.”
It has been 50 years since the age of voting was altered from 21 down to 18.
“So, of course, there’s always going to be a vigorous debate whenever we talk about expanding the franchise and allowing more people to vote,” Bachrach said. “At one point in our history, Canada didn’t allow women to vote. Nor did it allow Indigenous people to vote, so, why wouldn’t we allow 16-year-olds to vote?”
There is always a set of arguments raised when talk of expanding the voter pool is brought up, he said.
“I think these are the same arguments that would have been brought up when women got the vote and when Indigenous people got the vote. It’s … arguments around competence. I believe often those arguments are misplaced,” he said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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