The issue: The youth vote
We say: The kids are all right
A bill to reduce the voting age from 18 to 16 years old is on its second reading in the House of Commons.
Manitoba Senator Marilou McPhedran tabled the bill and asked her colleagues to consider the potential that it holds to revitalize Canada’s democracy.
In late April, McPhedran and Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq held a meeting with Inuksuk High School students regarding the work the class has done on the Vote16 project and in support of passing this bill.
One of the students pointed out that many 18-year-olds just entering the workforce and learning the ropes of their newfound adulthood often become preoccupied with the responsibilities that come with their independence. For that reason, it makes sense to ingrain the importance of politics and voting before all of those competing interests are vying for their attention.
A preoccupied 18-year-old who doesn’t vote often becomes a 50-year-old with voter apathy. If you’ve never felt prompted to make a difference with your voice and it seems the world has gotten on fine without it so far, why bother, right?
Apathy only serves those in power, however.
In defence of Bill S-209 in the House Nov. 5, McPhedran said, “The arguments for lowering the legal voting age to 16 echo the debates on lowering the voting age to 18 in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Indeed, they echo the debate that women should not have been given the vote. Today’s common criticisms of youth echo these historical debates, but they are echoes without the evidence.”
Young people are more informed than they ever have been, partially due to more open levels of communication over the internet.
They’re also more engaged than ever, with youth councils and youth representatives existing for nearly any issue – and their input is regularly sought by their elder counterparts.
Almost all political parties allow membership from the age of 14. Some of the most enthusiastic volunteers come from the 14- to 17-year-old age bracket.
We already trust 16-year-olds to drive cars, give informed consent in sexual relationships, sign up for the armed forces reserves and pay taxes on their income.
People under 30 years old also make up the majority of Nunavut’s population.
Young people face important and serious issues that intersect with the role of government. As of 2018, people under 18 are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as we are,” said McPhedran. “Historically, youth unemployment has been higher than the rest of the general population, and we see that dramatically right now in the midst of this pandemic.”
The youth of Canada are more than capable of and interested in participating in our democratic processes. They’re also the same people who will inherit the problems of the governments that came before them.
Senator Mary Jane McCallum, in backing the bill, said on Dec. 3, “From the perspective of a Cree woman, this bill is about revitalizing First Nations, Métis, Inuit and non-status youth, and supporting them in their self-determination.”
The best way for our youth to grow into the leaders of tomorrow is to ensure they can be engaged in the political process as early as possible.