Private Members Bill to Lower the Voting Age
A move to lower the federal voting age in Canada to 16 got a boost on February 1, 2005, when more than 20 members of parliament from all federal political parties agreed to second a private members bill by Ontario Liberal MP Mark Holland. The bill would lower the voting age for federal elections in Canada to 16 from 18, but keep the minimum age of candidates at 18. Private members bills rarely pass, but new House of Commons rules and the broad support that appears to be behind this bill give it a chance.
In the 2004 Canadian federal election voter turnout was at an all-time low of 60.9 percent. While Elections Canada worked hard to attract young voters, the turnout rate remained considerably lower for 18 to 24 year olds. About 2.6 million Canadians, 12 per cent of the population, are aged 18-24.
The proponents of lowering the voting age argue that active voters continue to vote throughout life, and that encouraging young people to vote while they are still in school and taking civics classes will help them develop voting habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Responsibilities of 16 Year Olds
Vote16.ca, a Web site devoted to youth voting rights, spells out some of the responsibilities Canada already gives to 16 year olds:
- they can have drivers licences
- they can work, and pay taxes
- they can be tried in court as adults
- at 16, they can join the Canadian Forces Reserves, and at 17 join the Canadian Forces
- they can join a Canadian political party at age 14 and have voting rights in that party
Reasons for Low Youth Vote
In a speech on youth voter turnout in the 2004 election Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, said major reasons for low turnout in the youth vote are
- low levels of political knowledge
- apathy or lack of interest
- a declining sense that voting is a civic duty
- limited contact with political parties and candidates
- practical problems, such as getting registered to vote