Lowering the federal voting age in Canada to 16 sounds good in principle … but in practice?

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

Elections Canada may have hired (then later fired) a dozen or so social media influencers to persuade young people to vote this fall, but the bigger question is: How much influence on democracy should the youngest of our society have?

The NDP says more, and has included lowering the voting age to 16 in the party’s campaign platform. This makes sense, given that the party does better with younger people than with older ones.

The arguments for lowering the voting age to 16 usually go something like this: It will increase voter participation, instil lifelong voting habits by starting them young, and ensure politicians are accountable to and thinking about young people.

Proponents will try to bolster their case by pointing to places such as Scotland, Austria and Brazil where 16-year-olds can already vote, and adding in the usual line of reasoning  that if you’re old enough to drive a car or consent to sex, you should be able to pick your elected officials. They’ll hold up examples of political leaders who in their teens have run circles around the grown-ups in knowledge, eloquence and clarity of vision: Malala YousafziGreta Thunberg.

I mean, it all sounds quite reasonable to me. But then, I was one of those annoyingly precocious 16-year-olds who would have gladly taken full advantage of the privilege, and taken it very seriously indeed.

Yet Canadians – of all ages – are utterly unmoved. Asked about this by the Angus Reid Institute, their overwhelming view is to deny ballot-box access to the teens in your neighbourhood.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site, where it was initially published.

Image – Gavin Young/Postmedia