With a federal election approaching, the question of whether the voting age should be reduced to 16 is on the minds of some Edward Milne Community School students.
We spoke with three of those students to get their take on the voting age issue, and their views on the upcoming federal election. We also asked about the state of politics and what issues cause them concern.
Jacob Thomas, 17, a Grade12 student didn’t hesitate to list climate change as his number 1 issue.
“We already see the impact of climate change in the world, and it’s disturbing that it’s a reality that hasn’t been the cause of more action,” said Thomas.
“We have some adults actually denying that it’s happening.”
But other issues were equally important to Thomas.
“It’s related, but our production of energy has got to change. Look at what happened in Fukushima and Chernobyl and it’s clear that nuclear energy is not the way to go. Those events were terrible but could have been so much worse. We got lucky.”
Finally, Thomas spoke about the application of technology by governments to increasingly deadly arsenals.
“Just like that, it could spiral out of control. What would our future be then?” he asked
Thomas is an advocate of the voting age being lowered, saying that many of the issues that federal candidates talk about are going to affect the younger generation more than anyone else.
“The issues will impact us, but we can’t vote and the adults who can vote often don’t even bother to cast a ballot.”
That sentiment was shared by Tia Helfrich, another Grade 12 student.
“I’m involved with Vote 16 B.C., a group that has partnered with the Dogwood Institute to prepare a bill for B.C.’s Legislature to lower the voting age in B.C.,” Helfrich said.
“The youth today are just as concerned about issues and we know that everyone needs to be better educated about politics and the issues. There are 20, 30 and 40 year olds out there who know less about the issues than we (high school students) do and they get to vote while we can’t. It makes no sense.”
As to the issues that most concern Helfrich, she lists climate change as her primary issue.
“It matters to us. What is the world going to look like in 20 years? By then it might be too late to do anything about it.”
Thomas Ruckli, a Swiss international student at EMCS, shares the concerns of his Canadian counterparts.
His emphasis, however, is slightly different.
While he shares the concern about climate change, he fears the rise of nationalism in places like Germany, the United States and elsewhere, including parts of Canada, as an immediate danger.
“We know what happened in the past, but now, in Germany, the U.S., and other places as well you have right-wing parties that are spreading what are really Nazi propaganda talking points,” said Ruckli.
“It’s disturbing to me that people saying such things can be popular.”
But Ruckli shared the opinion that the voting age needs to change.
“What’s wrong with politics is that we (younger people) can’t participate. If you can’t affect the outcome, why should you be interested?” asked Ruckli.
“And if we’re not interested now, will we suddenly become interested at 18?”
Several countries around the world, including Scotland, Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Austria, have already lowered the minimum voting age to 16.