Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver is calling for the voting age to be lowered to 16 in British Columbia.
“There is a lot of evidence that shows that if we engage our youth earlier in the political process they are more likely to develop voting as a habit for the rest of their life,” said Weaver, the leader of the B.C. Green Party. “The decisions we make today as legislators will have a profound impact on the lives of our youth, I can’t think of a good reason why they shouldn’t have a stake in those decisions.”
The voting age was not always 18 in British Columbia. B.C. dropped the voting age from 21 to 19 in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the province made the subsequent change to lower the age to 18.
Weaver, who tabled legislation this week to lower the provincial voting age, points to Austria, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and parts of the UK as just a few jurisdictions to have extended voting rights to 16-year-olds.
“There is a general misconception that 16 and 17-year-olds are too young to make informed decisions or that they will just vote the way their parents tell them to. Research indicates that this is not the case,” said Weaver, who argues 16-year-olds are allowed to drive, pay taxes, drop out of school, get married and sign up for the military.
“It appears there is actually a trickle-up effect in civic participation. When youth engage in civics, conversations around the dinner table tend to focus on politics and local issues, which results in a positive impact on voter turnout for the whole family.”