Trudeau-appointed senator, NDP, and Green Party calling for decreasing voting age to 16

'Nothing bad happens. Only good things happen to democracy in every country where there has been a lowering of the federal voting age to 16,' said Senator Marilou McPhedran at a news conference with the group in Ottawa.

Trudeau-appointed senator, NDP, and Green Party calling for decreasing voting age to 16
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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A Trudeau-appointed senator, along with NDP and Green Party MPs, advocate for Canadians to follow "the science" and permit 16-year-olds to vote in federal elections

The campaign's goal is to decrease the voting age from 18 to 16 to increase political participation.

Critics, however, say it's a way for left-wing politicians to increase their vote counts, under the assumption that 16 year-olds would lean more to the left.

“We are welcoming world experts doing research for over a decade on the impact of lowering the voting age to 16. And here’s the synopsis," said Senator Marilou McPhedran. "Nothing bad happens. Only good things happen to democracy in every country where there has been a lowering of the federal voting age to 16,” she said at a news conference with the group in Ottawa on Wednesday.

“We’re talking about two million 16 and 17-year-olds in Canada, almost exactly at gender parity. And so what we’re talking about is an infusion of energy and vitality into our democracy in a way that will hopefully augment the accountability,” McPhedran continued. “We have so much we still have to do, and we need everybody on board.”

Additionally, at the summit, a youth organization named the Young Politicians of Canada declared that it would review House of Commons legislation and offer feedback to politicians.

Representatives from the group stated that, beyond increasing young people's engagement in political discourse, allowing youth to vote and participate in the House’s political process would serve as an educational experience for students to understand how bills work.

Sam Reusch, the executive director of youth-politics group Apathy is Boring, said that the science "is clear."

"Extending voting rights to 16 and 17-year-olds allows them to participate in their first election earlier in life when they’re at a less volatile stage,” she said

Green Party MP Mike Morrice agreed with Reusch's sentiment, saying that his party has "long supported" lowering the voting age.

Long-time NDP MP Charlie Angus compared those who oppose lowering the voting age to Conservatives like Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, who “insisted on all kinds of voting requirements."

“People (living on reserves) don’t have street addresses. It was about keeping people from voting because the people who could vote can change our country,” he said.

“For too long, the attitude’s been that young people aren’t mature enough, they’re juvenile, they’re silly. This is a way of denying the incredible energy that would come that would force politicians to wake up.”

“If you miss that first vote, you may never vote,” Angus continued.

“I think our democracy is troubled right now. It’s in a fragile state. Democracy is facing dangerously toxic levels of disinformation and online interference,” he said. “Young people aren’t that dumb. They will bring freshness and accountability to keep democracy alive at a time when we see it being threatened around the world…Let’s bring in the young people because they will protect it.”

Senator McPhedran has attempted to lower Canada's voting age before. In 2020, she tabled Bill S-209, which said that young people "know their bodies" and "have the capacity to speak autonomously for what they do and do not want in pursuit of their health.”

In 2022, another attempt to lower the voting age by the NDP was voted down at its second reading.

“In summary, 16- and 17-year-olds are already considered mature enough to navigate the responsibilities of joining the military, providing sexual consent, driving a car, paying taxes, getting married and becoming parents," her summary outlined.

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