Should 16-year-olds have the right to vote in Canada?

Liam Fox is a Grade 11 student at Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby and is doing a co-op placement with Durham College's Journalism - Mass Media program. Photo credit: Marc Stuempfle

(Liam Fox is a Grade 11 student at Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby and is doing a co-op placement with Durham College’s Journalism – Mass Media program.)

Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau says he will introduce his new cabinet Nov. 20. This in the wake of his federal election victory Oct. 21, that left him weakened with a minority government.

In fact, the Conservatives, not Trudeau’s Liberals, won the popular vote.

If the voting age in Canada was reduced to 16 – as suggested by both the NDP and Greens (and even some Liberals), many people are asking, would the outcome have been different?

It’s clear 16-year-olds are too young to vote because they are not mature enough, they may not have jobs, and they don’t pay taxes.

My 16th birthday is in December. Although I followed this year’s federal campaign, I am too young to be voting on such a critical decision.

While it is important for me to know everything possible about a political party, this is not true for all 16-year-olds.

For me I want to know if a political party supports my values, my current position in life and will look out for my demographic if voting.

Although having an idea of what my values are and what I want to pursue as a career, I still don’t feel prepared enough to vote.

Some might argue lowering the voting age would provide a better representation of Canada’s population.

I disagree.

Some kids don’t have a job, or pay taxes, and don’t understand the key concepts of politics and what each party’s stances are on topics such as health care, education and climate change.

I am all for getting youth involved in politics but still feel 18 is a perfect age to vote.

When talking to my friends, who are mostly 16, politics is very rarely mentioned. We normally talk about sports, games, movies, music and the list goes on.

Also, it’s not that high-school students are without political motivation.

For example, many students at my school – Sinclair Secondary in Whitby – missed class to take part in the climate strike on Sept. 27. Peaceful protest is one of the best ways of voicing your opinion and it was an excellent thing for students to do as climate change will be pivotal in our future.

However, it’s worth noting some of the kids who participated demonstrated a lack of political maturity – and contradicted themselves – with actions such as unnecessarily driving to the climate strike and littering, all while at an event supporting the environment.

While that’s just one small example, to me it’s a slice of evidence that 16-year-olds aren’t positioned to vote in a federal election.

Canada lowered its voting age to 18 from 21 in 1970, begging the question, would Canada reduce the voting age again?

A lower voting age is becoming more common. Scotland, Austria, Ecuador, Brazil, Cuba and Argentina have all adopted a voting age of 16.

But we shouldn’t follow suit.

Instead of complaining about not being able to vote at 16, people my age should start educating themselves so that they can make a decision they are proud of when they are eligible to vote in a federal election.

One way of doing this is to start by participating in the process in smaller elections, such as their school parliament.

This year, one million elementary and high school students across the country took part in an unofficial student vote. Much like the official federal election, the Liberals formed a minority government (110 seats), followed by the NDP (99 seats), then the Conservatives (94 seats). This is a good way for students to get involved, but they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their ballot box decision.

Once students get out of high school and get out into the real world they start to pay more complete attention to how politics affect them and come to understand more fully how the government affects their day-to-day lives.