Prior to the just passed municipal election, I made sure to be highly educated about all the candidates. I attended both all-candidates’ meetings, read the platforms in the Grand Forks Gazette, and listened to the interviews with some candidates on the radio. I knew everyone’s platform inside and out, what they represented, and even some of their past history. I could intelligently discuss any part of the election. Yet when Nov. 15 rolled around, I had to stay at home; I could not vote as I am only seventeen.
Despite any knowledge that young people have about politics, they are forced to wait until the first election after the arbitrary date of their 18th birthday. While many young people’s knowledge of politics far surpasses the average voter, they are continually barred from voting and expressing their opinions about the government by voting, a fundamental right in a democratic country.
While many reasons contrary to allowing people younger than 18 to vote have been brought up over the years, they are all easily proved wrong. A common topic that is brought up when discussing the voting age is youth apathy. Many people believe that youth are apathetic towards politics and have no knowledge of it, so hence we should not be able to vote. I believe that is incorrect in two main ways.
The first way in which it is incorrect is the fact that all youth are not apathetic towards politics. As has been proven by organizations across the country such as the Model United Nations and Youth Parliaments, numerous youth from coast to coast are incredibly interested in politics. Secondly, if someone is apathetic about government, there is no magical switch in their brains that flips at 18, and makes them start caring. There is no reason that an 18-year-old should be able to vote, but not a 16- or 17-year-old.
A second common complaint about lowering the voting age is that young people do not pay taxes, or work. This complaint is completely incorrect. Every day a young person goes out to buy something, they pay the exact same GST and PST as everybody over the age of 18. However, youth have no say in deciding the taxes citizens pay, such as not being able to vote in the provincial HST referendum in 2011, despite paying the HST every day.
While most people under 18 do not pay property taxes or own homes, that should not disqualify us from voting either. If paying property taxes is a requirement, does that mean anyone over 18 that still lives at home with their parents should have their vote stripped away as well?
Finally, many people under 18 do work. A search around many local businesses after 4 p.m. or on weekends reveals how many people who do not have the right to vote do work, and contribute to society just as much as anyone else.
Finally, many people believe that young people do not need to vote because their parents will vote on their behalf. Before women’s suffrage came to Canada, the common belief was that women should not need to vote because they have their husbands to do it for them. The faulty “logic” behind that statement is also the “logic“ to why until 1918 in Canada women could not vote either. It is complete draconian thinking and false.
I believe the voting age in Canada as a whole should be lowered to at least the age of 16. It is unfortunate an arbitrary age must be set, but that is how the laws of a democratic country work. For Canada to be considered a true democratic country, the voting age must be lowered, to allow young people to be able to have their say.