Elections chief says lowering voting age to 16 is a worth considering Idea

Canada’s elections chief says Parliament could look at lowering the voting age to 16 to boost Canadians’ lifelong participation in the democratic process.

Stéphane​ Perrault, acting chief electoral officer said that changing the minimum legal age for casting a ballot is a “fundamental policy” change only Parliament can make — but he thinks it’s “worth considering.”

He said, “Voting when you’re 16 is voting at a time when most Canadians at that age are still in school, at a place that we can actually get to them and engage them.”

“We know that Canadians who vote early in their lifetime will continue to vote, and those who don’t vote in the first few elections will tend not to vote later on. So there’s a real benefit to making sure that Canadians vote early, and voting when you’re 16, there’s an opportunity to reach out to them.”

Other countries, such as Scotland and Austria, have lowered their minimum voting age to 16. British Columbia is now looking at the issue provincially, with a legislative move underway to allow younger voters.

Perrault said the issue has not been extensively debated in Parliament. While 18 is widely considered the “age of majority” in Canada, Canadians are granted other rights at age 16, such as the right to drive a vehicle.

NDP MP Don Davies said many 16-year-olds work and pay taxes, yet they have no say in how those tax dollars are spent. Lowering the voting age to 16 would give them a “tool” to take part in democracy and make change happen, he said.

“Young people today are more involved, engaged and plugged into what’s happening in our country and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to vote,” he said.