How B.C. NDP resolutions could change the future of elections in the province

If B.C. New Democratic Party delegates have their way, the province could see some ground breaking policy changes such as lowering the voting age in the province.

Over the weekend, around 700 delegates attended the party's fall convention, which featured the debate and passing of several resolutions that will form the party's platform for the next election.

Delegates voted in favour of a resolution to lower the voting age to 16 for civic and provincial elections.

"We're very proud of the fact that our government has set out a bold platform," said party president Craig Keating.

The resolutions are non-binding, meaning they won't automatically be acted upon by New Democrat MLAs, but do help set values for the provincial party.

The B.C. Green Party made lowering the voting age to 16 part of their 2017 election platform.

In November, changes announced to B.C.'s election laws would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to register to vote so they are automatically on voters' lists when they turn 18.

Liberals say 16 too young

B.C. Liberal Opposition House Leader, Mary Polak, says she would not support lowering the voting age to 16.

"You have to look at just exactly what voting is and how informed a person needs to be to cast a vote and in my view I think 18 is a reasonable age, I don't think 16 is," she said.

The Liberals are supportive of the legislation that registers 16- and 17-year-olds and gets them in the system.

Another passed resolution at the convention was to end parking fees at hospitals, which the party says reflects a desire to improve the quality of life for residents. 

Advocates say that parking fees at hospitals can be a barrier for accessing healthcare for some patients and over the past few years there have been several calls to do away with the fees.

In July the City of Burnaby removed some parking metres on streets adjacent to Burnaby Hospital and lower the price of parking at other metres.

A year ago, the City of Surrey moved toward removing parking fees at Surrey Memorial Hospital. Paid parking there creates $850,000 in revenues each year.

Polak says most hospitals already have hardship funds to help people afford costs like parking. She says removing the fees altogether, will create a deficit somewhere else.

"It's a choice people can make but it will be a cost on the health care system," she said.

Other resolutions passed at the B.C. NDP's convention include:

  • Pressuring the federal government to deliver more affordable cell phone and internet options.
  • Enhancing the diversity of representation so it reflects the diversity of British Columbia.
  • Recommitting to investing in childcare.
  • Supporting the Period Promise campaign by encouraging government to offer free menstrual products in all public buildings in BC.