Bill to lower voting age introduced in P.E.I. Legislature

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Choosing P.E.I. referendum commissioner must be 'open and transparent' says Aylward

Choosing P.E.I. referendum commissioner must be 'open and transparent' says Aylward

P.E.I. Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker would like to see the provincial voting age lowered to 16, and he's introduced a bill in the legislature to make it happen.

Bevan-Baker introduced his private member's bill during Tuesday evening's sitting. The bill also included lowering the age for candidates to 16.

Bevan-Baker said that many other jurisdictions around the world voting age lower than 18.

"It's not an outlandish idea and for democracy to work, to function optimally, we need to engage citizens. People need to understand the process and need to get involved in the process," he said.

"By getting 16-year-olds involved in this process when they're still at school — they live a fairly structured life, most 16-year-olds are at home — there's an opportunity to harness to them and introduce them to politics and explain why this is important."

His main argument is that 16-year-olds already do a lot of adult things.

"They have full-time jobs, they pay taxes often, they can leave school voluntarily, they can get married, they can start a family they can drive a car," Bevan-Baker said 

"I think going into a ballot box and marking an X is a perfectly reasonable thing to add to that list."

Facing opposition 

The bill faced a lot of questions, but not a lot of support.

Charlottetown-Victoria Park MLA Richard Brown outwardly said he would not be supporting it, and pointed to a plan for a future discussion among the party leaders on electoral reform, including this topic.

"This is a whole package that we should be bringing to the electors of P.E.I.," said Brown.

"I believe, and I think my colleagues do, we are going to present a package to the electors in the next election and all of this should be put together in one package." 

Bevan-Baker found a supporter for the bill in Morell - Mermaid MLA Sidney MacEwen, MacEwen brought up the topic during the discussion around the plebiscite last year and would like to see the voting age issue forwarded. 

"I think that 16- and 17-year-olds are much more engaged and they should be allowed to vote in our provincial elections too," he said.

MacEwen thinks P.E.I. could lead the way with a first for our country. 

"We could show the rest of Canada that we're prepared to engage with that demographic and to bring them in, and I hope that it would influence right across Canada," he said.

The sitting adjourned without concluding debate on the bill, Bevan-Baker will be hoping to bring it back for more debate and eventually a vote at a future sitting.

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