Lower voting age pushed by young francophones group

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Lower voting age pushed by young francophones group

Sue Duguay woke up to her cellphone buzzing with text messages from friends last week about New Brunswick's electoral reform commission suggesting a drop in the voting age from 18 to 16 years of age.

"I was flipping out," said Duguay, president of the Federation of Young Francophones of New Brunswick. "It's a big deal for us."

- Voting age of 16 backed by long-ago proponent of vote for 18-year-olds 

The commission said people who get involved in politics at a young age are more likely to stay involved, and it rejected the idea that 16-year-olds are too young to vote.

Since 2014 the group has been pushing to lower the voting age and provide mandatory classes on civics within New Brunswick schools so youth can better understand the political system.

"We're in a democratic system and the point is that everybody should feel a part of it," said the 17-year-old. "We shouldn't all be politicians. We have to feel that we … are making a difference."

Duguay said lowering the voting age will bring much more to people within society and allow youth to voice their concerns about important topics like education.

"By lowering the voting age we give youth a bigger chance to express themselves to get ... not only what they want but what they need," she said.

Duguay said the younger a person votes, the more likely they are to vote for the rest of their lives and understand the structure of the political system.

"We also build generations of people that will be able to vote because our parents at 40 or 50 years old, they don't necessarily know how to vote," she said. "That's what's going to happen to us at 18 years old and that's wrong."

Can they handle it?

Although Duguay is pushing the idea, she's also spoken to 16 year olds within the province who don't want to vote because they don't know how.

She said that is why there needs to be a civics class so today's youth can exercise their right to vote.

"You have to find the party that represents what you see in the country or in the province," she said.

She said legislation might take years to change, but Duguay is still optimistic and hopes New Brunswick can be the first province to make these changes.

"We're not giving up because it's possible, we can see the light," she said. "We would make history." 

David Wiezel, who fought to get New Brunswick's voting age lowered to 18 in 1971, is also supporting the commission's proposal.

"In my day, there were some of us of that age who considered ourselves an activist of some sort and were interested, and I suspect the same is true of the 16-year-old group today," he said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton earlier this week.

"They have a tremendous advantage in social media — they can contact more people in 10 minutes than I could in a year. But they also have to convince the rest of us ... that they're mature and responsible."