Voting age remains 18 for 2018 provincial election

Sixteen-year-olds won't be voting in next year's New Brunswick election after all.

The Liberal government says it will hold a referendum on lowering the voting age to 16, but that won't happen until 2020.

The referendum will be held on the same day as municipal elections on May 11, 2020.

Lowering the voting age to 16 was one of the recommendations of the New Brunswick Commission on Electoral Reform, which released its report earlier this month.

The day the report was released, Premier Brian Gallant said he wouldn't implement another major recommendation — a switch to a ranked ballot to count votes — without a referendum.

He said then that lowering the voting age was not "as major a change" but he wanted to study it further.

'Fairly significant'

But cabinet minister Victor Boudreau, who's responsible for electoral reform, says that after giving it more thought, "I think most people would argue that it is something that's fairly significant."

It's not clear if the Progressive Conservatives would stick to the referendum plan if they won next year's provincial election.

Boudreau said there's a precedent for holding a referendum on lowering the voting age:  in 1967 New Brunswickers voted on whether to move it from 21 to 18, a vote that took place the same day as a provincial election.

Boudreau said the Liberals opted against holding this referendum on election day next year because they felt municipal election day in 2020 was a better time for people to consider the issue.

"Because something was done one way 50 years ago doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be done the same way," he said.

In the 1967 vote, 67.3 per cent of voters rejected lowering the voting age to 18, and the then-Liberal government of Premier Louis Robichaud shelved the idea.

But Progressive Conservative Premier Richard Hatfield implemented the idea after winning power in 1970.

Monday's news release gives the date for next year's election as Sept. 24, confirming the Liberals are rejecting another commission recommendation: to move voting day from the fourth Monday in September every four years to the third Monday of October.

The Sept. 24 date "has been what all parties have been told since the last election," Boudreau said. "To change something in the middle of [a] mandate, we felt wasn't right, so we're going to leave the next election as it is, so to speak."

The commission said moving the fixed election date to mid-October would better accommodate the university and college students who move to New Brunswick at the start of September and don't meet the requirement to live in the province for 40 days to be eligible to vote.

Boudreau refused to comment on a Canadian Press report that the Liberals would also reduce the maximum campaign donation to a political party from $6,000 to $3,000.

Commission member Constantine Passaris wouldn't comment Monday on the Liberal decision. He said he'll wait until Gallant releases the full response to all recommendations on Thursday.

The Progressive Conservatives also refused to make anyone available to comment Monday.