Young offenders, teenage drinking raised as bill for 16-year-old voting defeated

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Legislators in Prince Edward Island brought forward a wide range of arguments Tuesday evening as they voted against lowering the voting age in the province to 16.

The bill to bring down the voting age from 18 was introduced by Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker earlier this month.

In a plebiscite on electoral reform last year 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote, but MLAs were not ready to extend the franchise for future provincial elections. The reasons they gave for voting against covered a broad range of subjects.

"What happens if, we'll say, a young offender, 13 years of age, gets convicted of a serious violent crime. His record is sealed. At age 16 he decides to run for public office and gets elected into the house with a criminal record behind him that's sealed?" said interim PC leader Jamie Fox.

'I should be allowed to drink'

On the Liberal bench, MLAs questioned what other rights might have to be considered for new younger voters.

"Would there not be a charter issue for 16-year-olds to say look, I can vote, that sets the benchmark, so I should be allowed to drink. I'm being discriminated against because of my age," said Charlottetown MLA Richard Brown.

"Do you feel 16-year-olds should be able to enlist in the military then, if they are responsible for everything else?" added Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Paula Biggar.

Health and Wellness Minister Doug Currie questioned the level of responsibility of younger teenagers.

"I am the parent of a 16-year-old and sometimes I have a tough time — and she's a good kid —getting her to clean her room, let alone getting her out to vote and run for a seat in this assembly," said Currie.

Liberal MLAs all voted against the bill, but the Progressive Conservatives were split. Sidney MacEwen, Brad Trivers, Matthew MacKay and James Aylward joined Bevan-Baker in voting for the bill.

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