The City of Vancouver is officially endorsing lowering the voting age to 16 in municipal elections across B.C.
A motion passed by council on Thursday expresses support for the youth-led Vote 16 B.C. campaign and its goal to lower the voting age across the province.
Although this vote does not have any legal power, council has requested that Mayor Kennedy Stewart write a letter of endorsement to the premier and the provincial minister of municipal affairs.
Seventeen-year-old Cait Foster from Victoria is one of Vote 16 B.C.’s high school ambassadors and initially got involved with the campaign out of frustration. She said her experience as a young activist led her to question whether politicians are actually listening to youth, and caused her to feel underestimated and disrespected at times.
“I want more than just volunteering as a way for me to involve myself in politics… . Yes I can volunteer, yes I can protest, yes I can post on social media, but at the end of the day, voting is essential to changing all of the other issues I care about” she said.
Several city councillors spoke in favour of lowering the voting age during Thursday’s meeting.
“Research shows that the earlier people vote, the more they will become voters throughout their life,” Coun. Michael Wiebe explained.
Coun. Rebecca Bligh described the younger generation as well-informed and self-led.
The motion was passed almost unanimously with one abstention, and Foster said that she was pleasantly surprised by the support from council.
‘Forty-year-olds can be just as clueless’
Eighteen-year-old Renee Gujral hopes that if the voting age is lowered to 16 in civic elections, provincial and federal elections will follow suit.
Gujral, who is one of Vote 16 B.C.’s four co-leads, noted that today’s youth are more than capable of making informed political decisions for themselves.
“Forty-year-olds can be just as clueless as a 16-year-old and they can be just as educated as a 16-year-old. The only barrier [to voting] is age, and age doesn’t determine intelligence or capability to make informed decisions” said Gujral.
The Vote16 B.C. campaign has also been endorsed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, and the B.C. Green Party.
Former Green Party leader Andrew Weaver has introduced legislation to the provincial government to lower the voting age three times since 2016, and Premier John Horgan has stated that he is open to the idea.
Foster explained that Vote 16 B.C.’s hope is that the NDP will incorporate lowering the voting age into their platform for the upcoming election.
International jurisdictions that have lowered their voting age to 16 include Austria, Scotland, Wales, Argentina and Brazil.