Alberta cities have decided against asking the the province to lower the municipal voting age to 16.
Delegates of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), who are meeting this week in Calgary, voted Wednesday afternoon on a City of Lethbridge resolution. It was defeated by 77 per cent of the vote, with only 23 per cent in support.
Lethbridge Coun. Jeff Coffman, who was behind the resolution, had argued that by expanding the franchise, teenagers would become more engaged as citizens and more likely to become long-term voters.
- See his reaction to the vote
"Academic research actually shows that the younger a person votes, the greater the propensity that they will actually keep on being a voter throughout their life," said Coffman, who is also a political science instructor at the University of Lethbridge. "So this is about training a group of 16- and 17-year-olds how to be democratic citizens."
He says civic elections are a great place to start, because teenagers use city services. They go to school, walk and drive on roads, take the bus and use libraries and recreational facilities.
"I think kids nowadays have greater maturity than we give them credit for and they certainly have greater access to knowledge and information than what we did in my generation," said Coffman.
Change to Elections Act needed
Changing the municipal voting age would have required the provincial government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act, but other jurisdictions have done it.
Scotland lowered the voting age so 16- and 17-year-olds could cast a ballot in the referendum on independence in 2014.
In New Brunswick, the opposition Green Party has introduced legislation to lower the voting age to 16.
But 16-year-old Grady James from Calgary says many people his age may not think about theirs votes, and just go check a box.
"There's going be kids who do their research and know exactly what they're voting for, but most kids are more interested in the hockey game that's going to go on tonight," he said.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi also weighed in on the debate.
"It's certainly not something I'm opposed to out front. I'd like to see how it would work, if anyone has done it anywhere. But if it helps engage and start people in the habit of civic engagement earlier in their life, that's probably not a bad thing," he said.