British Columbia

B.C. municipalities want to lower the voting age in local elections to 16

"They are fiscally prudent. They're urging us to use our resources well. They're asking us to think long term. These are precisely the kinds of qualities that we want in our voters."

The non-binding vote requires provincial legislation to go into effect

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps advocates for the resolution at the Union of B.C. Municipalities, calling on the voting age to be lowered in local elections to 16. (Liz McArthur/CBC)

Teenagers in British Columbia are one step closer to being able to vote for their mayor.

On Wednesday, the Union of B.C. Municipalities passed a resolution at its annual convention calling on the province to revise the minimum voting age in local government elections to 16 years. of age. 

"[Teenagers] are speaking so articulately about the kind of future that they want," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, whose municipality put forward the resolution.

"They are fiscally prudent. They're urging us to use our resources well. They're asking us to think long term. These are precisely the kinds of qualities that we want in our voters."

Helps said she's heard the argument that many 16- and 17-year-olds aren't informed enough about municipal issues to be given the vote — but had a response that won plenty of laughs among mayors and councillors in the plenary hall.

"This is true of all of our residents, having nothing to do with age," she said.

"How many times have you received an email criticizing you for a policy that simply hasn't been passed or is completely misinformed?"

Hundreds of delegates voted on over 200 resolutions over the course of the 2019 UBCM conference held in Vancouver. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

Premier didn't rule the idea out last year

While the motion passed by a sizeable majority, not every delegate who spoke voiced their full support.

"During the last federal election, many of the youth that I talked to, their biggest issue for voting was for the legalization of marijuana," said Burns Lake Coun. Charlie Rensby. 

"There's a lot bigger issues out there, and possibly the popular ones might take [young people's] opinions and their vote, instead of the important ones."

But for the most part, delegates were enthusiastic about the merits of extending the vote. 

"Too often, adolescents are referred to as almost neurologically impaired when we discuss this," said  Duncan Coun. Jenni Capps.

"But this is often anecdotal, and there's really sound science indicating that the parts of the brain that are used for the long-term decision making involved in selecting and voting are well developed by age 16."

The UBCM vote is non-binding and would require the province to change legislation to go ahead. 

But in 2018, Premier John Horgan said he was considering a proposal by Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver to lower the provincial voting age to 16. 

"If you start voting as soon as you can, you will probably vote for life," Horgan said.

Delegates at the UBCM also passed a resolution calling on the province to let permanent residents vote in local government elections. 

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