PEI

Should 16- and 17-year-olds be allowed to vote? A Green MLA thinks so

A Green Party of PEI MLA has introduced a private member’s bill to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

'I really do believe that there will be support for this'

Green MLA Karla Bernard says 16 and 17 year olds are absolutely ready for the responsibilities that come with voting. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

A Green MLA has introduced a private member's bill to lower the Prince Edward Island voting age from 18 to 16.

Karla Bernard, who is also a school counsellor, says 16- and 17-year-olds are ready for the responsibilities that come with voting. She says if they can join the Canadian Armed Forces, drive a car, make their own health decisions and pay taxes, then they should be able to vote. 

"We were the first province in Canada to allow 16-year-olds to vote in the plebiscite and if you look at the student vote versus the popular vote, there's only about a five-, six-percentage point difference in the popular vote versus the student vote," Bernard said in an interview with CBC News.

"And many of the arguments that people will give you against why 16-year-olds should vote are along the same lines as the arguments that people gave against the women's suffrage movement in terms of 'They are just going to vote the way their parents did, their parents are putting the vote in for them.'" 

Green party introduced similar bill in 2017 

A Green MLA has introduced a private member’s bill in the P.E.I. legislature to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. (CBC News)

This has been tried before.

In April 2017, Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker introduced a bill to lower the voting age to 16.

The bill faced stiff opposition from the governing Liberals and was soundly defeated.

But one PC MLA did come out and support the bill, Sidney MacEwen.

At the time, MacEwen was an opposition backbencher.

MacEwen is now government house leader. He said he still supports the idea of lowering the voting age and he believes there is some support in his caucus for the change. 

"The more engaged we can get our youth in our election system, I think is important. I think we're making decisions on all kinds of things that affect them. I think it's important for voter turnout as well," he said.

'We want to keep that going' 

Progressive Conservative MLA Sidney MacEwen first proposed dropping the voting age in 2016. (CBC)

"We're lucky to have a stronger voter turnout here in Prince Edward Island but we want to keep that going, so the earlier that we can get people voting, the better," MacEwen added.

The private member's bill was tabled last week.

It has not yet been called for debate.

Bernard said she's optimistic that her bill will get more support than her leader's bill did in 2017.

"I really do believe that there will be support for this," she said.

"I would really love to hear the reasons for not supporting it and I look forward to challenging some of those statements." 

More from CBC P.E.I.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

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