16-year-olds just got that much closer to becoming eligible voters in Calgary.
A motion to include exploring the possibility of lowering the voting age for municipal elections in Calgary was narrowly passed during a council meeting on Monday, squeaking by with seven in favour and six against.
The motion was to ask the provincial government to explore the pros and cons of lowering the voting age by two years, while still keeping the final choice in the hands of City Council.
Councillor George Chahal brought the motion forward, stating that many 16-year-olds in the city work jobs at which they pay taxes, and therefore they should have a say in the way the city is run.
He also raised the point that many countries around the world have lower voting ages than here in Canada, and that the change would increase voter turnout down the road.
“I want to highlight that [16-year-olds] are involved in the electoral process all across the world. In Austria, Scotland, Brazil, Argentina, Equador, 16-year-olds can vote. Indonesia and Greece, 17-year-olds can vote,” Chahal said during the meeting
“It has shown a tremendous impact that if you vote once you will vote later in life consistently, it’s a way to empower and engage our youth, and also participate in our democracy where we have such low voter turnout here at the City of Calgary and other municipalities.”
Councillor Sean Chu was not convinced.
“Basically it’s trying to lower the bar,” Chu said at the meeting. “I think this idea is more idealistic than realistic.”
Chu raised the point that most other countries with a lower voting age expected voters to be working and paying taxes, which is not something that all 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds in Calgary do. He also stated that there are other ways to increase turnout at the polls.
“If the goal is to [increase voter turnout] we should have a contentious issue on the ballot during the election, just like we should have had the plebiscite last year on the Olympics. I guarantee [it would have been] a huge turnout.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi cast the final and deciding vote on passing the motion to include the recommendation in a letter to the Provincial Government.