Right to Vote at 16 Act

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age)

Sponsor

Taylor Bachrach  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Sept. 28, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-210.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Sept. 28, 2022 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age)

Canada Revenue AgencyOral Questions

November 21st, 2022 / 3 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brendan Hanley Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, organ and tissue donation is an important part of our health care system. Bill C‑210, which passed unanimously in the previous Parliament, will enable Canadians to indicate on their income tax return whether they want to receive information on organ and tissue donation from their provincial or territorial government.

Can the Minister of National Revenue tell us where we are right now with this collaboration with the provinces and territories?

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

September 28th, 2022 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-210, under Private Members' Business.

The question is on the motion.

Before the Clerk announced the results of the vote:

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

September 28th, 2022 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the decisions being made right now on issues like the climate crisis and housing affordability have a tremendous bearing on the lives of young people and they deserve a say. In 2005, the current government House leader rose in this place and said, “I think that reducing the voting age to 16 represents an incredible opportunity.”

I agree, and he is in luck because in a few minutes he has a chance to vote yes and send Bill C-210, the right to vote at 16 act, off to committee.

Will he and will his government support this important bill?

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

September 23rd, 2022 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it has been such an honour to bring forward Bill C-210, the right to vote at 16 act, on behalf of all those brilliant 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds across Canada who are currently excluded from voting. They are young people like Will Cooper from Lisgar Collegiate right here in Ottawa, who is part of the #Vote16 movement.

I want to thank all of my colleagues, my brilliant colleagues in the NDP, the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith and the member for Vancouver Kingsway for their support over the course of the debate on this bill. I also thank the member for Manicouagan for her words. I, too, have a 17-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old daughter and my conversations with them have helped shape my thinking around this legislation.

To the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent and the member for Moose Jaw, it seems we have a bit more work to do to convince them to come over and support this piece of legislation. I will say that I had an interesting conversation with one of their colleagues about a month ago. I asked them about this bill, and their response was very blunt. They said they hated it. I asked them why, and this person said, “Young people are not going to vote for me,” and that very well may be the case. They might not vote for me either, but that is not the point. The point of this is that young people have a voice.

Young people care about the issues. Young people have a stake in the future, and young people deserve to be included in the voting franchise in our country.

We have heard so many points and arguments, and some of these have to do with this idea around voter turnout. I think this is a rather technical point, but it is a compelling one, because we all want our democracy to be stronger. Make no mistake, though: The international evidence from places like Austria and Scotland shows that 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds vote in higher percentages than their 18-year-old and 19-year-old peers. They do that for a number of reasons. It is because 16 is a relatively stable time of life for young people.

It turns out that 18 is a terrible time to expect young people to vote for the first time. It is a time of great transition, when young people are moving away from their home ridings and entering the workforce or going to school. That is why we see lower voter turnout among 18-year-olds to 24-year-olds.

We look around the world and we see that democracy is embattled right now. I think that is something that concerns all of us in this place. More and more people are feeling disenfranchised and they are feeling alienated from our political institutions. The way we buttress our democracy against these headwinds is by including more people, not fewer, in our democratic process, and by making our democracy more inclusive, not less.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with a dynamic young leader in a small coastal village on the central coast of British Columbia. She talked to me a bit about youth engagement. She is a young person, as I said, and I know youth engagement is something a lot of members in this place are interested in. I think many MPs have youth advisory councils. The Prime Minister has one himself.

This young person was a member of a youth advisory body for another government, and she said to me that sometimes it feels as if youth engagement is a performative thing for politicians and that it is more about creating a certain perception of the elected official than it is about giving the young person agency and the ability to change the future.

I was thinking about this conversation when I came across this report from last year called “Canada's First State of Youth Report”. The federal government convened 100 youth from across this country and held 90 consultation sessions with them, and 13 of these youth formed a special advisory leadership group that pored through all of this data and came up with a series of recommendations for how the government should respond to the concerns of youth.

If we turn to page 50 in that report, we find recommendation 5(c), which is to urgently lower the voting age in Canada from 18 to 16. I think the very least we could do for these young people who engaged in this process in good faith is to vote for this bill at second reading, send it off to committee, hear from expert witnesses and show these young people that we are listening and that their voices and participation matter.

In conclusion, I want to thank all of the people who have been a part of this #Vote16 movement, who have spoken in support and my friends in all of the parties who have at least given a curious ear. I want to thank the folks at #Vote16 Canada, Children First Canada and UNICEF Canada for their advocacy in support of this bill. I want to thank my team, especially James Hammond and Ben Tassell, for their help; Senator Marilou McPhedran for her leadership; and so many others.

I ask my colleagues in all the parties to please vote for this bill. It would make Canada stronger.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

September 23rd, 2022 / 2:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Fraser Tolmie Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying it is a privilege to be speaking here on behalf of the constituents of Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan. Our thoughts and prayers are with those in eastern Canada as they brace for the storm that is about to hit the shores of Canada. We want to let them know we are with them in our thoughts and prayers.

It is a pleasure today to join the debate on Bill C-210. This bill, put forward by the NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, would lower the voting age in Canada from 18 to 16. I have some concerns with this bill, but first it is important to give some important background on it.

The last time the voting age in Canada was lowered was back in 1970, the year I was born. We lowered it from 21 to what it is today, 18 years of age. In the 1972 election, right after the voting age was lowered, voter turnout increased just 1%, up to 76.7%. Let us think about that number for a minute. Most of us would be surprised if the voter turnout in the next election was even that high. For the sake of comparison, the turnout in the last election, in 2021, was 62.5%. Turnout in Canadian elections has been hovering around that number for at least the last 15 years.

Today's debate is about the youth's vote, so let us look at that information and the data, according to Statistics Canada, on those aged 18 to 24. Just 66% of that age bracket voted in the last election. That compares with 80% of those aged 55 to 64 and 83% of those aged 65 to 74. One must wonder if lowering the voting age to 16 would do much to increase voter turnout in our country. In fact, a 2004 study from Cambridge University concluded there was no evidence such a change would do anything to increase voter turnout here.

This ties in well with what we have been debating all week in the House: the cost of living and the challenges the next generation is facing. The 18-to-24 demographic has been one of the hardest hit by the skyrocketing costs of living. Someone of that age used to be able to find a decent paying job, save money and maybe buy a nice starter house. Today, that is a fantasy; it is unattainable. Young people are having trouble affording rent while also paying for groceries, gas and other necessities.

However, do not worry; the government is here to help. It is sending renters $500 to put toward a year's worth of rent. Let us hold off on that for just a moment and analyze it. Only one in five renters will qualify for that $500 cheque. Seriously, the government thinks $40 per month will help someone whose rent is well over $2,000 in some markets, and not everybody will qualify. Even in Moose Jaw, the average rent is around $1,000 a month.

The fact is, life for young Canadians has become harder and more expensive under the Liberal government. While this bill would lower the voting age, we know there are several other demographics that historically have had lower voting rates than average: first nations, those with disabilities and many more. We have many well-thought-out ideas and recommendations on how to encourage these groups to vote.

I know that, prior to the last election, my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee did tremendous work on a study on how to safely hold an election during the pandemic. I would like to thank my friends from Perth—Wellington and Elgin—Middlesex—London for their work on that committee. They heard from advocates for all these groups about lower voter turnouts. They heard several ideas on how to get more people to vote. Ultimately, this study and all its recommendations were ignored. The first goal of this place should be to encourage those who are currently eligible to vote to go out and vote.

My colleague, the member for Calgary Shepard, spoke of this bill earlier. He spoke about the responsibilities of citizenship and that is something that I would like to talk about. Canadians can join the military reserves at the age of 16 with parental consent. In Saskatchewan, someone can get a learner's driver's licence at the age of 16, but they must drive with an adult. In other areas, it is about earning the responsibility and earning the respect. The purchase of alcohol and cannabis in Saskatchewan is limited to those who are age 19. The fact is that we place limits on young people in Canada. People get the full benefits of citizenship as they get older.

Democracy is important to me. My grandfather fought alongside Canadians in World War II. Canadians were kind and generous. They went overseas. My mother, who was growing up in Scotland, met lots of Canadian soldiers. These Canadian soldiers would bring chocolates, candy, dolls and other things my parents could not get. They were kind and generous. On the front, my grandfather fought alongside Canadians, and he saw the sacrifices they were willing to make in order to preserve democracy and freedom.

Democracy and the ability to vote is a privilege and it requires careful thought and consideration. Ultimately, I do not see a compelling argument that this bill would do anything to address the issue of lower voter turnouts. We have known for years how to address this ongoing issue. We need to lower barriers to make it easier to vote, yes, but we also have to encourage those existing voters by giving them good policies and a positive direction for the future of this country.

Most importantly, we need to give people a reason to vote for good things. This legislation will not do it. Ultimately, we have to earn the voter's respect.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

September 23rd, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will not be asking questions, but I will share my comments, which I hope members will find very interesting.

First and foremost, let me pay my respects to those people who have to get ready for Hurricane Fiona, which is coming to their area, especially members such as you, Mr. Speaker. I do not know if I can personalize it, but you warned us very clearly today that this is a very serious issue. I would say to all the people who are in the path of the storm to please get ready and for others to not be afraid to make phone calls outside of the area to help those people if they need it. We are very pleased to hear that the official opposition leader and the government are working hand in hand to address this issue.

Hurricane Fiona is of course bearing down on eastern Canada, and chances are the impact on the Magdalen Islands and the Lower North Shore on Quebec's north shore will be brutal. We would like to remind everyone likely to be directly affected to plan accordingly. Anyone who knows people in the area should call them to offer support.

I also want to point out that Quebeckers will be going to the polls in just a week and a half. Advance polling starts Sunday. The storm may have consequences for advance polling on the Magdalen Islands and the Lower North Shore. We certainly hope voting can proceed as it should.

That is my segue to Quebec elections and the bill before the House today, which would lower the federal voting age from 18 to 16.

We do not support this position. We will always proudly defend the rights of all adolescents, all young Canadians. It is not because we think that 16-year-olds are not ready to vote, quite the contrary. I myself became interested in politics at a very young age and have been a member of the Conservative Party since 1981. At that time, I had a mop of black hair that was wider than my shoulders, but that is another subject. There are pictures, but they will never be made public, my colleagues can be sure of that. I could show my membership card from 1981, but I am not allowed to use props, which is a shame, so maybe that is also for another time.

That being said, I want to assure all 16- and 17-year-olds that it is very good to get involved in political advocacy. However, a limit needs to bet set. Why is the limit set at 18? Why not at 17, or 20 or 21? It is simply because we have to set a limit.

There will always be good arguments for increasing or lowering that limit, even by a few days, but there needs to be a limit. Along the same lines, there needs to be a limit for very technical issues such as creating time zones. In some places, the time can be different in two towns five kilometres apart. Is that the end of the world? No. At some point there needs to be a limit.

Mr. Speaker, I look at you and I am reminded that in New Brunswick and in the Atlantic provinces, when a television show is broadcast, it is always an hour later in the Maritimes. Sometimes I get the impression that it is an hour ahead of us, but that is another issue, and we will have a chance to debate it.

We therefore need to set an age limit. Of course, we know that the minimum age is not 18 for some civilian activities. For example, people can became an army reservist at age 16, and they can enlist in the army at age 17.

Some will say that, if a person can be ready to give their life for their country at age 17, then they should have the right to vote at age 17. However I would like to add a rather important point: those individuals need their parents' consent to enlist. If we apply the same principle to the right to vote at age 17 or 18, then those individuals would need their parents' consent to vote. If the parents do not think the same way as their child does, then would they give their child permission to vote? That could cause problems and arguments, and we do not need that.

That is why the age limit can be lower than 18 for certain civilian activities, but in those cases, parental consent is required, and that would not really work in the democratic process.

The same is true for driver's licences. When I was young, people could get a full driver's licence at age 16. With time and experience, Quebec increased the age for getting a full driver's licence to 19. This sort of thing can be assessed and we should be grateful for that. This is not the first time that the House has been asked to vote on a bill like this.

The people who did research for this bill drew my attention to the fact that, when he was a young MP back in 2005, which is not to say that he is an old MP now, the current government House leader, my former counterpart with whom I always greatly enjoyed working, introduced Bill C‑261. I remind members that this bill was defeated at second reading, which indicates that the current governing party might not have supported its current government leader. We shall see.

I had the privilege of sitting on a committee that was reviewing election legislation to allow for a casting vote. The Hon. Rona Ambrose, interim leader of our party, assigned me the responsibility of sitting on this committee. The committee made 13 recommendations, none of which had to do specifically with age. People were, however, quite open to honouring the election promise made by the government, which swore that the previous election would be the last under first-past-the-post, a system that ensures that members represent their ridings without any outside compensation. The Liberal Party made a promise, hand on heart, to change the electoral system, but that recommendation fell by the wayside because the Liberal government and the Prime Minister decided to abandon that promise midstream.

If by any chance the Liberals start lecturing or preaching about political commitments on voting ages, let us not forget that one of their top election promises in 2015 was to scrap the electoral system we have been using since 1867. However, they ended up scrapping their commitment, rather than scrapping the system.

I would also like to remind you that in 2015, since we are talking about it and, objectively speaking, it needs to be acknowledged, there were many young people who voted, which is wonderful. They may not have voted for us, but the important thing is that they voted.

Some have pointed out that over the last few months, during our party's leadership race, a lot of young people got involved and invested in supporting the candidacy of the member for Carleton. That is very good for democracy. The more young people who participate, the better. Some people will say that we should allow 16-year-olds to vote because that will give them even more of a taste for getting involved in politics, and thus increase voter turnout. That is a good thing.

There are precedents. Similar legislation was passed in Austria. There was an uptick in voter turnout at first, but it tumbled in the following three elections. Essentially, age is not the main factor that gets young people to the polls; it has more to do with their level of interest in election issues. I cannot stress this enough: we should all take an interest in politics no matter how old we are. When people cast their first ballot at 18, that is a deeply meaningful moment because it is the first time they mark that “X” and make that effort to get out there and vote for someone. We have said it before, and we will say it again: people have to vote to participate in the process.

Although the Conservative Party is not in favour of Bill C‑210, there is absolutely no reason young people should not get politically motivated, engaged and involved when they are 16, 17 or 18. I have been told that some of our fellow members were very young when they first got involved in politics, such as my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton, who was 14 when he got his start. That is never a bad thing.

In closing, I want to say that, as we speak, the electoral map is being redrawn. That occurs every 10 years. In my riding, there may be major changes, namely that the indigenous community of Wendake and the northern section of Loretteville, which we call Château-d'Eau, will be in a different riding. I will leave that to the experts. Personally, I am always uncomfortable having an elected member vote for or against a change in the electoral map, because we are judging something we have a stake in. I can say one thing: If it turns out that I no longer have the honour of representing the people of Wendake and the people of Château-d'Eau, the place where I was born and raised and where my parents settled in 1962, that will certainly break my heart. However, electoral maps are not drawn with the incumbent member's emotions in mind.

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Preserving Provincial Representation in the House of Commons ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2022 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C‑14. I will start by talking about the principles that have always underpinned the NDP's work in the House. I will then talk about how we could adapt this chamber to reflect the values of Canadians, thereby ensuring that this place is the House of Commons that Canadians across the country truly want.

Let me get back to Bill C‑14. Ever since the NDP has held seats in this House, it has fought to ensure that all Canadians are represented. We, of course, agree that Quebec should have a guaranteed level of representation in the House of Commons, and that provision is included in the supply and confidence agreement that the member for Burnaby South signed on behalf of the NDP with the Liberal government. This is why the bill before us today would ensure that Quebec has a guaranteed level of representation in the House of Commons. The NDP believes that 78 seats for Quebec is an important and fundamental principle.

As my colleagues know, when we look at the provinces and territories of Canada, such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, the provinces of Atlantic Canada, Nunavut, Yukon or the Northwest Territories, we always see this principle of a minimum threshold of representation. It is not a new idea; it has already been implemented. In the agreement between the NDP and the Liberal Party, the NDP forced the government to act, because it is important. Obviously, the NDP will be supporting this bill because it makes sense.

Although we will be voting in favour of this bill, we must also remember that it is missing something, and that is the important notion of proportional representation. I will remind the House that a few years ago, in 2015, our Prime Minister promised that the election that had just taken place would be the last non-proportional election, a promise he was quick to break. However, if proportional representation were applied to Quebec, it would greatly change the composition of the House of Commons.

As it did again a few minutes ago during the speech by the member for Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, for whom I have a great deal of respect, the Bloc claims that there should be more Bloc members in the House of Commons. However, that is precisely where the Bloc is failing Quebeckers.

The Bloc Québécois has more members than it would have been entitled to under proportional representation, since it received far fewer votes. The Bloc would have had seven fewer MPs, so those who voted for the Bloc are actually over-represented in the House. Who would have had more MPs with proportional representation? The NDP, which would have a total of eight MPs in Quebec.

The idea of a minimum threshold for Quebec representation is important, but we need to go further. We need to implement proportional representation. If that were the case, there would be fewer Liberal members, fewer Bloc members and more NDP members, because that is what Quebeckers decided in the last election.

When we look at representation in the House, we cannot forget this important element. It is not just about the number of seats. At the end of the day, the members who are elected must be elected in a way that respects the voters' choice. The NDP has been advocating for this principle for years.

For Quebeckers, the fact that we do not have proportional representation means there are fewer New Democrats and more Bloc members in the House than there should be. Far fewer people voted for the Bloc in Quebec, so the number of Bloc members is not representative.

The same goes for the Liberal Party. There should be fewer Liberal MPs representing Quebec in the House. Here again, because we do not have proportional representation, there are more Liberal MPs in Quebec than the number of votes justifies.

The NDP will always advocate for an electoral system in which every vote counts. That is an important principle. When we look at what is happening in other countries, where every vote counts, we see that the most progressive and innovative parties are the ones that end up with the most elected members. This extremely important element should be part of every discussion about representation.

Determining who has the right to vote is another very important element. The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, British Columbia, has introduced a bill related to this issue. People 16 and 17 years of age must be allowed to vote. In a few weeks, all members of the House of Commons will be tested for cynicism. Will they say that the right to vote should be extended to 16‑ and 17‑year‑olds?

We already know that these young people are very concerned and that the decisions we make in the House will affect their whole lives. Personally, I have been active within the NDP since I was 14, and I do not accept the argument by some hon. members that 16‑ and 17‑year‑olds should not be allowed to vote because they are too young. They are already working, learning to drive and paying taxes, yet they are not allowed to vote. It is strange. It should not be this way.

That is why I fully support Bill C‑210. All NDP MPs support it. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has already noted that 16- and 17-year-olds have been asking members to vote in favour of this bill. We must expand the right to vote to these people who are already fully contributing to our society.

This is an extremely important part of representation. I hope that every MP will hear the message that young people are sending and give these young Canadians the chance to vote in the next election. Since these young people will be affected the most by the decisions we make or do not make in the House of Commons, it is extremely important that they have the opportunity to have a say in their own future.

This is the fundamental question, when we go beyond the idea that certain regions of our country have minimum representation in the House of Commons. This is something that has already been granted to Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Atlantic provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, an extraordinary region of our country, and the Yukon. In those regions of the country, we already have a minimum level of representation. What this bill does is simply extend that to Quebec.

It is for that reason, and for historic reasons as well. There is no doubt that Quebec represents a nation in Canada. We voted on this in the House of Commons, and it makes very real sense to adopt this bill.

However, this is not the only aspect of representation that we need to be tackling. This is where we get to the issue of a reform of our electoral system.

Members know well that if we actually had in place a proportional system of voting, with electoral reform, like so many other countries have, we would actually see in the House of Commons far fewer Conservatives, far fewer Liberals and far more New Democrats. As we know, in the last election Canadians voted in vast numbers for the NDP, and there should be over 60 NDP MPs in the House of Commons, but we do not have proportional voting. Our electoral system, first past the post, ensures that only one of the parties is represented, despite the fact that Canadians divide up in a much more even way between the traditional old parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, and the New Democrats. Having in place proportional voting, mixed member proportional representation, would make a difference in how the House of Commons is put together.

As we know, in the last two elections, we have seen minority Parliaments that Canadians have decided on, even with the first-past-the-post system. What the NDP has done with that, with the mighty strength of our 25 members of Parliament, is push the government to finally do the right thing. The confidence and supply agreement, as we have seen, has made a significant difference in the lives of Canadians.

We are seeing put into place a national dental care program, something that has been talked about for decades. Now it is finally happening. For decades, we have had a growing homelessness and an affordability crisis in housing, and now finally that is being addressed through the confidence and supply agreement. It is because it is a minority Parliament that the NDP is able to push hard so that Canadians actually get the benefits, finally, after decades of inaction, both from Liberal and Conservative governments. I do not single out one or the other. It has been lamentable, how we have seen massive giveaways to the ultrarich and to the banks and billionaires develop over time. At the same time, Canadians are being neglected. Seniors are being neglected. Families are being neglected, and young people are being neglected.

We have seen a complete lack of respect and responsibility in terms of actually ensuring a future for indigenous peoples. We have seen how, over time, our federal institutions have been eroded, but now, with two consecutive minority Parliaments, Canadians can start seeing that they can have confidence again that the government may actually do the right thing and respond to the affordable housing crisis, respond to the crises we see in indigenous communities, respond to the climate crisis and respond, as well, to the fact that most Canadians are struggling to make ends meet. Things like dental care and pharmacare would make a significant difference in their quality of life.

Putting in place that electoral reform would mean that the House of Commons would actually reflect how Canadians vote, as opposed to a first-past-the-post system where majorities are magnified. Both Conservatives and Liberals have not had 50% of the vote, but they have had far more than 50% of the power; they have had 100% of the power with majority governments. We saw how that acted out in the dismal decade of the Harper government. We have seen how far short the Liberals fell with the majority government, which did virtually nothing for Canadians.

Now, in a minority Parliament situation, which would happen more often and more significantly under an electoral reform and a voting system where every vote counts, we would be able to achieve more for Canadians. The neglect of regular Canadians that we have seen over decades, while hundreds of billions have been given in handouts to banks and billionaires in overseas tax havens, would have to cease, because ultimately the NDP would have a greater representation in the House and be able to push hard for a better response to what working people are going through.

It is not just about electoral reform in the sense of proportional representation; it is also about giving younger people a voice. That is why I want to pay tribute to the member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for presenting Bill C-210 in the House. All members of Parliament will have to vote on this important initiative. Bill C-210 would give 16- and 17-year-olds the full right as Canadians to finally be able to vote in federal elections.

This is fundamentally important. With the climate crisis, we are seeing things change in our country. Last year, in my area of Burnaby and New Westminster and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, we saw over 600 people die in the sweltering temperatures of the heat dome provoked by the climate crisis. Many of the people who died were simply unable to leave their apartments and did not have air conditioning in place. The emergency systems were overloaded. Ambulances simply could not keep up. Firefighters stepped in. This occurred over a number of days, as hundreds of people died. I spoke with emergency workers and first responders who said that if it had gone on for another couple of days, it would have led to a collapse of our emergency response system.

Therefore, for governments to not respond to the magnitude of the climate crisis for decades is absolutely irresponsible, and I blame the Conservatives and the Liberals equally. Young people in this country understand that, so by giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote, I believe we will cause a substantial change in voting patterns and the composition of the House of Commons, because young Canadians will no longer accept an ostrich-style response to the climate crisis that is now upon us. Giving 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote gives them a stake in their own future. The bad decisions that have been made over the last few decades will fundamentally change with an influx of voters who understand what is at stake with respect to the climate crisis.

With respect to representation, this bill, in a very limited scope, does one good thing, but we expect the government to move further on keeping its promises. We all remember in 2015 when the Prime Minister stood up and announced, with the eyes of the nation on him, that it would be the last first-past-the-post election, and won a majority government as a result. He promptly broke that promise and has not had a majority government since, because what Canadians have been saying to him and to the Liberal government is that they simply will not accept a situation in which 30% or 32% of the vote gives 100% of the power. As members well know, a minority Parliament situation allows for real discussions about the future of our country and what Canadians need to be brought to the forefront of the House of Commons.

I have been in this House as an elected member of Parliament in a number of majority Parliaments, and we need to have a Parliament that reflects how Canadians vote. I hope that legislation will be forthcoming in the coming years.

Preserving Provincial Representation in the House of Commons ActGovernment Orders

May 16th, 2022 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time this afternoon with the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

I am glad and honoured to offer comments on Bill C-14, an act to amend the Constitution Act with respect to electoral representation. I will start by talking a bit about what is in the bill, followed by what I am disappointed to see is not in it.

As has been shared in this place, the bill focuses on ensuring that when the number of members of the House of Commons is readjusted every 10 years, provinces will not have a fewer number of representatives than were assigned in the 43rd Parliament. As their populations might grow, some might be assigned more.

This is very reasonable and has been done before, 1985 being one recent example that has been shared quite a few times in this place. In fact, a province has not lost a seat since 1966. It is reasonable that we continue to build on the principle of representation by population, while also being sensitive to regional representation issues and the size of ridings to ensure that MPs can best support their constituents.

My only question on the core substance of what is in the bill is that it refers to the 43rd Parliament specifically. My question for the governing party is this: Why not create an evergreen version of the bill? If we want the most amount of time in this place focused on the greatest issues facing Canadians, why continue every 10 years to do this process for the census review? I would expect to see parliamentarians in 10 years' time probably having a similar conversation. It seems more efficient to simply say that we would ensure no province's allocation is ever reduced. Of course, as the review is done, some allocations might be increased based on population.

I will now move to what is not in the bill, and I will start with promises made just a few weeks ago in the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement. It included three additional promises to make elections more democratic and more accessible. I wish these promises made so recently were included. What a wonderful opportunity to follow through on these very recent promises made: expanding election day to three days of voting to make sure that more folks can get out to vote, allowing folks to vote at any polling place in their electoral district and improving the process of mail-in ballots knowing that so many Canadians across the country are looking to that process.

I have heard the governing party say that this last piece was really important and that it wanted to move more quickly on it. Well, in my view, all four of them are really important, and I would encourage the governing party to look into how quickly it can move forward on following through with the promises made just a few weeks ago.

More than that, let us recognize that the bill is really just working within an existing winner-take-all system that leads here: Millions of Canadians's votes are not reflected in the makeup of the elected parliamentarians in this place. For my part, I spent the last number of years knocking on door after door in my community, and one of the most difficult conversations I had was with neighbours of mine who told me, “You know what? I'm not planning to vote at all. My vote doesn't count. It hasn't counted before, and I have given up on the partisan, toxic nature of that place. Move on.”

It was a sad moment to recognize that so many, not only in Kitchener but across the country, have just given up on our democracy. I recognize that they are looking for our parliamentarians to say that every single vote should count. Addressing this means bringing in legislation for proportional representation in the way that so many other democracies around the world have, and recognizing that the percentage of seats in this place should recognize the percentage of people who voted for a party.

The good news here is that this promise has been made before. However, in this case, the promise dates back over 100 years. It was first promised by a Liberal government in 1921. It is a promise that was repeated over 1,800 times in 2015 by the governing party, which said it would make sure that every vote counted.

Many Canadians are familiar with the line that 2015 would be the last first-past-the-post election. There was so much excitement. I know there are some members in this place today who have also been pushing for this over the last seven years, from all parties. In fact, a member of the Conservative Party fairly recently publicly shared her support for moving toward proportional representation.

This is why I am disappointed that seven years later, there is still no mention of proportional representation in this bill or any others, recognizing that in other parliaments around the world, moving to proportional representation has led to more diversity among elected representatives. It has led to a more stable governance. It has led to more collaborative approaches, wherein parliamentarians are incentivized to work together to get things done on behalf of constituents across the country.

Of course, it provides more power to the elector. What do I mean by that? As one example, some members of this place will know that it is a real priority for neighbours of mine in Kitchener Centre to see more ambitious action on climate. We should be addressing the climate crisis as the existential threat that it is. A recent poll showed that 66% of Canadians across the country want to see more ambition from the federal government when it comes to action on the climate crisis. Of course, that 66% looking for more ambitious action on climate is not fully represented in this place. Why? It is because we do not have seats in this place that represent Canadians across the country.

I will again put a call out to the governing party to follow through on this promise. Whether it is from seven years ago or 100 years ago, I encourage the governing party to follow through on it.

The last piece of disappointment is with respect to a private member's bill that the governing party has not yet promised to support, but I hope it does. It is Bill C-210, from the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He is putting forward legislation that other members of this place have previously put forward, including the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and I believe the member for Vancouver Kingsway.

The bill calls on us to reduce the voting age to 16 years old. It is calling for this place to engage young people in their future and recognize that so much of what is discussed here, whether it is with respect to the housing crisis, the climate crisis or many of our priorities, is going to affect young people more than anyone else. Not only is it the right thing to do to align the voting age alongside so many other powerful marks we offer for young people to recognize as they grow into adulthood, but what a meaningful change it would be to ingrain voting habits at a younger age, recognizing that it is young people who are often heading off to post-secondary education.

In our current structure of allowing young people to vote at 18, often the first time to vote is soon after they have moved out into a community they might not know as well. Would it not be more advantageous for a young person to vote for their first time in their home community, where they have grown up, with a parent to have that kind of support and to ingrain good voting habits at a young age?

I will continue to encourage all members of this place to support Bill C-210. Knowing it is not included in the government's legislation, there is another opportunity for members in this place to support voting at a younger age.

I will summarize by saying again that I will be supporting Bill C-14 because it is a reasonable piece of legislation, recognizing it does have wide support from many parties in this place. I would encourage the governing party to go further and recognize there is so much more we could do specifically when it comes to ensuring that this place better reflects the interests of Canadians across the country.

May 5th, 2022 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Chair, for Bill C-210, the right to vote at 16 act, the coming into force date is six months after the bill receives royal assent. I'm wondering if Elections Canada would see any major logistical or administrative barriers to implementing Bill C-210 and providing the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds in Canada.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2022 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Madam Speaker, today is a very important day for young people as we debate a bill that will increase the political representation and participation of youth in Canada.

I am dismayed to hear many of my colleagues in the House misunderstand or misrepresent the interests of young people in this discussion. I hope to clarify, for many of my colleagues, the importance of enfranchisement for young people by offering the reality that, here in Canada, we have not always done our very best to ensure enfranchisement.

Let me rewind the clock. In 1959, indigenous people did not have the right to vote in this country. Do members want to know why they did not have the right to vote? It is because people in this chamber said that indigenous people, like myself and my family, were unfit, unready, immature and could not make decisions for themselves. It sounds pretty darn familiar today.

Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act, would finally allow those who are truly competent, those who have our future in their hands and those who have the most at risk, to have something. This is something we can truly give them by welcoming them into our democracy.

I would like to thank and applaud my hon. colleague and dear friend, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, for tabling this truly historic piece of legislation. It is time to do what is right. Enfranchisement in a democracy is one of the most critical steps of making our democratic institution stronger. When we deny that fact and when we deny young people this truth, we deny them their future.

I want to address the important contributions of young people so that my colleagues can better understand how young people play a critical role today, right now, not only in our economy but also in our society, our academics and our culture. They also play a critical role in how communities function. There is a saying where I come from that when children and young people walk the earth in front of us, that land is truly blessed because we know they are still here, and it will be their children who will walk that land.

Let us not discredit the value of young people here. I do not want to continue to hear how young people are unfit and how they cannot do things. Young people are doing far more today than many leaders around the globe. Young people are not just the leaders of tomorrow in some far-off imagination: they are the leaders of today, right now.

Young people are facing unprecedented challenges. We often talk about the affordability crisis. We often talk about the housing crisis. We often talk about climate change in the House. Who is it going to affect most? It is going to affect young people. It is going to affect our children. Why not give them the right to have a say?

Young people have to deal with not only the reality of what is to be a diminishing future, but they also have to deal with the lives they are leading now. They are dealing with racism, just as I have. They are dealing with gender identity and their own sexuality. They have questions about how their inclusion in this place, and in all of Canada, can be valued.

I was only 16 years old when I went to work in the oil field in Alberta. Many of my Conservative colleagues often talk about how important it is that we support workers in the oil field. Not once have they come to talk to workers, such as me. I got laid off four times when I was 17. Not once. I did not even have a vote to protect myself. Even though I was paying taxes and I was paying this country's bills, I still could not have a say.

Many young people put their bodies on the line for this country, in many more ways than one, and we still do not give them respect. That reminds me of something I mentioned at the very beginning of this speech: we ignored indigenous peoples' rights to enfranchisement forever, until 1960. My mom did not have the right to vote. As indigenous people were excluded from this place and excluded from enfranchisement, it was a struggle. It still is a struggle today to ensure that they feel safe at the ballot box. Let us not repeat that.

Let us think about the leaders in our world who are young people, and who have made our world better. I think about Greta Thunberg, for example. She is a politically strong, bright young woman leading young people because they know this future is more theirs than ours.

I think of Autumn Peltier, a fellow indigenous youth, who is doing that work here in Canada. We turn our backs so quickly to those who lead our country.

We are seeing more and more young people take action. In light of this vacuum of power, they are taking action in their schools, in community centres and in our campaign offices. Every single one of us has had young people offer up their intelligence, their volunteerism, their spirit, their knowledge and their labour. The least we can do is protect them.

I want to highlight that this is not only a principally correct bill, but it is also one that has proved political merits, as seen in other nations that provide for 16- and 17-year-olds' enfranchisement. Many experts agree that this is a great idea to strengthen a democratic study and is something we have to talk about right now: freedom and democracy. Now is the time to truly put freedom and democracy in the hands of those who have the most to benefit from, but also the most to lose, in our country.

Many experts, such as Jan Eichhorn, an associate professor at the University of Edinburgh, say that this move will increase young people’s interest in politics as well as impact our society in a positive way. This is good news for Canada, should we have the courage to do what is right.

From Cuba to Brazil, Malta and Scotland, several countries around the world have already lowered the voting age and are seeing positive results. Canada must follow suit. For example, during the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, 16-year-olds were allowed to participate. That is amazing. According to Democratic Audit UK, that not only allowed participation but it also increased non-partisanship. It increased civil debate and good discussion. That is what our country needs.

Flourishing democracies do not rely on exclusion. They rely on inclusion. That is why indigenous nations in this country have already taken a leadership role on this. Many indigenous organizations already allow our 16-year-old people to vote, because we know the importance of bringing them in. In fact, in Austria, studies have shown that 16- and 17-year-olds have reasonable political knowledge and are able to act with higher civic literacy than voters who are 18 or over. This is shocking. Many of our colleagues here have said the opposite. The level of political interest is not only determined by age: that is what I mean to say here. In no case should we believe that. Young people at home do not believe that. They are valuable. They belong in this country. This country is theirs and they deserve a say. The arguments for lowering the voting age have reasonable evidence.

New Democrats stand with young people in their call for enfranchisement. I personally know that in my constituency of Edmonton Griesbach, many young voters who worked on my campaign when they were just 16 or 17 would make fine voters. Campaign volunteers like Elyasu and Callum are the backbone of civic engagement at the end of the day. They are the ones participating the most. To conclude, the future of our country truly depends on young people. They have the passion.

Again, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for allowing me the opportunity to speak. I would also like to thank my hon. colleague in the New Democratic Party for taking a strong and principled role here and always.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2022 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-210. This is a difficult bill to debate because it is a responsibility of citizenship and that is the fundamental question before us. What is a citizen? What are their duties and responsibilities? Often times, people talk about what rights they have as a citizen. They rarely address the responsibilities of a citizen.

I, like many Canadians, did not have the benefit of having been born in this country and, therefore, gifted with citizenship. I have taken an oath of citizenship to gain it and to have and enjoy all the freedoms and rights that every single citizen of Canada enjoys. However, with this comes the responsibility to vote. Our civic duty goes beyond just voting. There is much more to being a good citizen than simply voting, forgetting about it between elections, and moving on. This is where a lot of people should and could get involved.

I have concerns with the way this legislation is drafted. I have concerns also with some of the arguments I have heard here and online from advocates and academics who are pushing the idea of reducing the age of voting from 18 to 16. I want to show that I have done my homework on this and that I am approaching this thoughtfully.

The election reform committee report in late 2016 did not recommend reducing the age of voting from 18 to 16. The minority dissenting report filed with the House of Commons by the Liberal Party, the Liberal government caucus members, only asked that 18-year-olds be registered. The minority report that was filed jointly by the New Democrats and the Green Party asked that future referendums on electoral reform allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote, which I guess is an idea they got from the Scottish experience.

Prince Edward Island's legislature actually considered reducing the age of voting in its provincial elections to 16 just last year, and that was voted down at the provincial legislative level.

The voting age restriction in Canada has actually been charter tested before, not at the Supreme Court of Canada level, at least not that I am aware of, but in Fitzgerald v. Alberta. It was tested in that court and the judge found that, while it was a violation of the right, he could, under section 1 of the charter, find reasonable grounds for it and explained the reasoning therein.

One of the examples I have heard was the Austrian experience. In the last federal election in Austria, the voter turnout was about 75%. If we go back 40, 50 and 60 years, voter turnout was over 90% in Austria, and that has actually been the experience until very recently, when voter turnout started to dip. It is true that before the 2019 federal Austrian election, Austria did have a voter turnout that was higher. It has gone down, so I do not think that is a good example to use, this unique situation of reducing the voting age to 16 being the cause of voter turnout going up, because it has gone down since then. Looking at it historically, it is lower than it was 40, 50 and 60 years ago.

The issue of 14- to 17-year-olds voting in partisan leadership elections in political parties has been raised. I have seen this repeatedly, so I want to address it. Typically, people have to pay to join a political party in Canada to be eligible to vote in a leadership race. They do not pay to become a citizen. Let us very much hope that people do not engineer a situation where they are essentially paying for the rights and benefits of a citizen of Canada. It was definitely not the situation in my case. That is a fundamental difference between becoming a member of a political party, and paying to vote at the age 14, and being a citizen of Canada, which comes with responsibilities and duties. I will lay claim that these duties are a lifetime of responsibilities to our democracy, our Parliament and our monarch, which every citizen of Canada bears the responsibility to protect.

I have heard the argument that it would improve voter turnout as well. I have a concern here with how the argument is being framed. It is just basic mathematics. The potential could be a million or a million and a half new voters being added onto the voter rolls. I will go into a bit more about these voter rolls and the actual Elections Canada campaigning. Unless every single 16- and 17-year-old were to vote thereafter in a federal election, effectively, voter turnout would go down if only half, or even 75%, of them voted. Everything else would be exactly the same, but because the pool would be increased and all the new additions would not all vote, the voter turnout would actually decrease. There might be a high level of enthusiasm for their first election, but it would still effectively decrease the overall voter turnout. That is just a word of caution.

I spoke about the responsibilities of citizenship. One of them is serving in our military. Some choose to take up the responsibility by wearing the uniform of our armed forces and serving Canada. People cannot join the regular armed forces at the age of 16. They can only join the primary reserves with parental consent if they can prove that they are a full-time student. They can join at age 17 with just parental consent, and at the age of 18 they can fully join any of the regular armed forces units and go through basic training in the army, navy or air force.

The age for alcohol consumption and purchase in Canada is 19 in most provinces, 18 in Quebec, 18 in Manitoba and 18 in Alberta. The age for cannabis consumption and purchase is 19 in all provinces except Alberta, where it is 18, and Quebec, where it is 21. The age to obtain a driver's licence is 16, but we get full driving rights at 19 in about half the provinces. Four provinces use 18 and two provinces use a graduated system.

We place limits on young citizens and those who are 16 and 17 in what I would call the basics of becoming a full citizen. They get all rights and benefits as they come of age and are able to take on all these extra responsibilities.

The issue is not maturity. I have met incredibly mature young people who are 16 or who are 12. In fact, I trust my 11-year-old daughter much more with my car keys to grab something out of my car and pick something up than my 13-year-old son. My 11-year-old daughter is far more mature and ready to take on way more responsibilities than my 13-year-old, who still loves to play video games, especially Minecraft, which is still a big one in the household.

Age is not a good indicator of maturity. I have met 40-year-olds and 30-year-olds who are so deeply immature that I question their ability to give a rational vote at the ballot box. However, they are allowed to; they can vote. That is the great thing about Canada. People can cast a vote for any reason once they reach that age, whether it is for a political party, for the leadership or for a single issue they care about. If it is something that strikes them as a good idea, they can do that.

I talked about some of my deep concerns with the voter rolls. Let us say the voter rolls were reduced to allow 16- and 17-year-olds. Once they make it onto the voter rolls, their contact information would be shared with political parties by Elections Canada. It would thereafter be shared with MP offices, which would then directly communicate with these new voters. We should be able to communicate with voters.

Then I wonder about a basic question on access to high schools. Should members of Parliament and candidates choosing to run for public office ensure that we have equal access to high schools to campaign there? Is that something we want? Is that a place where we want to be able to campaign? How would that work? It is the interaction between federal government legislation and practice and local rules at the high school and school district levels. That is a concern I have. It is not clear to me how this would work.

There are municipalities and cities that have considered allowing voting as early as the age of 16. I do not think that is a terribly bad idea, and it is interesting. Voting at a younger age gives an opportunity for people to practise a habit. I have heard this said, and it has been mentioned in this debate as well.

I have saved my Yiddish proverb for last. I know many members await it. “A quiet fool is half a sage.” Hopefully by rising to speak on this, I have not made a fool out of myself. I propose some caution, perhaps, as we proceed through debate and to a vote on this piece of legislation and the idea behind it. I do not believe this is something we should rush into. There are very good areas that we could debate, but things need to be more finely considered here.

Again, I hope the sage matters that I have brought to the House, including the consideration from Prince Edward Island's legislature, which voted this down in 2021, the full responsibilities of citizenship and the limits we place currently, are considered as we decide whether to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

Right to Vote at 16 ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Taylor Bachrach NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

moved that Bill C-210, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (voting age), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am so pleased to rise on this beautiful evening to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-210, the right to vote at 16 act.

First and foremost, I brought forward this bill because I believe in the power of young people in our society and in our country: the power of young people as a force for change, the power of young people as a source of energy and enthusiasm, and the power of young people to bring new ideas and new ways of seeing old problems.

As a young person, I was interested in politics at a young age, as I am sure many in this place were when they were 16 or 17. In the almost decade and a half since I was elected, I have encountered so many inspiring young people, such as the group of Heiltsuk youth who were part of a peaceful protest in 2015 that helped win recognition of their constitutional rights to a commercial fishery, and Fruin and Jessica from Smithers, who appeared before Smithers town council when I was mayor to advocate for a ban on plastic bags. There are people like Andy from Prince Rupert, whom I met during the all-candidates debate in 2019. Shortly thereafter, he ran a community podcast on the COVID-19 response and started writing his first book. Of course, there are the courageous young people currently taking the issue of voting age to federal court with their charter challenge. Incredible young people are stepping up and showing they care about issues, and it is time they had a proper seat at the table.

I also brought this bill forward because I believe we in this place have a responsibility to continuously strive to strengthen our democracy, to leave this place and this country better than we found it. I think we can all agree on the premise that the more people see themselves reflected in our democracy and feel included in our democracy, the stronger that democracy is.

This bill presents a chance to bring a new set of voices into our electoral system, into our democratic conversation: those of 16- and 17-year-old Canadians. It is just as Canada did for women in 1918, Asian Canadians in 1948, indigenous people in 1960 and 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds in 1970.

However, the right to vote, the name of which is in the title of this bill, is never guaranteed. I do not think there are any in this place who would suggest that if the group of people I just listed were excluded, our democracy would be nearly as strong, but democracy and voting rights are something we must keeping fighting for. Speak to Indigenous people and they will tell you their voting access did not become an overnight reality in 1960. As we saw in the last federal election with the suspension of the campus vote program, there are still groups in our society, like students, that face barriers to voting.

Our democracy is a work in progress and it remains fragile. We see that around the world: in the United States, in France and here at home in Canada too. We are witnessing the rise of those who seek to destabilize western democracies. We are seeing the spread of misinformation, which is alienating citizens from their state. Only a year ago, an armed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn an election that was free and fair.

Those forces are preying on real feelings of disillusionment. The fact is, many people do not feel represented by our political institutions. The antidote, in part, is to ensure that our democratic system is including as many people as possible, and that includes 16- and 17-year-old Canadians.

I called this my private member's bill, but truly this bill belongs to all of the representatives in this place and beyond who have championed this initiative over the years and who have brought forward this bill's objective not just at the federal level of government, but at other levels as well. The member for Ajax comes to mind. We were doing the math, and if his bill in this place had passed in 2005, the children born that year would have been old enough to vote in the last federal election. The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands tabled a bill to lower the voting age in the House. Of course, my colleague, the wonderful member for Vancouver Kingsway, at our count has tabled a bill seven times in this place. I understand his count is a little different, but when we get up to bigger numbers, it becomes hard to keep track.

I hope that others will see their efforts reflected in the bill as well, such as the member for Calgary Skyview, who, as a Calgary city councillor, brought forward a motion to lower the voting age, and the member for Orléans, who championed a voting age initiative in the province of Ontario. I want to specifically acknowledge the work of Senator Marilou McPhedran, who has championed lowering the voting age in the other place and whose bill, Bill S-201, is currently at second reading.

Indeed, this is a bill with cross-party support and initiatives in both houses, and I hope this momentum means that, very soon, it will pass into law.

Why should we lower the voting age to 16 in Canada? The first reason, I think, is an obvious one, and I believe a compelling one, which is that the issues we are grappling with as a country are issues that have a tremendous bearing on young people, their present and the future they will inherit, issues like housing affordability, student debt, the sustainability of our health care system and, of course, the existential issue of the global climate emergency, the impacts of which will affect today’s generation of adults in far-reaching and profound ways. Young adults deserve to have a hand in the decisions on these issues, and that is why I have brought forward this bill.

Another compelling reason for lowering the voting age is the impact it can have on some troubling trends when it comes to electoral turnout in our country. In the 2019 election, only slightly more than half, 53.9%, of people 18 to 24 years old voted. It turns out that Canada’s current voting age of 18 is possibly the worst time to expect young people to vote for the very first time in a federal election.

As many in this place know, the age of 18 is a time of great transition. It is a time when young people are moving away from their home community. It is a time when they are embarking on full-time employment and full-time studies, often in a place away from where they grew up. Among all the competing experiences and responsibilities at that age, voting in a federal election rarely ranks and, as a result, the 18-24 age cohort votes in the lowest numbers of any age group in our country.

If we lower the voting age to 16, we will see a different result. Most young adults at that age are still living at home, in the riding they grew up in. They have deep-rooted connections to their place. These conditions mean that there is a high likelihood that they will come out and vote in their first election. When they vote in the first election, there is a high likelihood that they will vote in the second election, and there is also a likelihood that they will form voting habits that stick with them for their entire life. That is not conjecture. That is what other countries, like Austria, Germany and Scotland, have found to be the case. It is what the data shows.

That is why the chief electoral officer of our country has said in the past that lowering the voting age is “worth considering” because “there's a real benefit to making sure that Canadians vote early, and voting when you're 16, there's an opportunity to reach out to them.”

I want to take a moment to acknowledge Dr. Jan Eichhorn from the University of Edinburgh, who is here in Ottawa with us this week sharing some of the findings from his research on this topic. Not only does Dr. Eichhorn’s research indicate that 16- and 17-year-olds vote in greater numbers than their 18- to 24-year-old peers, but he has also found that they are more open-minded when deciding which party to vote for. He shared with us that when Scottish citizens saw the results of lowering the voting age, in the independence referendum, support for the idea of lowering the voting age went from 30% to 60%.

Of course, there are some detractors. I want to be honest. I have been a bit dismayed that many of the arguments against lowering the voting age are rooted in stereotypes of young people that are at best inaccurate, and at worst discriminatory and ageist.

“Let kids be kids,” they say, ignoring the fact that at 16 and 17, we give young adults all kinds of responsibility in our country. In most provinces, they can operate a motor vehicle at age 16. They can leave school and live on their own. They can join the Canadian Armed Forces, as the sons of the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne did. They can write their own will and testament. They can be held criminally responsible for their actions. Many 16- and 17-year-olds work and pay taxes, yet they cannot vote for the government that sets those taxes. In today's Canadian society, these are not kids. They are young adults with rights and responsibilities.

We are talking about voting rights specifically. While researching the issue of voting age in Canada, one particular inconsistency stood out to me. While the current law limits voting in federal elections to age 18, the age limit set by political parties for voting in leadership elections is, wait for it, 14. A leadership race, like the Conservative leadership race that is taking place right now, is an election to decide which candidate will have a chance to become Canada's next Prime Minister. That is a serious election, and it is one that we already trust young people to take part in.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says nothing about age limits on voting. It only says that every Canadian citizen holds that right, and it is up to Parliament to establish the reasonable limit to that right. Three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that it was demonstrably unreasonable to limit Canadians who live abroad from voting, and this is under section 3 of the charter. Given the evidence, can we truly argue that there are reasonable grounds to withhold voting rights from 16- and 17-year-olds? I do not think there are.

I sense there may be some in this place who find this initiative trivial, perhaps, or unimportant, or maybe they are worried that enfranchised young people will not vote for them. For me, it comes down to a matter of justice. If there are those in our society who the evidence shows are competent, then excluding them is unjust. It was unjust for women, it was unjust for indigenous people, it was unjust for Asian Canadians, and it is unjust today for 16- and 17-year-olds. I can think of no more serious work, no more important work than correcting this injustice and enfranchising young adults, who have been excluded from our democratic process here in Canada for far too long.

I will end with the words of Mégane Jacques, a 17-year-old from Quebec, who just yesterday addressed a group of MPs from all parties. Ms. Jacques said, “You have the capacity to make Bill C-210 a reality, to make our lives as Canadians better, now and for future generations. That is your job, isn't it, to make Canada a better place for all of us? What an honour and a privilege that is, to be able to serve your country as you do. If you have the capacity to make Bill C-210 a reality, please pave the way for us. The question is not only about denying our rights, but about acknowledging our value in today's world.”

Constitution Act, 1867Government Orders

April 7th, 2022 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, we are discussing representation in the House, and I talked earlier about the important work we need to do on gender balance and proportionality. I talked a lot about young people and the lack of opportunities for them to have a seat at the table. We know that at 16 years old, young people can drive a car, work and pay taxes in this country. We also know that if they participate at a young age, they have a better chance of voting in the future.

As to my question for my colleague, there is a bill before the House, Bill C-210, tabled by my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley. Does the member support allowing those who can drive—