Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on this subject that keeps coming up. Obviously there is interest in it.
It also seems to appeal to young people, even though the member for Winnipeg North said that young people do not want to vote. In reality, 16- and 17-year-olds have gone to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to seek the right to vote by challenging the constitutionality of the law.
My colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley talked about the benefit of having 16- to 18-year-olds vote. If these young people vote, participation in the democratic process is sure to increase as the pool of voters gets bigger. It is simple math, and it does not take a Ph.D. to know that. The question is more whether these young people will actually go out and vote, but I will come back to that a little later.
First, I want to respond to what my colleague from Winnipeg North said. He stated that we need to encourage people to vote and we need to find ways to encourage them. He is looking for ways because he is a dynamic guy, as we know. Everybody in the House knows him.
I can give him some ideas. When I was in Quebec City, sitting as part of the opposition in the National Assembly, we asked questions, and the ministers usually gave us answers. When they did not, we invoked a standing order to remind the ministers that they had to answer.
When I arrived in Ottawa, I was told to brace myself. Ministers in Quebec City do not always answer questions, but the federal government gives nothing but nonsense answers. No matter what question is asked, the government reads from the same talking points, even if the answer is completely unrelated.
If the Liberals really want to help get the vote out, they need to respect the voters' intelligence and answer the questions put to them by the opposition, because those questions are coming from the voters. If the government really wants to increase voter turnout, it needs to start treating the public and voters with respect and answer the questions.
If they respected the public, they would remember that on September 25, 2021, the people elected a minority Liberal government and the NDP was relegated to the opposition. That was what the people wanted, what they decided.
Had the government respected voters' intelligence—had it respected voters, period—it would have respected the fact that this government was supposed to be a minority government and that the NDP was supposed to be an opposition party, but the very people who make a big to-do about boosting voter turnout are the same ones saying that the way people voted does not matter and that they are entering into an alliance for whatever reason and giving a minority government a majority.
Maybe if people felt respected, more of them might vote. Voter turnout has been in free fall for forty-some years, and even though it edged up recently, that is nothing to get excited about. The point is, let us start by respecting voters 18 and up before we start talking about the 16- to 18-year-olds.
Let us look at voting rights for 16- to 18-year-olds. I find this so interesting. There are some main ideas I would like to work on with the member.
First, it has been proven that a voter who votes for the first time tends to vote more often throughout their lifetime. It is a habit. Some people pick up bad habits; others pick up good ones. Voting is a good habit.
Technically, if 16- to 18-year-olds vote more, that high level of civic participation will continue throughout their lives. That will make democracy in Quebec and Canada more accessible.
I am not against the idea. On the contrary, I find it interesting. That is why I asked my colleague the question. He answered me, perhaps because he is not in government. I asked him some questions, and he did not answer that the dog ate the answer. I thank him for that because it is rare to get answers here. I find this interesting, and I wrote it down in my notebook.
We now have examples, and since this is being done elsewhere in the world, we are watching and wondering how it could happen here. The member for Calgary Shepard also said something interesting. He looks startled, but I can assure him that I found it interesting. I did not fact-check what he said, but I will take his word for it. He said that in Austria, voter turnout increased initially, but it went back down once the excitement wore off. That is interesting.
It is important to understand that the ultimate goal is to allow 16- to 18-year-olds to vote. Someone once said that you do not need to be old to be wise. I think it was Xavier Dolan, but I am not sure. It means that a person can be very bright even at 16 or sometimes younger. I have met people in that age group who were really into the news, who read the newspaper and so on. I think it is an interesting idea, and I think something could potentially be done with it.
We in the Bloc Québécois sat down to begin reflecting on this issue. In fact, my colleague pushed us to do so by introducing this bill and asking our opinion. I weighed the pros and cons, and I will briefly outline what I came up with.
First we have those who are in favour. They argue that the school setting may encourage 16-year-olds to vote because, generally speaking, people that age still go to school. Their teachers will talk about this and explain who has the right to vote, and so on. Discussions could be geared to encourage voter turnout. Some studies show that this is not necessarily true, but I still find it interesting.
I have already talked about the fact that voting is a good habit to get into. Another important point is that party members have the right to vote in leadership races. The Conservative Party seems to have a lot of leadership races. Its members must have strong legs, because they are always running.
Young people are more affected by the climate crisis. I am looking at the members of the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois, not to mention the NDP, because we must admit that we are all part of the same team when it comes to the climate crisis. It would be good to hear from young people on this issue. I think that would be worthwhile.
People have the right to join the army at age 17, which is interesting. At age 16, they can get a driver's licence, and why not? Although it is true that you can kill someone with a car, that is uncommon. We can certainly give them the right to vote.
At 16, people can drop out of school. They can get a job and pay taxes, depending on the tax bracket they are in.
I will now talk about the cons. A person is a minor until they are 18. There must be a reason for that. It was decided that a person is a minor before age 18. Parental consent is required for getting married or enlisting. Maybe there would be more successful marriages if that were required. I probably should have asked for my parents' advice before I got married, but no matter.
Some say that 18-year-olds sometimes act like adults and sometimes act like minors. It is still the same thing. There may be reasons for that.
At 16, people are prohibited from smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. At least, they are prohibited from buying cigarettes and alcohol.
Quebec and the other provinces are not there yet. It would be rather strange for youth to have the right to vote in federal elections, but not in provincial elections. I do not know how that would work, but it is something we could study and work on.
Research has been conducted on this. My colleague mentioned some research findings. It is interesting. Is the research indisputable? No, it is not. It may be too recent. Not many jurisdictions have lowered the voting age, and often the countries cannot be compared. That affects the nature of the sample.
The issue is simple: People must vote. Will lowering the voting age to 16 increase voter turnout? I am not referring to the number of voters, but the actual percentage who vote. I believe this is something we must fight for to ensure that our democracy moves in the right direction, to improve the way we do politics so that we are seen in a better light and people vote because they know it is worth the effort.