From the Mailbag: Do you support lowering the municipal voting age to 16?
Yes I do, and in June 2017 as Public School Trustee, I voted in favour of lobbying Alberta’s municipal affairs minister to amend the Local Elections Authorities Act to extend the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds.
At 16, you can get your drivers license, pilot a plane, or, as I did in 1999, join the army reserve, but not vote. Now more than ever, we need greater democratic participation, especially among our youngest neighbours who are inheriting the keys to the city. Around the world, when the voting age was lowered, turnout increased. Voting gives young people a greater sense of engagement and ownership of our community. Considering the low turnout in municipal elections, voting in your first election means you are more likely to vote for the rest of your life.
Scotland. Austria. Ecuador. Argentina. This is not a controversial idea in Edmonton, and City Council endorsed a recommendation from youth council five years ago in 2016 to lower the voting age, as did the Edmonton Public and Catholic School Boards. I believe in the future we will look back and see this disenfranchisement as discriminatory, and it is ripe for a challenge.
But voting is not enough. It's the bare minimum. It's one action on one day that only takes a few minutes. We need to continue to enable greater participatory democratic opportunities across the city that build power around the important issues that matter to all of us, especially young people. And it has to be meaningful.
Young people are leading in Edmonton, and we need to help move the barriers, such as arcane voting restrictions, out of their way. I've seen it first hand in my work, both as a Public School Trustee but also through my work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and youth mentoring. From climate leadership and anti-racism work to leadership in the non-profit, arts, and business sector, our future leaders are making a tremendous impact, today.
As your Councillor, as I did at the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, I would continue to strengthen greater engagement opportunities for young adults in our city, beyond the City of Edmonton Youth Council. I'm very proud of my support for City Hall School that helps generations of Grade 6 students get involved in civics in their community. I would work with my council colleagues to create new opportunities for meaningful engagement, mentorship, and community ownership.