City council’s executive committee is getting behind a move by the youth council to lobby the province to change the voting age to 16. They’ve agreed to pass along a letter from the youth council, as well as write a cover letter to back the proposal.
Coun. Bryan Anderson, who’s known hundreds of 16 and 17 year olds over his decades as a high school teacher said he was thinking of all kinds of arguments against supporting it. “I could identify in my own mind a half a dozen questions that I could have asked but I had kind of a ‘come to Jesus moment’ and said, ‘so what would the big deal be if all of those manifest themselves?’ and my answer was very little negative.”
“Every argument you make about the potential for uninformed young people voting, or them voting for a candidate they couldn’t be because they’re not old enough, or parental control molding their thought process, or the fact that they’re not paying taxes, all of that? So what?”
Anderson doesn’t see any difference in a disengaged 30 year old skewing the results than an uninformed 16 year old. “Is there any significantly negative impact on our democratic process and my answer was no,” he told reporters.”
Youth council vice-chair Cameron Somerville doubts Tuesday’s 5-0 vote by executive committee will mean anything for the October 2017 election. Changes to the Local Authorities Municipal Elections Act, if they come at all, won’t happen quickly enough.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that they’re attaching a cover letter,” Somerville said of the move by the councillors which is one step further than anticipated. “We’re extremely grateful that we were given the opportunity to present and I’m extremely proud to be a member of the city of Edmonton youth council and extremely happy with city council’s decision.”
Somerville also said if this change comes about, it’ll open the door for students to have a say in the election of school trustees.
“We are the youngest major Canadian city in the country so it is in a way fitting,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
Former city clerk Alayne Sinclair also offered her support, citing city research her department had done when she was the chief returning officer for Edmonton.