Charlottetown, PE - The Official Opposition legislation to lower the voting age to 16 was defeated by the King government today.
“It appears the slogan ‘it’s about people’ is nothing more than a politically convenient tagline. Today the King government decided to exercise its majority privilege to deny Island youth an opportunity to engage in the democratic process,” said Karla Bernard, Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning and bill sponsor.
“As MLAs we are elected to represent Islanders, regardless of their ability to vote,” said Bernard. “What government seems to not understand is, by denying franchise to our youth, they are refusing to empower a valuable, important sector of our society and are denying them a voice in decisions impacting their futures.”
Youth are already showing leadership by advising government through such bodies as the Premier’s Youth Council and the PEI Children and Youth Table. In fact, the Child and Youth Advisory Committee of the PEI Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has written to all parties recommending a voting age of 16.
“Youth are absolutely engaged as far as they are permitted to be,” said Bernard. “Our youth are educated, passionate, and in many ways leading in areas of community and social responsibility. We have invited them to such things as the Premier’s Youth Council. We allow them to vote on the leadership of a political party at age 14.”
The United Nations, through the Convention on the Rights of the Child, has called on legislative bodies to ensure the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in all actions. UNICEF Canada has also written in support of lowering the voting age to 16.
“Today we learned that the King government is not really progressive at all. We have also learned the big Liberal tent actually does not have enough room for everyone. These old school attitudes and exclusionary policies are tiresome, outdated, and out of touch.”
“I would ask my colleagues in the House: ‘how did your vote today advance the best interests of the child?’”