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article imageNova Scotia: Opposition Liberals Want Voting Age Lowered to 16

By Bob Ewing     Nov 1, 2008 in Politics
Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil argues that allowing 16-and 17-year-olds to vote would go a long way toward increasing voter turnout.
Laura Wright is 17 and a high school student in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Wright is confident that if she had the right to vote she would be able to make an informed decision.
However, Wright does not think that all of her peers are as capable.
"I just don't know if students are ready to make that decision at such a young age,” she said.
Wright was responding to a bill introduced earlier in the day by the opposition Liberal party to lower the voting age in Nova Scotia to 16 from 18.
"I just don't know that 16 is the appropriate age. ... You're faced with a lot of decisions at 16. You're in Grade 10, you're entering your first year of high school, you've got a lot going on personally, socially, and academically. It's a lot to take in that year. I know it was for me."
Wright thinks that by the time students like her turn 18, they are more mature, better informed and are ready to cast a ballot.
"You're ready to make that decision, because it affects you so personally."
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil has argued that allowing 16-and 17-year-olds to vote would go a long way toward increasing voter turnout.
McNeil refers to the election turnout when 59.1 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots for the Oct. 14 federal election - a record low. And he dismissed suggestions that those under 18 are simply not ready to take on such a responsibility.
"Those young Nova Scotians, I believe, are mature enough to understand and realize that decisions that we, as government, are making will impact their lives," he said.
The law would only be changed if it was done in conjunction with improving high school courses on history and civics.
Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald said "Having been in the position where I was teaching about the political process, I don't know if 16 is a proper age for that.
The age of 18 reflects a student or young person leaving their high school years, getting prepared to go on to post-secondary education or the workforce - there is a difference between an 18-year-old and 16-year-old."
MacDonald agrees lowering the voting age would boost participation, but only because more people would be eligible to vote.
"If you lowered it to 14, it would help even more," he said, noting with a chuckle that it would be great if he could get his 10-year-old son, Ryan, to vote for him. "It's not really the direction we should be going."
NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said. "Whatever the age limit is, it's always arbitrary," Dexter said. "There's nothing magical about 18. What makes you better able to vote at 18 or 17 1/2?"
Dexter does not think changing the voting age was the best way to encourage young people to get more involved in politics.
"If you want to get young people engaged in the process, the best thing that we can do is to have leaders who speak to the concerns they have," he said.
Thomas Axworthy, chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said "I don't think there are any arguments that I support that favour that," he said.
"I can't conceive of why lowering (the voting age) even more would add anything to the process," said Axworthy, who also stressed that better history and civics course were key to improving voter turnout.
More about Voting age, Nova Scotia, Liberals
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