Article By: Elizabeth Fraser
“It requires upping the game in our schools to ensure students are much more aware of how our system is supposed to work,”- David Coon
Green Party Leader David Coon says he sees only an upside to a lower voting age, and is hopeful the New Brunswick government will agree.
Coon, who proposed a voting age of 16 after he won a seat in the legislature in 2014, said Friday it’s important to bring younger voices into elections.
“It’s a great time of life when the world is opening up for you, you’re in school, there’s lots of things going on there,” he said.
A lower voting age would put a variety of issues on the agendas of political parties that pertain to 16 and 17-year-olds, he said.
Last week, New Brunswick’s electoral reform commission recommended lowering the voting age to 16 from 18 years old.
The commission said people who get involved in politics at a young age are more likely to stay involved, and it rejected the idea that 16-year-olds are too young to vote.
“It would lead to tremendous discussions and debates at the level of families and the level of the classrooms,” Coon said. “Those 16 and 17-year-olds that don’t want to vote just won’t vote.”
Coon said voting at a younger age is especially important now, since issues have longer-term implications and a serious impact on future generations. He cited the climate crisis as an example.
“Unless we can come to grips with that now, as the prime minister has said, this is a generational issue, which we’ve got to tackle now,” said Coon.
Coon said lowering the voting age will not only create lifelong voters but also voters who are more engaged in the democratic process.
“It’s at a time in life when you’re in school, and you can wrap curriculum and initiatives in school around … the electoral process,” he said.
He said lowering the voting age should come as a package that would include strengthening teaching in how the electoral systems works.
Coon said he has seen the need to explain the role of MLAs, the legislative assembly and how it works.
“It requires upping the game in our schools to ensure students are much more aware of how our system is supposed to work,” he said.
Coon also said the province would benefit from the additional voters a lower voting age would generate.
“We’re seeing a steady decline. I think it will help reverse that and that would be great. I only see an upside on this one.”