Generation Zers have no say about how much they pay, or what is taxed and where the taxes are used
Would you lower the voting age to 16? Columnist Jim Guy would. Find out why.
In 1970, a revised Canada Elections Act lowered the voting age and the age of candidacy from 21 to 18. It was an important amendment to include a younger demographic within the purview of our electoral system.
Should we do it again – this time lowering the age to 16? Is it time to give 16-and 17-year-olds a political voice in Canada? Canada would join a growing list of countries that have enabled teenagers from the age of 16 to become an active part of the electorate. Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Hungary, Nicaragua, Norway are some of these states.
In the United States, California tried but failed. The United Kingdom considered it but dropped the idea.
I'll tell you why I think it’s a good idea. This demographic comprising 16-and 17-year-olds is the new Generation Z, numbering just over seven million. These youth are different from previous generations and would add a refreshing dynamic to provincial and federal politics, if included in the electorate.
The United Nations Day of Democracy has annually called for states to include youth in the decision-making layers of their governments. Inclusion is considered a bulwark against radicalization of disenchanted youth in search of identity. This is the age-set that recently displayed a willingness to leave Quebec to join Jihadists in Turkey and Syria.
Including a larger new stream of youth as voters is a way of building political peer networks. These networks provide a sense of efficacy in a system that has ignored them in the past. Almost always, young people are viewed as not politically engaged. But that is only because they are not seen on the political radar.
Their value systems – more social than political at 16 and 17 – are distinctive, open and positive. We should widen the electorate not just to increase its numbers but more importantly to give representation to the interests of these youth.
Our political system has one foot in the analogue world and one foot in the digital world. It's now common knowledge that Generation Z is the most techsavvy generation ever. The first letters they ever used as children were www.<>http://www.
Gen Zers have incorporated technology into all aspects of their daily lives, more so than Millennials and Gen-Xers, Busters and Echos. Generation Z is pragmatic, secular and refreshingly agnostic. The majority are self-confident and optimistic about their future. Most appealingly, they are not ideological and distrust political institutions, especially those that use the patronage of previous generations.
Their main sources of political information are the Internet through Facebook, followed almost equally by TV. Newspapers and magazines are not signifi- cant sources of political information for them. But they are team-oriented and more politically engaged than previous generations at the ages of 16 and 17.
Getting people to vote while they are still in a family circumstance and not totally independent could strengthen their willingness to vote as adults. This Generation Z comes under federal and provincial laws just like the rest of us, but without a political voice.
Nearly 80 per cent of high school students work at some point before they graduate. Zers value workplace fulfillment over their bank accounts. They drive, and can be tried and sentenced. They pay millions in sales tax, as well as other federal and provincial taxes just like all voters. Yet, they have no say about how much they pay, or what is taxed and where the taxes are used. For them, it is a case of ‘taxation without representation.’
Youth in this age category are governed but cannot consent. They complain that politicians don't speak for them because they don't need their votes.
This generation experiences the ups and downs of political life in our communities just like everyone else. They breathe polluted air in our cities and towns. They walk in streets made unsafe by drugs and crime.
GenZers face high unemployment, and get sick in our healthcare system as do the bulk of voters.
Many of the schools they attend are facing cutbacks of teachers and provincial funding. Most of the universities they are considering after graduation have simply become financially inaccessible.
Many Generation Zers will be the low-income university students, dependent upon a declining trove of provincial subsidies, grants and loans – all for expensive degrees that fizzle in the job market. Time to give them a political say on matters affecting their futures.