Vot­ing rights

Gen­er­a­tion Zers have no say about how much they pay, or what is taxed and where the taxes are used

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - Jim Guy Jim Guy is the au­thor of three po­lit­i­cal science texts, is a re­tired pro­fes­sor and ad­vises lo­cal stu­dents on where the best de­gree pro­grams are cur­rently taught. He lives in Syd­ney.

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.

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