Being 17 during an election is frustrating

While lowering the voting age seems appealing at first, it would be a mistake.

Should Canada’s voting age be lowered to 16? 

This is a topic that has recently been brought up in Canada. Many have most likely heard this, being something covered regularly in the media when election season comes round. I know I have, and being a youth under the voting age with an acute interest in politics, it’s something I’ve definitely thought about often. 

That said, do I want the voting age to be lowered to 16? No, I don’t think I do.

Watching this year’s election has been a difficult process for me. All my friends are coming of age, all gaining the right to vote — though most actually don’t care and take little interest in politics. Those who do care, I find, have been easily influenced by the political views of those around them. I feel left out; I don’t have many friends to turn to who are experiencing the same thing. It frustrates me, and makes me long to be able to partake in something as important as voting and being a citizen who cares about it.

My life politically would feel way more fulfilling if I could vote. I was, and still am, a youth who spent countless hours of his free time researching political party platforms whenever a new election was called. But, looking back, I don’t feel as if I was mature enough to vote. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about what it really would have been like to make a decision as pivotal as electing a new leader. Although I may have been aware of all the different platforms, I lacked the experience required to fully understand how they’d be integrated into society and, admittedly, I still lack that now. 

Now after maturing and finally dipping my toes into the world after high school, I see that a lot of my peers went through the same thing. They are only barely just beginning to break through the confines of their upbringings and thinking for themselves now that they’re finally experiencing the working world. I’ve met others my age who have mimicked their parents, some mimicking those hastily made info dumps on key issues on social media. Although I’ve been made melancholic over the thought of being so close to 18, yet, missing the election, I personally want to experience the world more before being allowed to vote.

Looking back at the history of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 in Canada, I would say that having the voting age at 18 still makes sense. Similar to the attitudes seen with the 16-of-age debate, Canadians doubted that those the age of 18 held enough maturity to vote. Over time however — specifically by the maturity and responsibility displayed by 18-year-old youth around the time of World War II conscriptions and increased political engagement from youth — Canadians gradually concluded 18 to be a good age for people to begin their voting journey. 

At 16 and 17, you’re still stuck in the world before graduation. Not many work, or go through the motions of working life at that age, still feeling an obligation to follow the rules of their parents or peers. It just isn’t expected of you. After graduation you’re slowly just getting out of that conformist phase and getting a taste of the world.

I know that many underage teenagers who have a similar interest in politics like I do are frustrated, but we lack maturity. However, if you desire to have a more involved position in politics and lack the right to vote, there are many alternatives. I don’t find society to be run by our main leaders in democratic countries. Canada isn’t run solely by Trudeau, and Alberta isn’t run solely by Kenney (although with COVID-19, it sure feels like it). 

We saw Greta Thunberg at the Alberta Legislature in 2019, at 16, making huge impacts on environmental politics and issues without a right to vote. We all knew her name; we all knew her cause and so many of us stood with her. I feel as if she actually made a larger difference than if she had just simply voted instead. The Biden-Trump election was dictated by millions of teenagers and young adults emphasizing the importance of a vote. There are so many other teenagers making huge lasting impacts on the world around them without voting. Yes, it may seem more fulfilling to choose a new prime minister but it’s not the only way to influence the world around you. 

I don’t find people my age to be able to properly grasp important platforms to the full extent. I know in between now and the next election — my first election — I will have had a chance to properly see the world for what it is. I will be settled into university, have experienced being out of my parent’s home, and hopefully, will be used to doing taxes. I’ll have more experience and be able to make better, informed decisions.

To youth, the time between 16 and 18 feels like forever, but really, it’s only a couple of years. I think we can wait.

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