November 03, 2005 09:59 ET

Green Party of Ontario would reduce voting age to 16

Encourages other parties to follow their lead Attention: Education Editor, Environment Editor, Lifestyle Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor ORILLIA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 3, 2005) - The Green Party of Ontario overwhelmingly passed a resolution at its Annual Policy Conference and General Meeting this past weekend to reduce the voting age in Ontario to 16. The policy directive is seen as a way to give a voice to more citizens and to encourage greater voter participation among young voters.

"We believe that 16- and 17-year-olds who can drive, work, pay taxes, raise families and serve in a militia should have a say in who makes the laws that govern their lives," said Rob Newman, Deputy Leader and Issue Advocate for Democratic Renewal. "We also believe this will have a significant impact on the trend of declining voter turnout in Ontario, which can only serve to give us a stronger democracy for all Ontarians."

Blake Walker, 17, a delegate to the APC/AGM from Barrie--Simcoe--Bradford spoke in favour of the resolution. "By the time I'm 18 or 19 and going to work or to university my life will be so different that I may miss the chance to vote in my first election," he said. "It would be so much better to have the chance to put to use what I'm learning in my civics class while I'm still in school. I think it's a great idea!"

Those concerned over declining voter turnout have known for some time now that people who vote in their first election are more likely become life-long voters. The GPO acknowledges that many 18- and 19-year-olds are spending their first year at college, university or in the workforce and may not have the time to get registered in a new riding let alone look into the issues. However, this is not the case with many senior high school students who it's expected would be eager and available to vote.

Some at the conference wondered if 16- and 17-year-olds in Ontario can make informed choices on the issues facing the province. Glen Hodgson, a high school teacher and delegate from Parry Sound--Muskoka isn't worried. "I teach a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds who are more informed about the issues and have more developed opinions on what's facing us than many of the adults I know. I think this is just the thing we need to invigorate our democracy."

The GPO expects the policy to have an immediate impact on youth participation in the province. "As October 2007 approaches you can be sure that we'll be asking a lot of 16- and 17-year-olds to encourage their 18- and 19-year-old friends to vote for any party that supports giving them the vote," said Newman. "And this isn't just about the Green Party of Ontario. We encourage all of the parties in Ontario to join us and take a step in this direction."

Over the weekend the GPO adopted a wide range of resolutions on Democratic Renewal and also set the course in Agriculture, Economics, Energy, Public Infrastructure and Municipal Governance as preparation for by-elections in 2006 and the general election in 2007. IN: EDUCATION, POLITICS

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