Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying it is a privilege to be speaking here on behalf of the constituents of Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan. Our thoughts and prayers are with those in eastern Canada as they brace for the storm that is about to hit the shores of Canada. We want to let them know we are with them in our thoughts and prayers.
It is a pleasure today to join the debate on Bill C-210. This bill, put forward by the NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, would lower the voting age in Canada from 18 to 16. I have some concerns with this bill, but first it is important to give some important background on it.
The last time the voting age in Canada was lowered was back in 1970, the year I was born. We lowered it from 21 to what it is today, 18 years of age. In the 1972 election, right after the voting age was lowered, voter turnout increased just 1%, up to 76.7%. Let us think about that number for a minute. Most of us would be surprised if the voter turnout in the next election was even that high. For the sake of comparison, the turnout in the last election, in 2021, was 62.5%. Turnout in Canadian elections has been hovering around that number for at least the last 15 years.
Today's debate is about the youth's vote, so let us look at that information and the data, according to Statistics Canada, on those aged 18 to 24. Just 66% of that age bracket voted in the last election. That compares with 80% of those aged 55 to 64 and 83% of those aged 65 to 74. One must wonder if lowering the voting age to 16 would do much to increase voter turnout in our country. In fact, a 2004 study from Cambridge University concluded there was no evidence such a change would do anything to increase voter turnout here.
This ties in well with what we have been debating all week in the House: the cost of living and the challenges the next generation is facing. The 18-to-24 demographic has been one of the hardest hit by the skyrocketing costs of living. Someone of that age used to be able to find a decent paying job, save money and maybe buy a nice starter house. Today, that is a fantasy; it is unattainable. Young people are having trouble affording rent while also paying for groceries, gas and other necessities.
However, do not worry; the government is here to help. It is sending renters $500 to put toward a year's worth of rent. Let us hold off on that for just a moment and analyze it. Only one in five renters will qualify for that $500 cheque. Seriously, the government thinks $40 per month will help someone whose rent is well over $2,000 in some markets, and not everybody will qualify. Even in Moose Jaw, the average rent is around $1,000 a month.
The fact is, life for young Canadians has become harder and more expensive under the Liberal government. While this bill would lower the voting age, we know there are several other demographics that historically have had lower voting rates than average: first nations, those with disabilities and many more. We have many well-thought-out ideas and recommendations on how to encourage these groups to vote.
I know that, prior to the last election, my colleagues on the procedure and House affairs committee did tremendous work on a study on how to safely hold an election during the pandemic. I would like to thank my friends from Perth—Wellington and Elgin—Middlesex—London for their work on that committee. They heard from advocates for all these groups about lower voter turnouts. They heard several ideas on how to get more people to vote. Ultimately, this study and all its recommendations were ignored. The first goal of this place should be to encourage those who are currently eligible to vote to go out and vote.
My colleague, the member for Calgary Shepard, spoke of this bill earlier. He spoke about the responsibilities of citizenship and that is something that I would like to talk about. Canadians can join the military reserves at the age of 16 with parental consent. In Saskatchewan, someone can get a learner's driver's licence at the age of 16, but they must drive with an adult. In other areas, it is about earning the responsibility and earning the respect. The purchase of alcohol and cannabis in Saskatchewan is limited to those who are age 19. The fact is that we place limits on young people in Canada. People get the full benefits of citizenship as they get older.
Democracy is important to me. My grandfather fought alongside Canadians in World War II. Canadians were kind and generous. They went overseas. My mother, who was growing up in Scotland, met lots of Canadian soldiers. These Canadian soldiers would bring chocolates, candy, dolls and other things my parents could not get. They were kind and generous. On the front, my grandfather fought alongside Canadians, and he saw the sacrifices they were willing to make in order to preserve democracy and freedom.
Democracy and the ability to vote is a privilege and it requires careful thought and consideration. Ultimately, I do not see a compelling argument that this bill would do anything to address the issue of lower voter turnouts. We have known for years how to address this ongoing issue. We need to lower barriers to make it easier to vote, yes, but we also have to encourage those existing voters by giving them good policies and a positive direction for the future of this country.
Most importantly, we need to give people a reason to vote for good things. This legislation will not do it. Ultimately, we have to earn the voter's respect.