There was some racket last week about the Conservatives planning on listing the names of offenders who committed serious violent crimes who were as young as 14. And charging them as adults. I confess, it's one of those issues that I'm a bit perplexed as to why the prime minister decided to make a big deal out of it by dragging it up in the middle of an election campaign. There are plenty of big issues to deal with in this campaign. And I know violence, especially in places like Toronto and Vancouver, is a concern. But is it that big a deal?
(I would add Nunavut to this list, but realistically, if someone commits a serious crime up here and is charged, everyone in town knows who it is within a day, if not less. So the legislation doesn't make a tinker's damn worth of difference).
But the point is, would it make a difference? Would it deter crime in the slightest? Would it make things actually worse?
There are, I'm sure, some very smart people arguing both sides of that point. But when I was scrolling through some comments on a Globe and Mail story, someone floated up what I thought was a particularly clever idea that I would enthusastically support.
If you're going to start holding people as young as 14 accountable to this level, if you going to start treating and punishing them as adults, well clearly you need to start giving them some of the same rights as adults.
That means lowering the voting age. I think 14 might be pushing it a bit too much, but I would certainly support the idea of lowering the voting age to 16. I think that would prove to be an interesting shift in the way elections are run. The youth vote is traditionally ignored by most campaigns. You'll have some leaders show up on university campuses and speak a few words, but that's about it.
But just imagine if they actually had to start paying attention to people in high school? If when the prime minister floated the idea of tougher standards in youth criminal justice, the same youth that this would impact would have a say. I imagine more time might be spent discussing educational and environmental issues as well. For that matter, it would also get students more interested in political issues and the world around them. Again, all good things as far as I can see.
It would provide an interesting, and mostly positive, shift in the public discussion. Yes, some will argue that at 16 they would be too immature to handle the responsibility of voting. My first counter to that is to tell them to read the feedback section on the Globe's and CBC's websites. If you're going to use immaturity to discount someone's right to vote, I suggest you start subpoenaing their websites for the names of people posting so you can start banning them now before they have a chance to cast their vote and do damage.
Some will take it seriously, some will not. Which means they're perfectly inline with the rest of the Canadian public.
Yes, you have to draw a line somewhere. There has to be a cut-off point for when a person can vote. And people do grow up a lot from 16 to 18. But I don't think 16 is so immature that they can't listen to the arguments and make a decision on which candidate and party would best serve their interests.
So let's see some party float that out there as a suppliment to the discussion on youth criminal justice. I'd like to hear the debate.
1. How to save a life - The Fray
2. Feelin' alright - Joe Cocker
3. Blush - The Raveonettes
4. Good is good - Sheryl Crow
5. The last worthless evening - Don Henley