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The Canadian Government Restrictions and Its Impact on Voter Turnout

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“Every election is determined by those who show up,” Canada is a country with nearly twenty-six million eligible electors according to Elections Canada, however, only sixty-eight percent of these citizens showed up to the polls on election day in twenty-fifteen. This number is an upgrade from the fifty-eight percent in two-thousand and eighteen, however, as a democracy, it is a privilege to vote and there needs to be a way to get more people out to voting stations. The Canadian government has some restrictions in place such as voting age and permanent residents who are not yet Canadian citizens. This essay will look into some restrictions the Canadian government has put into place, and if these restrictions should be removed to reach a greater level of voter turnout. With multiple scholarly sources and government statistics, it was found that it is in Canada’s best interest to remove these restrictions on permanent residents and young to not only have a better voter turnout but to have a happier population.

Canada has seen an increase in voter turnout in recent years, however, there is still room for improvement, and that improvement could be rooted in the expansion of voting age. In a journal done by Vincent A. Mahler et al called Electoral Turnout and State Redistribution: A Cross-National Study of Fourteen Developed Countries, there is an in-depth look at voting turnout in Canada in relation to other countries at the federal level. In Table I within the journal compares multiple countries self-reported turnout, and the actual turnout/eligibility. Self-reported data is explained by Benjamin Highton in his journal Self-Reported versus Proxy-Reported Voter Turnout in the Current Population Survey, he states that “Surveys usually rely on self-reports of turnouts,”(Highton 113), he then goes on to say that, “Although respondents are assured that it is actually having voted (for example, ‘people are not able to v or busy or have some other reason’), inevitably many more people reported having voted than possibly could have.”(Highton 113). In Table I, it is reported that ninety-percent of those surveyed say they voted in the two-thousand four election, however, only sixty percent actually went to the polls which were worse than countries such as Austria and Germany.

According to Section three of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, all Canadian citizens above the age of eighteen have the right to vote. And within the past few elections, the voter turnout from the youth has been raising. According to Ottilia Chareka & Alan Sears journal, Civic Duty: Young People’s Conceptions of Voting as a Means of Political Participation, in two-thousand and four, Canada had an all-time low in youth voting as only twenty-two percent of eligible voters from the ages of eighteen to twenty-five went to the polls. This event spurred a crisis in the world of politics, which then lead to civics classes being implemented in both Ontario and Canada. In a matter of just two elections, that twenty-two percent voter turnout has jumped nearly sixteen percent as represented in the twenty-eleven election. The youth has grown more interested in the world of politics.

Citizens vote for lots of reasons, but the main concern amongst voters in paying taxes and how that money is spent. By not letting people that are sixteen years of age to vote, you are silencing a population of Canadian taxpayers. A large majority of service workers, such as fast food and movie theatres, around the age of sixteen and can work up to forty hours a week. Not only does this show a sense of maturity, but it also shows that these young people are making money, some of which goes to the government. Taxpayers should not be denied a vote considering their money is being used by the government.

Many countries have started the expansion of voters, these countries include Austria, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina. The success of the Austrias’ decision to lower the voting age was outlined by Eva Zeglovtis from the University of Vienna. It has been found that around twenty-thirteen there was an increase in political interest amongst citizens that were sixteen and seventeen years of age(Zeglovits & Zandonella, 2013). While examining turnout the voter turnout of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, Zeglovtis took a look into the electoral list(Zeglovits & Aichholzer 2014). These electoral lists include all eligible Austrian voters that are sixteen years of age and up. Zeglovits is assuming that “all absentee voters (9.8% of eligible voters in the age group examined) did cast their vote (to be referred to as “maximum turnout”). Thus, maximum turnout will somewhat overestimate factual turnout.”(Zeglovits & Aicholzer 355). The turnout of sixteen to seventeen-year-old voters was found to only be slightly lower than the overall turnout of about sixty-two percent(Zeglovits & Aichholzer 356). However, when expanding the group from sixteen to twenty, the turnout number decreases. This is because Zeglovits found that the older the first time voter, the lower the turnout. This shows that if you lower the voting age, it is more likely to create a voting culture.

The question that many people have when looking into lowering the voting age is, “Is there enough political interest amongst the youth?” and, “Are these kids really knowledgeable on the issues?”. Zeglovits and Zondonella look into the political interest amongst the Austrian youth in their twenty-fourteen journal, Political interest of adolescents before and after lowering the voting age: the case of Austria. This journal found that when the adolescence are given the right to vote, they perceive it as their obligation to get informed on political issues. However, are these studies transferable to the youth in Canada? In a study done by Stats Canada in twenty-thirteen, it was found that over half of the youth ranging from fifteen to nineteen were at least some that interested in politics. It was also found that forty-seven percent of young Canadians that are aged fifteen to nineteen are very likely to vote in the next election. These numbers show that the success found in Austria may be transferable to the Canadian population because they show a high interest in politics within the youth population.

With all of these numbers showing the interest of the youth in voting in Canadian federal elections, here is a student from British Columbia named Liam Christy who is a big supporter of the movement. The CBC had a chance to talk and explore the interest of Liam Christy and why he is such a strong supporter of the moment. Christy is a member of the “Vote 16 BC” which is a club that advocates for youth voting rights, which has garnered attention from politicians and professors. Both Jagmeet Singh, and Elizabeth may have expressed interest in potentially expanding the voting age. Another big figure who has taken a look into expanding the voting age is Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault told CBC News that lowering the voting age was an idea ‘worth considering.’ Liam Christy understands that some youth may not be interested, but believes that through the internet and social media, they have enough information to make an informed decision.

While Canada has alienated one group through restricting their voting privilege, they have also restricted Canadians permanent residents. According to the Government of Canada’s website, “A permanent resident is someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen.” this means that the population of permanent residence excludes students or foreign workers as they are in Canada only temporarily. Permanent residents do what normal Canadian citizens do as they work, and pay taxes, however, they cannot vote. The Government of Canada’s website states that these residents can receive social benefits, live and work anywhere in Canada, and are protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, if they were truly protected by the Charter, that would mean they should be allowed to vote considering Section three protects that right.

While their rights of not being able to vote is still prohibited at the federal level, Halifax has explored letting Permanent Residents, vote in municipal elections. An article done by the CBC called Permanent residents in Nova Scotia to argue for municipal voting rights in twenty-sixteen, it states that in twenty-fourteen the city of Halifax was planning a report for the province in order to get consideration for a voting change in municipal elections. According to Sarah Mills, the spokeswoman for the Department of Municipal Affairs in Nova Scotia, there wasn’t enough time to make a decision before the twenty-sixteen election. However, she also did state that, “it may be contemplated, along with other changes to the legislation, for the future.”. With this being considered by municipalities, why not be considered at the federal level? Permanent residents in Halifax feel as they are Canadians because they pay taxes and receive social benefits. A resident in Halifax named Athanasios Politis has lived in Nova Scotia for nearly three years and is raising his one-year-old son in Canada. In the article, Athanasios states that “I pay my taxes,” while also stating, “I’m going to live here for the rest of my life. So I want to have the chance to vote for the city.” Permanent residents are everyday Canadians and deserve to have a say in how things are governed, and how their tax dollars are being spent at every level of the government.

Canada is not the only country in which permanent residents are denied the right to vote. The United States also does not allow permanent residents to vote, even though they pay taxes just like other Americans. The issue of these residents not being able to vote was explored by David M. Howard in his journal, Potential Citizens’ Rights: The Case for Permanent Resident Voting. In recent years, there have been many advocates in the United States rooting for permanent residents to receive voting rights, and that is because, “due to the increase of foreign-born permanent residents, many advocates within the United States have pushed to include resident aliens in elections, including proposing legislation in several U.S. cities.”(Howard 2). Globalization has played a big part in these residents getting support for their voting rights, “prompted many countries to reconsider the relationship between nationality and voting rights’ and has led to an increase of noncitizen voting throughout the world.”(Howard 2). Howard states that in twenty-twelve, just over thirteen million legal permanent residents were living in the United States, and if they were allowed to vote they would be playing a large role at the polls as well as improving voter turnout. Multiple states such as New York and Washington have been making moves into letting permanent residents vote, so their obviously a large amount of support for voting rights in the United States. In Canada, over two-hundred thousand people become permanent residents in Canada, many with the intention of becoming Canadian citizens. With that being said, allowing these future citizens to vote in order to have a say in how their taxpayer dollars are being used, would create a voting culture just like how it could by allowing the youth to sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to vote.

Elections truly are decided by those who show up, so by lifting restrictions on permanent residence, and young Canadians can only help with voter turnout. As displayed in Austria, and outlined by Zeglovits, lowering the voting age would create a ‘voting culture’, as would allowing permanent residents to vote. Both groups of people work in Canada and pay taxes to the government even though they are being silenced by being denied the privilege of voting. These two groups create a large minority in Canada that is having their voices silenced, but giving them the ability to vote would not just create a greater sense of morale within these groups, it would also help with raising the turnout of Canadian voters. Research shows that both the youth and non-citizens, have an interest in voting and having a say in how things in their city, province, and federal government is being run. Lifting these two restrictions will help voter turnout and will also breed new interest in millions of lives going forward, ensuring successful turnouts for the present, but more importantly the future. 

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The Canadian Government Restrictions And Its Impact On Voter Turnout. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
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