Sweet 16 for trustee vote?

When Jacob Gair was elected to the School District 69 (Qualicum) board of trustees in the last municipal election, the then-20-year-old became not only the youngest member of the local board but certainly one of the youngest trustees in B.C.

It may seem fitting that it was Gair who called for a dramatic reform of municipal elections with a call to allow those as young as 16 years of age to vote for trustees, but the youth movement seems to be catching. His fellow trustees unanimously approved the motion.

Apparently, they feel comfortable taking their chances in an election with the teens included.

This board decision by itself doesn’t, of course, confer anything to the community’s youth. Such a change can only come about through provincial amendment of the School Act.

The first step in this process is going to be persuading the Vancouver Island and B.C. School Trustee associations to join in the call. Either all the province’s 16- and 17-year-olds get the vote, or none of them do.

Plenty of other logistical questions will arise. Such as, how would ballots be prepared and/or distributed for those who may vote for school trustees, but not for local council or regional district area directors who normally populate the same ballot?

And, are we really prepared to share the responsibility of deciding issues impacting school district budgets, employees, curriculum — and, yes, youth — with those who we don’t trust to drive with a group of friends, or drink, or cross the street without their heads buried in their smartphones?

The fact that Gair’s motion was picked up and supported by his fellow trustees may well signal we are ready. Or perhaps trustees believe the motion will go nowhere and are simply humouring their young colleague. But that’s a cynical view, and unlikely, given the off-chance that it could actually happen.

One thing to keep in mind about the youth of our community is that they are not a single, hive-driven group. For every one caught in an immature act of misbehaviour, there are many working, creating and contributing to society in any number of ways.

Does the average 16-year-old need more seasoning? Sure. But every once in a while, our young people can come up with something that can shake up and leave their mark on society. Just as Mr. Gair has left his.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News

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