Non-citizen voting in local elections is long overdue: Cole

Desmond Cole on municipal voting for non-citizens. While I understand this position, have never been convinced by the arguments in favour of municipal voting, as most of these also could be applied to provincial and federal voting (e.g., healthcare and education provincially, EI and employment programs federally).

Given that Canadian citizenship is relatively accessible (apart from the fees!) in contrast to many European countries, simpler and more effective from a political integration perspective to encourage and facilitate citizenship, with the full range of voting rights:

Immigrants are the backbone of Ontario’s economy and the source of much of its growth. Our government deems newcomers fit to live, work, invest and raise families here, but somehow unfit to make electoral decisions about the laws and regulations that govern their lives. Sheesh.

While municipalities all over the world allow at least some non-citizen residents to vote in local elections, Ontario’s politicians have long seemed afraid to follow suit.

Interestingly, our provincial political parties allow non-citizens to buy party memberships and to vote in partisan leadership contests. Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown allegedly signed up more than 40,000 new party members during his recent leadership bid, many of them from so-called “cultural communities” (i.e. black and brown first- and second-generation immigrants). His campaign didn’t ask if all these folks were Canadian citizens — it wasn’t deemed a relevant factor to their ability to partake in that democratic process.

Canadians seem increasingly supportive of allowing some non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. City councils in Toronto and North Bay have formally asked the province to enfranchise non-citizens who have obtained permanent residency; officials in Halifax, and in five municipalities in New Brunswick, have made the same request of their respective provincial governments.

This was what I hoped for all those years ago with I Vote Toronto and in retrospect I am only sorry I didn’t push the threshold even further than permanent residency.

Before 1988 in Ontario, you didn’t have to be a citizen to vote. You had to reside or hold property in the municipality where you planned to vote; Nova Scotia allowed non-citizen British subjects to vote in local elections until 2007.

The need to vote and the benefits of being able to do so — for permanent residents, foreign workers, students and undocumented people — are just as critical for new immigrants as they are for citizens. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals should acknowledge this and extend the municipal franchise to all non-citizen residents.

Source: Non-citizen voting in local elections is long overdue: Cole | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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