January 31, 2013
TORONTO – A committee of Toronto city councillors wants to see how non-Canadians might be able to vote in municipal elections.
The community development and recreation committee voted Thursday to ask city staff to look at how permanent residents in Toronto could participate in casting future ballots.
The report is due back in May and will include whether it is possible to allow permanent residents to vote in next year’s election.
Councillor Ana Bailao led the committee in voting for the idea.
“I think it is something that we need to look at. It is becoming more and more difficult for permanent residents to become Canadian citizens,” she said. “I think municipal issues are considerably different from federal and provincial issues. They are very much more involved. A majority of our funding comes from people’s property taxes. It is about the community and we want people to be engaged in our city and how their city operates and how their city is run and I think it is important to give them a voice.”
Right now, you must be a Canadian citizen to vote in a Toronto municipal election.
Councilllor Denzil Minnan-Wong said the rules shouldn’t change and permanent residents shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
“After permanent residents arrive in Canada they can, within a short length of time, apply for citizenship,” Minnan-Wong said.
“Elections are held once every four years and it is possible that a permanent resident who arrives in Canada and is granted citizenship would be able to vote in the next municipal election … Citizenship matters. It means something.”
Allowing someone to vote who has just arrived in Canada and has just been granted permanent residence status is not something he agrees with, he said.
“Permanent residents have to show before they are granted citizenship that they have made Canada their home. I think that is an important principle. I believe they should be in Canada for a length of time before they are granted the right to vote.”
Councillor Jaye Robinson, the chairman of the community development and recreation committee, said she supports allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.
“When I was out door-knocking it is remarkable how many people you come across that have that status and then they really feel disengaged from the city,” Robinson said.
Because the change would need legislative changes by the province, Robinson doubted it would happen in time for the 2014 election.