“Extend local voting rights to permanent residents” — Desmond Cole, I Vote Toronto

Later this year, people in municipalities across Ontario will elect mayors, city councillors, and school board trustees for a new term of office. However, hundreds of thousands of permanent residents will be unable to choose their local representatives because they are not Canadian citizens.

Our local politicians manage the services that affect us all in our daily lives: public transit, schools, libraries, roads, parks, and child care. The strength of these services depends on the input and engagement of everyone in our neighbourhoods. Extending the municipal vote to permanent residents is an invitation to help build more prosperous communities.

The I Vote Toronto (@ivotetoronto) campaign is engaging municipal candidates and urging them to support our call to extend the municipal vote to permanent residents.

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Quick Facts about the I Vote Toronto Campaign

  • Granting residents who are not citizens the right to vote is not a new idea. Jurisdictions in over 30 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Argentina, Australia, the Netherlands, and Israel allow non-citizens to vote at the local level.
  • In Ontario, 130 000 students have parents who cannot even vote for their school board trustee. Many of these students are concentrated in the same schools and neighbourhoods. This leaves entire schools and geographic areas without a local voice.
  • In Ontario, property owners (and their spouses) still have more rights than residents. A property owner can vote in any municipality in which he or she owns property. This means someone with a property in each of Ontario’s 444 municipalities can vote in all 444 municipal elections, even though they do not reside in all of them. On the other hand, many residents who pay municipal taxes, use local services, and have a stake in the community have no voice.
  • Low-voting neighbourhoods are disproportionately located in the North York, York, and Scarborough areas of Toronto.
  • Until 1947, Canadian citizenship did not exist. After its creation, British subjects were still allowed to vote in local elections until the 1970s. British subjects were eligible to vote in Nova Scotia’s municipalities until 2003. The idea of tying local voting to citizenship is very new, and non-citizen voting was the practice for most of Canada’s history.
  • Between 1991 and 2001 (Canada’s largest sustained decade of newcomer arrivals), the city regions of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal attracted 73% of all immigrants to Canada. The Toronto area alone attracted 43% of all immigrants to Canada in this period.

I Vote Toronto is a coalition of individuals and organizations who believe in creating a more inclusive and representative city. The coalition consists of community centres, settlement and integration services, social justice groups, employment agencies, environmental organizations, and concerned residents from all areas of Toronto. While the coalition represents many different interests, they are united in their understanding that Toronto’s electoral process must better reflect the make-up of its residents.

(all information taken from ivotetoronto.org)