Vancouver city council is debating on whether or not permanent residents could vote in future municipal elections.
The motion is proposed by Councilor Andrea Reimer, who argues that allowing permanent residents to vote in municipal elections is important for the confidence and trust in Vancouver’s democracy.
Currently in British Columbia, to be able to vote in the municipal election, one must be a Canadian citizen who has lived in the province for more than six months and is at least 18 years old.
Andrea Reimer tells Global News via email, “I think anytime we have an opportunity to engage more residents in the electoral process and be a more welcoming community, we should take that opportunity. I’ve heard from many residents… this would be a profound opportunity to engage more deeply in their communities and feel more a part of Vancouver.”
As stated in the motion, “permanent residents are active members of Vancouver’s communities: contributing to the financial viability of the city as property taxpayers, have children who attend schools, and are contributors to municipal programs and services with user fees and have the same responsibilities as citizens but not the same opportunity to affect decisions directly at a municipal level.”
According to Reimer, there were 60,000 permanent residents living in Vancouver in 2011, which is equivalent to 33 per cent of voters that voted in the 2014 municipal election.
If the motion passes, the three big differences Reimer says she expects to see is community involvement by newcomers, increased voter participation rates in all elections, and increased direct attention by municipal government to issues affecting newcomers.
More than 45 countries have granted permanent residents some form of voting rights. In Canada, 11 municipalities are working toward extending local voting rights to permanent residents.