Thousands of British Columbians went to the polls last month to elect their mayors and councils, but there’s an entire segment of the population who didn’t have a say in the matter.
Permanent residents are not allowed to vote in municipal elections in this province, and a grassroots advocacy group, Fresh Voices, is renewing its call for the NDP government to change that.
“I want us to take this to another level of inclusivity and fairness and include permanent residents in the electoral system and give us the right to vote, give us representation,” Ashvan Wal, an organizer with Fresh Voices, said.
A permanent resident herself, Wal points to the 60,000 permanent residents in Vancouver, large segment of the population that could impact the low-voter turnouts often seen in municipal elections.
According pollster and president of Research Co. Mario Canseco, these are engaged voters.
“One of the things that [a recent] survey showed was the level of engagement in political activity is actually higher among permanent residents than Canadian citizens who were born here.”
According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, local governments looking to change voting eligibility in local elections could consider the UBCM resolution process to allow for discussions at a broader level.
Voter eligibility requirements for local elections are outlined in the Local Government Act and the Vancouver Charter and are similar to those set in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to vote in federal and provincial elections.
Fresh Voices says it has contacted the minister of municipal affairs’ office, hoping to schedule a meeting.
The minister’s office confirms it has received the request and will be responding to the organization.
Meanwhile, COPE Coun. Jean Swanson also says she’ll be bringing forward a motion at city hall, so Vancouver’s new city council can make clear where it stands.
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