Don’t Let Non-Citizens Vote, Toronto Councillor Says

Dont let non-citizens vote, Toronto councillor says

Posted: June 11, 2009, 6:06 PM by Rob Roberts
By Chelsea Murray, National Post

Giving non-Canadians municipal voting rights would diminish the value of citizenship, says one prominent city councillor.

The city organized a panel discussion on the issue Wednesday night, at which Mayor David Miller said he believes all newcomers who use and pay for city services should get the right to vote in municipal elections. He urged Torontonians to put pressure on the provincial government which has the power to make the change by lobbying their MPPs.

But Councillor Doug Holyday said yesterday people have to make a choice and commit to Canada.

If they want to have a say in the government and how the government is run, that comes with citizenship. And I think we should encourage people to [apply for citizenship]. I want them to be full-fledged Canadians, said Mr. Holyday (Etobicoke-Centre).

People come here because they choose to live here and they want to make a contribution to the country, but I think they also have to make a choice that they are Canadians.

Proponents of the idea say letting new immigrants vote at the lowest level would engage them, and might also increase voter turnout.

Allowing Toronto non-citizens to vote in municipal elections would a first for Canada (though non-Canadian members of Commonwealth countries were once allowed to vote federally), but not the world.

Thirty countries, including Denmark, Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands, already extend this right to new immigrants.

But National Citizens Coalition president, Peter Colemen, said yesterday the issue is black and white youre either a citizen or youre not.

Citizenship has to be earned, he said. You have to go through that process before youre allowed to vote and there should be no exceptions to that.

Mr. Coleman added that Canadian voting and citizenship rules should be clear to immigrants before they enter the country.

Youve got to earn your way through like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands have done over the last 50 years, played by the rules and done things the right way.

Mr. Millers told Wednesdays forum that his views were formed by the experience of his mother, with whom he came to Canada from England in 1967. If it were up to him, all newcomers who use and pay for city services would have the right to participate in the democratic process, he said.

From my perspective you cant be an inclusive and open government unless all of the residents have an ability to choose that government.

Astrid De Vries, deputy consul-general at the Dutch consulate in Toronto, told the panel about the Netherlands three-decade experience. The Dutch allow non-citizens who have been present in the country five years to vote in municipal elections and even run for office.

She said the origins of the idea came from successive national governments and cut across party lines, gathering support on both the left and right of the political spectrum there and is considered quite successful.