TORONTO - City council wants to give non-Canadian citizens the right to vote in Toronto municipal elections.
After a heated debate Tuesday, councillors voted 21 to 20 to ask the
province to amend legislation to allow permanent residents the right to
vote in local races.
While Mayor Rob Ford voted against the idea, Councillor Anthony
Perruzza — the newest member of Ford’s executive committee — cast what
turned out to be the deciding vote in favour of giving permanent
residents a vote at the municipal level.
“I don’t support it,” Ford said following the council vote. “I just
think we wasted six hours because I don’t believe the province is going
to do anything with this.”
He predicted the Ontario government will put the request into the “circular filing cabinet” — a slang term for the trash bin.
“I think we have a good system,” Ford said. “It doesn’t make sense. How can someone that’s not a Canadian citizen vote?
“It doesn’t make any sense but that’s six hours gone,” he said with a shrug.
Councillors also approved asking the province to let the city
consider introducing a ranked ballot voting system in the 2018 election.
Councillor Joe Mihevc said the vote represents an “expansion of how democracy functions in this city.”
“This is saying to Torontonians we are an inclusive city,” Mihevc said.
“I think it is going to shift the politics to make it more immigrant
friendly and guess what, 46% of Torontonians were not born in this
country never mind in this city and they are going to start to feel a
greater sense of ownership of the political agenda here at City Hall.”
He lauded the possible switch to ranked ballot voting rather than the current first past the post system.
“To get elected as a city councillor or mayor you will now need to
get more than 50% of the vote either on the first round or the second
round of the balloting, providing the province of course agrees to that
strategy,” Mihevc said.
He was optimistic the ideas will get approval from Queen’s Park.
“This particular premier has always, always said that she will listen
to the voice of the city as it is expressed in council,” he said.
“Council has expressed its will.”
Some councillors argued permanent residents should have the right to
vote in municipal elections because they pay city taxes and deserve to
have a say in the government that collects those taxes.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong unsuccessfully urged council not to extend the right to vote to permanent residents.
“I believe in Canadian citizenship,” he said. “I believe that it is important to be a citizen.
“I think that extending the right to vote to permanent residents
discourages them not to apply for citizenship. It acts as a
“It devalues, degrades and erodes what Canadian citizenship should mean,” Minnan-Wong said.
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