Give permanent residents vote, city-commissioned report says

A City of Kitchener-commissioned report suggests council support a Toronto-led initiative to pressure the province into changing the Municipal Elections Act so that permanent residents can vote in municipal elections.

A City of Kitchener-commissioned report suggests council support a Toronto-led initiative to pressure the province into changing the Municipal Elections Act so that permanent residents can vote in municipal elections.

The recommendation was one of several detailed in a report by the group Compass Kitchener, which was asked by the city to investigate ways to boost voter turnout in municipal elections. In 2010, more than seven out of 10 eligible voters did not cast a ballot.

"Despite being permanent residents who own property, rent, own and run businesses and/or otherwise pay the same taxes as Canadian citizens, the inability to vote is an issue that requires attention," the report said.

Under current laws, only Canadian citizens may vote in elections. Permanent residents are individuals who have immigrated to Canada and live in the country for at least two years within a five year period.

The suggestion was made as a way to improve voter turnout in Kitchener, which the report says is ranked as one of the lowest voter turnout municipalities in Ontario.

In 2010, voter turnout registered at 20-29 per cent across the 10 wards, while in 2006, voter turnout averaged 24 per cent.

Ward 10 Coun. and mayoral candidate Dan Glenn-Graham is in favour of the recommendation.

"Why not give people that are committed to coming to our country a chance to be part of the process and, perhaps, to lead the way and say, 'Look, there is a value to this exercise of being a voter,'” Glenn-Graham said.

But current Mayor Carl Zehr said he wasn't sure if that change would necessarily address the issue of low turnout.

“I think we're still faced with exactly the same issue and that is the general population being interested enough to get out and vote on issues that do not receive the same kind of attention [that] party politics [do] at the provincial and federal level,” said Zehr.

Compass Kitchener will present their report to Council for discussion on Monday night. The province has said it will study Toronto's request, but also that no changes will occur until the 2018 election at the earliest.


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