Toronto city councillors voted on Monday in favour of extended voting rights, different balloting, and online voting that could be a groundbreaking step towards electoral reform in Canada's biggest municipality.
If adopted, a key part of the proposed new measures would mean voting would no longer be restricted to only Canadian citizens, but also the hundreds of thousands of permanent residents living in the city, said Coun. Joe Mihevc.
"People who pay taxes, who participate in our community, who work in our cities," said Mihevc.
Mayor Rob Ford opposed the motion that was narrowly passed in a 21-20 vote by council.
"I don't support it. I think we have a good system, it doesn't make sense, how can someone who's not a Canadian citizen vote?" said Ford.
Electoral change needing provincial approval: give vote to permanent residents passes 21-20."When r we gonna fix the roads" D Ford asks.#sl— Jamie Strashin (@StrashinCBC) June 11, 2013
Desmond Cole, former project coordnator for I Vote Toronto, said the naturalization rate in Canada is over 80 per cent and extending voting to permanent residents should be encouraged.
"I think it’s about extending an opportunity to people, and invitation to take part in the city building that we’re all kind of a part of now," Cole told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway. "The more people contributing to the future of this city, the better."
A staff report from April concerning electoral reform notes permanent residents pay the same property taxes and user fees for city programs, without representation. It goes on to say that if the amendments are accepted by the Ontario government, the changes would allow those residents to run for office.
In a separate vote that passed 26-15, council is also asking for a ranked ballot system in which voters would be asked to pick their preferred candidates in order.
"You don't have to vote strategically anymore, and it also ensures the winner has majority support," said Dave Meslin with the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto.
'This is something that we're used to as Canadians and we think if it's good enough for the parties it's good enough for voters.'—Dave Meslin, Ranked Ballot Initiative'
A ranked ballot system, also known as a runoff, would ensure no one candidate can win without securing 50 per cent of the vote.
"Every political party in Canada uses runoffs to choose its leader," Meslin said. "This is something that we're used to as Canadians and we think if it's good enough for the parties it's good enough for voters."
Council also agreed to look into online voting options.
All the changes, if approved by the Ontario government, would require amendments to the Municipal Elections Act and would likely not come into effect until the 2018 election.