Nova Scotia

Permanent residents in Nova Scotia argue for municipal voting rights

At a time when officials in Halifax are pulling out the stops to encourage people to vote, some permanent residents say they should be allowed to cast a ballot in the upcoming municipal elections, even though they aren't Canadian citizens.

Halifax wants it to happen and the province says it's a possibility — just not right now

Some permanent residents say they would like to vote in municipal elections. (CBC)

At a time when officials in Halifax are pulling out the stops to encourage people to vote, some permanent residents say they should be allowed to cast a ballot in the upcoming municipal elections, even though they aren't Canadian citizens.

Permanent residents are required to pay taxes, have the right to live, work, or study anywhere in Canada, are eligible to receive social benefits including health-care coverage, and are protected under Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

But they are not allowed to vote.

'I pay my taxes'

Athanasios Politis says he just got confirmation of his status as a permanent resident last week, and thinks he should be allowed to vote. (Athanasios Politis)

Athanasios Politis, 43, moved to Nova Scotia from Greece 2½ years ago. He works as a chef and is raising a one-year-old son in Halifax.

He said he just got confirmation of his status as a permanent resident last week, and thinks he should be allowed to vote in this weekend's election.

"I pay my taxes," he said. "I'm going to live here, for the rest of my life. So I want to have the chance to vote for the city."

Election day for towns and municipalities across Nova Scotia is Saturday.

Municipal issues 'immensely practical'

Sam Donaldson says he's planning to vote in his first municipal election on Saturday. (George Inglis)

Originally from the U.K., Sam Donaldson, 35, became a Canadian citizen three years ago, and was a permanent resident for five years before that.

The technology consultant based in Dartmouth, N.S., said he's planning to vote in his first municipal election on Saturday.

He said he would have liked to vote as a permanent resident too — especially at the municipal level.

The issues are "immensely practical and not very political or deeply ingrained into the social fabric of Canada," Donaldson said. "You know, whether garbage collection is on a Tuesday or a Thursday." 

Canadians should decide

I had individuals who had called me and they said, "You know, I had to wait seven or eight years before I could vote, the others should as well."- Coun. Steve Adams

Souhaël Bouallagui, 34, is a French citizen who married a woman from Truro and got a job teaching at Université Sainte-Anne.

He's been living in Canada for seven years, but has not applied for Canadian citizenship, even though he's eligible to do so.

He said he would like to vote in the municipal election. "For me, it's always important to get involved in the political life of where you live. So, if I were allowed to vote, I would vote."

Ultimately, Bouallagui said it's not up to permanent residents to decide if they are entitled to voting rights.

"I think it's one of those questions that maybe would require referendum, or should be discussed in Parliament, or maybe different provinces would have different opinions about it," he said.

Permanent resident Souhaël Bouallagui says he would vote municipally if he could. (CBC News)

Official request from Halifax

City councillors in Halifax have officially asked the province to change legislation to allow permanent residents to vote. 

In 2014, Halifax Mayor Mike Savage asked city staff to prepare a report on the subject, and they began consulting with the province's Department of Municipal Affairs on the matter. 

Unfair if some 'fast tracked'

Coun. Steve Adams, who is running for re-election in District 11 Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road, voted against the motion when it came up at a Halifax council meeting.

He said, in part, it's a question of fairness.

"I had individuals who had called me and they said, 'You know, I had to wait seven or eight years before I could vote, the others should as well,'" Adams said. 

It was unfair for some permanent residents to "get fast tracked," he said.

Province says maybe

In an emailed statement, Sarah Gillis, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's Department of Municipal Affairs, said there wasn't enough time to consider making the change before the 2016 municipal elections.

The issue requires "careful consideration and consultation," she said. But "it may be contemplated, along with other changes to the legislation, for the future."

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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