October 24, 2018

The Municipal Election: How does it work for Permanent Residents?

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

The latest election took place on Monday, October 22 in municipalities across Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. After four years, many Ontarians took the time out of their day to think about who their next mayor, city councillor, school board trustee, local and regional councillor etc. would be. The ability to cast a vote on election day is one of the hallmarks of Canadian citizenship. Voters in Ontario must also be 18 or older and satisfy a number of other requirements found in section 17 of the provincial Municipal Elections Act.[1]

Are Permanent Residents allowed to vote?

Permanent Residents are people who have immigrated to Canada but who are not Canadian citizens. They’re entitled to social benefits and health care coverage, and can also work, live or study anywhere in Canada. They’re also entitled to protection under Canadian law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. One in five Canadians are immigrants, as of the 2016 census, bringing the total number of immigrants residing in Canada to 7.5 million. Permanent residents can apply for citizenship, but as non-citizens, they can neither vote nor run for political office, nor hold jobs that require “high-level security clearance.”[2]

Every so often I hear a variety of opinions on who should or should not be allowed to vote and at which level. For example, in the runup to the current municipal election in Ontario, there have been news stories about individuals and groups that are advocating for permanent residents (PR’s) to become voters in municipal elections.[3] Given the importance of being able to effect change in your own neighbourhood, to shape the places that you frequent, perhaps municipal voting should not only be the preserve of the Canadian citizen.

The Future

While Toronto and Vancouver have passed motions in favour of giving PR’s the right to vote, PR’s are still unable to vote in those municipalities because the decision lies with the provinces. Perhaps one day Canada will become more like New Zealand and other countries where non-citizen voting is a reality. Until then, it seems that PR’s in Canada will have to wait to become citizens before they are able to elect their representatives (or become candidates for office themselves).

To learn more about how to obtain permanent residence in Canada, please click here.