It's time to afford non-citizens some voting rights in Canada

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scottbern
It's time to afford non-citizens some voting rights in Canada

Admittedly, it's a provocative proposition: isn't the right to vote one of the keystone and defining elements of citizenship? Certainly, the act of casting a vote for an elected official or on a topic put to the public is one of the most tangible displays of citizenship, but of course citizenship means much more than just that.  For example, one additional privilege that citizens have over permanent residents or visitors is the right to entry and habitation in Canada.  Permanent residents and visitors get to stay here as long as the government says that they may.  So, voting is an important part of citizenship, but not the be-all and end-all of it.

Earlier this week (on November 16th) I filed a lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court seeking declarations that sections of the Vancouver Charter and the School Act that prohibited non-Canadian citizens from being eligible to vote or run in municipal elections was contrary to the Charter.  I claimed that these provisions were discriminatory and infringed expression and could not be justified in a free and democratic society.

You can read my court pleadings here, and see some of the local media accounts of this here, here, and here (the last is a radio interview on CBC Early Edition starting at 1:06:40).

As for some of my background, I am an American citizen who came to Vancouver in late 2006 to study law at UBC.  In mid-2007 I began the process of applying for permanent residency status.  It took me two-and-a-half years to get it, but I became a PR in early 2010.  I am not yet eligible to apply for citizenship, and when I do apply in spring of next year, it will take me another year to get it.  In all, I will have been a resident of Vancouver for over six years before becoming a citizen and will have had to sit out of two, maybe three municipal elections.  I am currently a social-justice lawyer and married to a Canadian citizen.

I brought my claim on behalf of myself and the 74,000 non-citizens who live in Vancouver who are excluded from voting in this most local level of government.  But, every major city in Canada has a large population of immigrant non-citizens.  In Vancouver, it's 13% of our population; in Toronto it's 15%.  In each of these citiies, it's a huge number of people who are being excluded from partaking in this activity.  In all, about 1.5 million people in Canada fall into this non-citizen category and are excluded from voting in any election.

When I first brought my claim and it was reported, I received a lot of feedback - probably equally supportive (from both citizens and non-citizens) and non-supportive.  Many people said that voting was a right protected by the Charter and reserved for Canadian citizens only.  It is true that voting in provincial and federal elections is guaranteed to Canadian citizens under s.3 of the Charter.  That, actually, is a floor and not a ceiling.  Up to 1970, British Subjects from 54 different countries could vote in all Canadian elections.  As late as 2003, Nova Scotia allowed these non-citizens the right to vote in its provincial elections.  There is nothing wrong with or preventing the government from raising the ceiling. 

But, it may surprise you to hear that no one - citizen or non-citizen - has a right to vote in a municipal election.  Municipalities are not constitutional entities. They are created by ordinary statutes and only have the powers that are granted to them by the provincial legislature.  In this case, the statues confer the privilege of voting and running for office only to citizens.  In our elections, the votes are for the Mayor, City Councillors, School Trustees, and Park Board.  From a legal perspective, the province could have decided that these offices were to be appointed or selected randomly from the phone book and both of those options would have been within their power to do.

My argument is grounded in the fact that municipal government is very different than provincial and federal government (although, I would gladly argue in a different claim that the bar of citizenship is too stringent for voting in provincial elections as well).  Municipal government is all about services.  It's about how the city delivers water to your door, how much property tax you pay, how your property is zoned, how your schools are run, streets built, parks cared for, libraries stocked, rec centres, etc.  Non-citizens and citizens alike who are residents of a municipality such as Vancouver both use and pay for these services equally, yet only Citizens get a say in how they are run.  In this last municipal election yesterday (which - had a record number of voters - yet only drew about 35% of the eligible voters), voters were also asked to approve a $180 million debt package for the City that we all will be paying for.

In Vancouver and other municipalities in BC, there is also a provision that non-resident property owners (citizens) can have a vote in our elections.  So, if the person who owns the house  an immigrant lives in lived abroad, he would get gets a vote for School Trustee, but the non-citizen who lives and works here and has a kid in school (who actually might be a citizen herself), cannot vote. 

Non-citizen voting is not something unheard of.  About 40 countries around the world - including 17 countries in Europe - allow for some form of non-citizen voting.  In many cases, non-citizens only have to live in a place for a year to get the full franchise of voting.  What these experiences have shown is that non-citizen voting increases the partipation and integration of immigrants into society.  Non-citizens who were allowed to vote progressed on the path to citizenship faster than in places without voting (that is very understandable if you imagine that the taste of participation in a democracy empowers people to imagine their participation on a broader level and encourages them to take the necessary steps).  It's a win-win to use a cliched expression.

Whether I win this case or not will come down to the province being able to justify where they drew the line in this circumstance.  I am not opposed to some line being drawn somewhere for eligibility in a municipal election, but I say that "citizenship" is too restrictive for the nature of the election and muncipal government and the large number of people being affected.  It makes sense to revisit this outdated restriction for both policy and legal reasons.  If we want immigrants to participate in our society, it makes sense to get them involved early on at the most basic level and for things that affect them directly and for which they certainly have an opinion.

Scott Bernstein

right2vote@redcedarlaw.com

Regions: 
Unionist

Just wondering if you're working with or being supported by some of the [url=http://maytree.com/policy/recommendations/democracy-and-participation]other organizations[/url] that have been pursuing this goal (though maybe not through a court challenge)?

 

scottbern

@Unionist - thank you for that link.  I have had some communication with the I Vote Toronto people and a few academics who have supported this notion, but I am looking to connect more widely.  People can feel free to contact me at right2vote@redcedarlaw.com if they want to chat or have some feedback.

As far as I know, there has never been a Charter challenge on this before.  While the declaration I am seeking will only apply to Vancouver proper, I am hopeful that a win will encourage governments to re-examine their own statutes (in greater BC, the eligibility requirements are the same as for Vancouver, but under a different statute), or empower individuals to bring their own claims if the government won't take steps.  On the slim chance that this case heads to the Supreme Court of Canada, I think every province will be paying attention.

Erik Redburn

Not a chance.   One person one vote is central to any meaningful democracy. 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

I would have no problem with changing the municipal franchise to one based on residency requirements.  I would think a minimum of three years of BC residency for non-citizens would be fair and if after that the residency requirements for any given municipality are met then those people should have a vote.

I do not think that property owners who are not citizens should be given a vote. In municipal elections one person could legally vote in every municipality in the province if one owned land in everyone. In the Lower Mainland there are many land owners with the right to vote in more than one municipality. Currently if I am not mistaken the Act requires citizenship as a precondition to anyone voting.

So Scott what does your Charter challenge propose as proper residency requirements?  Currently there is a 6 months residency requirement in BC for Canadian citizens to vote but only a 1 month requirement for moving in to a municipality if one meets the other two requirements. 

scottbern

@Erik Redburn - I only want one vote.  As it stands, for many people it's one person, no votes.

 

@Northern Shoveler - I don't exactly say, but I am guessing the judge will ask that at some point.  Here's what I can say:  citizenship is too stringent, but 30 days or 6 months may not be long enough.  In some other countries that have non-citizen voting, a year is sufficent.  I would argue that is fine here for municipal elections.  Three years, as you suggest, seems a bit burdensome for voting about water, garbage collection and street building.  Why set the line there?  I think the outcome should reflect that it is a GOOD thing to get people involved in the democracy, but that can be weighed against the fact that newcomers "fresh off the boat" would have to spend a little time in Canada to understand how things work before being able to cast a meaninful vote.  To me, long waiting periods seem to be based on a fear that something bad is going to happen if people are allowed to vote too soon.  In reality, that's just not borne out by the experiences of other countries.

As for the absent property holders having a vote issue - I have problems with that as well, but I have no standing to challenge that provision in court.  Maybe someone else would like to raise that issue as a campaign?

Erik Redburn

You may SAY you 'only want one vote' dude, but if we allow those who are not even CITIZENS to vote here then we are in fact giving some an extra voice.  Since were already overly influejced by opur more populous neighbour then this could only make things worse.  In ract any judge who thinks this could be remotely constituional in ANY nation-state should be summarly tossed out on his or her ass.   I am open to ways to expedite our immigration process, but this aint the way to go about irt.

scottbern

@Erik - sorry, pal, I don't really understand your argument here.  How does giving someone who lives in a city a voice about that city's government become giving some an "extra voice"?  Because I live here and not in the states, I don't get to vote there either.  I don't see this as an issue of influence by the US either.  Okay - *I'm* American, but most of the 74000 Vancouverites who would be affected by this aren't.  And, seriously, I don't see how anything that happens in our municipal politics is of very much interest to people in the US.  Americans in the US hardly care at all about what goes on in Canada generally.  Are you thinking cultural influence?  If so, then I'm probably more Canadian at this point than American, as I came over here because my values more accorded with Canada than the US (or so I imagined - it was the Bush years...)

As I explained in my original post, there's no constitutional right to a municipal vote.  Denying the privilege to non-citizens is just something that the province decided back in the 1950s when the statute was written.  What makes it unconstitutional, IMO, is that the province gave it to you and not to me and don't have a good reason for doing that.

I've been putting this argument out to the world for a couple of weeks now, and I have yet to hear anyone with a good reason for why citizenship should be the line in this case.  Please, someone, tell me why it is necessary to not let me vote in my civic election.

Erik Redburn

If theres no constituional right to a vote municipally then that kind of undermines your own case too.  But of course municipalties are part of our democratic govcernence therefore they have to fall under the same basic rules as other levels of govrnment in a democracy.   I repeat, giving 'non-citizens' a vote here is unfair to others.   Not a right that American authorities are likley to give us (not that it would be a wise decision for us even then) in return.   Whether you can or do vote in other jurisdictions is secondary (which you can by most countries laws, as offshore citizens) to the fact you aren't yet a citizen yourself, are not bound by the same obligations as other taxpayers and therefore should not be given the same rights and privileges.  At least not regarding the democratic franchise.  Certain legal protections must of course be upheld for everyone.   Allowing this on any level could set a very dangerous precedence for others.

scottbern

Well, it's not tit-for-tat with America that's the issue, but since you brought the point up actually non-citizens can vote in some jurisdictions in the states after a period of residency.  In my home town of Chicago, for instance, non-citizens can vote for School Trustees.  A better comparison might be to the UK, where Canadians who are permanent residents there can vote in all of their elections, but UK citizens here don't get the reciprocal right.

There are no "basic rules" of a democracy, as you suggest.  Who's in and who's out of the category of "people allowed to vote" changes.  See my OP for examples of non-citizen voting in Canada across the country up to 1970 and in Nova Scotia until 2003.

I'm trying to think of what obligations you have in Canada that I am not bound to as well.  I don't think there are any.  There's no draft (and besides, I am a bit too old to serve).  I pay the same taxes.  As far as the municipality is concerned, I am under the exact same obligations as any other resident.  In fact, voters approved $180 million in borrowing yesterday that I will have an obligation of underwriting through my taxes as long as I am here.  But, as a non-citizen I'm not afforded certain privileges that you are - such as preferential government jobs or the unrestricted right to enter and live in Canada.

I'm not claiming a constitutional right to vote in the municipal election, only that it's unconstitutional for the government to discriminate against me when it hands out privileges.  Those are two different things, Erik.

 

Glenl

Scotbern, i have a few honest questions, honest, because I don't know the answers. Are non citizens covered my provincial health insurance? Are they subject to jury duty? Probably others as well, I had never wondered about it until you started the thread.

Fidel

Hell, there are millions  of Canadian citizens whose votes are not counted on election day. One Canadian should equal one vote. But sadly, it's just not the case in our Northern Puerto Rico.

Our worst Past the Post system is as mathematically absurd as it is unconstitutional. First past the post is electoral fraud!

scottbern

@Glenl - yes, anyone who is a resident in BC has to be covered under provincial health care (even on a student visa), but you have to pay the monthly fee as well.  I didn't know about the jury duty question (as a lawyer, I can't serve on one citizen or not), so I looked it up.  It seems that only citizens are called as jurors, as jurors are selected from voter registration lists.

 

Glenl

Not to be a pest, and if I am please ignore me: I gather you have to file and pay US taxes on your income in Canada. My understanding of the US-Canada tax treaty is you deduct the tax paid from one to the other. Do you file US first and claim the taxes paid to Canada or vice-versa?

Freedom 55

 

[url=http://rabble.ca/comment/1293996]In case you missed it...[/url]

Rebecca West wrote:

Fidel, your use of "Northern Puerto Rico" and "loco Jorge de" ... etc., aren't appropriate and are offensive and insulting.  Just don't.

 

MegB

Fidel wrote:

Hell, there are millions  of Canadian citizens whose votes are not counted on election day. One Canadian should equal one vote. But sadly, it's just not the case in our Northern Puerto Rico.

Our worst Past the Post system is as mathematically absurd as it is unconstitutional. First past the post is electoral fraud!

Fidel, you've been asked, repeatedly, not to use the term "Northern Puerto Rico" and have had it explained why it is offensive.  Here's a day off to think about why you continually offend.

DaveW

in Switzerland, non-citizens can vote after certain residency requirements are met, in local elections ...

as for Fidel, I have also long concluded that he has never visited Puerto Rico, whose net emigration in recent decades has ceased owing to increasing incomes on the island;

so even as a slur , it rings false...

scottbern

@ Glenl - you're definitely not a pest.  I'm always happy to entertain reasonable questions.  You're right that US citizens have to pay US taxes on foreign-earned income.  I read recently that the US government is going to begin cracking down on this more agressively and as a result many people with dual citizenship are revoking their US citizenship.  As far as I know, US is the only major country to have this practice (greedy bastards!).

Canadian taxes go first to my knowledge.  Generally, if you earn less than a certain amount (I think it's $91,500), you don't owe any US taxes.  If you make more than that and pay Canadian taxes, you can deduct what you pay in Canada as a US tax credit.

Glenl

@scottbern

Thanks, and welcome to Canada, albeit belatedly.

Glenl

For what it's worth I agree that residency should be the determing factor in eligibility to vote in municipal elections, including school boards and the like. I have to give the issue more thought with regard to provincial and federal elections. I can see a rational for either yes or no in thoses cases and I understand that is not what you are challenging at this time. Nationalism, a form of tribalism, creates more problems than it solves in many cases.

Erik Redburn

scottbern wrote:

@ Glenl - you're definitely not a pest.  I'm always happy to entertain reasonable questions.  You're right that US citizens have to pay US taxes on foreign-earned income.  I read recently that the US government is going to begin cracking down on this more agressively and as a result many people with dual citizenship are revoking their US citizenship.  As far as I know, US is the only major country to have this practice (greedy bastards!).

Canadian taxes go first to my knowledge.  Generally, if you earn less than a certain amount (I think it's $91,500), you don't owe any US taxes.  If you make more than that and pay Canadian taxes, you can deduct what you pay in Canada as a US tax credit.

 

I think the US demanding its offshore citizens to pay something on incomes over 91 Gs is actually quite reasonable.  I think thats one idea we could actually borrow from them, now that our tax regime is in someways even more lax than their's, but one Americanism I doubrt our government will be so eager for.   I was never hot on the idea of dual citizenship anyhow, except perhaps in a few exceptional cases, not past the age of 21, and all the snowbirds living down south to avoid taxes here then claiming a right to our pensions and public healthcare get no symnpathy from me at all.

Erik Redburn

Ok,  Nationalism is a dangerous thing Glenl but a little bit is necessary, especially when dealing with nationalists from other countries  Canada could use more of it now IMO, though maybe we could use the word patriotism instead -patriotism in the more positive sense.  NOt a popular term anymore outside the far right but one which should be reclaimed on the left.

Glenl

I'm not against nationalism or patriotism. I find it difficult taking pride in something that's an accident of birth. I am lucky to be Canadian but I didn't do anything to deserve it. I believe being human is more important than being Canadian. My comment at the end of my post was admittedly gratuitous. Sorry if it was a distraction to the thread topic.

Glenl

With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

Erik Redburn

Glenl wrote:
With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've known a few snowbirds who admit they move south to avoid some of our 'high' taxes, as much as to enjoy the sun and surf.  I don't believe someone who only has to spend six month a year up here would pay the same as us overwintering mammals. I certainly don't believe theyd pay MOre, assuming the US does tax them something during their stay.

Erik Redburn

Glenl wrote:
I'm not against nationalism or patriotism. I find it difficult taking pride in something that's an accident of birth. I am lucky to be Canadian but I didn't do anything to deserve it. I believe being human is more important than being Canadian. My comment at the end of my post was admittedly gratuitous. Sorry if it was a distraction to the thread topic.

 

No need to apologise, you asked some good questions.  ANd of course youre right that none of us 'deserve' to be born here with our relative priveleges -just ask our First Nations who are still awaiting Our overdue rent- but I do believe all citizens should pay a fair share for the common good of whatever country they happen to be born into but shouldn't expect extra rights others don't get.    As much as some always do.

Erik Redburn

scottbern wrote:

Well, it's not tit-for-tat with America that's the issue, but since you brought the point up actually non-citizens can vote in some jurisdictions in the states after a period of residency.  In my home town of Chicago, for instance, non-citizens can vote for School Trustees.  A better comparison might be to the UK, where Canadians who are permanent residents there can vote in all of their elections, but UK citizens here don't get the reciprocal right.

Nor should they.  If a few other jurisdictions decide to allow it thats their problem, but a handful of exceptions don't make it right IMO, in either sense of the word.

Quote:

There are no "basic rules" of a democracy, as you suggest.  Who's in and who's out of the category of "people allowed to vote" changes.  See my OP for examples of non-citizen voting in Canada across the country up to 1970 and in Nova Scotia until 2003.

 

Actually there are, but many ways to play them.  And many ways to game them as well.   Living in a democracy means always being vigilant.   IMO, not allowing people who have the right to vote in other countries to vote in ours as WELL should be one, even if a few others don't see it that way.  However you spin it its allowing some people more rights than others.  Rights I don't have.  If you want to vote on how your taxes paid here are allocated then you can always aply for citizenship.  Conversely, if you don't like how things are done here you have other options as well.

 

Quote:

I'm trying to think of what obligations you have in Canada that I am not bound to as well.  I don't think there are any.  There's no draft (and besides, I am a bit too old to serve).  I pay the same taxes.  As far as the municipality is concerned, I am under the exact same obligations as any other resident.  In fact, voters approved $180 million in borrowing yesterday that I will have an obligation of underwriting through my taxes as long as I am here.  But, as a non-citizen I'm not afforded certain privileges that you are - such as preferential government jobs or the unrestricted right to enter and live in Canada.

You make a good looking argument, and I of course was simplifying, but your apparent sense of entitlement is getting me a little irritated now.  So you have to pay for somethings here that yopu may not approve of?  Well so do we all, even if we have a vote. Incuding foreign residents in the US.  If you don't like it you still have options, including some I may not have.  True that citizens have few statutory obligations to the state anymore(as it should be) beyond obeying the law and paying taxes but I do believe we still have certain obligations others don't.  We don't have a draft, good example, which is also good policy IMO, but if we Were attacked for example, its always possible the draft could be returned.  I'm too old to be called but I have family who might not be. We also have jury duty, as mentioned, and judging by your following post I suspect alot of CAnadins may indeed pay more in taxes than you do, though I doubt you'd admit it and I have no way of proving it.   Taxation has become very secretive up here among the wealthy.    Meanwhile though you get most of the basic services we do, even if you think its unfair you shouldn't be able to get preferential treatment for public service jobs and face some travel restrictions. I haven't dared cross the border since Bush got in.

Quote:

I'm not claiming a constitutional right to vote in the municipal election, only that it's unconstitutional for the government to discriminate against me when it hands out privileges.  Those are two different things, Erik.

 

Actually voting isn't a privilege but a right -albiet a limited one-- though as a foreign resident I don't know what your constitutional rights are Here exactly, that could be a worth investigating.   One right however is that most of us can only vote for leadres in our own country, fpr a variety of rather obvious reasons -though to digress again I wouldn't be entirely averse to some sort of international bodies becoming more directly democratic either.  Depends on how it was done, but OC it won't be.  

The 'differences' you allude to might prove entirely semantic if you somehow win this challenge.  The fact remains you are demnding extra voting rights in another nation you freely chose to enter, and how narrowly or broadly that could be interpretted if you win could indeed affect other levels of governments.  The sizeable 'allocations' you mentioned for example sound like more than a municipal issue to me, but of course your proprtion of it couldn't be much more than the average Canadians of similar income or networth.  Probably less if you also have property in the States.   

If I sound jingoistic here to others I will add that I'm all for easing unfair restictions on immigration, eve illegal refugees, and allowing non-citizens all the basic legal protections we have.  Unlike many in the States and elsewhere.  I do Not however want US citizens gaining even more influence over us in our own naive country, especially not in our post NAFTA world.  Not even without NAFTA, given the unchangeably skewed demographics between our two nations and the long unbroken history of US meddling in others backyard for noone elses benefit but their own.  Well, those who inherit ninety percent of their wealth and power that is, and claim an increasing amount of ours.  I hope this explains my 'nationalistic' militance on this abit better.

Caissa

Municipalities are the responsibility of the provinces under section 92 of the BNA/Constituion Act. I think that in and of itself would lead to voting in municipal elections being limited to Canadian citizens.

Lachine Scot

Erik Redburn wrote:

Actually voting isn't a privilege but a right -albiet a limited one-- though as a foreign resident I don't know what your constitutional rights are Here exactly, that could be a worth investigating.   One right however is that most of us can only vote for leadres in our own country, fpr a variety of rather obvious reasons -though to digress again I wouldn't be entirely averse to some sort of international bodies becoming more directly democratic either.  Depends on how it was done, but OC it won't be.  

The 'differences' you allude to might prove entirely semantic if you somehow win this challenge.  The fact remains you are demnding extra voting rights in another nation you freely chose to enter, and how narrowly or broadly that could be interpretted if you win could indeed affect other levels of governments.  The sizeable 'allocations' you mentioned for example sound like more than a municipal issue to me, but of course your proprtion of it couldn't be much more than the average Canadians of similar income or networth.  Probably less if you also have property in the States.   

If I sound jingoistic here to others I will add that I'm all for easing unfair restictions on immigration, eve illegal refugees, and allowing non-citizens all the basic legal protections we have.  Unlike many in the States and elsewhere.  I do Not however want US citizens gaining even more influence over us in our own naive country, especially not in our post NAFTA world.  Not even without NAFTA, given the unchangeably skewed demographics between our two nations and the long unbroken history of US meddling in others backyard for noone elses benefit but their own.  Well, those who inherit ninety percent of their wealth and power that is, and claim an increasing amount of ours.  I hope this explains my 'nationalistic' militance on this abit better.

Don't forget that this wouldn't only allow Americans to vote, but also plenty of Non-citizens from other countries. When I think of "permanent resident", people from the US are about the last thing that comes to mind, but rather the PRs I know from lots of Asian, European and Latin American countries.

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Erik Redburn wrote:

Glenl wrote:
With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've known a few snowbirds who admit they move south to avoid some of our 'high' taxes, as much as to enjoy the sun and surf.  I don't believe someone who only has to spend six month a year up here would pay the same as us overwintering mammals. I certainly don't believe theyd pay MOre, assuming the US does tax them something during their stay.

They don't work so they don't pay taxes on wages.  They would only pay taxes on income from investments or their pensions.  I know snow birds on small pensions who winter in Arizona in a trailer park.  They don't talk about taxes but they do talk about the weather and THE LOW COST OF LIVING. 

The only way to they get to keep access to our the social services is if they maintain residency in Canada and thus their investment income becomes taxable.

That of course does not say anything about rich people who have moved their investments into off shore accounts hidden from the tax collector.  They are not called snow birds they are called tax FRAUDS.

After reading the above I have decided that I have to come down on the side of rights for people.  I am glad Eric that you agree with the SCC's view of the Charter. Anyone physically in Canada is accorded basic Charter rights because many sections use the word PERSON and not citizen.  I think it is clear that a province would have the right to drop the citizenship requirement from voting rules. However I think that even if a Charter challenge was successful and it was found to breach the rights of non-citizens then the SCC would okay it under Section 1 as a reasonable limit.

I think a longer residency requirement for non-citizens is appropriate but other than that I would be fine with long term residents getting a say in local government.   To offset any undo influence from the wrong "class" of resident maybe we could limit the votes of property owners to voting in one municipality, of their choosing, so that our democracy looks like a cooperative not a strata council.

pookie

Erik Redburn wrote:

Glenl wrote:
With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've known a few snowbirds who admit they move south to avoid some of our 'high' taxes, as much as to enjoy the sun and surf.  I don't believe someone who only has to spend six month a year up here would pay the same as us overwintering mammals. I certainly don't believe theyd pay MOre, assuming the US does tax them something during their stay.

 

The only way for snowbirds to avoid paying taxes is to satisfy the extremely onerous reqiurements to be determined to no longer "reside" in Canada - including disposal of property.  Maybe those snowbirds you talked to are mere tax evaders, but 99 to 1 they owe Canadian taxes.

pookie

Erik Redburn wrote:

scottbern wrote:

Well, it's not tit-for-tat with America that's the issue, but since you brought the point up actually non-citizens can vote in some jurisdictions in the states after a period of residency.  In my home town of Chicago, for instance, non-citizens can vote for School Trustees.  A better comparison might be to the UK, where Canadians who are permanent residents there can vote in all of their elections, but UK citizens here don't get the reciprocal right.

Nor should they.  If a few other jurisdictions decide to allow it thats their problem, but a handful of exceptions don't make it right IMO, in either sense of the word.

Quote:

There are no "basic rules" of a democracy, as you suggest.  Who's in and who's out of the category of "people allowed to vote" changes.  See my OP for examples of non-citizen voting in Canada across the country up to 1970 and in Nova Scotia until 2003.

 

Actually there are, but many ways to play them.  And many ways to game them as well.   Living in a democracy means always being vigilant.   IMO, not allowing people who have the right to vote in other countries to vote in ours as WELL should be one, even if a few others don't see it that way.  However you spin it its allowing some people more rights than others.  Rights I don't have.  If you want to vote on how your taxes paid here are allocated then you can always aply for citizenship.  Conversely, if you don't like how things are done here you have other options as well.

 

Quote:

I'm trying to think of what obligations you have in Canada that I am not bound to as well.  I don't think there are any.  There's no draft (and besides, I am a bit too old to serve).  I pay the same taxes.  As far as the municipality is concerned, I am under the exact same obligations as any other resident.  In fact, voters approved $180 million in borrowing yesterday that I will have an obligation of underwriting through my taxes as long as I am here.  But, as a non-citizen I'm not afforded certain privileges that you are - such as preferential government jobs or the unrestricted right to enter and live in Canada.

You make a good looking argument, and I of course was simplifying, but your apparent sense of entitlement is getting me a little irritated now.  So you have to pay for somethings here that yopu may not approve of?  Well so do we all, even if we have a vote. Incuding foreign residents in the US.  If you don't like it you still have options, including some I may not have.  True that citizens have few statutory obligations to the state anymore(as it should be) beyond obeying the law and paying taxes but I do believe we still have certain obligations others don't.  We don't have a draft, good example, which is also good policy IMO, but if we Were attacked for example, its always possible the draft could be returned.  I'm too old to be called but I have family who might not be. We also have jury duty, as mentioned, and judging by your following post I suspect alot of CAnadins may indeed pay more in taxes than you do, though I doubt you'd admit it and I have no way of proving it.   Taxation has become very secretive up here among the wealthy.    Meanwhile though you get most of the basic services we do, even if you think its unfair you shouldn't be able to get preferential treatment for public service jobs and face some travel restrictions. I haven't dared cross the border since Bush got in.

Quote:

I'm not claiming a constitutional right to vote in the municipal election, only that it's unconstitutional for the government to discriminate against me when it hands out privileges.  Those are two different things, Erik.

 

Actually voting isn't a privilege but a right -albiet a limited one-- though as a foreign resident I don't know what your constitutional rights are Here exactly, that could be a worth investigating.   One right however is that most of us can only vote for leadres in our own country, fpr a variety of rather obvious reasons -though to digress again I wouldn't be entirely averse to some sort of international bodies becoming more directly democratic either.  Depends on how it was done, but OC it won't be.  

The 'differences' you allude to might prove entirely semantic if you somehow win this challenge.  The fact remains you are demnding extra voting rights in another nation you freely chose to enter, and how narrowly or broadly that could be interpretted if you win could indeed affect other levels of governments.  The sizeable 'allocations' you mentioned for example sound like more than a municipal issue to me, but of course your proprtion of it couldn't be much more than the average Canadians of similar income or networth.  Probably less if you also have property in the States.   

If I sound jingoistic here to others I will add that I'm all for easing unfair restictions on immigration, eve illegal refugees, and allowing non-citizens all the basic legal protections we have.  Unlike many in the States and elsewhere.  I do Not however want US citizens gaining even more influence over us in our own naive country, especially not in our post NAFTA world.  Not even without NAFTA, given the unchangeably skewed demographics between our two nations and the long unbroken history of US meddling in others backyard for noone elses benefit but their own.  Well, those who inherit ninety percent of their wealth and power that is, and claim an increasing amount of ours.  I hope this explains my 'nationalistic' militance on this abit better.

 

You're very concerned with "extra" voting privileges.  How is that any different for the dual citizen, a category that Canada already recognizes?  It seems to be a pretty formalistic distinction.

scottbern

My constitutional rights as  permanent resident are almost the same as a citizen.  The Charter applies, for example.  In the case of s.3 of the Charter (voting rights for citizens) - it applies to me, but is irrelevant because it's about voting rights for citizens.

It is incorrect to make a blanket statement that voting is a "right".  In some cases, such as citizen voting in provincial or federal elections, that is true - it *is* a right.  In other cases, such as voting in a municipal election, voting is not a right.

The definition of a "right" in this case is that it is something that is legally guaranteed.  In contrast, a privilege is a legal benefit that is conferred upon someone.

In the case of provincial and federal elections, Canadian citizens have a right to vote that is guaranteed by the Charter s.3.  I do not have a right to vote in a provincial or federal election, BUT - should the government pass a statute that says I could - I might have a privilege to vote in those elections.  In the case of municipal elections, there is no such right - i.e. there is no *guarantee* - to citizens or anyone that they will be allowed to vote in these elections.  Since the power of voting is granted to the people through ordinary statute, the government could take away the vote and replace it with something else (I used the example of random selection of a Mayor from the phone book).  That's the legality of it.  If the province did that, what would be your recourse??  The answer is "nothing".  It would be within their power for them to do that and - as you only have a guaranteed right provincially or federally - you have no recourse to challenge the statute on those grounds (you might have some other grounds though, such as the decision was done arbitrarily, etc.).

@Caissa -

"Municipalities are the responsibility of the provinces under section 92 of the BNA/Constituion Act. I think that in and of itself would lead to voting in municipal elections being limited to Canadian citizens."

As much as I appreciate your "to the point" attempt to dismiss my claim on this ground, you too are legally incorrect. What is the connection between a person having a right to vote in a provincial election and the fact that municipalities are the responsibility of the province? The answer is that there is none. I am not arguing that the province doesn't have the power to make election laws and eligibility restrictions, only that when they do so it has to be done in a non-discrimnatory manner.

Fidel

Rebecca West wrote:

Fidel wrote:

Hell, there are millions  of Canadian citizens whose votes are not counted on election day. One Canadian should equal one vote. But sadly, it's just not the case in our Northern Puerto Rico.

Our worst Past the Post system is as mathematically absurd as it is unconstitutional. First past the post is electoral fraud!

Fidel, you've been asked, repeatedly, not to use the term "Northern Puerto Rico" and have had it explained why it is offensive.  Here's a day off to think about why you continually offend.

 

Sorry. And now that I know it's a suspendable offense after several years using it on babble without incident, I think I may even remember to refrain from doing so. The why not is still a complete mystery to me, though.

Erik Redburn

pookie wrote:

Erik Redburn wrote:

Glenl wrote:
With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've known a few snowbirds who admit they move south to avoid some of our 'high' taxes, as much as to enjoy the sun and surf.  I don't believe someone who only has to spend six month a year up here would pay the same as us overwintering mammals. I certainly don't believe theyd pay MOre, assuming the US does tax them something during their stay.

 

The only way for snowbirds to avoid paying taxes is to satisfy the extremely onerous reqiurements to be determined to no longer "reside" in Canada - including disposal of property.  Maybe those snowbirds you talked to are mere tax evaders, but 99 to 1 they owe Canadian taxes.

 

Alot of people OWE taxes here but will they ever get paid?    Of course they pay SOMe but do you really think they pay the same or More?    I thought it was common knowledge that most snowbirds are looking to pay less without giving up their privileges, but I guess not.

Erik Redburn

pookie wrote:

 

You're very concerned with "extra" voting privileges.  How is that any different for the dual citizen, a category that Canada already recognizes?  It seems to be a pretty formalistic distinction.

 

Not really.  By having our courts recognise the right of non-citizens to vote in our elections then it nolongers a privilege but a legally recognised right -as I already wrote.  And therefore could be expanded once the precedence is set.   I also said I don't like dual citizenship much -along with alot of other stupid laws already standing -as I also wrote- but it's a minor matter, affecting a tiny percentage of the population and theerby having little vaffect on ourv eolections, not something altering a fundamental pecept of democracy, long recognised everywhere, even where not practiced.  I must say I'm surprised how un-concerned others here are.

Slumberjack

Fidel wrote:
The why not is still a complete mystery to me, though.

I might be reaching here with this, but it might have something to do with the fact that as loyal beneficiaries and subjects of an oppressor nation, being currently under the stewardship of the Harper regime and lest we forget, the Liberals before them; and with another pretender twiddling it's thumbs in the wings for a chance to preside over everything that comes by way of being an oppressor nation, we are hardly in a position to compare ourselves with Puerto Rico.  That's pretty much what comes across in saying 'northern Puerto Rico' or 'bananada' or 'day-o' and other such derivitives.  We're voluntary members of the imperialist's club in good standing.

Erik Redburn

scottbern wrote:

My constitutional rights as  permanent resident are almost the same as a citizen.  The Charter applies, for example.  In the case of s.3 of the Charter (voting rights for citizens) - it applies to me, but is irrelevant because it's about voting rights for citizens.

It is incorrect to make a blanket statement that voting is a "right".  In some cases, such as citizen voting in provincial or federal elections, that is true - it *is* a right.  In other cases, such as voting in a municipal election, voting is not a right.

The definition of a "right" in this case is that it is something that is legally guaranteed.  In contrast, a privilege is a legal benefit that is conferred upon someone.

In the case of provincial and federal elections, Canadian citizens have a right to vote that is guaranteed by the Charter s.3.  I do not have a right to vote in a provincial or federal election, BUT - should the government pass a statute that says I could - I might have a privilege to vote in those elections.  In the case of municipal elections, there is no such right - i.e. there is no *guarantee* - to citizens or anyone that they will be allowed to vote in these elections.  Since the power of voting is granted to the people through ordinary statute, the government could take away the vote and replace it with something else (I used the example of random selection of a Mayor from the phone book).  That's the legality of it.  If the province did that, what would be your recourse??  The answer is "nothing".  It would be within their power for them to do that and - as you only have a guaranteed right provincially or federally - you have no recourse to challenge the statute on those grounds (you might have some other grounds though, such as the decision was done arbitrarily, etc.).

 

You're just repeating yourself now.  Tell me, when and where is this case expected to come up exactly, any dates set yet?

Erik Redburn

Lachine Scot wrote:

Don't forget that this wouldn't only allow Americans to vote, but also plenty of Non-citizens from other countries. When I think of "permanent resident", people from the US are about the last thing that comes to mind, but rather the PRs I know from lots of Asian, European and Latin American countries.

 

I'm concerned more about our immediate neighbours, who still outumber us ten to one, but I'm also worried about a international class of citizens getting votes whereever they happen to reside.  A privilege the rest of us don't have, if only because most lack the funds to emigrate let along buy multiple residents  --an argument that unfortunately wouldn't bother propertarians on the right and centre -but one which would further undermine our already tenuous sovereignty.   Most offshore 'citizens' already tend to vote to the right most elections but thats a political consideration that couldn't be made in court, even if it a very real consideration elsewhere.

As I mentioned earlier some non-resident Gulf islands owners tried (ultimately unsuccesfully) to get an extra municipal vote (and influence over the hated Islands Trust) by virtue of buying a piece of land out there -even just a small undeveloped lot they never even visit-  and I suspect this is part of the same broad movement.

Lachine Scot

Erik Redburn wrote:

 I'm also worried about a international class of citizens getting votes whereever they happen to reside.  A privilege the rest of us don't have, if only because most lack the funds to emigrate let along buy multiple residents

OK, but citizenship--heck, even permanent residency-- is also an expensive process out of reach of many working people who came here from other countries.

Besides, there may be more Americans than us, but there are far fewer American residents of Canada than there are Canadian Citizens, so I don't see how that figure comes into play. For example, one could say that Chinese outnumber Canadians 45 to 1, and therefore one ought to be worried about Chinese influence as well. I think it's more useful to just ignore those numbers and ask "Who are these residents in Canada who live here for a while but aren't allowed to vote? Why aren't they?"

I'm hardly an activist on this issue, but I'm just sympathetic to the way the original poster raised it, since my partner is a permanent resident who has lived here their entire adult life and never once been able to vote.

Fidel

Slumberjack wrote:

Fidel wrote:
The why not is still a complete mystery to me, though.

I might be reaching here with this, but it might have something to do with the fact that as loyal beneficiaries and subjects of an oppressor nation, being currently under the stewardship of the Harper regime and lest we forget, the Liberals before them; and with another pretender twiddling it's thumbs in the wings for a chance to preside over everything that comes by way of being an oppressor nation, we are hardly in a position to compare ourselves with Puerto Rico.  That's pretty much what comes across in saying 'northern Puerto Rico' or 'bananada' or 'day-o' and other such derivitives.  We're voluntary members of the imperialist's club in good standing.

 

Most benefit from trading with corporate America has not come to us by NAFTA. Puerto Rico has not benefited from its servile relationship with Washington, and geographic size has nothing to do with that either. It's about the corruption, kick-back and graft. Gasp! Am I suggesting that certain leaders in Latin America are bought and paid for by marauding trans-national corporations, many of them based in the U.S.? Yes, yes I am. It would be incredibly racist or bigoted, one or the other, to suggest that any ethnic group is immune from being influenced by bribery, kick-back and graft. Puerto Rico probably has the highest child poverty rates in a direct comparison with all of the rest of the union states possessing voting privileges.  Puerto Rico is occupied militarily and by U.S. corporations which bribe their corrupt stooges into being lax on corporate taxation and allowing so much concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite few same as here in the ... Northern colony. That's imperialism. Whether Canadians have a nominally higher standard of living than Puerto Ricans on average has more to do with how much natural wealth is looted from Canada long time. We are a subserviant nation of incredible natural wealth and a tiny population by comparison with colonially restrictive immigration policies - our imperial masters don't want us growing too large or rivalling them in very many ways.  We have absentee corporate landlords and banks running the country - Harper is just a figurehead leader. Canada is not so far removed from the way Hong Kong used to be run by an appointed white leader from Britain and a few bankers based out of the Hong Kong jockey club. And we all know how rich everyone was in HK. They were so rich that they didn't need anyone to work in a low wage economy. There was no poverty in HK, or at least, not according to cold war era propagandists at the time. [/off topic rant]

 

Slumberjack

Regarding the topic, you can mark me down as being emphatically against affording non-citizens voting rights.  It's a tough enough slog as it is to try and convince the ones who can legally vote now, to opt out of that servile nonsense entirely.

Erik Redburn

Lachine Scot wrote:

Erik Redburn wrote:

 I'm also worried about a international class of citizens getting votes whereever they happen to reside.  A privilege the rest of us don't have, if only because most lack the funds to emigrate let along buy multiple residents

OK, but citizenship--heck, even permanent residency-- is also an expensive process out of reach of many working people who came here from other countries.

Besides, there may be more Americans than us, but there are far fewer American residents of Canada than there are Canadian Citizens, so I don't see how that figure comes into play. For example, one could say that Chinese outnumber Canadians 45 to 1, and therefore one ought to be worried about Chinese influence as well. I think it's more useful to just ignore those numbers and ask "Who are these residents in Canada who live here for a while but aren't allowed to vote? Why aren't they?"

I'm hardly an activist on this issue, but I'm just sympathetic to the way the original poster raised it, since my partner is a permanent resident who has lived here their entire adult life and never once been able to vote.

 

I'm sorry to hear that.  Can't s/he gain citizenship after all this time? 

Re my argument, I don't want to overstate the case, given the potential dangers of national chauvinism, but to me this is fundamental issue of one-vote-per democracy, the powers of which still reside in the old nation-state. (one of the core problems of globalized economies, though a boon to the transnationals)  Even a few percent points shift, a figure ScottB recites, could tip the balance in elections here.

Erik Redburn

Slumberjack wrote:

Regarding the topic, you can mark me down as being emphatically against affording non-citizens voting rights.  It's a tough enough slog as it is to try and convince the ones who can legally vote now, to opt out of that servile nonsense entirely.

 

You think thats clever?   Since this is the nth time I've seen you made anti-democratic remarks here, I'll just remind you that the authority to draft and enforce our laws, make or avoid war, and collect and redistribute taxes still lie within Parliament and it's one of the few remaining public processes that still has at least some legitimacy anymore.  

 

Erik Redburn

I'm all for opening the door wider to third world refugees Fidel, even economic ones.  I'm even more in favour of allowing third world countries the ability to export more than their produce and labour. 

Fidel

Slumberjack wrote:

Regarding the topic, you can mark me down as being emphatically against affording non-citizens voting rights.  It's a tough enough slog as it is to try and convince the ones who can legally vote now, to opt out of that servile nonsense entirely.

 

This is shameful. We have more than 200000 agricultural workers from other countries working in Canada at different times of year.

They come from Latin America and do backbreaking work picking produce and other labour-intensive tasks. They take hits on wages for EI premiums and medicare and yet can not access these social programs. Many have worked in Canada the better part of a quarter century and selflessly send hard-earned money home to loved ones not living very well. And yet our corrupt stooges say they aren't entitled to citizenship. They must return to their modern day townships in sunny maico and Central America on a regular basis. And you say they don't deserve a vote in this bloody country? These are people I would not mind at all if they lived beside me in Canada and were allowed to vote. 

I can think of a long list of scum of the earth allowed into Canada during the course of a cold war. And these hard-working honest people are not among those. Of course those other sonsobitches I'm referring to lived very well in Canada and other English speaking countries since 1945 forward. Many of them given top-notch jobs in government and industry in Canada, the USA and Britain. They collected full public and private pensions in their golden years and were even allowed to vote.

pookie

Erik Redburn wrote:

pookie wrote:

Erik Redburn wrote:

Glenl wrote:
With respect to snowbirds, and I've never been one, I think they pay full income taxes in Canada. They obviously miss out on PST and GST while they are away but otherwise are paid up I believe.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've known a few snowbirds who admit they move south to avoid some of our 'high' taxes, as much as to enjoy the sun and surf.  I don't believe someone who only has to spend six month a year up here would pay the same as us overwintering mammals. I certainly don't believe theyd pay MOre, assuming the US does tax them something during their stay.

 

The only way for snowbirds to avoid paying taxes is to satisfy the extremely onerous reqiurements to be determined to no longer "reside" in Canada - including disposal of property.  Maybe those snowbirds you talked to are mere tax evaders, but 99 to 1 they owe Canadian taxes.

 

Alot of people OWE taxes here but will they ever get paid?    Of course they pay SOMe but do you really think they pay the same or More?    I thought it was common knowledge that most snowbirds are looking to pay less without giving up their privileges, but I guess not.

 

Lots of people who never set foot outside of this country owe unpaid taxes.   What does PAYING taxes have to do with voting?  If you are resident in Canada, you will owe taxes citizen or not.  Whether or not you pay them is another story, and that is Canada's business to follow up.

As an aside, I think an earlier post had it right when they said the main appeal for snowbirds is the lower cost of living.  Which is sort of related to taxes, but not in the way you are suggesting.

Fidel

I agree, Erik. No human bean is illegal. We should never lower ourselves to aping the imperialist theory of labour markets and all that mumbo jumbo associated with the old ways. Their ways are not our's. Fascists do not actually believe in free labour markets or freedom for the vast majority of humanity. They call it freedom when themselves are free not us working class slobs regardless of what country we were born in. 

Viva la revolucion!

Fidel

Let's not forget about filthy rich people dodging and refusing to pay their share in support of society which they depended on to make their money.

And there are profitable corporations that legally owe tens of billions of dollars in deferred and unpaid corporate income taxes to our corrupt stooges in Ottawa.  If you did not pay taxes legally owed to the feds, well, you'd be sent to prison for it. Not so with the upper crust creme de la creme of pond scum living off rent and compound interest, and other free lunch schemes so corrosive to civilized society in general. And yet they are treated like first class citizens with full rights plus. They are the ones buying governnments in Ottawa and gaming the system in their favour.

scottbern

Sorry if I'm repeating myself, but it seems like some people are missing the nuance of the legal argument.  That's not surprising, I suppose, because it's a nuanced argument and not everyone's a lawyer.  Hopefully the judge gets it... The case is brand new, so it will be a while before a court hears it.  I'll keep people informed on the progress though.

One final plea here from an emotional place rather than a legal one.  Yes, I came from America.  I can't change that.  But, here I am now, living in Vancouver - a city I love like no other place I've lived before - and becoming more and more Canadian every day.  I don't miss the US, except for family, and can't really picture myself living there again.  I find the idea that somehow if given a vote I would vote the interests of US citizens over those of Canadians quite ridiculous (and, I'm not even sure what US influence in Vancouver's municipal election would even look like - what does the US care what happens in Vancouver?) 

If I have any sense of entitlement to a voice in the municipal election, it's got nothing to do with the fact that I'm American by birth, but that I've been here for five years and have taken some expensive and difficult steps to stay here (and continue on that process to citizenship eventually) that I feel demonstrate an honest and real commitment to Canada.  I'm well educated, support equality and fairness for all people, believe in fiscal responsibility and good government.  I'm very knowledgeable about municipal politics, the candidates and the issues.  I can't understand why - given all of that - my vote shouldn't be welcomed at even the municipal government level.

Given that 65% of eligible voters in the last election sat out, why wouldn't welcoming people who actually WANT to vote be a legitimate aim?  It seems like people want to reserve for themselves the right to NOT vote in elections.

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

hmmm, I have relatively severe doubts about this. I see it raising the possiblity that the large American contingent here in the oil industry (writing from Calgary, y'all) will have even more influence on the local body politic then they already exert via economic levers (hey, it is Calgary, where would the PCs be without those money donated by the oil industry types, regardless of their citizenship)... even though they have little (if any) commitment to staying in the region -- they are here to make their money and get out. Do I really want to afford them the opportunity to go even further in making this the Dallas of the North? There is also a very large contingent here (at least that I have been exposed to) that emigrated from Europe 40/50 years ago, and have made no effort to actually become Canadian citizens... given the very accomodating fashion in which Canada views dual or multiple- citizenship I have often wondered about this - although. in some instances, they may be from countries that refuse to acknowledge even the possibility of dual citizenship and would strip someone applying for Canadian citizenship of their previous status.

If this had been framed in terms of the process of becoming a citizen taking too long, I would have more sympathy for it. I would also have sympathy for an argument that our immigration process is both too stringent and grossly unfair (nod to Fidel's reference to seasonal agricultural workers and an eye north to the "guest workers" in Fort Mac) -- but I am left wondering, of these percentages that are referred to in the OP, the 13% in Vancouver and the 15% in Toronto... can it be broken down into categories... like what percentage are already in the process of getting citizenship, what percentage have consciously decided NOT to apply for citizenship, and what percentage are somehow being barred from applying for citizenship and if so, why?

 

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