Council is once again on a short summer hiatus, however at the last regional council meeting Mayor Savaged made a motion regarding permanent residents and their ability to vote in municipal elections. Presently, permanent residents cannot vote in municipal elections and I applaud the mayor’s vision and leadership on this issue.
Over the last several years, there has been much talk all across the country about the importance of increased immigration to Canada. The realities of an aging population and dropping birth rates leave policy makers struggling as the tax base shrinks. However, in this instance I don’t believe this motion was motivated from a perspective of generating more revenue. Quite opposite, I feel that it was from a lens of equity and valuing all citizens of Halifax.
However, once the story broke across local media channels there was of course a mixed reception: positive and negative responses. The responses in opposition I feel are completely out of line, statements suggesting that this is a slippery slope, or if we do this what’s next? While everyone is entitled to their perspective, I do not side with those opinions. Citizens in Halifax, who happen to be permanent residents, deserve an equal level of respect as we would afford to anyone. They live, work, pay taxes and proudly participate in our community. Is it not just to extend the privilege to our fellow neighbours to participate in our municipal democracy? Also, I challenge the notion that is to swing and/or stack votes. Our municipal voter turnout is abysmal, anything we can do as a city to improve voter turnout I welcome.
The bottom line is this change is about respect and equality; something for many years we lacked in city hall. If we claim to be such a welcoming, progressive city we all should welcome this change with open arms. Democracy is not a static entity, and it too as our city is must evolve. Extending the right to vote in municipal elections to permanent residents is about equality. Let’s check our xenophobia and continue to make our city great!
Learn more info on Permanent Residents in Canada