By Business in Vancouver |

Six months ago, Vancouver City Council passed a unanimous motion to ask the provincial government to “make the necessary changes” that would allow permanent residents to cast ballots in municipal elections.

In Canada, permanent residents are eligible for most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive – including health care coverage – and are protected under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Permanent residents can live, work or study anywhere in the country, and are required to pay taxes and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

The one thing permanent residents cannot do is cast ballots in elections. Many permanent residents choose to become citizens of Canada after a few years in the country, but this process can be costly, especially for low-income families.

The idea of allowing permanent residents to vote might seem new, but there are other jurisdictions around the world where people who are not citizens have a say in the formation of their municipal government. Australia and Colombia are just two countries where foreigners who have not attained citizenship, but who reside and pay taxes in specific municipalities, have the opportunity to vote for their local representatives.

In spite of the many efforts from municipal governments to provide registered voters with the opportunity to cast ballots, the turnout level in last month’s municipal election was very low across the province. In Vancouver, it dropped below 40 per cent after briefly climbing over this symbolic threshold in 2011.

Read more