By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE
Toronto Mayor David Miller wants landed immigrants to be allowed to vote in municipal elections.
A meeting he hosted at City Hall last week heard from an invited panel which supported this idea.
It is estimated that there are more than a quarter million people living in Toronto who are not Canadian citizens and, as a result, do not have the right to vote.
Miller wants to change that.
“Voting is about how we choose our government, but it is also about social inclusion and welcoming newcomers,” said Miller. “Extending voting rights in municipal elections to permanent residents is part of our vision of an inclusive city with opportunity for all.”
Those who support this initiative reference, among other things, the low voter turnout for municipal elections. They feel that allowing non-citizens to vote will change this.
But if citizens don’t find municipal elections interesting enough to vote, why would non-citizens?
What will stimulate an interest in voting is if we had real contests, if there were candidates who actually captured our imagination with new ideas and vision.
When we are faced with a group of people, most of whom have passed their “best before” date, but who we know will coast to easy victories because they have spent the previous four years catering to every special interest in their little fiefdoms with little or no regard to the bigger picture, with little or no interest in the needs of the city as a whole, except what impact any decisions will have on their own ridings, who wants to be bothered?
When we see candidates worth the effort we will go out and vote for them.
Miller should be encouraging permanent residents to become Canadian citizens in order to have a say in how the city is run – as well as the province and the country. That would be the right thing to do.
People who make the effort and take the time to become Canadians want to be involved, they want to participate in and be part of this country. If someone doesn’t care enough to become a citizen, why would they care enough to go out and vote?
It is also important to remember that non-citizens can be deported if they run into problems with the law. A young man complained to Share recently that he was being deported following an altercation with his girlfriend who is a Canadian citizen. The matter ended up in court, he was found guilty and now he’s gone.
One of the biggest problems for law enforcement in the Caribbean is having to deal with the large number of North American criminals being deported because their parents did not bother to become citizens when they had the chance. While some may see that as a good thing for us, these criminals were raised here and learned their criminal ways here. They should be our problem, not that of these small countries which already have to deal with home-grown criminals.
Not even tenants in a condominium building are allowed to vote for the board. That is because tenants do not have the same interest in and commitment to the building as the owners.
The federal government has reduced the waiting time for landed immigrants to apply for citizenship from five years to just three, making it that much easier.
If people who come to this country plan to stay and raise their families here, they should be encouraged to become citizens so that they can participate fully in the life of this country. They, too, should want to become citizens so they can fully enjoy all the benefits of citizenship. Many immigrants also enjoy the benefit of dual citizenship so they don’t have to lose their old country citizenship. So, what’s the problem?
Miller has called on Torontonians to urge the provincial government to allow non-citizens to vote. He is doing them a disservice.
What Miller should be doing is calling on the other levels of government to launch a citizenship campaign to urge landed immigrants to become Canadians.