I am proud of the way our community embraces diversity.
- The Multicultural Festival has celebrated the cultural diversity in our community for many years.
- When there is an act of intolerance in our community, we are quick to speak out.
- Several members of our community have been recognized with a provincial Newcomer Champion award.
- And the Local Immigration Partnership, and the many individuals and organizations it comprises, does a magnificent job in helping newcomers settle into our community and to integrate into the workforce. There is more work to do but they are making a difference.
These are just some of the ways our community embraces and celebrates diversity. We recognize that inclusivity makes us a healthier and more prosperous city.
Immigrants raise families and send their children to schools. Immigrants work for local businesses and own businesses. Immigrants contribute to community life in many ways.
And they pay municipal and education property taxes and user fees. So why can’t they vote in the municipal election?
Last year, Toronto City Council voted to ask the province to “amend the necessary legislation to allow permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections.” Permanent resident status is a federal designation granted to legal immigrants who have not yet become citizens. If the province agrees to the request, the change could not occur until the 2018 municipal election to allow time for public education and the required changes to legislation.
It was a tight vote and public opinion is divided. The argument against allowing permanent residents to vote is founded on the belief that they should become a Canadian citizen first. The argument for allowing permanent residents to vote recognizes that they pay municipal property taxes and make many contributions to their communities. They should have a say in who governs their community. It also recognizes that democracy is fundamentally about inclusion and thrives on a diversity of backgrounds, interests and ideas.
Inclusivity and diversity are important values that are expressed every day in our community. These values are part of our identity.
I would like to see Guelph join Toronto in urging the province to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections in Ontario.