Should non-citizen permanent residents get to vote in Abbotsford’s next local election?

Abbotsford council to discuss issue as other cities call on province to allow more people to vote

Abbotsford council will consider today whether to ask the province to allow non-citizen permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

The topic was raised earlier this year by a group that send a letter to the city, and several other municipalities have called on the province to make the change. The City of Abbotsford, meanwhile, has been exploring ways to increase turnout and participation in municipal elections, having already voted to increase the number of polling stations and advance voting opportunities three years from now.

Permanent residents have the right to stay in Canada in perpetuity, but have not yet gained citizenship and the political rights that come with that.

The issue is set to come before council this evening, although staff are recommending the city wait to do anything until after this fall’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference, where councillors and mayors are expected to debate the topic.

The city can’t unilaterally empower permanent residents with the vote. Instead, the province must change laws that currently link voting rights to citizenship. Council could also, staff say in a report, direct the mayor to write a letter requesting the province to make those changes. That would echo similar calls from New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria, Port Moody and Prince Rupert.

RELATED: Abbotsford lags behind when it comes to voting opportunities

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