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Council lobbying to expand voter rights to permanent residents in Banff

Banff town council wants Alberta Municipalities to push the provincial government to expand voter eligibility to permanent resident
Banff Town Hall 1
Banff Town Hall. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – Banff council wants to lobby the provincial government to let permanent residents vote in municipal elections.

So far the provincial government has maintained that voting is the right of Canadian citizens only, meaning permanent residents can’t vote. The minister responsible for Municipal Affairs, Ric McIver, indicated last week he has no desire to change that.

But Banff council has unanimously endorsed a resolution to be included in the September 2024 annual Alberta Municipalities conference to have the organization advocate for the UCP government to expand voter eligibility to include individuals who have been granted Canadian permanent resident status.

Coun. Grant Canning, who put forward the motion, said permanent residents should be extended a voice in local governments, saying they should have a “democratic right to vote.”

“They are often long-term constituents, neighbours, and community members who pay property taxes and fees for Town services, contribute to our local economy by working and purchasing goods and services, and create vibrancy in areas of social and cultural life,” he said.

At the end of April, the City of Calgary voted 9-6 to forward a resolution to Alberta Municipalities. If approved, the association would lobby the provincial government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA).

Currently, Section 47 of the LAEA states voters must be at least 18 years old, a Canadian citizen and reside permanently in Alberta to participate in municipal elections.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno spoke passionately about advocating for permanent residents to vote in municipal elections, saying it is “such a shame” they cannot.

“We are a community that is really unique with 24 per cent of our population not being Canadian,” she said.

“I think it behooves us to supplement the City of Calgary’s motion because our permanent residents contribute to this community in so many ways.”

During her door-knocking election campaign in 2013, 2017 and 2021, DiManno said there were many times permanent residents told her not to waste her time because they were not Canadian citizens.

“I always stop and say, ‘wait a minute, you live in Banff and your voice is just as important, and I want to hear from you – your voice absolutely matters’,” she said.

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