The New Brunswick Multicultural Council Calls to Amend the Municipal Elections Act to Allow Permanent Residents to Vote
The amendment proposed by Minister Allain to the Municipal Elections Act, on December 8th, 2020, reinvigorated an online discussion, involving many community leaders in the province, and a call to propose a further amendment to this legislation to provide permanent residents of Canada the opportunity to vote in municipal elections.
A significant number of New Brunswick residents and tax payers are unable to vote in municipal elections. As of November of 2020, there are approximately 29,500 landed immigrants (permanent residents) in the labour force and residing in the province, unable to vote in elections at any level. “The New Brunswick Multicultural Council is humbly requesting the government to consider making this further amendment to the Municipal Elections Act”, said Moncef Lakouas, President of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council. He added, “New Brunswick strives to become a leader in attracting and retaining newcomers, and we believe a key way to accomplish this is by becoming leaders in including newcomers.”
On January 22nd, 2014, Saint John City Council sent a letter to Premier Alward encouraging the province to extend voting rights to permanent residents in municipal elections. In 2015, Dieppe, Edmundston, Moncton, and Fredericton all passed motions of support to allow permanent residents to vote at the municipal level. In addition, the Cities Association of New Brunswick passed a motion of support at its Annual General Meeting in May of 2015 and both the Union of New Brunswick Municipalities and the Association francophone des municipalités du Nouveau-Brunswick passed a motion of support in 2015. Most recently, the New Brunswick Multicultural Council presented this memo and legislative change to the New Brunswick Commission on Electoral Reform in January of 2017. The final report A Pathway to an Inclusive Democracy, included this as a recommendation to Premier Brian Gallant.
For further background on the proposed change, see the Memo: Overview and Rationale for Reforms to the Municipal Elections Act to Provide Permanent Residents of Canada Voting Rights in Municipal Elections
“We’re seeing a rapidly growing network of community leaders and organizations, including Dialogue New Brunswick’s Lost Votes initiative, getting energized about the potential of this change to create more inclusion and to define our province as the most welcoming province in the most welcoming country in the world”, added Alex LeBlanc, Executive Director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council.
A Gallup poll released in September of 2020, reveals that Canada is the most welcoming country in the world – and far more tolerant than the United States – for immigrants. Changing the Municipal Elections Act to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections would differentiate New Brunswick from other Canadian provinces as distinctly more inclusive to recent immigrants in terms of their participation in the democratic process. It would also serve as a powerful and visible symbol of the province’s aspiration of becoming the most welcoming province, within the most welcoming country in the world, for recent immigrants.
“I can tell you that this news would travel quickly throughout Canada and across the globe,” said Lakouas, “there has never been a moment in the province’s history when immigration has been more important for the future economic, social and cultural vitality of New Brunswick. This change would be historic and would signal the bold action that the Higgs government is prepared to show in defining our province as a leader on immigration and inclusion.”