Sue's Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Warm and Fuzzy lobbies

Today the CBC ran a story titled

They work, they own homes, they pay taxes, but permanent residents can't vote for city council

That story resulted in some twitter commentary, opposition and support - including Maggie Burton - a candidate for St. John's City Council.

Ms. Burton appears to favour a change that would allow non-citizens to vote. 

I tweeted back and forth with Ms. Burton - and found that her agreement with allowing such a change to law was more wrapped up in the warm and fuzzy - not the law, the intent of citizenship, and without polling the citizens she wants support from. 

One of her first responses to me is that other cities are looking at it - and referenced the CBC story. 
Followed my "it's not fair"
Followed by "it's not a radical idea"

So I got down to it. I asked some questions, put out my own opinion and why I held that opinion - and outside an interlude with a Permanent Resident of Canada - living in Newfoundland and Labrador - the tweets back and forth between myself and Ms. Burton ran on.

The self-identified Permanent Resident attempted to depict me as somebody who was opposed to him having and voicing an opinion. A Permanent Resident in Canada is protected by the Charter and laws - they just can't vote or stand for election. He knew this when he signed up for that status. 

The conversation with Ms. Burton raised some serious concerns for me as a citizen - regarding the ability of a warm and fuzzy lobby to make politicians jump on a bandwagon of ignorance. That is to say the implications of such a change were not examined thoroughly - and in spite of this - a person running for office was willing to go to battle for such a concept. 

The CBC for their part should have broadened the story to get opinions and feelings of citizens who are opposed to such a change and outline their reasons for that stance. 

Here's the real deal:

What permanent residents can do

As a permanent resident, you have the right to:
  • get most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive, including health care coverage,
  • live, work or study anywhere in Canada,
  • apply for Canadian citizenship,
  • protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
You must pay taxes and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.

What permanent residents cannot do

You are not allowed to:
  • vote or run for political office,
  • hold some jobs that need a high-level security clearance. 
This is pretty straight-forward and is known by those who choose a Permanent Resident status. The Government of Canada encourages PR's to apply for Canadian Citizenship.

Why is this important?

The act of incorporating creates a new legal entity called a corporation, commonly referred to as a “company”. Your corporation will have the same rights and obligations under Canadian law as a natural person.

Corporations are a person under the law - but like Permanent residents are not citizens therefore cannot vote or run for office. 

Corporations have for years complained using the same arguments as a Permanent Resident - they reside in the municipality, contribute to the municipality and pay tax in the municipality. They too want the right to vote. 

Once you take away the citizenship requirement for voting and standing for election - you open up significant issues and ones that will be challenged. 

In the CBC story one such Permanent Resident - Philippa Jones - claims she is not a citizen of Canada but she lives in St. John's so therefore a citizen of St. John's. Patently false and wrong. She resides in St. John's. She is a resident not a citizen of St. John's. You are either a Canadian citizen or not. This does not break down to to a provincial or municipal level. It is one or the other. 

I'd like to be a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador - skip the Canada part - however this would take a referendum with defined boundaries and rules. That's the way it is. 

Further - this lobby wants the right to vote but not the right to seek electoral office. This is absurd - and once again - open the can of worms and see what happens next. 

As a Permanent Resident - there are numerous benefits and rights - but the right to vote and seek electoral office is reserved for citizens. 

One pays tax because they are employed and they pay property tax because they own property. These are choices. If one wants to vote - however - they must be a citizen. If they want to have or achieve a high level security clearance they must be a citizen. 

I can guarantee that corporations with the same claims of paying tax - residing in - contributing to a municipality will attempt again to get the right to vote. 

If we change the status of a Permanent Resident to allow them to vote - all kinds of challenges to include other "persons" will begin. 

The CBC should have been more thorough, Maggie Burton should have polled the citizens on their thoughts, and Permanent Residents should apply for citizenship - and in the event they already have wait until they take the Oath of Citizenship. 

There are reasons for these rules and law - and we should not forget them for a warm and fuzzy lobby. 

I have read Maggie Burton's campaign material - and she has some wonderful ideas for the City. As with all elected politicians and those seeking to be elected - the quick jump on the warm and fuzzy lobby demonstrates a little bit of naiveté - that should be kept in check. Or sometimes we end up with something we don't want - like Muskrat Falls.  

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