Voting for Non-Citizens: Inclusion or Manipulation?

Granting the vote to non-citizens can be a tactical electoral subterfuge disguised as “inclusion.”

person holding Canada passport
Photo by Kylie Anderson on Unsplash

The idea of permanent residents voting before (or without) becoming citizens has existed for several years. But does the idea have merit? The Canadian Civil Liberties Union virtually says Canada should do it because countries like Sweden are doing it. In 2018, the Edmonton Journal published an op-ed advancing similar arguments. Some of the arguments in the debate are fallacious and not many are worth entertaining. Most of them are based on collectivist considerations that undermine the individual.

Take the following two sentences:  “Sweden achieves voter turnout rates of 80-90 per cent at all levels of government. The voter turnout in the last Edmonton municipal election was 31 per cent.”

Indeed, it’s true that Sweden is known for having one of the highest voter turnouts in the world. Sweden has high voting efficacy and Canadian municipal elections have low voting efficacy. However, there is no evidence that Swedish electors are more participatory because of non-residents. In the 2018 national elections (the year of the EJ op-ed), the voter turnout was  87.2 percent. If non-citizen voters were a determining factor for greater participation, municipal elections in Sweden would have a higher voter turnout, but they do not. The 2018 municipal election turnout was 83.1 percent, 4 points lower. Sweden is also rapidly moving away from failed multicultural policies. 

The higher voter turnout in Sweden is independent of newcomer participation. It is a feature of the country’s strong democratic tradition and the high level of trust Swedes have in their political system. As the COVID regime demonstrated, Canada has weak(er) democratic traditions and breeds increasing distrust between citizens and governments. 

The Liberal Party of Canada has allowed non-citizens to be voting members for several years now under the guise of inclusivity. But Liberal voters are not more participatory in Canada than their counterparts. And while Liberal voters may be the most trusting of government (especially when Liberals are in office), the current Liberal government does not trust Canadians. 

Non-citizens in the Liberal Party of Canada influence who becomes the leader of that party, a feature that advantages candidates with name high recognition regardless of their qualities or policies.

To be a member of the federal Liberal Party, one doesn’t have to buy a membership, and no residency requirement is outlined in its constitution. This leaves things open to abuse. As the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions has revealed, loads of (non-citizen and non-permanent resident) foreign nationals voted for a specific Liberal nominee in Ontario. The operation, documents reveal, was under the manipulative direction of China’s Communist Party, seeking to expand the presence of Beijing-friendlies inside Trudeau’s government. The Liberal Party and the PMO came to know about it and did nothing but that’s a discussion for another day.

man walking on gray asphalt road waving on crowd
Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

Regardless of the origin of the voting foreigners, the point here is that segments of people with no interest in Canadian political contests are susceptible to being manipulated or bribed into voting by local or foreign powers to push murky local or foreign political agendas. 

Borrowing tactics from the federal Liberals, supporters of the recently rebuked Mayor Gondek are introducing on April 29 a motion for permanent residents (non-citizens) to vote in Calgary municipal elections. While it seems similar to what the federal Liberals already practice,  it is also somewhat different.

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