A Calgary city council motion to extend municipal voting rights to permanent residents has been stopped in its tracks by Alberta’s municipal affairs minister.

The motion is set to be introduced by councillors Walcott, Wong, Dhaliwal, Mian, and Penner on Tuesday.

However, in a post to X on Saturday, Minister Ric McIver said he’ll “save us all some time.”

“Only citizens of Canada can vote in municipal elections. That will not be changing,” he said.

The motion calls for an amendment to the Local Authorities Election Act, which determines who has the right to vote in municipal elections. 

Because municipalities exist due to provincial legislation, the Alberta government would have to decide to amend the Local Authorities Election Act.

The councillors argued in their motion that all levels of government make decisions that affect residents’ daily lives, regardless of their citizenship status. 

“Municipalities are unique, as the only order of government that is not constitutionally defined. The opportunity to extend voting rights to more members of our local communities would represent a significant shift to ensure our local communities are representative of the people who call them home,” reads the motion.

The procedure on Tuesday is to ensure that the motion is written properly, Wong told True North in an interview. The motion will not be debated until the next regular council meeting on Apr. 30.

Wong said he is eager to hear more about the pros and cons of the motion, including its virtues and benefits, and how it aligns with federal and provincial criteria for voting eligibility

“Our responsibility as municipalities extends to all… who call our communities home, who contribute to civic life, who work here, raise families here, and use city services, should have a democratic right to vote in our municipalities,” reads the motion.

Wong said that councillors have been canvassing their constituents, both citizens and permanent residents.  

The perspectives presented have been varying. Some have said that citizenship is a vital voting criterion.

“We’ve also heard people saying, ‘We’re newcomers. We want to be able to be a citizen.’ There are reasons why it’s been delayed, whether it’s in their control or not. But they also feel that they’d like to have a voice in municipal governance because they are users of our services as well as people who pay taxes,” said Wong.

He added that one of the most pressing questions is the many different types of permanent residents there are and what would determine voting eligibility.

“The nuance of that has to be discovered by the province, and the province needs to make the system fair across the province because this is not just a Calgary-based request,” said Wong.

The Calgary councillor was not surprised at McIver’s response, he said. He added that McIver is very involved and understands Alberta and Calgary’s multiculturalism. 

“I know that he wouldn’t dismiss it just because of personal feelings about us. He would weigh the arguments presented by all municipalities,” said Wong.

“All members of council are always amenable to persuasion, and therefore nobody’s cast a vote as of yet. And I think Calgarians need to understand that.”.

True North reached out to McIver for additional comment. His office said he has nothing more to add to his previous post to X.