By Bill Westcott
My wife and I are the owners of two properties. We have a property in St. John’s — the place of our birth and where we lived, were educated and worked for over 30 years, and we live in our retirement property in the town of Clarke’s Beach. We pay municipal taxes in both areas.
In St. John’s, our taxes are double what we pay to the Town of Clarke’s Beach.
I recently called St. John’s City Hall, requesting ballots to be mailed to our address in Clarke’s Beach so we can vote in the Sept. 24 City of St. John’s 2013 election, by mailing them in.
I was informed by the elections co-ordinator that my wife and I are ineligible to vote in St. John’s. I was also informed that this rule was not a City of St. John’s rule but one issued years ago by the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs, which enforces the elections act.
I checked the government rules pertaining to municipal elections and found the following directives:
Under Part 2 Voters List, it is spelled out:
Section (5) “A person shall not vote in more than one municipality on election day.
In addition, the following directive is written in Section 24, Article a): “A person shall be a resident of the place where he or she lives and sleeps and to which, when absent, he or she intends to return.”
I think that is an antiquated rule that needs to be changed. My argument is, if we pay City of St. John’s taxes (in our case, thousands of dollars), we should be permitted to vote there. We are on the tax roll as resident-owners in good standing, and the same is true for our residency qualifications for the Town of Clarke’s Beach, where we also pay fairly high taxes and where, according to the rules, we are permitted to vote.
In my personal opinion, If one has a vested interest in a city or town, then that vested (financial) interest is important to that particular city or town. The affairs of the elected councils of both St. John’s and Clarke’s Beach, logically, are our affairs, and rightly so. It’s a two-way street (no pun intended). A vote in both municipalities should be allowed.
One could ask the question, if I don’t have a right to vote in St. John’s, how can I complain about a council policy or a proposed legislation which I disagree with and which could affect the value of my property?”
The logical answer from the City of St. John’s is “you can’t.” Meaning I am persona non grata, in other words, not welcome to express my opinion on the 2013 election or, for that matter, any future municipal election.
Of course, as I said earlier, I was politely reminded by the City of St .John’s elections co-ordinator, and rightly so, that this is not a City of St. John’s rule but a provincial government rule.
It’s high time to have a look at this directive, I suggest to all our candidates for council. It would make for an interesting argument with the Department of Municipal Affairs, no doubt.
Candidates should also consider the number of votes he/she are missing out on. There are hundreds of possible Xs awaiting from voters like us in towns and communities like the one we currently live in; people with vested interests in both communities, with their major investment being in the City of St. John’s.
Bill Westcott writes from Clarke’s Beach.