Should non-resident Canadians get the vote? – Globe Editorial

Globe has it basically right:

In a procedural decision in this case this week, Justice Robert Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal, put the issue clearly: Is the five-year limit “necessary to sustain our geographically determined, constituency-based system of representation?” The highest court will eventually have to answer that question. We think it can reasonably answer “yes.”

Parliament, especially the Commons, since its beginnings in medieval England, has been a body that consents to – or rejects – taxes. But Canadian expatriates pay their taxes in the country where they live, and receive the benefits of government there, too. They do not pay taxes here, or receive most public services. It is reasonable for the law to say that, if you live outside Canada for a sufficiently long time, after some number of years you can no longer exercise the right to vote for members of the House of Commons. You do not lose Canadian citizenship – that can never be taken away. And no matter how long someone lives abroad, they have the absolute right to return to Canada whenever they wish.

The five-year limit is not strictly necessary. But there’s a compelling logic to placing some limit on how long one can live abroad and still vote in Canada. It makes it more likely that Canadian voters will have a strong, living connection to Canada.

Should non-resident Canadians get the vote? – The Globe and Mail.

Tim Harper in the Star takes the contrary view:

The numbers may not be huge, but the symbolism from this government is massive.

The Canadian diaspora numbers about 2.8 million and has been called the “missing province.”

About a million of them have been out of the country for more than five years; most of them live in the U.S.

About seven in 10 expats, according to a 2009 study by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, said they intended to return home. Two out of three left the country for work reasons and one in three worked for a Canadian company, the government or a Canadian non-governmental agency.

Non-resident Canadians paid about $6 billion in taxes to the Canadian treasury in 2008-09, according to the APF study.

The five-year cutoff is a product of the 1993 Progressive Conservative majority government which for the first time provided a mechanism for Canadians living outside the country to vote.

In 2005, following a recommendation by then-Elections Canada chief John-Pierre Kingsley, a parliamentary committee recommended the five-year limit be removed. All four party leaders endorsed the committee decision. Nothing ever happened….

Suppressing vote of expats latest Conservative court battle: Tim Harper

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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