Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

Good piece by McParland:

The Appeal Court’s reasoning is sound.

“Permitting all non-resident citizens to vote would allow them to participate in making laws that affect Canadian residents on a daily basis but have little to no practical consequence for their own daily lives,” wrote Justice George Strathy.

The decision notes that allowing long-term expats to vote would violate a “social contract” that binds Canadians to laws that they have played a hand in creating.

This makes absolute sense. For every fervent patriot like Sutherland, who presumably lives in the U.S. due to the demands of his acting career, there are tens of thousands, of passport-holders who barely give Canada a thought. At the time the five-year rule was introduced, Canada was in the process of handing out thousands of passports to “investors” who wanted it mainly as a hedge against turmoil in their home country. If you recall, one of Stephen Harper’s earliest international acts as prime minister was a dramatic evacuation of Canadian passport-holders from Lebanon during a confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah forces. It was great theatre, except Canadians learned that thousands of those affected proved to be Lebanese citizens who had met the minimum standards for a Canadian passport before returning home, hanging on to the Canadian document in case of just such an emergency. They knew little about Canada, but without the five-year rule, 50,000 of them would have had the right to vote.

Lebanon is far from the only country where that’s the case. The Vancouver Sun reported in 2013 there were 350,000 residents of Hong Kong holding Canadian passports, and that Asians continue to leave the country in large numbers after completing the minimum requirements. Immigration experts acknowledged many never intended to stay and were merely taking advantage of Canada’s traditional generosity with its citizenship.

The five-year rule may be an inconvenience for Sutherland, who comes across as far less arrogant and self-important than fellow Canadian Neil Young, who prefers jetting into the country just long enough to demand Alberta cripple its economy by getting out of the oil business, before jetting back to California. But both are Canadian the same way Mike Duffy is from Prince Edward Island: it might be where they came from, but it’s not where they live. Even Canada’s Senate now understands that difference.

Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

And Professor Orwin making a similar point about the link between residency and voting:

Yes, the Charter of Rights proclaims voting a basic right of citizenship. But how far does that right extend? As we’ve already seen, only to the boundaries of one’s riding of primary residence. This is an essential feature of our system. It’s the sacred democratic right of Fort McMurrayites (and conversely of downtown Torontonians) that outsiders not be permitted to vote in their riding. Our representative must be ours, and no one else’s. So while Canadian citizenship may be a necessary condition of voting in a given election, it’s obviously not a sufficient one. This is why it’s mistaken to claim that by denying an expatriate the vote, we are stripping her of anything enjoyed by other Canadians. Rather it’s that by permitting her to vote the current law grants her a right denied to other Canadians. Yes, for five years and no more, but she should be grateful for those years, recognizing (having read this column) just what an anomaly she enjoys.

It’s not just in granting five years of electoral amnesty that the present law is quite generous. It is also so in offering expatriates a varied menu of possible electoral residences. They may choose their last previous Canadian address; but they also enjoy other options equally ungrounded in reality. Let’s face it, once Ms. Choi has decided to live abroad, it is the merest fiction to deem her still resident in my riding. As the years pass this fiction grows ever more glaring, and my neighbours and I increasingly testy. Who is this annoying phantom who pretends to live in our riding and insists on voting there? What does she know or care of our local concerns?

 If I can’t vote in your riding, why should expats vote in mine? 

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.

One Response to Kelly McParland: Donald Sutherland is from Canada the same way Mike Duffy is from PEI

  1. Matt Dahlstrom says:

    Who is the premier of Quebec by the name of Philippe Bouchard which McParland talks about?

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