Canadians living abroad should be allowed to vote: Editorial | Toronto Star

I disagree.

Long-term (over 5 years) expats may or may not remained connected to Canada (the various imperfect data sources I am looking at present a varied picture) but most  do not pay Canadian taxes and are disconnected from the day-to-day issues (e.g., healthcare, transit) that often drive elections and voters:

The rule used to deny the vote to Canadians who have lived abroad for longer than five years actually dates back to 1993. But it was only enforced by the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper after 2007. The decision was based on a claim that it was unfair to give equal voice to Canadians living abroad and those who live in the country because expatriates won’t live with the consequences of their choice.

It’s a flawed argument and one rejected by most other democracies, which place fewer restrictions on expatriates. Canadians abroad who are passionate about this country’s affairs — to the extent that they’re determined enough to vote — should have a say in the affairs of their homeland.

Given the vast information resources available online and the ease of international travel, Canadian expats can easily keep up to date with what’s going on at home. And their opinions have real value. Indeed, it can be argued that it’s in the national interest to allow these well-travelled and typically well-educated citizens a hand in the political process.

As reported by The Canadian Press, the constitutionality of existing law is being challenged by plaintiffs Jamie Duong and Gillain Frank, both Canadians working in the United States. Frank, from Toronto, teaches at Princeton University, and Duong, of Montreal, works at Cornell.

They won before the Ontario Superior Court in 2014; lost when the government appealed last July; and then took the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has agreed to hear their case.

The court would do well to overturn an unfair law and bring Canada’s rules more in line with international practice.

Britons living abroad are allowed to cast a ballot if they’re citizens and had registered to vote within the last 15 years. Americans can vote all their lives, regardless of where they happen to live. And Italy goes so far as to set aside seats in parliament specifically to be filled by citizens living abroad.

It’s estimated that more than a million Canadians living outside the country are blocked from voting by the current rule. That constitutes a large-scale disenfranchisement and it’s manifestly unfair. If these people want a say in the affairs of their homeland they should be allowed to have it, regardless of how long they’ve been away.

Source: Canadians living abroad should be allowed to vote: Editorial | Toronto Star

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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