Canadians in Hong Kong urged to vote in federal election with an eye on party policies toward territory and China

Interesting that virtually all of the advocates quoted are non-Chinese Canadians. The one Chinese Canadian quoted makes the most sensible comment that his vote won’t be this single issue.

Given the large number of Canadian expats in Hong Kong, Richmond BC was a possible example where Chinese Canadian expats could influence the election result in that riding.

We will see whether the indefinite extension of voting rights for expats results in a significant increase in expat voting (only 15,603 registered in 2015 of whom 10,707 valid votes cast):

 As Hong Kong wrestles with its worst political crisis in years, Andrew Work wants the hundreds of thousands of Canadians living there to know they have a new chance to help elect a government in Ottawa that will represent their interests.

Mr. Work, president of the Canadian Club in Hong Kong, is organizing a voter-registration drive to urge some of the estimated 300,000 Canadians who live in the city to cast their ballots in the coming federal election in Canada. Previously, Canadians who had lived outside Canada for more than five years were barred in theory from voting under legislation from the early 1990s, That law was only loosely enforced. In response to a Harper government’s attempt to enforce that law, however, the Supreme Court ruled this January that all non-residents have the right to vote, no matter how long they have lived elsewhere. The Liberal government also passed legislation last December extending voting rights to all non-resident citizens.

“I am sure for some people, they will very much have [Hong Kong’s political turmoil] on their mind as they would look carefully at Canadian policies towards China and Hong Kong as part of their voting calculation,” Mr. Work said in an interview from Hong Kong.

“Ten years ago, that wasn’t the case. Now that Hong Kong is on the front page of newspapers everyday around the world, including Canada, Canadians of all types will have Canada’s policy on their mind.”

Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesman for Elections Canada, Asia, said earlier this week that there are 628 voters registered on the International Register of Electors in 198 different electoral districts. The agency doesn’t have country-specific numbers.

Hong Kong has been racked by months of protests by demonstrators angry at what they see as the Chinese government’s increasing incursion into the semi-autonomous territory’s affairs.

Barrett Bingley, originally from Victoria, now works as the North Asia sales director for The Economist in Hong Kong. He said the protests are having a devastating effect on the people who work for him.

“I have many staff who I worry about now,” he said. “I had staff who had been tear gassed; staff who were not protesting who were tear gassed … We have staff who are experiencing psychological issues. We have to make sure they’re well taken care of.”

When casting his vote in the Canadian election, he said he’ll be considering which political leader is willing to take a strong stand to protect the “one country, two systems” philosophy that China promised when it took possession of the territory from Britain in 1997. The arrangement allows Hong Kong its own laws for 50 years.

The recent weeks’ increasing violence in Hong Kong have made him concerned about his and his family’s safety. He said both Australia and British consulates sent representatives to Hong Kong’s airport, where some of the latest demonstrations took place. He said the Canadian consulate should be doing more to safeguard its citizens.

Instead, Mr. Bingley said he has been watching the Canadian government “say virtually nothing” on the issue except for a “soft statement” made by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week.

On Monday, Mr. Trudeau told the media that the government is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Hong Kong and called on Beijing to be “careful and respectful” in its handling in this crisis.

“We need to see the local authorities listening to the very serious concerns brought forward by Chinese citizens and their concerns around the decisions that the local authorities in Beijing have taken,” he said.

Mr. Bingley said he prefers the statement issued by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who wrote on Twitter: “As Beijing amasses troops at the Hong Kong border, now is the time for everyone committed to democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law to stand with the people of Hong Kong, including the 300,000 ex-pat Canadians. Now, and in the coming days, we are all Hong Kongers.”

Montreal-born Jean-Christophe Clement has been living in the city for a decade and has participated in the protests. The employee of a finance software vendor, 49, recently registered to vote and said a federal party’s position on what’s happening in the region would “almost entirely set the tone” for his voting decision.

He said he would cast his vote for a politician who is “in support of the protection of rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong.”

Although escalating tensions in the city haven’t affected his daily life much, he said the China’s People’s Armed Police exercising in Shenzhen, on the border with Hong Kong, worries him.

“My concern would be PLA comes in and there’s martial law.”

Paul Evans, professor in the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, said Mr. Scheer’s invocation of Cold War imagery of Berlin and the rallying cry of democracy, human rights and the rule of law will likely appeal to some.

But from his own experience in Hong Kong, he said people in the region are more realistic about the limited options that the territory has operating in its Chinese context, and the ability for other countries to have an impact.

For some other Canadians in Hong Kong, candidates’ domestic policies will weigh more in their votes.

Nathaniel Chan, who grew up in Toronto, said politicians’ positions on the Hong Kong issue have “no bearing” in his ballot.

“I think when we vote in a national election, it should be mostly about the standard of living for people in Canada or policies that affect all Canadians.”

Mr. Desjardins of Elections Canada said they sent 857 ballot kits to international electors in Asia during the last election, but the agency does not provide data on the number of ballots returned, for security reasons.

The agency conducts outreach through a small digital ad campaign targeting electors abroad, according to Mr. Desjardins, and also places posters at embassies and consulates with information on voting.

It’s not enough, Mr. Bingley said.

“What hasn’t been in Hong Kong so far though is there hasn’t been a campaign by the federal government, by the consulate to get Canadians registered and to explain how to do it,” Mr. Bingley said.

“There needs to be concerted information campaign of how to do this.”

How to inject youth into Newfoundland and Labrador’s broken, greying democracy

Providing provincial voting rights to expatriates makes little sense. Provincial services are largely residency-based, unlike federal voting rights which are citizenship-based (even there I have serious reservations as noted in earlier posts):

And not convinced in any case that this will make much difference in overall voting trends and turn-out:

What does it mean to be a voter in a Canadian federation increasingly defined by wealth inequality and economic migration?

As public policy scholars, we argue that politicians, policy-makers and citizens alike need to start rethinking how to ensure everyone’s voice is heard in a regionally diverse federation. More specifically, we think that provinces have good grounds for extending voting rights to expatriate citizens. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, extending the vote is particularly warranted.

That’s because of two issues plaguing Newfoundland and Labrador: People are leaving the province, and those who remain are growing older.

As two expatriate Newfoundland and Labradorians — one of us in Australia — we watched from the sidelines during this spring’s provincial election. It was so defined by negativity and an absence of social vision that it inspired a playful CBC podcast with the question: “Does anyone actually want to win the election?”

That things played out this way came as little surprise. The province is trapped between a need to get its financial affairs in order and politicians who look to spending increases instead of long-term solutions as a means of winning elections. The ruling Liberals, for example, opened their campaign with an extra $152 million for the budget, including a cut to the deficit reduction levy which had only come into effect in 2016.

Not sustainable

Every citizen of the province knows this approach is unsustainable. To put the fiscal situation in perspective, Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial debt is a whopping $21,221 per capita, the highest in Canada, and its debt servicing costs as a per cent of provincial revenues stands at 13.8 per cent compared to the next highest province, Quebec, at eight per cent.

The graph below shows that Newfoundland and Labradorians face a tricky demographic challenge.

The graph vividly portrays how rapidly Newfoundland is growing older. Author provided

The share of the population under 50 years of age has been shrinking for the past 45 years. Since 2000, the population in age quintiles (five-year intervals) has declined in every age group below 50, while increasing in every age quintile above 50. While the population, post-2000, has remained relatively stable, the composition of the province’s population is vastly different.

As the population ages, so too does the median voter.

Citizens who are older are understandably less likely to support long-term reforms that will cut into their more immediate interests. This means that proposing tough solutions to current fiscal problems can make it hard to win elections, especially if there is a rural/urban divide separating younger and older voters.

Unlike Newfoundland’s fiscally tough solutions of the past, we propose a solution that more greatly strengthens attachment to home: Allowing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living outside the province to vote.

Youth injection

To cast ballots in Newfoundland and Labrador elections, voters must be provincial residents the day before polling day. We propose to extend the vote in a simple, transparent and inclusive manner to anyone 18 or older who has ever attended school in the province.

Why former students? First, many children of Newfoundland and Labrador have been lured or forced abroad to scratch out a living or seek their fortune. All have been victims of the lack of opportunity at home. Many of these people wish to return, and many do return, in their more senior years. Why should their voices not be heard at the provincial ballot box?

A recent study published in the Journal of Labor Economics suggests that the mobility of these workers has boosted pay in their province of origin. Wages rise because employers at home must hike pay to prevent more workers from leaving. This is a real economic gain, on top of any money that workers who leave their home province send back home.

Second, there is precedent — national voter eligibility is not determined by location, but rather by citizenship. The electoral district you vote in federally is determined by your current residential address, but your eligibility to vote is preserved by the government of Canada even when you are living abroad.

Third, consider the civic education that has been instilled in these individuals through the province’s school system. They have a respect for the people and the land, the traditions and the ambitions of their home province.

Generally speaking, we extend the vote to people because they are either directly affected by the collective decisions of government or because they are subject to the laws of that government. Expatriates easily satisfy the first of these two conditions. Provincial policies affect both their ability to return home and their loved ones who remain behind.

To be sure, extending the franchise is not a magic bullet that will immediately solve the province’s problems. And there are no doubt further questions about the voting mechanisms needed to make this proposal a reality.

But we think extending the vote to expatriates strongly aligns with the province’s values. It could also help nudge its politics closer to long-term solutions that respect the roots and rights of all Newfoundland and Labradorians past, present and future.

Source: How to inject youth into Newfoundland and Labrador’s broken, greying democracy

When is an immigrant not an immigrant? When they’re rich

Nice piece on the somewhat semantic distinction between immigrants and expatriates, or more accurately, between migrants and expatriates:

Our attitudes towards immigration involve some stunning doublespeak. My own family tells the story quite well. My grandparents’ generation, of Africans on one side and Jews on the other, were “immigrants” who created “diasporas”. My parents’ generation are British, and when they lived in Brunei, shortly before I was born, enjoyed the label reserved for British immigrants – “expatriates”. Although, since expats are considered glamorous and successful, there is a question as to whether black British people are allowed to fall into that category. I know this because trolls, who don’t seem to have a problem with British expats per se, point to my having been born as one as evidence that in my case, it disqualifies me from Britishness, something I’ve never heard levelled at my white contemporaries.

The difference between expats and immigrants is that, while the latter are a problem, the former are – its celebrants tell us – British people “embracing a limitless life”. This tends, not surprisingly, to take part in the former empire. Most British expats are concentrated in Australia, Spain, the US and Canada. The best place of all, according to research by HSBC bank – itself an expatriate colonial invention – is Singapore (good for health, education and improving your earnings).

The limitless life has, however, been experiencing a few unfortunate limits of late. It was a deeply unfortunate juxtaposition that the very day on which the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright was boasting Britain’s “toughest internet laws in the world”, a former British expat in Dubai was reported to have been arrested for comments she made on Facebook. Laleh Shahravesh was detained for calling her ex-husband’s new wife a horse. We should never condone trolling, but I would personally find that pretty complimentary compared to the the social media abuse I get on an average day.

Brunei, meanwhile, where my parents lived on the British expat circuit, is also putting a real dampener on the limitless life of the British expat, or at least one who is gay or planning to commit adultery or have an abortion, all of which are now punishable by sadistic acts of state-sponsored violence. Protestors have been making a scene outside hotels in which almost nobody can afford to stay, but our stance on British companies and their thousands of staff living and working in Brunei seems to have been quietly left out of the picture.

Maybe that’s because the lack of adherence to human rights standards in our favourite expat destinations poses some difficult questions. The British diaspora – though we never call it that – is seen as a useful tool for making Britain a great trading nation in the world again.

Unsurprisingly, there is zero evidence that the British government is planning to jeopardise all this by taking a more principled position in relation to human rights abuses. It places growing emphasis on the Commonwealth, despite the fact that this club’s failure to hold Brunei’s backward steps in human rights standards is just one of many examples. The United Arab Emirates, which was already in the spotlight after accusing the British academic Matthew Hedges of being a spy last year, has the unique privilege of being the only country in the world in which we have two embassies – one in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai. Britain is currently defending in the court of appeal its refusal to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the face of credible international evidence that our arms are helping the Saudis regularly attack civilians in Yemen.

We can have a debate about whether it is right for Britain to enforce human rights standards in other countries as part of an ethical foreign policy. I, like the countless local activists in each of the countries where Britain prop ups abusive regimes, have no problem taking a stance in favour of ethical foreign policies. However, I have yet to hear that our government has decided, through a reasoned process of inquiry and consensus, that we are having a non-ethical one.

But there is a bigger question about immigration here too. We consider British immigrants to be people of means, whether former military personnel once stationed luxuriously in the Raj or today’s corporate lawyers enjoying tax-free living in the Gulf. If we bothered to think about our real view of British immigration, we would probably conclude that immigrants we don’t regard as a problem are those who aren’t poor.

We are generous enough to extend these ideas about immigration to a few other people too. On the day the Home Office announced its settlement scheme for EU migrants, I was speaking to a Dutch banker who has lived in the UK for years. “Will you apply?” I asked him, innocently. He looked at me as if I were a bit simple. “I’m just assuming that, like all these things, there will be an exemption for rich people,” he replied.

He is undoubtedly right. We suspend judgment for all rich immigrants, just as we do for British immigrants – so much so we don’t even call them immigrants. And so I guarantee that when it comes to countries where the immigrants are both rich and Brits, such as Brunei, we will avoid conducting any further analysis at all.

Source: When is an immigrant not an immigrant? When they’re rich

Elections Canada braces for a surge in international voters

Have written extensively against this extension and will be interesting to see what the take up will actually be and whether it is really an important issue for Canadian expatriates or not. The numbers below mentioned suggest it was not:

It was a short letter from Elections Canada — but for Gillian Frank, getting it felt like “an old wound had finally started to heal.”

“I was overjoyed,” said Frank, a Canadian living in the United States who received the letter earlier this month confirming his right to cast a ballot in the upcoming federal election.

For seven years, Frank and other Canadians living abroad fought for the right to vote in general elections and national referendums.

In December 2018, the Trudeau government passed Bill 76 — just a month before the Supreme Court of Canada shot down the 1993 law that prohibited Canadians who had lived outside Canada for more than five years from voting in Canadian elections, calling it a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Frank and fellow ex-pat Jamie Duong filed that charter challenge after being denied ballots in 2011. Bill 76 restored voting rights to all Canadians living abroad; the Supreme Court ruling prevents future governments from restoring the ban.

Number of international voters could triple

Since January, Elections Canada has been mailing out letters to Canadians abroad reminding them that they’re back on the international electors list.

“It felt like a moment of closure, a moment of real victory,” Frank said.

Elections Canada expects to see a surge in the number of mail-in or ‘special’ ballots. It estimates the number of Canadians voting from abroad could almost triple — from 11,000 voters in 2015 to 30,000 in 2019.

To cope with the demand, Elections Canada issued a tender in March for a new system to automate the way ballots are distributed.

“We are reducing the number of processes carried out by hand related to special ballots,” Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said in an email. “In automating these processes, we will reduce the number of staff required to handle the volume of ballots we receive.

“These optimizations will not include automated counting of ballots — all ballots will still be marked and counted by hand.”

‘We’re all Canadian citizens’

Duong said Canadians should not fret about the prospect of votes by Canadians living in the U.S. or Hong Kong swinging individual ridings. If it happens, it happens, he said.

“You can say that about any group. What if votes of people 65 and over change the outcome? What if votes [from voters aged] 18 to 25 change the outcome?” Duoug said.

“We’re all Canadian citizens. We all have a right to vote. So, yes our votes should matter. And they should possibly change the outcome of the elections.”

Former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley argues we’ll never know for sure whether the re-appearance of ex-pat voting in 2019 had any real effect on the outcome, since voting is secret. And while “it just takes one vote to swing a riding,” he said, the ex-pat vote likely isn’t going to have that kind of influence because Canadians abroad have to jump through a lot of hoops before casting ballots.

International voters, he said, have to register themselves on the international voter list, find which ridings they belong to, figure out who’s running, fill out their ballots correctly and then mail them in on time. They also have to pay the international postage themselves.

“These are all difficulties we do not have to overcome when we’re voting from Canada,” Kingsley said.

Source: Elections Canada braces for a surge in international voters

Canadian Immigrants in the United States: Migration Policy Institute study

Good overview of Canadians abroad, with detailed numbers:

Canadian migration has generally been a small share of immigration to the United States, historically fluctuating according to economic factors in the two countries. In 1960, Canadian immigrants made up about 10 percent of the total U.S. foreign-born population. Though the number of Canadians in the United States has decreased and levelled off since then, this population has grown more diverse, and today includes students, family migrants, skilled professionals, and retirees. As of 2016, about 783,000 Canadians lived in the United States, accounting for less than 2 percent of the roughly 44 million U.S. immigrants.

The motives of Canadian migrants have changed over time. Beginning in 1867, migrants from Eastern Canada came to the United States to work in the burgeoning manufacturing sector. In 1900, the U.S. Census recorded 747,000 English-speaking and 440,000 French-speaking Canadian immigrants. The two groups settled in different regions: Most Anglophone Canadians took up residence near the border, in states such as Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Rhode Island, allowing them to easily move between the two countries, while Francophone Canadians largely moved to New England and California. French Canadian migration increased between 1900 and 1930, driven by discrimination as well as poor economic conditions in Quebec. After 1930, increased political autonomy for Quebec and the growth of the Canadian economy following World War II led to a steady decline in Canadian arrivals.

In the second half of the 20th century, Canadian migration shifted and diversified significantly, especially after enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. Canadian immigrants now include highly educated professionals, students, those seeking family reunification, and “snowbirds,” people in or near retirement attracted by warmer southern climates. Canadian students are the fifth-largest group of foreign students enrolled in U.S. higher education, and high-skilled Canadians receive the third-largest number of employer-sponsored H-1B temporary visas. Many Canadians also come to the United States on NAFTA Professional (TN) visas to work in a variety of professional occupations, although the exact number is unknown.

Click here to view an interactive chart showing trends in the size of U.S. immigrant populations by country of birth, from 1960 to the present.

The United States is by far the top destination for most Canadian emigrants, with others settling primarily in the United Kingdom (92,000), Australia (57,000), France (26,000), and Italy (26,000), according to mid-2017 estimates by the United Nations Population Division. Click here to view an interactive map showing where migrants from Canada and other countries have settled worldwide.

Most Canadians in the United States who obtain lawful permanent residence—also known as receiving a green card—do so either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or as employer-sponsored immigrants. Compared to the overall foreign-born population, Canadians have a higher median income, are less likely to live in poverty, and are more likely to have health insurance and to be college educated. They are significantly older, on average, than the overall immigrant and U.S.-born populations.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent 2016 American Community Survey [ACS] as well as pooled 2012–16 ACS data) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, this Spotlight provides information on the Canadian population in the United States, focusing on its size, geographic distribution, and socioeconomic characteristics.

Note: Data from ACS and DHS represent persons born in Canada; they do not include immigrants born outside of Canada who then gained Canadian citizenship via naturalization and later moved to the United States.

via Canadian Immigrants in the United States | migrationpolicy.org

Why expatriates should be able to vote

Frédéric Mégret, an associate professor of law at McGill University, trots out the usual assertions in making the case for unlimited voting rights for Canadian expatriates, no matter how tenuous or distant the connection. Completely bereft of any data or serious evidence to support his arguments.

Moreover, he appears to favour a citizenship with no connection to residency, no matter how short. Or even no residency in the case of the first generation born abroad (for my previous arguments, see What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options):

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the barring of expatriates who have resided away from Canada more than five years from voting in Canadian elections. The Ontario Court of Appeal had earlier found the restrictions democratically justifiable because they preserved the “social contract” between voters and lawmakers. Whether it is the case that the social contract depends on denying voting rights to non-resident citizens is highly dubious. More importantly, often overlooked in the debate is the broader issue of how Canada – and other countries – should relate to their diasporas in an age when significant numbers chose to live abroad while retaining deep emotional and political bonds to their country of citizenship.

The argument against long-term expatriate voting often portrays non-residents as essentially free riders, voting on laws that will not affect them. The reality is considerably more complex. First, long-term expatriates may decide to come back and so arguably continue to have a vested interest in their country of citizenship. To the extent that they do not have voting rights in their country of residency, they are deprived of their only opportunity to exercise political rights. Second, long-term expatriates are, in fact, affected by the laws and policies of Canada, especially to the extent they have international ramifications. They are often the only point of contact that foreigners will have with Canadians. All expatriates share the experience of having been called upon to account, informally at least, for the policies of their home country. They may be targeted as Canadians. Third, many expatriates, even though they do not reside in Canada, do a considerable amount for Canada, directly or indirectly. It goes without saying that Canada is very well represented by its expatriates, many of whom do great honour to our country.

The prioritizing of residency over citizenship, in this context, is problematic in several respects. Although the nation state may be a primarily territorial concept, citizenship is not. Citizenship is measured not by how long one spends on the territory of one’s state, but how committed one is to its ideals, how ready to give back and to invest in its political life. The idea that long-term expatriates are distant and disconnected citizens is belied by their voting record and the intensity by which some of them have, precisely, been willing to protest, including before the courts, against the denial of their rights, invoking their “deep and abiding” connection to Canada. Moreover, citizenship is what you make of it: Treating the diaspora as if it had no connection to Canada is surely to contribute to severing that link. One is also a citizen because one is provided with meaningful opportunities to exercise one’s rights as such. Finally, one should be wary of attempts at fragmenting citizenship, part of a worrying trend that includes fighting less hard for dual citizens abroad or threatening to withdraw citizenship from those convicted of certain offences. Attacks on the indivisibility of citizenship suggest that some Canadian citizens are less citizens than others, and are therefore attacks on the citizenship of all.

The debate deserves to be put in its global context, where it clearly transcends the particulars of any theoretical social contract. How to deal with expatriate populations has become a defining issue of our globalized age, whether it comes to voting rights or how aggressively countries protect their nationals abroad when they are, for example, threatened or prosecuted. Canada has not always made the right choices. Today, however, many countries positively court their diasporas, and for good reason, not only as a source of remittance, but as a source of soft power, and as part of a deep commitment to the free flow of people and ideas. Many countries not only allow, but positively encourage, their diasporas to vote back at home. Although the Harper government once objected to this, Canada is actually part of a variety of French, Italian or Tunisian electoral constituencies.

It may not come as a surprise that Canada, a country that traditionally conceived itself as a place of immigration rather than emigration, has given relatively less thought to this question than other countries. The absence of specific constitutional arrangements for the representation of its diaspora, for example, sets it apart from others that have thought more creatively about this issue. In an age where people are increasingly on the move, making residency a condition of citizenship may not only be unfair to those affected; it may fail to do justice to Canada’s diversity.

via Why expatriates should be able to vote – The Globe and Mail

Colby Cosh: The Supreme Court faces the emo drama of expatriate voting

Good if somewhat disjointed commentary:

On Wednesday the Supreme Court will hold a hearing in Frank vs. Canada, a test case on the voting rights (in federal elections) of expatriate Canadian citizens. Everybody agrees that they definitely have some. The Charter is unambiguous about assigning such a right to all Canadian citizens. The question is whether this is a right that can be temporarily withdrawn, as the law now does, from a Canadian who has been apart from Canada for some time and is outside the reach of its law and institutions.

Lower courts have already offered conflicting answers, so it is hard to be sure what the Supreme Court will do. But emotional framing is bound to weigh a great deal in the final argument. In the court of origin, the government made an argument that letting long-term expatriates vote was unfair to the poor wretches who are trapped in Canada and who have no choice but to live with its government.

This was a sort of “dilution of voting power” argument, but it had the effect of sounding like the legal arguments that used to be made against prisoner voting — arguments that were ultimately thrown out. The Supreme Court approved inmate voting in 2002; having been asked “Hang on, you’re going to let a convicted rapist have the same voice in government as his victim?”, it returned what is now the accepted answer. “Yes, that’s the nature of a right. Like it or not, rapists have ’em too.”

This involves us in some logical awkwardness, because convicts have plenty of other rights whose free exercise we forbid after due process of law. But on the other hand, prisoners are definitely stuck with the Canadian state, and with its exclusive privilege of retaliatory violence, in an even more obvious sense than free residents are. It would thus be a bit weird to make Canada’s determination to count convict votes part of an argument, by extrapolation, for expatriate voting.

Weird or not, that’s what the originating judge did. He saw these as analogous questions of personal dignity. We don’t want to devalue or question the Canadian-ness of people who have been away for many years, but who feel Canadian and insist on being Canadian.

The majority on the Ontario Court of Appeal panel that next heard Frank vs. Canada cleared its throat and said, as it were, “Whoa, let’s start over.” Those judges chose a guiding metaphor that had not been used in the original contest: the philosophically notorious “social contract.” Resident citizens have duties and obligations that expatriates don’t: obvious ones include taxes and compulsory jury service (how would expatriates like to be reeled back in for that?), but there is also the big, obvious one of “being subject to Canadian law,” the vast obsidian bulk of which applies only on Canadian soil. Moreover, we exclude non-resident citizens from social entitlements like public health insurance.

But there is nothing in the text of the Charter that requires or urges a “social contract” framing of core democratic rights. The appeal court was, as I see it, trying to find a way of dressing common sense in legal language — asking, in effect, “Hang on: we’re really going to let U.S. taxpayers with Canadian passports vote in Canadian elections?” We have seen what often happens to such “Hang on …” arguments at the Supreme level.

Until recently, no one had considered letting expatriate citizens vote as a matter of right. The whole issue cropped up because Canadian law had, from the First World War on, to devise obviously desirable provisions for voting by Canadians who are abroad in uniform and in the foreign service. Citizens who are away from Canada just because there is more money or opportunity or sunshine somewhere else are not in the same position as those who are actual living tendrils of the Canadian state. But since the law makes a distinction between mere economic expats and offshore agents of Canada, the expats have an opportunity to denounce the distinction and wriggle through the hole.

For some reason, everyone recognizes that the “expatriates have a right to express Canadian identity” argument does not quite work for provinces. A Quebecer living in B.C. is likely to have a meaningful, even essential personal connection to Quebec, but there exists no legal concept of Quebec citizenship, or at least none recognized by the federal government.

I wonder, though, whether the resident citizen’s right to vote in federal elections could be logically severed from mere geographic accident, if we are going to adopt that view of things. Shouldn’t I be allowed to vote for a member of parliament in my hometown, although I no longer know much of its concerns and circumstances in detail, and almost never visit? Bon Accord, Alta., did form my character! And I suppose I care about it! From a polite distance!

Some Canadian citizens might be able to claim a right to cast a vote in many places with which they have some prior connection — maybe even an ancestral one. The opportunities for tactical voting would be hilarious. On what grounds could this kind of frenzy be ruled out, in logic, if the emotional principles of disfranchised expatriates are admitted by the law?

Source: Colby Cosh: The Supreme Court faces the emo drama of expatriate voting

Hungary Citizenship Plan Reaches 1 Million Mark in Orban Boost – Bloomberg

Electoral strategy:

Hungary’s program to extend citizenship to ethnic kin who are nationals of other countries reached the 1 million mark, boosting Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s already strong chances for re-election next year.

The millionth citizenship under the program, one of the first laws approved by parliament after Orban returned to power in 2010, was awarded to a 36-year-old ethnic Hungarian farmer in Serbia, President Janos Ader said at a ceremony in Budapest over the weekend that Orban also attended.

Ethnic Hungarians living abroad, most of them in areas of neighboring countries that were cut off from Hungary after World War I, overwhelmingly backed Orban in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when more than 95 percent of almost 130,000 of those votes were for the premier’s Fidesz party. Fidesz has a wide lead in all opinion polls over a fragmented opposition ahead of elections next year, where Orban is looking to further consolidate the first “illiberal state” in the European Union, modeled on Russia and Turkey. Orban has said he expects elections to take place in April.

Unlike hundreds of thousands of Hungarians who’ve moved West, ethnic kin living abroad who’ve received citizenship can cast ballots by mail, a recurring criticism for opposition parties who say the rule is discriminatory. At the same time, ethnic kin living abroad get only one vote — for party list — versus two votes for others who also get to pick the candidate for their electoral district to represent them in parliament.

In 2014, 8.2 million Hungarians were eligible to vote, including almost 194,000 ethnic Hungarians living abroad, according to the website of the National Election Office.

via Hungary Citizenship Plan Reaches 1 Million Mark in Orban Boost – Bloomberg

Britons abroad for longer than 15 years denied vote in general election | The Guardian

While as I and Rob Vineberg have argued against indefinite voting rights (Canadian expats shouldn’t have unlimited voting rights), it is nevertheless somewhat amusing that the May government made this commitment, tabled legislation, and then failed to implement, perhaps fearing that most non-resident Britons, particularly those resident in the EU, oppose Brexit and thus likely may be less likely to vote Conservative:

Campaign groups accuse Tories of breaking promise made in October to scrap time limit

Up to 3 million Britons living overseas are to be denied a vote in the general election, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.

In a letter sent to the New Europeans campaign group on Friday, the Cabinet Office said that “unfortunately” British citizens who had lived abroad for longer than 15 years would not be entitled to vote on 8 June.

The letter has prompted a furious reaction from Britons living abroad, and in Europe in particular, with campaign groups accusing the Conservatives of breaking yet another promise.

Nathan Lappin of the constitution group in the Cabinet Office told New Europeans that “there is no sufficient time to change the relevant primary and secondary legislation to enfranchise all British expats, scrapping the 15-year time limit, ahead of the dissolution of parliament before the general election”.

“The people most affected by the referendum were not allowed to vote in it, simply because they exercised their right to live in another country,” said Dave Spokes, one of the founders of the support group Expat Citizen Rights in EU. “Now it seems they will miss out again as their government has repeatedly failed to honour repeated promises to repeal this unjust and unfair rule.

“These people spent their lives working in the UK and many still pay taxes there. It is quite disgraceful that any government can so disregard so many of its citizens.”

Jane Golding, a British lawyer living in Berlin and campaigner for the rights of Britons abroad, said the promise has been broken twice as it was in the Conservative manifesto in the 2015 general election and the Queen’s speech that followed.

“So that is twice we have been denied the right to vote and to participate in the democratic process when this had been promised on an issue, leaving the EU, that directly affects our personal and professional status,” she said.

Last October the government promised to scrap the current 15-year time limit as part of a bid to strengthen ties with emigrants following the decision to leave the EU.

The plans followed a court battle spearheaded by the second world war veteran Harry Shindler, who fought in the Battle of Anzio in Italy in 1944. The 95-year-old, who moved to Italy to be near his grandson in 1982, has been unable to vote in the UK since 1997 but cannot vote in Italy either.

As recently as February, the constitution minister Chris Skidmore assured Shindler and others the government was on track, telling them “their stake in our country must be respected”.

In a written answer on the topic to the New Europeans founder Roger Casale, Skidmore promised “this government will not deny them the opportunity to have their say in how the country is governed”. He also revealed that the government estimated “a further 3 million British citizens resident overseas will be enfranchised”.

Samia Badani, director of New Europeans, said the decision not to expedite legislation was devastating for Britons desperate to have a say on their own futures in Europe but it was not too late to get them on the electoral register. “The time for legislation is now. When there is a will, there is a way,” she said.

Badani said: “We are very disappointed – this is another broken promise. We have been campaigning for the removal of the 15-year rule – which is very arbitrary – for years. We were promised that at the next general election all UK citizens could vote, but it now looks like a double-whammy: they couldn’t vote in the referendum and now can’t vote in the next general election.”

Source: Britons abroad for longer than 15 years denied vote in general election | Politics | The Guardian

Canadian expats shouldn’t have unlimited voting rights – Bill C-33 critique

Rob Vineberg, former regional director general for the Prairies and the North at CIC (now IRCC) and I penned this op-ed against the proposed indefinite extension of expat voting rights in C-33 (we will be submitting a brief once the Bill goes to Committee).
This has generating the most comments of any of my articles, virtually all from Canadian expats who disagree with us on Twitter. Useful input as we finalize our brief to the Commons committee that will study the Bill (PROC).
As behind a paywall, full text below:

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould is in charge of shepherding Bill C-33, currently at second reading, through the House.  The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

 By ANDREW GRIFFITH, ROBERT VINEBERG

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 12:00 AM

In responding to the Supreme Court challenge of the five-year limit of voting rights, the government has proposed in Bill C-33 to extend voting rights indefinitely to Canadians living abroad, no matter how short their residence in Canada.

This is more generous than the standard comparator countries of Australia and New Zealand, which require a formal renewable declaration or visits (six and three years respectively), the United Kingdom, which has a 15-year limit, and the United States, which requires filing of taxes.

In essence, any citizen who left Canada as a baby or small child would have unlimited voting rights. As such, the proposal disconnects voting from any experience living in Canada, being subject to Canadian laws, accessing Canadian public services, as well as paying Canadian taxes, and thus devalues the votes of Canadians who do reside in Canada and are subject to these day-to-day realities of Canadian life.

To date, the government has not articulated why it chose this unlimited approach, apart from resorting to the phrase “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” without acknowledging that this argument was made in the limited context of revocation of citizenship in cases of terrorism, and the need to treat Canadian-born and naturalized Canadians equally before the law.

Advocates of expanding voting rights over the current five years have argued that Canadians living abroad contribute to Canada and the world, and many retain an active connection with Canada, whether it is business, social, cultural, political, or academic. These Canadians’ global connections should be valued as an asset. The internet and social media make it easier for Canadians to remain in touch with Canada and Canadian issues. Non-resident Canadians pay income tax on their Canadian income and property tax on any property they may own in Canada. Their vote is unlikely to affect the overall electoral results.

This is argued using a general estimate of over one million expatriates, without any assessment of the degree of connection that expatriates have with Canada. However, using government data, we know that the number of expatriates holding valid Canadian passports is approximately 630,000 adult Canadians who have lived abroad for five years or more. We also know that the number of non-resident Canadian tax returns, a deeper measure of connection, was about 140,000 in 2013 (the last year for which information is available). And while hard to assess the potential interest of long-term Canadian expatriates in voting, the data for those who qualify under the current rules suggest there is not widespread demand.

While one of us (Griffith) believes in a more restrictive approach and one us (Vineberg) believes in a more flexible approach, we recognize the government is committed to expand voting rights. We see three main options:

  1. Double the current limit to 10 years: This would align with two parliaments as well as passport validity. While it would not address the concerns of all expatriates, it would expand voting rights.
  2. Provide unlimited voting rights to expatriates who have lived 25 years or more in Canada: This recognizes the long-term connection and experience with Canadian life as well as the concerns of expatriate seniors who have contributed to the Canada Pension Plan and receive CPP and Old Age Security benefits.
  3. Modify the proposed approach with a minimum residency requirement of three years: This ensures a minimal connection to Canada, aligned to citizenship requirements, with only a valid Canadian passport being acceptable evidence of citizenship. However, this modified version of the provision in Bill C-33 does not fundamentally change our objection to again essentially unlimited voting rights.

In the latter options, this should be combined with the creation of two overseas constituencies to recognize that expatriate interests are different from resident Canadians and address any concerns that the expatriate vote could influence the results in particular ridings.

Notwithstanding what approach is chosen, administrative simplicity based on the current Elections Canada process should be maintained. Elections Canada should also be required to conduct an evaluation of the impact of any such change following the next election.

The government does not appear to have thought through the implications and options regarding expanding voting rights and appears to have listened only to advocates for expansion rather than a broader range of Canadians. We favour a combination of the first two options and hope that parliamentary review of Bill C-33 will result in changes that respect a balance between expanded expatriate voting rights and the interests of resident Canadians.

Source: Canadian expats shouldn’t have unlimited voting rights – The Hill Times – The Hill Times