John Baird, Nigel Wright head up new group to organize right-leaning Canadians abroad

Of note. Canadian political parties to date have been inactive compared to the parties of other countries where expatriate voting rights have been longstanding such as the US and UK:

A new group headed by some prominent Conservatives aims to mobilize right-leaning Canadians living overseas — and marks a changed attitude toward longtime expat voters after the Supreme Court of Canada significantly expanded their voting rights.

“It’s one of the last truly untapped areas of the electorate,” John Baird, former Conservative cabinet minister, told the National Post. Baird is the honorary president for the new group, called Canadian Conservatives Abroad (CCA).

Baird said expats “overwhelmingly” don’t vote in elections, and noted the estimated three million Canadians living abroad is equivalent to about 30 electoral ridings. About 20,000 expat voters were registered ahead of the 2019 election.

The push to form the group is in part motivated by a 2019 Supreme Court decision that ruled it was unconstitutional to bar Canadian citizens from voting if they’ve lived outside Canada longer than five years. That prohibition had been in place since 1993 (though sometimes enforced loosely), but the Liberal government lifted it with Bill C-76 in 2018.

Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservatives fought against allowing longtime expats to vote and cracked down on the practice, alleging people were using loopholes to get around the five-year rule. Embracing the expat vote is somewhat of an about-face, but it’s also a recognition that the prohibition isn’t coming back and the Conservatives are missing an opportunity by not organizing among this population.

The CCA will be modelled after similar organizations for Americans (Republicans Overseas), Britons (Conservatives Abroad) and Australians (Australian Liberals Abroad). Democrats Abroad, which organizes overseas for the U.S. Democratic Party, is another well-known example.

Nigel Wright, a former chief of staff to Harper, will chair the CCA’s executive committee. The group is based in London and the leadership team includes Conservatives spread around the world, according to a news release.

The CCA will operate independently of political parties, but look for supporters of both federal and provincial conservative parties. “We’re starting with a solid base in the U.S., U.K., the Middle East and Asia,” Wright said in a statement.

Baird said he expects the CCA will be primarily focused on voter education, mobilization and assistance with administrative hurdles, but it will also organize virtual events and other forms of networking for overseas Conservatives. Another goal is to help drive Canadian policy discussions on global affairs from a right-wing perspective.

“We’re a group of volunteers that are just getting started, so we’ll see what form it takes,” Baird said. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”

The CCA’s first event will be a discussion on the establishment of a “CANZUK” alliance between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom that would aim to coordinate matters of migration, education, free trade and foreign policy between the countries. The event will be held to coincide with the upcoming Conservative policy convention in March.

Source: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/john-baird-nigel-wright-head-up-new-group-to-organize-right-leaning-canadians-abroad

Amid Hong Kong’s unrest, a pro-Conservative group seeks to rally expat voters

More on CPC outreach in Hong Kong:

Amid political turbulence rocking Hong Kong, a pro-Conservative group is seeking to get out the expat vote in the city where an estimated 300,000 Canadians reside.

The recently-formed Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong held two voter registration events at a bar in the city on Sept. 7 and 8, including on a day when pro-democracy protests shut down nearby streets. The group had also done online outreach in both English and Cantonese and drawn on the support of volunteers.

Organizers of the group, Canadians Brett Stephenson and Barrett Bingley, also enlisted the help of former foreign affairs minister John Baird for their two events as its special guest. The gatherings were advertised on the Conservative Party’s website but the group is unaffiliated.

For months, Hong Kong has seen large demonstrations that have posed a challenge to mainland China’s tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city. On Tuesday, during protests coinciding with China’s National Day, a teenage protester was shot in the chest by police.

Bingley, a senior director at The Economist Group by day, said political unrest in the city, as well as new liberalized voting rules for expats, are drawing their attention toward Canadian politics.

“It has to do with the election coming while there is this massive unrest happening in Hong Kong and people are looking to find a leader and a party who is going to stand up for them,” Bingley said in a phone interview last week.

“This year is not only when Canadians abroad are able to vote. There is a great desire by Hong Kong people to vote in the Canadian election this time.”

Amid that heightened interest, Bingley said their room-packed events were able to help register about 250 people. It was not only Conservatives attending but other Canadians wanting to vote. The Canadian Club in Hong Kong also hosted its own voter sign-up event on Sept. 20, with more than 200 people gathering.

The Supreme Court ruled in January that Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years can vote.

Elections Canada’s figures show 1,588 Canadian voters have registered in Hong Kong as of Sept. 22. Voter registration abroad has now exceeded 31,000.

Canadians in Hong Kong consists of many Cantonese speakers with family in the city, as well as those working for multinational businesses.

Stephenson, a director at the Asia Business Trade Association working on Asia-Pacific trade, said Canadians who attended the events brought up issues including foreign policy, immigration and business concerns.

But the top issue was Hong Kong’s political situation and how federal parties will approach it.

Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong’s logo. Photo courtesy of the group.

Stephenson believes the Tories are more inclined to support Hong Kong and the protection of the ‘one country, two systems’ model envisioned in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. That treaty spelled out, upon return to China’s rule in 1997, civil freedoms and a degree political independence for the city — something protesters say Beijing has moved to erode.

Stephenson said Scheer is the only federal leader to have “spoken up very forcefully” for Hong Kong. He pointed to an August tweet where Scheer said “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.”

On the contrary, Stephenson said he has only seen “timid” responses from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I think a lot of Hong Kongers don’t feel Canada under the Liberals have stepped up and said anything that would help them in this struggle,” he said.

The Hong Kong protests occur as Canada-China relations remain sour over the detention of two Canadians in China widely seen as punishment for the Vancouver arrest of a Huawei executive in December.

In August, Freeland issued a joint statement with her EU counterpart urging restraint amid “a rising number of unacceptable violent incidents.” That statement prompted China’s embassy in Ottawa to issue a response accusing her of “meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”

But so far during the campaign, Hong Kong’s unrest and other foreign policy issues have received scant attention from all party leaders.

Stephenson said parties’ attention toward expat votes could increase if they observe any influence on key swing ridings, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver.

That sentiment was echoed by Baird, now a consultant with much of his work centred in Asia. Bingley said the former Harper minister, who was in town the weekend of their events, had told the audience their votes especially matter if they are being tallied in battleground ridings.

Interest abroad may mean more groups like theirs spring up, but Bingley said their creation is barely novel. Existing already are expat organizations that support the U.S. Republicans, the Australian Liberal Party and U.K. Conservatives.

“What we’re doing is very much within the mainstream of centre-right parties,” he said.

“It’s just that because Canadians couldn’t really vote from abroad up until the Supreme Court changed the rules. There was no infrastructure to do this. So it feels strange to Canadians and yet is actually not strange at all.”

From his observation, there are no Liberal or NDP groups in the city.

The group will have to be mindful of Elections Canada’s third-party rules, which require Canadians spending more than $500 on regulated activities during the campaign to register with it. Agency spokesperson Natasha Gauthier said whether voter registration events are considered a third-party activity depends on the facts and context of each situation.

Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies told iPolitics that the group isn’t affiliated with the party but nevertheless agreed to host a webpage for its event.

Bingley said Canadians in Hong Kong live the impact of the world’s geopolitical challenges that aren’t being discussed enough in this election.

“They need to be addressed by leaders, and one of the biggest is the rise of China.”

Source: Amid Hong Kong’s unrest, a pro-Conservative group seeks to rally expat voters