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


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

C-33 Election Act Amendments: Expatriate Voting, Minister Monsef’s Rationale for No Restrictions

Given my opposition to the proposed indefinite expansion of voting rights to Canadian expatriates who had lived at any time, no matter how short in Canada, I was curious to listen to Minister Monsef explain the government’s rationale for proposing an approach at PROC (Procedure and House Affairs Committee).

Monsef spent more time on the proposed indefinite granting of voting rights to Canadians who have lived once in Canada than the other provisions in the Bill.

This proposed approach undermines the value and meaningfulness of Canadian citizenship and does not appear as a specific commitment  in Minister Monsef’s mandate letter unlike the other provisions of C-33.

However, and arguably, it fits philosophically, within “repeal the elements of the Fair Elections Act which makes it harder for Canadians to vote” (the five year limit on expatriate voting dates from 1993 under the Chrétien government but was only enforced by the Harper government).

Her main arguments, similar to those made by advocates, were that ongoing globalization meant more Canadians, particularly youth, were living and working abroad, sharing Canadian values and bringing Canadian ways of doing things to the world, along with bringing the world back to Canada.

The right to vote was a fundamental right as “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” but noted that the current case before the Supreme Court will still be heard.

The Minister stated that she had received many emails from expatriate Canadians who pay attention to what is happening in Canada and who want to participate in elections.

The government believes it is neither right nor fair to limit the vote to expatriates who have spent five years or less abroad. Granting the right to vote to the “over one million” Canadians abroad was only fair.

There was no real questioning on this provision by Committee members.

Bizarrely, she raised the issue about extending voting rights to the children of Canadians who had never lived in Canada, as an area that should be discussed in Committee.

It is hard to tell whether the floating of voting rights for Canadian citizens who have never lived in Canada is serious or is a trial balloon. In either case, it should be shot down, as it makes a complete mockery of our democratic system and citizenship to have such an extreme disconnect between residency and voting.

Nor should this trial balloon detract from the substantive issues regarding granting indefinite voting rights without any requirements, either time limits, declarations, or visits to Canada.

In terms of those plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, either the Australian or New Zealand approach (declarations or visits) would address their concerns given their personal and active connection to Canada. But opening this to all, many if not most to not have this ongoing connection, is a mistake.

Sigh …


What happened to Canada’s support of democratic rights in Hong Kong? [expatriate voting aspect] – David Mulroney

Good column by former colleague and former Ambassador to China David Mulroney on Hong Kong and support for democratic rights.

And appropriate put-down of the Government’s Bill C-33, and its provision to grant indefinite voting rights without any corresponding commitment and responsibility:

Mr. Patten was particularly scathing in his commentary about independence advocates, whose campaign, he said, “dilutes support for democracy.” This was interpreted as criticism of two lawmakers, supporters of independence, who have been forced to vacate their seats. The duo had refused to take the official oath of office, substituting wording that could be considered offensive to China. Their actions sparked legal intervention by China’s government even before Hong Kong’s own courts could consider the issue.

It’s hard to argue with Mr. Patten’s assessment. Pushing for Hong Kong’s independence is wildly unrealistic and, given China’s sensitivity and volatility, irresponsible. But it is also an understandable expression of local frustrations given how little effort has been devoted to exploring more moderate options for democratic governance. If Hong Kong’s leaders, and friends such as Britain and Canada, had remained true to the vision of one country, two systems, the city’s residents would today have at least some say in charting their future. Instead, they are condemned to a form of governance in which they are asked to take up the responsibilities of citizenship without the corresponding rights.

The reverse is true for that fortunate minority among Hong Kong’s seven million residents who also happen to be Canadian citizens. The recently-introduced Bill C-33, which amends the Canada Elections Act, would offer the right to vote to all Canadians residing overseas, as long as they have lived in Canada at some point. It eliminates a previous provision that restricted voting rights to expatriates who had been absent for fewer than five years. The bill is big news in Hong Kong, where a Canadian community of roughly 300,000 includes emigrants to Canada who have since returned, and Canadian-born expats lured by Hong Kong’s low-tax, business-friendly environment.

Passage of the bill will encourage much chest-thumping about Canada’s support for democracy, but it is hard not to see in this something slightly different. Ottawa is offering up one of the most important rights of citizenship, the right to vote in elections back home, without reference to any corresponding responsibilities. This is politically astute, but not particularly courageous. Real support for democracy requires more ambition and more honesty.

Britain, Canada and other democracies have not lived up to their 1997 commitments, failing to follow up with the training programs, institutional exchanges and official encouragement that could have assisted the gradual emergence of healthy democratic institutions in Hong Kong. And they neglected to hold China accountable for its own commitments.

Source: What happened to Canada’s support of democratic rights in Hong Kong? – The Globe and Mail


Bill C-33: Electoral Reforms – Expatriate voting provision

While the Liberal government did commit to relax the restrictions on expatriate voting, this was, unless I missed it, phrased in general terms, leaving options open in terms of how they met their commitment.

Bill C-33 essentially removes any and all restrictions, save for the person having lived in Canada at one time, providing indefinite voting rights.

The extreme example would be someone born in Canada who left as a baby and has not been back since, but could still vote on issues that affect Canadians residing in Canada.

Hard to understand why the government did not choose other models that allow expatriate voting with reasonable restrictions:

  • Australia: six-year limit, renewable with a declaration;
  • New Zealand, three-year limit with the clock restarting upon a visit to New Zealand;
  • UK, 15-year limit; or,
  • US, no limitation but requires filing of tax returns.

The government did, however, cite France as an example where no limits apply.

Hard to justify as I have argued earlier (and will continue to do so) – What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options.

This provision deserves a rough ride in the House and Senate.

Language of the Bill:

(f) remove two limitations on voting by non-resident electors: the requirement that they have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years, and the requirement that they intend to return to Canada to resume residence in the future; and …

The most detailed reporting I have seen to date is from Le Devoir:

Le gouvernement Trudeau souhaite en outre permettre à tout expatrié citoyen canadien de conserver son droit de vote à vie. Depuis 1993, un Canadien vivant à l’étranger perdait le droit de vote après cinq ans d’absence. Et il devait déclarer son intention de revenir au pays. Avant cette date, les Canadiens perdaient carrément leur droit lorsqu’ils quittaient le Canada.

Mais les libéraux proposent qu’à l’avenir, tout citoyen canadien né ou ayant vécu au Canada puisse continuer de voter depuis l’étranger. La limite de cinq ans était « relativement arbitraire », selon la ministre Monsef. Ottawa estime qu’un million de personnes pourraient désormais voter en en faisant la demande auprès du fédéral.

Le gouvernement britannique prévoit de déposer un projet de loi pour prolonger à vie le droit de vote de ses expatriés. Les Britanniques perdent présentement ce droit après 15 ans d’absence. Les Américains conservent leur droit de vote à vie. La France permet à ses citoyens de voter, qu’ils aient habité ou non l’Hexagone.

Élections Canada procédera en revanche à un nettoyage de sa liste d’électeurs, qui comptait à peu près 40 000 non-citoyens en date du dernier dénombrement en 1997.

Ottawa annule la réforme conservatrice

Source: Bill C-33: 7 Reforms to Increase Voter Participation and Electoral Integrity – Canada News Centre


Liberals To Expand Voting Rights For Canadian Expats


While we have to see whether the Government tables legislation prior to the Supreme Court ruling or after (preferable), and what exactly the legislation includes, my general critique still applies, What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options.

In my opinion, should the government proceed, some variant of the Australian or New Zealand approach that requires some action by expatriates to extend their right (e.g., declaration or periodic visit) would be preferred, rather than indefinitely extending voting rights as some advocates have argued:

The Liberal government is preparing to expand the voting rights of non-resident Canadians, The Huffington Post Canada has learned.

Canadians who have lived abroad for more than five years are essentially banned from casting a ballot right now. They cannot receive a special mail-in ballot, and although they can technically come to Canada vote in person, they have a near impossible task of proving residency here.

Two sources told HuffPost that Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef is looking at tabling legislation that would give expatriate Canadians the right to vote by special ballot no matter how long they have been away.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case in February involving two Canadians who live in the United States and want to vote. Jamie Duong and Gillian Frank first challenged the law in an Ontario court and won in 2014, placing an estimated 1.4 million Canadians back on the voter rolls, but the Conservative government successfully appealed the ruling before last year’s election.

maryam monsef
Maryam Monsef Minister of Democratic Institutions responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 2, 2016. 

In a statement last month, Monsef announced that the federal government had filed a memorandum of argument defending the current restrictions on non-resident Canadian citizens — a move that angered many expats who felt the Liberals were betraying their campaign commitment.

During the 2015 election, the party told the Canadian Expat Association: “We believe that all Canadians should have a right to vote, no matter where they live, and we are committed to ensuring this is the case.”

In her October statement, Monsef signalled that legislation would be introduced before the end of the year that would “meet the needs of highly mobile Canadian citizens who live in today’s increasingly interconnected world” but she did not elaborate.

Source: Liberals To Expand Voting Rights For Canadian Expats


Liberal appeal for expat donations offends those still barred from voting

Not the brightest move given the inevitable backlash from some. For my analysis of expatriate voting, see my earlier What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options:

An appeal by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Canadians living abroad for donations to the Liberal party has struck a sour note with disenfranchised long-term expats.

The cash solicitation on Trudeau’s Facebook page calls on Canadians living abroad to be part of “Canada’s most open and progressive movement,” and says under a picture of the prime minister that “your donations help fuel our party.”

Various comments reflect the displeasure of those unable to vote in federal elections because of a law — only enforced by the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper — that strips voting rights from those who have lived outside Canada for more than five years.

“Asking for my donation after removing my right to vote is just offensive,” wrote Ian Doig, who lives in Houston.

Another commenter, Angus McGillicuddy, offered a similar sentiment.

“Not going to waste my money until our constitutionally guaranteed right to vote is restored,” McGillicuddy said.

The disenfranchising of an estimated 1.4 million long-term expats has been a running legal battle since Canadians abroad found they could not vote in the 2011 election. While the rules were first enacted in 1993, they had not been enforced until then.

Two Canadians living in the U.S. went to court to argue the relevant parts of the Canada Elections Act were unconstitutional.

In May 2014, an Ontario Superior Court justice ruled in their favour. However, the Harper government appealed on the grounds that it would be unfair to resident Canadians to allow those abroad to elect lawmakers. Ontario’s top court sided with the government. The Supreme Court of Canada is slated to hear the expats’ appeal of that decision in February.

“Canadians living abroad should be able to vote with more than their pocketbooks,” Gillian Frank, one of those who launched the constitutional challenge, told The Canadian Press.

The voting issue became a flashpoint for many expat Canadians during last year’s election that propelled Trudeau to office. He has since indicated a willingness to review the ban, and a spokesman has said the government believes “more Canadians should have the right to vote, not the opposite.”

However, nothing has changed and the Supreme Court case remains pending.

“You have some gall asking for expats’ money when you’ve done nothing to restore our vote, despite promises during the election by your members that you would rectify the situation,” Kate Tsoukalas wrote in a post.

Source: Liberal appeal for expat donations offends those still barred from voting – The Globe and Mail


What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options

My latest on expatriate voting by Canadians in IRPP’s Policy Options:

With the decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the challenge to the five-year restriction on expatriates’ voting rights, it is timely to review the arguments in favour and against extending the time. In addition, we need a better idea of the number of Canadian expatriates abroad and the nature of their ongoing connection to Canada.

Starting with the number of Canadian expatriates, recent advocates have relied on the estimate from the Asia Pacific Foundation (APP) Canadians Abroad: Canada’s Global Assets of 2.8 million expatriates. This figure does not control for age or citizenship. When we do so (using the 2006 Census), the figure is just under 2 million (of whom 77 percent are aged 18 or over, and 78.1 percent of whom were immigrants had become Canadian citizens).

There is also a dearth of data on expatriates’ degree of connection to Canada, and what exists is based on anecdote rather than government data. Consular data for 2007 to 2015 show that approximately 20,000 expatriates annually accessed services for people who had been abroad for five years or more. The number of passports issued abroad was about 184,000 in 2015, and there were approximately 725,000 Canadian passport holders living abroad.

Looking at nonresident Canadians’ tax filing data, 136,310 returns were filed, which was 7 percent of the number of expatriates in 2013, the most recent year that complete data is available. While this figure may understate the proportion of nonresident Canadians filing taxes, as some may use Canadian addresses, it suggests that the vast majority of expatriates do not pay Canadian income tax. I have not seen any reliable data on nonresidents’ property taxes.

Data on voting among those who have been abroad less than five years indicates the number of expatriates who register and vote is very low. (This also applies to Canada as a whole: in 2015, out of a total of 26 million eligible voters 17.6 million voted.) Figure 1 shows the number of nonresident electors, valid votes and percentage of voter turnout for the last six elections. This data suggests that relatively few of those who have lived abroad for five years or less are politically engaged (of course, some may return to Canada to vote, but we do not have data on this).

Canadian Expatriates Data Gaps.017

Figure 1

The data we have, imperfect as it is, suggests that of the 2 million Canadian citizens living abroad aged 18 or over, the number who have ongoing active connections with Canada is likely quite low. Even advocates of expatriate voting rights, after citing the APF number of 2.8 million expatriates abroad, go on to quote the figure of “over one million” who have active connections, but they do not explain the basis for that number.

Arguments in favour of expanding the expatriates’ voting rights are based on the Charter’s protection of voting rights without qualification. The main substantive arguments, by the plaintiffs, by academics such as Semra Sevi, Peter Russell, Alison Loat and John McArther), and by former Global Affairs director general Gar Pardy, can be resumed as follows:

  • 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;
  • Patriotism and civic engagement are not tied to location;
  • The internet and online communities make it easier for Canadians to remain in touch with Canada and Canadian issues;
  • As Judge Laskin said in his dissenting statement in the July 2015 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling, Canadians living abroad pay “Canadian income tax on their Canadian income, and property tax on any real property they may own in Canada,” and are subject to Canadian laws and foreign policy decisions;
  • As Russell and Sevi note, the expatriate vote will not “completely change the tide of an election.
  • The five-years-or-less limitation is more restrictive than those of other Western countries; for example:
    • United States: no limitation, but expatriates are required to file US tax return;
    • United Kingdom: the limitation is fifteen years;
    • Australia: the limitation is six years, and expatriates must file an annual declaration of their intent to return at some point;
    • New Zealand: the limitation is three years, and the clock restarts when citizens visit New Zealand.
  • The Canadian five-year limitation ignores the increasing globalization and population mobility, and it sends the wrong signal to young Canadians;
  • As Jean-Pierre Kingsley, former chief electoral officer, said when he advocated eliminating the five-year limit: “The right to vote is a fundamental right of citizenship that is protected by the Charter and does not depend on place of residence.” A parliamentary committee reviewed his report in 2006 and endorsed his position.

The principle arguments against are the following:

  • The “social contract” argument, used by the Ontario Court of Appeal to uphold the policy, states that voting “would allow them [expatriates] 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. This would erode the social contract and undermine the legitimacy of the laws.” Examples of policies and programs that are considered part of the social contract include economic and social policies and programs, at the federal level; health care and education, at the provincial level; and policing and transit at the municipal level;
  • While some expatriates may pay Canadian taxes and may own property in Canada, the data suggests over 90 percent do not, as they pay tax where they work and live;
  • Interest in voting among expatriates appears to be low;
  • Apart from consular and passport services, most Canadian government economic and social programs are tied to residency;
  • In general, the longer the time spent abroad, the looser the bond with Canada, as family, work and local connections become more meaningful. Over time, day-to-day living — work, education, raising a family, consuming media — predominate important for expatriates, whether in the United States, Hong Kong or the Mid-East;

The Supreme Court will have to rule whether the right to vote is qualified by residence and the degree to which the social contract argument justifies certain limits.

Some of the advocates of expatriate voting, for example, Gar Pardy, argue for no limits, which Loat and McArthur also imply. Sevi and Russell imply limits, but ones that are more in line with those of other countries, but they do not indicate their preference.

To cite an extreme example of the “no limit” argument, Canadian expatriates born abroad (citizenship by descent) who have never lived in Canada would be entitled to vote, even if they had never set foot in Canada. A less extreme example is that of people born in Canada who move abroad as children and remain outside Canada. In both cases, it is hard to justify non-residents having voting rights when they have spent no time or extremely limited time living in Canada.

The “comparability” with other nations argument is more reasonable and convincing, and opens the discussion as to which option — taxation, as in the United States, extending the limitation to 15 years, as in the United Kingdom, or renewable voting rights, as in New Zealand — makes the most sense from a policy and implementation perspective. I suspect most Canadian expatriates would not welcome linking voting to filing tax returns. It would go against long-standing Canadian tax policy, and judging by US expatriates’ opposition to the over-reach of Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, this option is likely a nonstarter.

If the Supreme Court rules against the five-year limit, my preference, would be some variant on the Australian and New Zealand approach, i.e., allowing voting rights to be renewed but requiring some action by expatriate voters to extend their right, perhaps through a written declaration or periodic visit to Canada. This does not seem to be an unreasonable obligation, and it allows for mobility but requires a concrete and a relatively easy to administer test of the expatriates’ connection to Canada.

Source: What should expatriates’ voting rights be? – Policy Options


Non-citizen voting in local elections is long overdue: Cole

Desmond Cole on municipal voting for non-citizens. While I understand this position, have never been convinced by the arguments in favour of municipal voting, as most of these also could be applied to provincial and federal voting (e.g., healthcare and education provincially, EI and employment programs federally).

Given that Canadian citizenship is relatively accessible (apart from the fees!) in contrast to many European countries, simpler and more effective from a political integration perspective to encourage and facilitate citizenship, with the full range of voting rights:

Immigrants are the backbone of Ontario’s economy and the source of much of its growth. Our government deems newcomers fit to live, work, invest and raise families here, but somehow unfit to make electoral decisions about the laws and regulations that govern their lives. Sheesh.

While municipalities all over the world allow at least some non-citizen residents to vote in local elections, Ontario’s politicians have long seemed afraid to follow suit.

Interestingly, our provincial political parties allow non-citizens to buy party memberships and to vote in partisan leadership contests. Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown allegedly signed up more than 40,000 new party members during his recent leadership bid, many of them from so-called “cultural communities” (i.e. black and brown first- and second-generation immigrants). His campaign didn’t ask if all these folks were Canadian citizens — it wasn’t deemed a relevant factor to their ability to partake in that democratic process.

Canadians seem increasingly supportive of allowing some non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. City councils in Toronto and North Bay have formally asked the province to enfranchise non-citizens who have obtained permanent residency; officials in Halifax, and in five municipalities in New Brunswick, have made the same request of their respective provincial governments.

This was what I hoped for all those years ago with I Vote Toronto and in retrospect I am only sorry I didn’t push the threshold even further than permanent residency.

Before 1988 in Ontario, you didn’t have to be a citizen to vote. You had to reside or hold property in the municipality where you planned to vote; Nova Scotia allowed non-citizen British subjects to vote in local elections until 2007.

The need to vote and the benefits of being able to do so — for permanent residents, foreign workers, students and undocumented people — are just as critical for new immigrants as they are for citizens. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals should acknowledge this and extend the municipal franchise to all non-citizen residents.

Source: Non-citizen voting in local elections is long overdue: Cole | Toronto Star


Why is Ottawa still defending disenfranchisement of expats? – Sevi and Frank

The usual weak arguments by Semra Sevi and Gillian Frank.

Starting with the evidence-base on the number of expatriates. The Asia Pacific Foundation number of 2.9 million is composed of 58 percent Canadian-born and 42 percent foreign-born. For the latter (1.2 million), it does not distinguish between those who became Canadian citizens (who can vote) and those who did not, as the purpose of their study was not related to voting rights. Nor does the APF study provide an overall age profile to determine how many are of voting age.

Sevi and Frank admit as much by then later on just referring to ‘over a million’ rather than the higher figure (Canadian-born expats in the US total about 900,000 according to the OECD, total OECD figures are 1.2 million, which exclude major expatriate centres such as China, Hong Kong and the Gulf countries, but these lower figures do not include naturalized Canadians).

Moreover, none of these numbers do not measure the degree of the connection to Canada. Sevi and Frank assert that ‘many’ are connected. How many of the ‘many’ pay Canadian taxes and own property? How many have substantial business ties to Canada? Social ties? I have not seen any such data but readers may correct me.

We do have a sense of how many seek consular services (about 20,000 per year for those who have been abroad for five years or more) and the number of passports issued abroad (about 184,000 in 2015, with about 725,000 passport holders living abroad). These numbers suggest a smaller yet nevertheless significant number of ‘connected’ expatriates.

We also have voting data, for those with under 5 years abroad, that show very small numbers, as in the table below, suggesting that relatively few of those who have lived abroad for this period are politically engaged (of course, some may return to Canada to vote, but again, data is lacking).

Canadian Expatriates Data Gaps.017.png

But beyond the weak evidence base, and the challenges of determining – and implementing – a ‘connection’ test, living outside of Canada for extended periods of time invariably weakens the connection to the day-to-day reality of living in Canada, whether from the perspective of government services such as healthcare, education, transit and the like, or the related political debates and discussions.

Interestingly, neither Sevi nor Frank propose a new number if five is considered too short. 10 years, 15 years, indefinitely? Should those born abroad to Canadian parents be allowed to vote even if they have never lived in Canada?

In the hands of the Supreme Court now, for better or worse.

Despite claims of expat apathy towards Canada, many Canadians living abroad continue to maintain close ties with the country, visit family and friends regularly, pay taxes, own property, follow the news, seek consular services, and desire to continue voting in spite of the bureaucratic hurdles that prevent them from doing so. Many of these Canadians do not hold dual citizenship and cannot vote elsewhere.

The current lawsuit before the Supreme Court reflects the strong ties Canadians abroad maintain with their country, as well as their belief that the democratic process should be modernized to reflect a globalized world with a large Canadian diaspora.

In 2012, Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong, two Canadians living in the United States, filed a lawsuit to restore the right of Canadians abroad to vote. In 2014, Ontario’s Superior Court struck down the law and re-enfranchised expats. The Conservative government responded by appealing this decision and in July 2015, the Ontario Court of Appeal, in a split decision, accepted the attorney-general’s argument.

It’s 2016 and our new Prime Minister recently visited the United States where he rubbed elbows with expat celebrities and met with Canadian business leaders in Washington and New York, lauding their accomplishments while encouraging them to invest in our economy. Prime Minister Trudeau sent a message that he values citizens who reside outside of the country. As much was clear during the 2015 elections when Anna Gainey, the president of the Liberal Party, wrote to the Canadian Expat Association: “We believe that all Canadians should have a right to vote, no matter where they live, and we are committed to ensuring that this is the case.”

In early 2017, the Court will hear arguments about the rights of Canadians abroad to vote. Mr. Trudeau has an unprecedented opportunity to welcome many of these citizens back into our democratic process. One way he could do this is by not defending the litigation before the Supreme Court. Will the Liberals live up to their much-anticipated campaign promise to restore democracy to citizens living abroad? The voting rights of over a million Canadians hang in the balance.

Source: Why is Ottawa still defending disenfranchisement of expats? – The Globe and Mail