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Confusing vote rules for expats ‘ridiculous;’ Elections Canada denies blame

Elections Canada conceded the legislation can be confusing. It says it’s up to government to fix the problem.


 

A voter enters a polling station for the Federal Election in Toronto (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

TORONTO — A long-term Canadian expat who cast a ballot last month for the Oct. 19 election should not have done so, Elections Canada said Thursday.

Essentially, officials say, the local returning officer allowed Ashley O’Kurley to vote in his old Alberta riding on the basis he was a Canadian resident who was going to be away during the election period.

O’Kurley, who lives in Miami but was visiting Canada when the election was called, tells a different story — one Elections Canada disputes.

“I showed up at the local returning office … truthfully shared my circumstances and my desire to vote,” O’Kurley said.

“After checking with Ottawa, the Elections Canada officials handed me a special ballot that I filled out and placed in the ballot box.”

Someone in Ottawa is now trying to duck responsibility for having given the local official bad advice, O’Kurley said.

Recent enforcement under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government of a long-standing law — upheld by the courts at this point — has barred roughly 1.4 million Canadian citizens who have lived outside Canada for more than five years from voting abroad via a special mailed-in ballot.

A Canadian Press article on the anger some of them feel at being disenfranchised included an account of O’Kurley’s voting, prompting another expat Canadian to try to vote in his old riding in Vancouver.

However, a frustrated Stephen Murphy, who lives in Singapore, was denied a ballot. Officials did tell him he could vote — but only in person at the advance poll next month or on voting day itself.

“I don’t take kindly to being bullied, telling me what I can and cannot do,” Murphy said.

“Throughout our history, there have been wars fought over lack of representation and taxation. This is ridiculous. I’m just flabbergasted over the whole thing. All these years I thought I was the one living in a Third World country.”

The finger pointing highlights the confusing rules in play, which include:

— Long-term expats, with some exceptions such as diplomats, cannot vote from abroad;

— Long-term expats can vote in person at an advance poll or on election day in the riding they lived in before leaving Canada;

— Long-term expats cannot vote under rules allowing resident Canadians, who will be away during the voting period, to vote at their local returning office;

— Long-term expats can run in any riding in the country, if they meet other basic requirements;

— Long-term expats who become candidates cannot vote for themselves, unless running in the riding in which they last lived before leaving Canada.

The current situation is patently absurd, O’Kurley said.

“All this ridiculous hair-splitting over time and place would be so unnecessary if the only litmus test for voting was citizenship,” O’Kurley said. “Policies that suppress Canadians’ ability to participate in their democracy are not worthy of Canadian democratic leadership in the world.”

O’Kurley noted that Elections Canada facilitates voting for long-term expats who work for the Canadian government, but not if they work for a private Canadian company.

Elections Canada conceded the legislation can be confusing but said it only enforces rules made by government _ and it’s up to government to fix any problems.

 


 

Confusing vote rules for expats ‘ridiculous;’ Elections Canada denies blame

  1. This article would have been a lot more helpful if it had addressed whether these expats in question severed their ties with Canada while living abroad to avoid paying Canadian income tax. In such a situation, I would have to side with the longstanding rules that are in place. On the other-hand, if these expats have not severed their ties and are still paying income tax to Canada, then I would tend to agree that they should be eligible to vote.

    • Yep. If a person has severed his/her tax residency and thus is no longer paying taxes to Canada, it’s very difficult to feel sympathetic towards them.

      If one accepts the notion that the point of voting is to have a say on the election of the people who are to govern the county and thus govern the individual, then how does one justify the vote for someone who is not being governed by Canada in any meaningful way as they have severed their ties and tax residency with Canada?

      Above Stephen Murphy says “Throughout our history, there have been wars fought over lack of representation and taxation.” My guess, and it’s only a guess, is that Mr Murphy has severed his tax residency with Canada, and thus is only paying the top marginal tax rate of 20% in Singapore (which is *much* less than in even the least taxed province). So, I’m all for Mr Murphy getting representation (the vote), as long as he’s willing to assume taxation by Canada (subject to foreign tax credit mitigation).

      It would be interesting for the author to follow up with the tax residency status of Mr Murphy and others who are feeling hard done by.

    • You don’t vote on the basis of your taxes.

      • On what basis then? Keep in mind that we are talking about people that have not lived in Canada for over five years and potentially have not paid any Canadian income tax over that time. They have no skin in the game and the outcome of the election has no barring on them. If your position is that they should be eligible to vote simply because they are Canadian citizens, then I will have to disagree with you, and it would appear that a longstanding law, adopted by both Liberal and Conservative governments, disagrees with you as well.

        • Actually we’re talking about ex-pats…..Canadian CITIZENS who live and work overseas. That does not deprive them of their citizenship. They can come home at any time. 10 years,,,,20 years…

          If they’re not living here they don’t use the services we have either….health, education etc

          Ex-pats have always voted before

          • Ark2 is asking why citizenship alone should be a sufficient condition for being able to vote.

            I’ll go one step further and come up with a scenario.

            Consider X. X was born outside of Canada. X has never set foot in Canada. X does not speak or read English or French. X *might* be able to find Canada on a world map. X is a Canadian citizen because one of his parents was a Canadian citizen when he was born. X does not now, and never had, any direct ties to Canada. X’s only indirect tie is a Canadian parent (who, unfortunately, died giving birth to X).

            Please justify why X should be able to vote in Canadian elections, given that he has nothing whatsoever to do with Canada, and never did.

          • So, because would be few Xs in the world, it doesn’t matter that there’s no justification for them to be able to vote based on citizenship alone because the numbers are small enough that they would have no meaningful impact – does that sum up your (E1’s) position?

          • Jim R

            You guys sit up nights thinking up these fool scenarios??

            There would be how many ‘X’s in the world

            One? two? 5?…..100?

            That’s okay….I think Canada can handle that many orphaned, Swahili-speaking, lost Canadians who suddenly want’s to vote here. LOL

          • Jim R….a Canadian is a Canadian. Period.

            The homeless guy on the sidewalk can vote.

            The prison lifer can vote.

            Women who’ve never worked outside the home can vote.

            Taxes have nothing to do with it

        • [As always, comments are now screwed up and not in order]
          [And my attempt at commenting was eaten by the comment monster, so here’s attempt 2]

          The homeless guy on the sidewalk, the prison lifer, the woman who never worked outside of the home – they all have ongoing ties to Canada. X does not

          X does not now, and never did, have ties to Canada. X is not now, and never has been, governed by Canada. So, I don’t see why X should have a say in how Canada is governed solely due to citizenship.

          As well, the issue is not so much about taxation as it is about ties, and how any expat who is not subject to Canadian taxation has taken the active steps needed to sever ties with Canada to an extent acceptable to the CRA. So, what you have is someone who on one hand actively said “I’m severing ties with you, Canada”, but on the other hand wants to have a say in the governance of Canada. Well, it’s just seems a bit rich to formally sever ties and then still expect a say.

          I’ve said all I can on this and any additional comment would just be me repeating myself.

          • I’m betting the first word out of a Con babies mouth isn’t ‘mama’ but ‘taxes’

            ‘Taxes’ are the only thing you’re ever concerned about….but it doesn’t make you a Canadian…..sorry.

  2. The reason all Canadians should be able to vote is that they are accountable under Canadian Law wherever they are according to Canadian legislation. Its really that simple if you think you can rule us, then we should be able to say who rules.

    These jerks really piss me off. Its against international law and the constitution. You force citizenship on people then refuse them the right to a free and democratic society. You jerks should be in jail for election fraud.

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