I am eligible and have registered to vote in the 2019 federal election. But between 2011 and now, I was barred from voting because I had committed a grave crime: I lived abroad for more than five years.
Seriously, that’s how I lost my vote. The Canada Elections Act of 1993 said I wasn’t allowed to vote, but the law was never enforced until Stephen Harper came along. It was only in 2019 that Canadians living overseas regained out votes, both by legislation and a Supreme Court ruling that disenfranchisement was unjustified. Prior to 1993, no Canadian living abroad could vote, regardless of how long.
Supreme Court of Canada guarantees voting rights for expats
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that expats have the right to vote in federal elections no matter how long they have lived outside the country.
In a 5-2 decision, a majority of justices said the infringement to charter rights is not justified.
Writing for the majority, chief justice Richard Wagner said voting is a “fundamental political right, and the right to vote is a core tenet of our democracy.”
“Any limit on the right to vote must be carefully scrutinized and cannot be tolerated without a compelling justification,” the judgment reads.
The Liberal government already passed legislation last month that guaranteed voting rights to all Canadians residing outside the country, but Friday’s ruling could have the effect of preventing future governments from enacting legislation to limit voting rights for citizens living abroad.
If any other Canadians living abroad are reading this, there is still time to register electronically before October 15. Fill in the Elections Canada form and include digital photos of your passport’s pages 2 and 3. You can also print a PDF and submit it by mail, but time is limited.
Over 2.8 million Canadians live overseas. Even if only 10% are gone for five years, that’s 280,000 people, roughly 800-1000 people per electoral riding. It’s enough to overturn dozens of close elections, and if the numbers are even greater….
Estimated 2.8 million Canadians live abroad
An estimated 2.8 million Canadian citizens live abroad, with naturalized Canadians leaving the country at a rate three times higher than those born here, according to a report released Thursday.
Released by the Canadians Abroad Project of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, the report said the emigration rate for the naturalized portion of the Canadian population from 1996 to 2006 was 4.5 per cent.
For the Canadian-born population, the exit rate was estimated at 1.33 per cent, which translates into 500,000 Canadian-born leavers over the 10-year period.
People living abroad for long periods are likely to be more worldly, less xenophobic, and probably more socially progressive. Small wonder Harper didn’t want us to vote.
I have one annoyance about voting in this election: I am required to vote in the riding where I last lived, which I don’t mind. But in the 2015 election, the Conservative candidate beat the Liberal candidate by 2700 votes, and the NDP candidate finished 6800 behind. I have to decide whether to hold my nose and vote Liberal or risk wasting it on the NDP. There are no local polls showing how voters are leaning, only lists of the current candidates. (In a provincial election, the area is just as rightwing leaning. The provincial Liberal party is liberal in name only.)
From The Vancouver Sun:
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the law that set a five-year time limit on voting from abroad.
September 18, 2019
For Allison Gold, an expat living in England for seven years, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in January to allow Canadians who have lived abroad for longer than five years to vote in federal elections came as a relief.
“I think it’s a duty to society to vote,” she wrote via a direct message, and “while we’ve built a life here (in the United Kingdom), I will always have ties to Canada.
Gold, who works for an arts charity in London, still considers Canada home. It is where her closest friends and family live, so she will cast a ballot via mail in the Barrie-Springwater-Oro Medonte riding in Ontario.
Gold isn’t alone in her excitement. As of Sept. 13, 19,784 Canadians living in other countries had registered with Elections Canada to receive mail-in ballots, mostly from the United States and United Kingdom, but also from New Zealand, Japan and Germany.
That compares with 15,603 who registered on the international register of electors in 2015, according to elections Canada, and 10,733 who voted from abroad in 2011.
Chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault said on Tuesday it was estimated the international register would hit 30,000 for this election, “so at this point, it seems that the numbers are what we though they would be.”
Global Affairs Canada does not track the number, according to a spokesperson, but the 2006 Census counted 2.8 million Canadians living abroad. Some 300,000 of those were estimated to be living in Hong Kong, according to a report from the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
From Profession Andrew Heard, Political Science Department of Simon Fraser University:
A significant jump in overall voter turnout was seen in [the 2015 federal election], at 68.3% compared to 61.1 in 2008. Several factors accounted for the increase, including general voter interest, but the most important change was the greater participation of younger voters. Elections Canada calculates that 57.1% of eligible Canadians aged between 18 & 24 voted in 2015, compared to just 38.8% in 2011. As well, the voter turnout for those aged between 25 & 34 grew by 12.3% between the two elections.
Date of Election or Referendum: 19 Oct 2015
Previous Census or Population Estimate: 35,985,751
Number of Registered Voters: 25,939,742
Electors as % of Population: 72.1
Total Votes: 17,711,983
Voter Turnout as % Registered Voters: 68.3
Younger people are more politically involved than ever motivated by a variety of issues. I expect voter turnout to be over 70% in this election.
Although their numbers are small (only 0.1% of the population), Canadians in prison still have the legal right to vote, and they turn out in large numbers. The 50% rate in 2015 is lower than the general population (68%), but it’s still significant. And it may be larger this time.
September 21, 2019
All Canadians incarcerated in provincial, territorial or federal institutions have the right to vote in the Oct. 21 election. And they are a potentially large voting block.
In 2017-2018, there were 38,786 adults in federal or provincial/territorial custody, according to Statistics Canada.
Voter turnout among incarcerated Canadians in the 2015 federal election was 50.5 per cent, compared with an overall turnout of 68 per cent for the general population.