In a 2-1 ruling, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a decision that would allow 1.4 million Canadians who have been studying, working and living abroad the right to vote. The two justices that voted to upheld federal voting restrictions base their entire ruling on a new argument put forward by the federal government about the social contract. They argue that the social contract is a citizen’s right to elect a Member of Parliament to represent them and their obligation to obey the laws that are enacted. Permitting non-resident Canadians the right to vote, “would allow them 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,” argued Chief Justice George Strathy for the majority, joined by Justice David Brown.
Both justices rely heavily on a new argument of a highly theoretical nature as valid grounds for taking away the fundamental right of citizens to vote. It is interesting to note that both justices were appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2013 and 2014 respectively by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.
“I do not agree that the number of laws a Canadian citizen is subjected to can be tied to the preservation of the social contract,” argued dissenting judge, John Laskin, who was appointed by prime minister Jean Chretien’s government in 1994. “Non-residents have the same obligation to obey the laws that affect them as do residents. Non-residents pay Canadian income tax on their Canadian income, and property tax on any real property they may own in Canada.”
Full Article: Reframing the debate over expat voting – Macleans.ca.