TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
There’s been a rather lively brouhaha lately bubbling up near the surface as Canadians prepare to vote in the upcoming federal election. The issue is the very right to vote itself, and whether or not Canadians who are living abroad, like myself, should have the right to vote in a federal or provincial election after they been out of the country for a certain period of time.
Let me not beat around the bush. I have a very strong opinion on the subject. I do not think we should have the right to vote if we have lived outside of Canada for longer than five years. And I think this is particularly true of people like myself, or well-known Canadians like William Shatner or Donald Sutherland, who have decided to live most of their lives in the United States even if they never become American citizens.
It’s not from lack of a connection to Canadian politics that I feel this way. My family has long been involved in politics. My dad was a press secretary to Prime Minister Lester Pearson, my uncle was a provincial premier and a federal cabinet minister, and my cousin is currently a member of Parliament and a former cabinet minister. At one time I was quite involved in politics myself on the provincial level. Fortunately, I came to my senses.
The reason that I believe that you should lose your right to vote, once you’ve been out of the country the prescribed number of years, is that I see voting after this time frame as a fraudulent act.
Oh, I’m a big believer in voting. The reason I decided to get my American citizenship (I have dual citizenship at the moment) is that one night I was watching a news report and a woman who had just taken her U.S. citizenship oath – she was a Canadian in fact – was asked why she decided to become an American citizen. “Because I can’t live somewhere not vote,” she answered firmly.
Damn right, I thought to myself. And next day I began the process of becoming an American citizen so I could vote.
Now I can tell you the ins and outs of the American political scene with my eyes closed. As a political junkie and policy wonk I am very aware of issues like health care, the nuclear treaty with Iran, American involvement in the Middle East, the fact that black lives matter, and why it was great that the Confederate flag has finally come down. Asked me about an American political issue and I can probably talk your ear off for an hour or more.
But I honestly can’t tell you more than one or two things about what’s happening in Canada.
I know that after the incident with the gunman on Parliament Hill, Stephen Harper’s government brought in a rather draconian law that I believe impinged on many Canadians’ charter rights. I understand there’s something about what we used to call a baby bonus. That’s about it. I know the name of exactly one Canadian premiers because my cousin’s wife, who is also good friend of mine, happens to be a cabinet minister in his government.
I know very little about the leaders of the main parties in Canada except that I don’t like Stephen Harper just on principle. I know the former leader of the NDP died only a few months after achieving the NDP’s greatest federal editorial success. I don’t know much about the new NDP guy except we share the same first name. And Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau is Pierre Trudeau’s son.
You see I believe voting is one of the most important things that a citizen in any country can do. But one of the things that bothers me the most is when people vote without any idea of any of the issues, any sense of the candidates, any real notion of what their vote will ultimately achieve.
And that’s how I feel about voting in a Canadian election after I’ve been gone for so long. It’s fraudulent. It would be like going to some other country, of which I have little or no knowledge, and being able to vote in their election.
I don’t just feel this way about voting in Canada. I think once you been gone for longer than five years (or even if you want to make it 10 years) from any country, you should not be allowed to vote in the country’s elections until you return to live in that country.
I know there are lots of people who will disagree with me. Maybe even the Supreme Court of Canada will disagree with me, and strike down the government’s new law. Doesn’t matter to me one iota.
Even if I had the right to vote in election Canada I wouldn’t use it.
It’s not right and I will never see it as being right. Otherwise it would be like throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded, with hands tied and not really knowing if it hit the board or the person next to the board. It’s a foolish thing to do.
Copyright Tom Regan 2015
Contact Tom Regan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.
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