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Posted by Admin
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
PSA: How to Vote from Abroad by Expat
So you have moved away from the beloved Motherland but you still wear the free toque that you got from your last two-four of Molson Canadian with pride, eh? You can still recite "The Rant" from memory and do it gladly anytime that somebody asks you if you know Suzie from Canada. In fact, you still catch "The National" every night from the comfort of your computer room, have friends and family send you Canadian food stuffs from home, and frequently peruse eBay for new Tim Hortons memorabilia to decorate your rumpus room.1
Just because you live abroad, it does not mean that you have severed your ties or your love for Canada, right? No doubt, many an expatriate is wondering how to cast their vote in the upcoming election.
Here is the low down.
Canadians who live abroad and intend to return to living in Canada at some point retain the right to vote by special ballot under the following conditions:
1. You must have set foot on Canadian soil at some point with in the last five years.
2. If you have not been in Canada during the past five years, you can still vote if you or someone that you live with is a member of the Armed Forces and working overseas, works for a federal or provincial government department or agency overseas, or works for an international organization of which Canada is a member.
If you fall into one of the above categories, you can have your name placed on a list with Elections Canada which will grant you the ability to vote by mail. Just be sure that you send the Application for Registration and Special Ballot (PDF) to them quickly as your ballot will need to be sent to you and then arrive back in Canada in time for election day. The riding that you will be voting in will be the riding in which you last resided.
This means that if you are currently a non-resident of Canada for tax purposes (which essentially is if you don't own a residential property and/or have spouse/dependents in Canada, UNLESS you're abroad because you're a student, in the military, or in the diplomatic service), do NOT even think about registering for voting. Doing so may open up a ton of headaches for you because by voting, you are implying to the CRA that your primary residence is in Canada (which comes with the expectation of filing a Canadian tax return).
I think that there are a number of visitors to this site who are currently abroad teaching ESL or going to school. They should be able to vote if they are still intending to return to Canada, should they not?
If you're going to school abroad (as a Canadian international student specifically on a student visa (i.e. you have no right to be in that country otherwise), then you're still supposed to be a resident of Canada for tax purposes.
If they're working abroad (ESL or whatever), and if they're legally non-residents for tax purposes for that period (even if they intend on returning to Canada), then they're not really allowed to vote (again, that primary residence thing).
If they, uh, simply aren't filing Canadian tax returns and/or not declaring that foreign earned income they're earning while working abroad.... well, I'm not even going to go there :-)
Seriously, there are all sorts of rules on whether you're non-resident for tax purposes or not. The house and spouse rule is the basic one, but also if you're abroad, and you meet that rule, you're also supposed to put on the last tax return while you're resident that you departed Canada on that specific date. (also, obviously, you're not supposed to use Canadian health care, have a Canadian driver's license etc. etc. By doing so also implies you're a Canadian resident, and hence, have to declare all your world income and pay tax on it)
Be warned however that the eligibility rules states "primary residence is in Canada".
AFAIK Actually there is more to it than that. Revenue Canada's interpretation don't apply here. I will omit the diplomatic and other employees of Canadian/provicial government, international agencies they can vote from abroad without restriction. ".. primary residence is in Canada" this only comes into play if you are living in Canada and are unable to vote in your riding on election day. I voted in this fashion in 2000. For most readers here the second category comes into play, " . . .your primary residence has been outside Canada" as long you have set foot in Canada within five of leaving and you intend to resume living in Canada at point in the future(in their annual verificaton letter it states "This date is not fixed and can be changed at any time"). You are able to vote as a non-resident normally in the riding you last lived in. I voted in this fashion in 2004. Every year Elections Canada sends out form asking if you have returned to Canada. As they must remove resident Canadians from the internaional voters roll. Also they check for revised addresses, date of last visit to Canada and date of return.
There is a form that is filed with Revenue Canada when one leaves the country, but I don't believe that has any bearing on voting eligibility. In fact, Elections Canada says "If you are an elector and have been living away from Canada for less than five consecutive years since your last visit home, you are eligible to vote under The Special Voting Rules".
This bit under the Special Voting Rules would most likely apply to the readers here (unless they don't intend to return to Canada):
2. Canadian citizens temporarily residing outside the country
Canadians who have reached the age of 18 by polling day and are temporarily residing outside the country may vote by special ballot in an election or referendum. They must have at one time resided in Canada, have been residing outside Canada for less than five consecutive years since their last visit to Canada before making the application, and intend to live in Canada.
The five-year limit does not apply to:
* electors who are employees of the federal public service or a provincial public service posted outside the country, or people living with them
* electors who are working outside the country for an international organization of which Canada is a member and to which it contributes, or people living with those electors
* people living with members of the Canadian Forces outside Canada or with civilians who are teachers or members of the administrative support staff at Canadian Forces schools outside the country
As I understand it, it comes down to whether you have been in Canada in the last five years and whether you intend to return to live in Canada. I don't believe that taxes are a factor, but I could be wrong.