Should citizens who live abroad be allowed to vote or use the health-care system?

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

Canada has often been recognized as country of immigrants. Now, it seems we are also a country of emigrants.

More Canadians are choosing to live and work abroad, according to a recent study conducted by the Asia Pacific Foundation.

Approximately 2.8 million Canadians, or nine per cent of the country's population, now live abroad. This new reality has several political implications.

As noted in a column in the Globe and Mail, there are costs associated with a high rate of emigration.

"The biggest loss to the Canadian treasury is when a Canadian male in his peak earning years, aged 36 to 61, leaves the country.

"This loss is compounded if the same Canadian returns after retirement, because people over 61 are unlikely to pay enough in taxes to make up for what they will eventually cost the health-care system."

And, Canadians are also divided on whether ex-pats should be allowed to vote at all. The same Asia Pacific Foundation survey found 51 per cent of Canadians said those who live outside Canada should be able to vote, compared to 43 per cent who were opposed.

Canadians abroad can continue to cast a ballot until they've been out of the country for five years.

In addition to costs for health-care, Canadians who live and work in here are also asked to foot the bill for expatriates in instances such as natural disasters or international disputes.

During the Lebanon war in 2006, Ottawa spent nearly $100 million pulling Canadian passport holders out of the war zone. It was later reported many of the passport holders returned to their homes in Lebanon once the violence subsided.

In February, the Government of Canada spent money to have a military transport aircraft sent to Libya to evacuate Canadians due to the growing political unrest in the region.

In March, Ottawa hired two buses to shepherd 185 of its citizens out of Japan's nuclear disaster zone.

Canada helps its citizens abroad because they are citizens. But should the government allow 'Canadians' who choose to work and live abroad to maintain their citizenship?

Canada is one of nearly 93 countries that officially allow some form of dual - or multiple-citizenship.

Numerous countries either ignore or prohibit dual citizenship including Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Japan and Norway.

The United States strongly discourages it. Unlike Canada, the U.S. requires its citizens to file annual tax returns based on their worldwide income, regardless of where they live.

Maybe it's time Canada consider such options?

(AFP Photo)