Canada moves to expand voting rights to expatriates

Canada's Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada moved on Thursday to expand the ability to vote to citizens that have lived out of the country for more than five years, making good on part of the Liberal government’s campaign promise to reform election laws.

The bill, introduced by Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, will also allow voter information cards to be used as identification at the polls and allow a voter to vouch for someone else without ID, measures Monsef said will improve voter participation.

The proposed changes would roll back measures that were brought in under the previous Conservative government. With the one-year-old Liberal government controlling the majority in the House of Commons, the bill was all but guaranteed to pass, though Monsef said she looked forward to working with opposition parties on any improvements.

“(Canadians) told us that making it easier for eligible Canadians to vote will build a stronger democracy,” Monsef said. “If passed, our legislation would do just that.”

The move to allow expatriates to vote will affect more than 1 million Canadian citizens living abroad, the government said. Canadians will still be required to have lived in the country at some point.

The Liberals have yet to deal with one of their more contentious promises on electoral reform, which is replacing the country’s first-past-the-post voting system.

The current system allows a party to win a majority government with less than 40 percent of the popular vote.

An all-party committee is currently studying alternative systems and is due to report to the government next week. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had pledged that the 2015 election he won would be the last to use the electoral system Canada inherited from Britain.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Lisa Shumaker