TORONTO — A Canadian barred from voting in the Oct. 19 election because he has been abroad too long is planning to run as a candidate in a city he has never set foot in against none other than the incumbent prime minister, Stephen Harper.
Not that Nicolas Duchastel de Montrouge has any illusions about his chances of upending Harper, who has much bigger fish to fry, in Calgary Heritage.
Instead, his Independent candidacy aims to make a serious point: Every Canadian citizen should have the right to vote, regardless of where they live, but many don't.
"I'm kind of making a show out of it, but that's exactly the goal," Duchastel de Montrouge, 43, told The Canadian Press. "I'm not expecting to win."
Like 1.4 million other expatriate Canadians, Duchastel de Montrouge was stripped of the right to vote by mail because he has lived abroad for more than five years under a law that has only been enforced under Harper's Conservative government.
However, he said an electoral official in Calgary confirmed that the Canada Elections Act does allow any citizen to run as a candidate in any riding — as long as they meet the usual basic criteria, which include that they be at least 18 years old and not in prison.
They also need 100 signatures from people who do live in the riding.
"That's taking a little bit longer than I thought," said Duchastel de Montrouge, who lives in suburban Seattle.
Earlier this year, the Conservative government successfully appealed a court ruling that had thrown out the five-year expat rule as unconstitutional. One of the two Canadians who launched the charter challenge, Gill Frank, of Princeton, N.J., is now trying to raise money to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
So far, his crowd-funding campaign has yielded $10,500. Those who have donated expressed anger or resentment at being stripped of the right to cast a ballot.
"I feel completely disenfranchised as I have no right to vote anywhere," said Carolyn Luce, who lives in France.
Duchastel de Montrouge said he has no plans to campaign in Calgary Heritage once his candidacy is formalized. In fact, he is actively dissuading anyone from voting for him, instead encouraging them via his website and social media to back a party that will restore the right of Canadians like him to vote.
In the meantime, the engineer has taken on an auditor, appointed an official agent and opened a candidacy bank account. He'll also have to put up a $1,000 deposit, which he said he hopes to get back.
His campaign budget, so far, is $30 — $20 from him and $10 from his official agent.
"We're trying not to spend anything," he said.
Still, he said he might have to spend several hundred dollars of his own to make his candidacy official — something he hopes to do this week. That may mean getting on one of the recently implemented direct flights between Seattle and Calgary to go drum up signatures for his candidacy and file his papers in person.
Spending the money will be worth it, he said, to raise awareness of what he sees as a technicality related to where he lives that has trumped his constitutional rights. Plus, he said, it's a bit of an adventure.
"I've never been to Calgary," he said. "That's sort of the allure of it."
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