I don’t understand the Canadian government…there I said it

I’m a smart person. I know a lot about a lot of stuff. However, there’s also lots of stuff I know little to nothing about. Politics is one of those things. Sure I can follow the headlines, I can read Wikipedia, and I can gain a general understanding of the workings of parliamentary government, but I will never truly understand it because it’s just not my field. So imagine my confusion when the 3 major parties opposing the Progressive Conservatives (the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois) decided to put forward a vote of no confidence in Harper and run a coalition government. What the… So please take my following comments on the situation here in Canada with a grain of salt and provide corrections if you know better than me (which is entirely likely).

A vote of no confidence is a parliamentary vote pretty much designed to dissolve government. Essentially, they’re saying “Harper, your financial plans suck and we don’t want you running things anymore, even though you were elected through the process of democracy, because you weren’t elected enough” and then if the vote passes the PM has to resign, calm everyone the hell down to be friends again, or yay another election. Oh and the Governor General is involved in there in some way I don’t fully comprehend — she’s sort of like the pretend queen.

This is somewhat of a controversy because the Liberals and NDP are suggesting that rather than calling another election after the no confidence vote, they just run the government together with the support of the Bloc because they think that the PM’s financial ideas (prevent people from striking, et al) are undemocratic. Seeing as the majority of the country didn’t see either of them fit to be prime minister, and seeing as the Bloc are a separatist movement, this relatively undemocratic move of theirs is not sitting well with a lot of people either. Particularly as Jack Layton (NDP) contacted Chretien (i.e., NOT Dion, the proposed future PM until 2011) to discuss the matter. More info on the Wiki page about the event (and probably more coherent than I am).

Aside: Ok, so I see skeptics getting a lot of flack for talking politics on their skeptical blogs and whatnot. But the way I see it, no topic is immune from skepticism. There’s a difference between saying “you should vote for so and so” and saying “so and so’s statements are fallacious” or whatnot. So when something like this comes a long, I’m going to comment on it. I labeled the post “politics” so anyone who doesn’t want to read about politics on a skeptical blog can feel free to skip it.

Anyway, my thoughts are thus:

Canadian voters have demonstrated pretty clearly this last election that they think Stephane Dion is unfit to lead his party, much less this country. The NDP have been doing well, but they’re too new and Jack Layton has yet to build trust with voters. The Bloc? Seriously? So these 3 clowns think that the best thing to do right before a possible recession is to dismantle the elected government and run it themselves with Stephane Dion (remember the incompetent boob who lost a bunch of seats this last election to the PC and the NDP) as the interim PM. And if this all goes to shit because these squabbling babies can’t get along, the governor general has to step in and make a decision — election, let this happen, or stall for time.

But here’s the thing – we don’t elect people. We elect seats. The NDP/Liberal government (with the support of the Bloc) has more seats than the PCs. That’s why we have a minority government. That’s what that means. So people are essentially pissed off because they don’t understand the government of the place in which they live. Who’s fault is that?

BUT leadership was still decided with an election, not some back door deal. The election is based on the assumption that a seat has a vote in the government and that a party made of those seats would run the government alone if they won enough. It was not with the understanding that they would be running a government together (ex: a voter checking off NDP did not check off Liberal-run coalition with NDP — those are 2 different things). The proposed coalition is trying to use the popular vote as a justification for their move, but they are basing this on the combined party votes from the last election and not on a poll asking Canadians about a coalition specifically.

I’m a moron when it comes to politics. So I can’t even have an opinion on this. I’m a little pissed off, but I’m not even sure why. I’m a little annoyed at the stupidity of people, but can I be when I don’t really know anything myself? All I can do is hope that a democratic decision is made that is best for Canada and we don’t end up homeless because I can’t find a job after graduation.

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4 responses to “I don’t understand the Canadian government…there I said it

  1. Ah! Politics? Now the ball is in Steve’s court!

    What most people think is that the PM is the Prime Minster of the people, but in a parliamentary democracy, this is not the case. He is the leader of the House, and if he cannot hold control (a.k.a. the “confidence”) of the house, than he cannot be PM…..the GG either disolves parliament and askes the opposition to form a government, or disolves parliament and calls an election. Thems the rules, and what has happened this time is rather screwball and cowardly to say the least.

    Having a coalition government form is nothing new to parliamentary democracies (though in Canada it’s exceedingly rare), neither is proroguing parliament. But in the past whenever parliament is prorogued, it usually means its been done so for a godamned reason: the existing government can’t maintain the confidence, and the GG steps in to to either re-form the government (election), or get an entirely new government…this time parliament was prorogued just so Harper can keep his f-ing job! No election call! No call on the opposition (coalition in this case) to form a government! Nothing!

    Say what you will about (inefectual and spineless) Dion, the coalition, as strange and unholy as it may seem, acted well within the rules of Parliament. The Governor General and Stephen Harper, however, have acted utterly without precedent. There was no reason whatsoever for parliament to be prorogued other than Harper not willing to relinquish control. He is behaving less like the prime minster of a government and more like the ruler of a regime. He has outed himself as having nothing but contempt for Canadians (most of whom did not vote for him), and the house over which he presides (at least, he WOULD preside, if he didn’t chicken-out and lock the doors, as Layton put it)

    P.S.
    The calls about the popluar vote are really just media-mongering….the popular vote in an a parliamentary democracy with a first-past-the-post system means absolutley nothing….the rules of parliament are what matters.

    P.P.S.
    I know that this sounds like I’m pro-coalition, or anti-conservative, but truth be told, I’ve studied my ass off learning about Canadian (and to a lesser extent, American) politics, and the more I’ve learned about Canadian parties and polticians, the more I hate them all equally and want as little to do with them as possible….I’m an equal-opportunity basher.

    This is also why I’ve been embracing the physical sciences lateley.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Steve.

    It seems like one somewhat undemocratic move was avoided with another undemocratic move. So two wrongs make…a bunch of confused Canadians. And they avoid an election because they “don’t want to put us through” the annoyance of a voting democracy so soon after the last one…or something. If I understand correctly, if the PM no longer has the confidence of the house, should the GG still be treating him as PM? So why go with the prorogue?

    Harper seems shady these days, Dion is incompetent, and Layton is smug. The Bloc – don’t even get me started. So I’m on board with the bashing everyone train.

    PS. I’m a clear example of how shittily the workings of Canadian politics are taught in grade school. We need to step that shit up. Being ignorant on any issue makes me severely annoyed with myself.

  3. A couple of things to consider:
    1. You say Canadian voters expressed a lack of confidence in Dion, but remember that Harper’s party got just 37% of the popular vote. A little more than 62% voted Not Conservative. That’s not a ringing endorsement of Prime Minister Steve.
    2. What’s democratic? At my blog, I link to a couple of articles that explain how the Conservative argument is absolutely full of shit. The much shorter of the two is by a Winnipeg Free Press reporter:
    http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/blogs/welch/Crash_course_in_parliamentary_democracy.html
    Canadian Cynic – a political blogger who also happens to be an outspoken atheist/skeptic, BTW – has posted numerous times on the absolute bullshit ridiculousness of the Harper argument that there’s something “undemocratic” about the coalition. Harper is dead wrong. His people are being dishonest or don’t know a damn thing about Canadian parliament.
    (BTW, I’m “DMS” on Skepchick discussion threads.)

  4. 1. What I meant was that the liberals lost more seats than is typical for their party…as far as I know.

    2. To the extent that I can comment, I agree that the conservatives are full of shit. But the coalition hasn’t made their intentions clear to Canadians either. Sure they think Harper is in the wrong, ok got that much, but what are their plans? Are they any better? But then, remember that time I said I didn’t know dick about politics? :) So I could be way off.

    In retrospect my post makes me sound like I support the conservatives and am against a coalition. What I really meant to illustrate is that I think neither situation is that clear and I’m not sure which is the lesser evil at this point due to my lack of understanding.

    Anyway, thanks for the info!