Resolving Timeline Issues

Archive for the ‘Oh Canada’ Category

Today, Governor General Michaelle Jean is flying back from her state visit to Europe to deal with this constitutional crisis we find ourselves in.

(Okay, I was wrong – it wasn’t the day before yesterday that the government fell; it’ll probably be this Monday. But that’s only because our ever-lovin’ Prime Minister postponed a vote on that item).

Unless you haven’t been keeping up with the news, there’s a bit of a problem in Ottawa. In the words of NDP Leader, Jack Layton, “We have a government that fails to act … the government has lost confidence. It has lost the confidence of the people of Canada, and the confidence of this parliament.”

So essentially, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal party and the NDP could depose the Conservative minority government. Conceivably. But let’s ask a couple of questions. First, would a party that is a separatist party ever ally with federalists? More importantly, would federalists ever ally with a separatist party?

The answer, it seems, is yes. (AND OMGWTF???)

My opinion: I don’t like the Conservatives. I kind of liked Jack Layton and the NDP. I generally don’t mind the Liberals (except for Stephane Dion, who just strikes me as Another Crazy French Guy). And I certainly don’t like the Bloc.

And now, the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc have gotten into bed together. The NDP and the Liberals want to govern in a coalition, with the Bloc providing a support role (and without that support role, this coalition will fail. Fast).

I have nothing in principle against coalition governments. In fact, I think they’re kind of interesting, and properly run, can be really effective in providing checks and balances in our system. I have a problem with THIS coalition. HOW DARE YOU ally with a party that wants to tear my country apart?

The Liberals have everything to lose; the NDP are clapping their hands with glee over a power-sharing deal; and the Bloc are going straight to the bank with this one. The Bloc’s agreed to support the coalition in confidence issues (read: budget and money bills) and vote how it damn well pleases anytime else.

Now, think about this: the Bloc’s only source of political power are the votes from Quebec as they don’t run anywhere else. Presumably, most Bloc MPs want to be re-elected. What this means is that the instant a vote (confidence or otherwise) is against Quebec interests, they will vote against it. Think about it. How much do YOU trust them?

But if these three parties take down the government, and there’s no coalition, its likely that we’ll go to election. Again. Rock: get in bed with separatists; hard place: election 8 weeks after the last one.

Remember awhile back when I talked about the Canadian Alliance? And how in the 90s it captured the west with “the west wants in”? The other problem with this coalition is that it effectively alienates the west again (which votes mostly conservative – the BC interior and Alberta especially).

So what does this mean? Right now, there is no clean way out of this and it all falls to the Governor General. When she gets back to Ottawa today, she’ll have some decisions to make. It it likely that by tomorrow, she’ll receive a request from the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament (don’t let that word scare you, it just means suspend). This is her prerogative, however if she were to allow a prorogation, it makes Harper look like he’s running from a bad situation and effectively stops Parliament from being able to do anything for a couple of months.

So if there’s no prorogue, then there’s going to be a confidence vote on Monday and it is likely the government will fall. After that, the Governor General has a couple of choices:

1. Dissolve Parliament and call an election: there’s no appetite for that in Canada. Its too soon. Its also political suicide for the coalition parties.

2. Ask the Liberal/NDP/Bloc-supported coalition to govern: this one makes my skin crawl, and not because its the most likely scenario. I cannot condone a coalition that includes party that wants to tear this country apart.

I’d like door number 1, please.

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I heart Jon Stewart. And most of America seems to as well. A few weeks ago, the New York times ran a rather lengthy article on him, asking if he’s the most trusted man in America:

at a time when Fox, MSNBC and CNN routinely mix news and entertainment, larding their 24-hour schedules with bloviation fests and marathon coverage of sexual predators and dead celebrities, it’s been “The Daily Show” that has tenaciously tracked big, “super depressing” issues like the cherry-picking of prewar intelligence, the politicization of the Department of Justice and the efforts of the Bush White House to augment its executive power.

And now, Canadians, we all have a reason to heart Jon Stewart: he did a bit on the Canadian election last week.

Go. Watch. Laugh. Heart Jon Stewart.

If I had to pick one word to characterize the results of the Canadian election, it would be “anticlimactic.” We’re basically in the same boat. These are the results (courtesy of the Election Prediction Project):

    • Conservatives 143
      Liberal 76
      Bloc Quebecois 50
      NDP 37

    (Numbers corrected per Katie’s comment below -I accidentally copied the Eleciton Prediction Project’s prediction, not the actual result)

      And people are a bit pissed off at Stephen Harper for calling an election early. Straight from Katie’s blog (who is far more eloquent on it than I could be, for reasons you’ll see below):

      I think it’s a bunch of crap that Steven Harper called this election, a full year before it was due, in the first place. $290 million tax payer dollars were spent on this fiasco, funding the slam campaigns, slanderous television ads, and incessant telemarketer style phone calls.

      Well, yes. It was a year early. And probably a bad idea to call it. And I hate to say it, but it would have happened anyways. Harper got together with the other leaders, and they all decided they couldn’t work together. Depending one whose perspective you adopt (a) Harper got scared and wanted to reinvigorate his mandate, or (b) the opposition parties refused to work with the conservatives.

      Either way, the answer leads to the same answer: there would have been a confidence vote at some point, likely in the fall, that would have failed. And then there would be an election anyways. The money would have been spent anyways.

      In My Not So Humble Opinion.

      I can’t say I’m surprised at the result. The day after the election was called, I said, “Its going to be another Conservative minority.”

      And I’m happy about that. I like minority governments in the system we have. They provide another level of check and balance in our rather fucked up system (where one party can get about 8% of the popular vote and 51 seats – the Bloc – because they have the necessary concentration of votes and another party gets about 7% of the popular vote and can’t get one seat because they run candidates all across the country – the Green party). Minority governments, here, force the party in power to negotiate with the other parties and adapt their policies so that they get closer to meeting the needs and desires of the rest of the population.

      Minority governments are a bit of an aberration here (and in England). They have a deeper meaning when they occur again and again: that the electoral system is screwed and needs changing; that the traditional parties aren’t meeting changing needs and desires. So why doesn’t anyone try to fix this?

      Well, the BC Liberals tried to a few years ago by introducing a Single Transferrable Vote (STV) system for referendum on a provincial level. Other than sounding like a sexually-transmitted disease, what is an STV system? Simply put:

      The Single Transferable Vote (STV) is a system of preferential voting designed to minimize wasted votes and provide proportional representation while ensuring that votes are explicitly expressed for individual candidates rather than for party lists. It achieves this by using multi-seat constituencies (voting districts) and by transferring all votes that would otherwise be wasted to other eligible candidates. STV initially allocates an elector’s vote to his or her most preferred candidate and then, after candidates have been either elected or eliminated, transfers surplus or unused votes according to the voter’s stated preferences.

      STV is used in places like Scotland, Ireland, and New Zealand (clicky the link above for more detail – I’m not going into it here because that’s a whole other post in itself)

      STV would have been a good thing – it provides a balance of proportional representation, without losing any votes. Its considered a happy medium between the first past the post system (current system) and proportional representation.

      In BC in 2005, the referendum required 60% of the vote to pass. This is what happened:

      A variation of STV known as BC-STV came within three points of meeting the 60% threshold the government had set for adoption in British Columbia in a 2005 referendum, but it will be put to the voters a second time in 2009.

      People demand more representation and fairness in how legislative seats are allocated, then they vote down a change to the system designed to do just that?

      Hello? McFly? Anybody home?

      So BC-ites, next year when we go to the provincial polls, vote for whoever you want, and then vote YES for STV. Because it may provide an example to Ottawa of a way to fix the fucked up federal system.

      It goes without saying that I’ve got a lot to be thankful for today – and always. The usual of a loving partner, a roof over my head, food to eat, and basically living in the lap of luxury.

      I’m also thankful for living in Canada. We’re lucky to live here – I don’t have to worry, next year when the poptart is done cooking, about how we’re going to afford doctor and hospital bills. We live an abundant life here and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

      Which, fellow Canadians, is why you need to vote tomorrow. Like I’ve said before, don’t take that right for granted. It wasn’t a right for a long time, and most of us, back when democracy started (see: Ancient Greece) would not have had the right to vote.

      So don’t you dare take it for granted and not vote or spoil your ballot on purpose.

      I don’t care which box you mark on the ballot tomorrow (make sure you mark it with an X). Just mark one, properly. And give thanks for all that you have.

      (And for those who are unaware of it, you can check out the Election Prediction Project – they’re usually pretty accurate)

      Updated: Gunfighter tweeted me the following:

      HI Nicole! How would lyou like to see the outcome of your federal elections turn out? How do you lean? Labour, NDP, BQ?, Tory?

      Note to Canadians: Gunfighter is a police officer and firearms instructor who supports Senator Obama. Hence the name.

      What outcome do I want to see?

      Well, I don’t care, by and large, especially since I fully expect another minority government. I don’t think ANY of the parties are ready or connected enough to the population to form a decent government. I fully expect another Conservative minority government. The question is, who will be the main opposition.

      I also happen to live in a bit of a swing riding where its pretty much a dead heat between the Conservative and NDP candidates. The Election Prediction Project switched its prediction today from “too close to call” to “Conservative” (usually, when in doubt, they’ll switch it day before the election to the incumbent).

      I don’t like Stephen Harper (seriously, it would help if his hair moved once in awhile) and I don’t like Stephane Dion (look, I know English isn’t his first language, but all he does is come across as the Crazy French Guy – I find him more ranty than Gilles Duceppe).

      The Greens don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Yet. Give them 10-20 years (they’re about where the NDP were 15-20 years ago).

      So I’m voting NDP. I don’t think they’re ready to form a government. But I think they’d make a damn fine opposition in a Conservative minority government.

      Look! A sneak preview of the Canadian Leadership Debate!

      I have spent the day surrounded by sheeples (really people, there’s a double door at the entrance to the train station – you don’t need to line up 40 deep in order to get inside and don’t yell at me for skipping the line when I go to open the other door) and my boobs hurt. A lot.

      Just to let you know where I am right now.

      One of the things I’ve been hearing a lot in the media is that there’s some idea of election exhaustion here in Canada. Not only are we approaching our 3rd election in 4 years, for the last year, we’ve been his with the US primaries and now the US election.

      Amy over at BlogHers ACT Canada asks why we’re going to the polls – again and notes the National Post quotes the Prime Minister as saying “this Parliament at its useful end.” Yeah, the PM isn’t getting his way. I’ll agree with that.

      I’d also say that the election would have happened anyways, and in short order.  I have to give some props to Stephen Harper for at least attempting to talk to the leaders of the other parties to get some sort of agreement. If Parliament had been recalled, eventually, the Conservative government would have been subjected to a confidence vote, and we’d be in the same place we are now.

      Except that it’d be that much closer to Christmas – just like last time. When elections are close to major holidays, there is a decrease in the number of votes cast – which means fewer people have a say.

      Amy, by the way, has an excellent synopsis on this post of the environmental standpoints of each of the parties (except the Bloc Quebecois of course).

      At any rate, I’m not going to discuss the party platforms here. I linked all the parties on this post and they’re linked on Amy’s post noted above. I’ll leave it to you to read the platforms yourself and figure out how you’re going to vote on your own.

      Because really, I don’t care how you vote. Just VOTE, dammit. Get out there. Your employer must give you 3 consecutive hours on election day to go vote if your hours of work do not otherwise allow it. That is time with pay.

      Why don’t I care how you vote? Because of that nasty first past the post/concentration of votes in ridings thing I mentioned in an earlier post. I flip my vote all the time – I have voted Conservative, Liberal, NDP and once, even, the Marijuana Party (and then I got smart about one-issue parties. And stopped smoking pot).

      So I flip my vote depending on the issues of the day. And here’s the thing: often, its the party with the most grass-roots issues that gets my vote. I guess I tend towards the grassroots side.

      My dad didn’t vote for many years. He was jaded, disillusioned. And then in the last election, he registered to vote because he didn’t want the Conservatives to form a government. And that’s as good a reason as any.

      The problem is, in democratic countries, we take the right to vote for granted. Ask anyone from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus or any of the other former Soviet countries – its not a given. Do not take it for granted.

      Instead, see it as the blessing it is, and exercise that right, regardless of your degree of election exhaustion.

      It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

      – Sir Winston Churchill

      Also posted at Wet Coast Women

      Now that the election has been called, let’s get to the meat of the matter. This post is about the history of the Canadian federal parties.

      1. The Parties and their places on the traditional political spectrum (links on titles go to party pages)

      The Conservative Party of Canada

      Current leader: Stephen Harper (outgoing Prime Minister) (you can follow him on twitter)
      Place on the spectrum: right of centre
      Key policy categories: sovereignty, leadership, environment, health care, lower taxes, child care, tackling crime, accountability.

      The Green Party

      Current Leader: Elizabeth May
      Place on the spectrum: probably left of centre
      Key policy categories: ecological wisdom, non-violence, social justice, participatory democracy, sustainability, respect for diversity.

      Author’s Note: although the Green Party has never had an elected member of Parliament, they command a significant number of votes (but not in sufficient concentration to get a seat). Recently, a member of the Liberal party joined the Greens.

      The Liberal Party of Canada

      Current leader: Stephane Dion
      Place on the spectrum: fluctuates; slightly left or right of centre depending on leadership and the issues of the day.
      Key Policy categories: vaguely: leadership, economy, green shift (I think – that’s all I could find on the website)

      The New Democratic Party of Canada

      Current leader: Jack Layton (you can follow him on twitter)
      Place on the spectrum: left.
      Key policy categories: investing in children’s early years, cleaner environment, tackling global warming, affordable education/training, forestry industry renewal, improving public health care, fair immigration, manufacturing crisis, poverty.

      There are, of course, innumerable other, smaller parties, but these are the main ones that all of Canada can vote for. And then there’s one more:

      Le Bloc Quebecois

      (because they only campaign in Quebec, the website is in French only)

      Current leader: Gilles Duceppe
      Place on the spectrum: Left of centre? Generally they’re viewed as a one-issue party, but share some values with social democrats.
      Key policy categories: generally put, they have  a history of wanting sovereignty/independence for the province of Quebec; they stand for defending the history, points of view, rights and interests of Quebec and its residents.

      Author’s note: The BQ doesn’t matter so much in terms of actually forming a government; they only campaign in Quebec so as I noted in the previous post the highest number of seats they could get is 75. However if they won all those seats, they could become the Official Opposition. More on this later.

      So wow. That’s a bit of a clusterfuck isn’t it?

      2. How did we get here?

      For a long time, we trundled along quite merrily with two parties: Liberal and Conservative (note, these are the only two parties who have ever formed governments). In the 1950s, a group in the praries started a merge of the Canadian Labour Congress and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation; they became The New Party. Their grassroots attitude gathered enough votes to help force Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals into a minority government situation. They moved the motion that brought down Joe Clark’s Conservative government and later on supported Trudeau in bringing the Constitution home.

      And we trundled along, again quite merrily for a number of years with 3 parties.

      In 1986, there was a little conference in Vancouver on Canada’s Economic and Political Future. The next year, the Reform Party was launched as a voice for Western Canada. Like the NDP, they were grassroots and populist, but sat somewhat more right of centre than the conservatives.

      In 1991, the Bloc Quebecois was formed as a response to the failure of Ottawa to deal with Quebecois identity (See: Meech Lake). They run only in Quebec.

      (There is a point to this)

      Following the failure of the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, the 1993 elections marked a turning point in Canadian politics. The Tories (Conservatives) imploded and exploded simultaneously under Kim Campbell, especially after the Chretien attack ads. They went from 169 seats down to 2.

      At the same time, the Reform Party gained 52 seats, 51 of which were in the west, and the Bloc Quebecois (running only in Quebec) gained 54. The Liberals under Jean Chretien won 177 seats. 9 seats went to the NDP.

      Under Canadian law, the party with the most seats after the party that forms a majority government becomes Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. But what do you do when a party that only represents one province wins the required number of seats, especially when its only 2 seats more than the third-place party?

      Well, you invite the leader of the third-place party to live in Stornoway (residence of the leader of the official opposition), but you make the second-place party the official opposition (loyal is another matter entirely). This is a typically Canadian response to such a situation. By and large, the Reform party was allowed as much time during question period as the BQ and received almost similar funding.

      What happened was Ottawa sat up and took notice, not only of Quebec, but of the idea that the West Wanted In. The technical term for the split is regionalism.

      In 1997, Reform became the Official Opposition. In 2000, Reform was disbanded and became the Canadian Alliance; in 2003, the Canadian Alliance merged with the Conservative Party to become Canada’s New Conservatives. Stephen Harper was elected leader in 2004, and formed a minority government in 2006.

      Meanwhile, the Liberals had been plagued with issues of their own. Long-time leader Jean Chretien resigned from politics; his successor was Paul Martin, the former Minister of Finance – somewhat popular, but he was under pressure from the federal Sponsorship Scandal. The Liberals formed a minority government in 2004, and were forced to water down their speech from the throne in order to stay in power. On November 28, 2005, the Liberals lost key support from the NDP and the government fell. The Governor General issued election writs for January 23, 2006.

      Martin resigned party leadership shortly after, and Stephane Dion became the new leader after winning against Michael Ignatieff in a run-off ballot.

      Author’s Opinion: Why the minority Liberal and Conservative governments? I think its simpler than people realize. Canadians were sick of scandal and gave Martin a chance to revamp the party. All of the other parties had reworked themselves and gotten rid of the old guard. The Liberal party did not do that, and has not done that – Dion is still a member of the old guard. The Liberals would do well to have a different leadership.


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