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Would You Mind If I Told You How We Do Things In Canada?

6

My name is Gordon Fischer and I’ll be blogging a bit about Canadian politics here at Donklephant. Justin and I worked together at kozoru where I regaled him with political tales from the Great White North. Now it’s time to polish those thoughts and share them with a larger audience.

My credentials: I am a dual citizen, was raised and schooled in Canada and moved to Texas in 1998. Right now I’m living in Harveyville, KS.
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Canada is divided into provinces (those are like states) and territories (sorta like Puerto Rico). Provinces are divided into a number of ridings (like a congressional district) each of which send an MP (member of parliament) to the House of Commons. There are 308 seats in the House of Commons.

The Senate is made of 105 appointed members who serve until they reach 75. In practice the Senate is a lame duck. Although any bill must be passed by both House and Senate, the Senate very rarely disagrees with the elected House.

A major difference between American and Canadian politics is the distinction between legislative and executive powers. This is combined in a parliamentary system with the leader of the party being the “executive”. In Canada, like other Commonwealth nations there’s an argument to be made that technically, the Queen or her representative, the Governor General, could be considered the executive — but that’s for political theorists — not pragmatists.

The 4 major political parties in Canada, their leaders and how Americans might view them are:

Early this year, Canada had a federal election in which a minority Conservative government was elected. A minority government is when the party with the most votes can be outvoted by a coalition of the other parties. In 2006 it broke down as 124 Conservative, 103 Liberal, 51 Bloc, 29 NDP.

This marks the first time in just over 12 years that the Liberals haven’t been the party in power. Wikipedia has a nice overview on the causes of the election – but I find it a bit overzealous on blaming the corruption scandal. I think Canadians needed something new – but being a cautious folk we chose the weakest form of new – a minority government.

Part 1 of 4
Next time – minority governments and the parliamentary system.