Monday, December 1, 2008

Canada Has it's Own Problems

Canada's minority government has run into a little snag.

First let me explain to Americans what a minority government is. And from what I've seen, maybe a few Canadians should skim this paragraph as well as a refresher. In a parliamentary system, the country is run by a Prime Minister, not a President. The prime minister is usually the leader of the biggest party in parliament. But because more than two parties are allowed, that means that sometimes the leader of the biggest party does not have enough members in parliament to pass a bill if everyone else votes against it. This is what is known as a minority government. Normally, the ruling party will make a deal with one of the smaller parties for support, and all is well. But the rules of parliament state that if a government bill is defeated for any reason (this could even happen theoretically with a majority government at any time), then a new government needs to be formed. First, the leaders of the opposition parties have a chance to form an alliance and choose a leader. If this happens, the Governor General will appoint the alliance leader as the new Prime Minister. And that's how we get a new government without a general election. If that doesn't work, the next option is to call another general election, and let the chips fall where they may. This may be repeated as many times as necessary.

That's what is basically happening now. In our last general election, we got a Conservative minority government. Then the Conservatives introduced a bill that would effectively bankrupt all the opposition parties. I don't even want to say if the bill was good or bad, which is besides the point anyway in this particular discussion. The key element of the bill is that it united the opposition parties in that most noble of causes, self preservation and obviously, (remember we had a minority government) together they had enough votes that they could defeat the government bill. The three opposition parties met together and picked the Liberal leader as their coalition leader.

From all the wailing and gnashing of teeth I see on the internet, it seems that many Canadians slept through History classes. I know this subject was covered there, I taught Canadian History many years ago. OK fellow Canadians, the rules are there and they are the same in most parliamentary democracies from Australia to Zimbabwe. Any government bill is defeated at any time for any reason, the government falls. Play the game accordingly, and no complaining about the rules - which should have been understood beforehand. There is no "Coup d'etat" happening here. Not yet, anyway.

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