Thanks for the primer on Canadian government. I learned a good deal! (and I thought the US system was complex...)
Now back to knitting :^)
Wow. That's...um...complex. I mean, I suppose maybe our system (electoral college, anyone?) is as well, but not having grown up with the Canadian system, it seems very confusing.
Thanks for the education in Canadian government.
"It all rests in the hands of one woman." YEAH!! Wish the US could say as much.
Wow! I love all the exciting politics going on in North America these days!
Wow - that's a really comprehensive primer! Thanks for taking the time to do it. Totally agree that those who do not vote have no right to bitch.
Thank you for the civics lesson. Next, please explain why Americans are not taught how their neighboring country is governed! Why don't we know that??
Thanks for the primer. I learned a great deal and tonight I'll pray for poor Governor General Jean, who obviously has a lot on her shoulders today. Perhaps knitting her a shawl will help. (If I could knit, which I can't.) So there will just be good wishes and a prayer for wisdom and thanks to the Harlot for explaining it all so well.
Woah, I had to read it three times to grasp it, but thanks for the summary. Very interesting. You guys must be biting your nails over there.
Wow, that's pretty amazing. I like the fact that there can be an election if everything's just not working. Of course, these being politicians, I can see how everyone has an agenda and will do their best to get their way but still. Better than waiting four years to fix something that's not working.
And a woman has the ultimate power. Cool.
I have never commented before because, eh, I'm a casual knitter, but that was awesome. Thank you.
Holy Moly! If I were canadian,I'd be glued to the news! Our (US) politics hold nothing to the drama you have going on! Now armed with your primer,I will be following canadian news much more closely.
Excellent synopsis of the situation and the system.
wonderful explaination. thank you for taking the time to spell it out for us yanks!
Thanks, Stephanie. This is a really user-friendly explanation. I am very proud to be a Canadian (I know I was originally Mexican, but I chose Canada as my country). As a political science major (bet you didn't know that, eh?) I am very excited about what's happening. These are all the things we learn in class finally happening for real.
Yesterday my husband described this as "The government is trying to eat itself."
Thanks for the explanation - it's nice to have all the information in one handy package instead of a zillion CBC articles to slog through.
That sounds a lot like what went on here in Holland a couple of years ago. It came out ok in the end.
Mme. Jean's role went from "largely ceremonial" to "calling the shots for the whole nation" practically overnight. That's a heavy burden, and I hope she's up to the challenge.
Thank you, Stephanie. Great post.
Wow. That is at once an incredibly complex and yet frighteningly logical system. Thank you for the rundown - we never discussed any political systems other than the US when I was in school, so I had no idea how it worked a little further north.
It sounded a bit like the UK system for a while there. Thanks for the lesson, I think that's the clearest explanation of a political system I've ever read. Keep us up to date, it sounds very exciting!
this post constitutes my education regarding canadian politics and for that i am ashamed. good information, but i feel ignorant for not knowing more. . .
GREAT post though!
Woah! I had no idea things were so darn interresting up there. *mind boggled*
Thanks Stephanie! I can't wait until this is all over and the country and government get back to doing SOMETHING other than fighting. This current government has been just as divisive as the Bush administration.
That was an excellent explanation! I'm pretty sure I understood. ;) I do not envy Governor General Jean. She has some tough decisions to make.
Thank you for explaining that so clearly. I was confused yesterday and trying to sort it out myself was not working out so well!
What a great explanation of how things work in Canada! It's fascinating to see how other governments work, and I really wish we in the US would pay a bit more attention! Here's hoping Madame Jean makes a good decision.
Stephanie, that was an excellent explanation of what's going on up there on Parliament Hill. Thanks for taking the time to do that.
Seems like only weeks ago everybody was saying Canadian politics is boring, eh?
Wow, thats a lot of infomation for my lunch break. Interesting how living here in America I didn't even know Canada is a monarchy. You would think the school system would teach us a bit about our "neighbors". But then again most citizen's dont even know or understand how our goverment works. It was amazing how many people didnt do well in my college's mandatory class on American Goverment. Everyone needs to know how thier government works, and what it is up to, the goverment controls your life and how you are allowed to live it. Its a big deal. Its great that you are following your country's sitation so closley, and that you are trying to inform others of it. Thank you.
I am Canadian, and I wasn't taught a lot of this in any of my high school classes.
One thing I love about Canadian government? If you want to start your own party, you are pretty much welcome to. (A good friend of mine acquired stickers supporting the "Work Less" party)
Wow, that was great! I consider myself a well-educated Canadian (I'm a secondary school biology teacher) but I don't think I've ever really grasped exactly what was going on in the house. These are exciting times for us, for sure! Let's home that Mme. Jean is up to the challenge and makes the best decision for all Canadians. I might just read that to my students! Thanks again.
Thank you for the very informative post about Canada's political system and current situation.
I knew you could explain it better than the news! Interesting stuff - I'll be watching from the States to see what happens.
Great summary on what's happening. I learned a few things from it and I'm already comfortably familiar with how the system works.
I'm very interested in what the Govener General will do next week.
Wow - thanks for such an informative post. I had linked my father to your blog, expecting signature needles to come up - and instead he started talking about Canadian politics and I was "dude, I must have totally missed something..." *chuckles* What a wonderfully educational post. Thank you for taking the time to write it out in such a concise and well worded entry.
Wow! Thanks for the political primer, I learned more from that than High School ever taught me. Of course, I still have trouble figuring out the US's politics sometimes. Should get that sorted before I can vote huh? Hope you guys up north get things figured out!
Thanks, Stephanie. I really needed a clear explanation of all the hub-bub up North and boy oh boy did you explain it well. Bravo! Fantastic to think that Mme. Jean has so much power in her hands.
Wow! Informative and clear. I didn't know a civics lesson could be so much fun. Thanks. (BTW - I did knit through the lesson!) :0)
Amazing. Only you can make an explaination of govenmental doings, and undoings riveting. Really. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what shenanigans the PM would pull next.
I'll have to tune into Canada news to keep up.
Deb in PA
This sounds like such an exciting and nail-biting time! I had no idea this was even happening. How sad is that? I've been following all the stuff with the US government and the horrible things happening overseas, but for some reason most news outlets don't seem to do much reporting on Canada. C'mon, Associated Press! This is on North American soil and is hugely important!
"Next, please explain why Americans are not taught how their neighboring country is governed! Why don't we know that??"
That's what I want to know! I loved reading this - it was well-written, informative and not stuffy in the least. We should commission you to write 10th grade World Social Studies textbooks, instead of whoever wrote mine!
Very much appreciate the explanation :-)
That was a VERY excellent explanation of a political party system. I've taken US Government 4 times and still don't get it as much as your's just told. Best of Luck!
That was a great explanation! Thanks!
WOW. I had read enough of the news to know something crazy was going on in Canada, but it made absolutely no sense to me. Thank you so much for the explanation. Good luck up there. I'm just glad we're in a (relative to you) political calm right now here in the US.
I have to say though, only eight weeks notice for elections would be wonderful. Our campaigns seem to begin within weeks after an election and last two years or so. I follow closely, but it gets old.
Thanks for explaining! This American has no idea how the Canadian government works, but now I'm very intersted in what is going to happen.
Does she knit? :-)
That was an awesome post! I learnt more from it than from reading a handful of random newspaper articles yesterday. Thanks for doing this for us, Steph!
That was a most helpful and interesting overview. I am also a bit irked that we Americans haven't been better educated (or haven't taken it upon ourselves to be better educated) about the governmental processes of other countries!
Hoo ha! Every time I hear about Canada, I get more excited about the prospect.
Further, the fact that a *WOMAN* is trusted to make these kind of decisions is even better.
Heck - I wonder what we would have done "Down South" if we'd had this opportunity when we started learning more about what our Lame Duck has been up to. Maybe we'd have already been in a better place.
Good luck to you, and to Madame Jean. I'll be watching.
Thank you for the explanation. I knew Canada was a commonwealth to Britain but I didn't know how it was implemented.
Fun times eh? While I would argue about the Greens being on the left, the rest is how I've been seeing things too.
The other thing to note is that this sort of coalition government instead of a new election thing happens in other parliamentary democracies as well (though the mechanics are different).
There is also precedent Provincially for this to happen. There's a nice list of those here: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20081202/coalition_govts_081202/20081202?hub=CTVNewsAt11
I wonder how many conservatives (small c) will be wanting a republic after all this?
I also wonder if (and hope) that Harper will resign because of his blunder. He messed up big time.
Wow, that's a really messy situation!
I think I like how your government works better than mine. I'm almost tempted to see if knitting is a needed profession in Canada... except for, you know, the whole snow thing.
My fingers are crossed in all possible ways that our GG will favour the "democratic" decision ;) I think you've summed up nicely exactly why Harper is, in fact, not the saviour of cooperation and progress that he likes to think he is.
Hope the brown socks are coming along well!
Thank you, dear Harlot. I'm sadly uninformed of what's going on in our neighbor to the north, and your sentence at the end of yesterday's blog didn't trigger my political intrigue button so much as it made me think "eh, probably hockey."
Of course, after today's blog, I've got the Toronto Star and the BBC open in separate tabs.
Can I be you when I grow up and become Canadian? Dude, send some of that Democratic Mojo down to MN, we could use it to get good ol' Al in the Senate!
I am a Canadian but have lived in the US for 30+ years. I got up this morning and went on line to find that my home country was in some sort of pickle. You explained it so well and taught me some stuff that I either didn't know or had forgotten!! I love reading you since it keeps me in touch with what's "really" going on at home.
Keep on knitting!
PS. How do you manage to knit so many things?? Are you human or an alien in disguise!!!
This is fascinating. Thank you. I had to read it in chunks in between bouncing the baby and today's math lesson, but I think my smushy postpartum brain actually understands it all. You rock.
Does the Governor General have to be a woman when there's a Queen, and a man when there's a woman?
Thanks for the government lesson. We could have used some of those checks and balances here in the U.S. over the past few years.
Thanks for that! I was wondering how you folks worked up there.
Sounds like a pretty tense situation to be in...I'd be nervous.
Dumb American Meant:
Does the Governor General have to be a woman when there's a Queen, and a man when there's a King?
Holy moly! That's news. Enough to make me wish I had a television (one that picked up Canadian channels I suppose), so I could follow along whilst knitting.
If I understand it correctly, then if the Queen shows up on Canadian soil, it becomes her call rather than Mme Jean's, yes?
So what you're saying is... Mr. Harper is "looking out for #1."
(Sounds like he's also stepping in #2.)
Thank you so much! I was trying to wrap my hear around thi situation since we live so close to the border but I was truly overwhelmed.
You are now my Canadian government expert!
This is FANTASTIC, Stephanie. Thanks. I'm linking it to my American friends that are curious about what's going on, but get confused when I gibber the details. <3
This is certainly going to be an interesting few weeks, huh?
It's awesome and terrifying and thrill-inducing all at once. (Kind of like our [US] political crises, only without the thrill...) Great primer -- I'd read most of this all over but having someone set it all out together really helped me make sense of everything else I've seen. Thanks, Steph.
Yes, some of us from the USA did know how this works, and I must say it was a masterful and entertaining synopsis. I have always thought that watching one's own government carefully was the best sitcom, drama, and reality show around, all rolled in to one! That said, are you absolutely sure that Mr Harper is not related to Newt Gingrich, who, as majority leader of the House of Representatives, once shut down the American government in a fit of pique? He sure seems like a Republican to me.
I'm printing this out for my son's world studies class - if teachers taught government the way you write about yours, kids would enjoy it more, understand it more and vote more as adults. Wow.
Holy freaking crap, Batman. Best of luck! I'm sooooo glad our election is over.
Yes, some of us from the USA did know how this works, and I must say it was a masterful and entertaining synopsis. I have always thought that watching one's own government carefully was the best sitcom, drama, and reality show around, all rolled in to one! That said, are you absolutely sure that Mr Harper is not related to Newt Gingrich, who, as majority leader of the House of Representatives, once shut down the American government in a fit of pique? He sure seems like a Republican to me.
That was the best explanation of our government I have ever read, thank you!!! As a Canadian transplanted to the US, I am disheartened that I cannot vote in Canadian elections. I guess voting for the first African-American US President, in my first vote ever, will have to do.
I know you thought this would be boring for those of us uninvolved in the Canadian political system, but I thought it was fascinating, and a very clear and understandable explanation of a the workings of a government I'd never had the chance to learn about. I'm certainly looking forward to more knitting, but that was pretty cool.
That was an amazing and comprehensive primer on Canadian government I'm once again completely frustrated that the US education system doesn't think we should know basic stuff about our neighbors to the North. Even though I had base knowledge about Parliamentary Democracies (Political Science major), I've occasionally found myself lost following the current crisis, and now I feel a little more like I know what is going on.
WOW! THANK YOU! I have been watching the CBC/Winnipeg news, trying to watch The National (I am early to bed), watched Mercer last night, and today almost called our political science department to find out if anyone/who is talking about this in class so I can understand what is happening!
With your wonderful explanation, I think I am starting to understand. My big problem was understanding that Harper could 'win' two months ago - and then his government be in such trouble already.
I am SO looking forward to the GG's actions. Does she get to call Harper on the carpet? From my uninformed position, it looks like he overplayed his cards and now wants to at least reshuffle the deck...if not overturn the table!
Thank you for your help. I am printing your explanation to keep with me as I read more about the Canadian government. You guys are great neighbors. Thank you! (from Grand Forks, ND)
I must admit the last few days make me long for the days of the Rhino party!
Wow.. I think the political parties should hire you to explain their complex platform.. that was so concise! Maybe it would have made the whole Green SHift thing a little more comprehendable.
As a Canadian (lovely Niagara Region) I think the whole thing is a crock! Both side are just full of sour grapes.... kids in kindergarten behave better on the playground. They should all just suck it up and learn to play nice! We don't need another election and a coalition goverment won't last long enough to make a difference, an election will follow soon after!
Thanks for the explanation! I was vaguely aware that there was some kind of buzz involving a coalition of people who wouldn't normally give each other the time of day, but couldn't get a clear picture as to what was actually going on and how it would end up with the leader of the coalition taking power.
I think you couldn't pay me to be Mme. Jean right now...
That was a seriously wicked explanation of a the current state of political ridiculousness in our country. I think this coalition deserves a shot, and I can hardly wait to see how this plays out.
Also, I'm surprised the CBC hasn't asked you to be a political panelist yet.
And I thought US politics were complicated!
Thanks for explaining. I had a vague idea of the way things worked up there. Now I feel almost like an expert!
Here's hoping for the best for your country.
And the coolest part is that our GG is (1) black and (2) an immigrant.
(And the previous governor general, Adrienne Clarkson, was chinese and an immigrant.)
I love our multicultural "mosaic."
Thanks for the info. You really know how to explain something extremely complex in terms even I can understand.
At least we were able to vote our DA out. I just hope the next one is better - well anything is better than the last eight years.
If the way to a healthy, active brain is to learn something new every day, then I've met today's goal! Thanks!
The GG also has the option of refusing to prorogue(suspend Parliment), call an election or offer the opposition the opportunity to govern, she can tell the PM to go back to Parliment and work it out. If I were in Madame Jean's shoes the temptation to tell the M Ps to grow up and behave themselves would be overwhelming. We Quebecers are going to the polls for a provencial election on Dec.8, having just had a federal election few of us are even remotely enamored by the possibility of yet another election. If we are forced into another election I will be sorely tempted to vote for the Marxist-Leninist candidate. Where oh where are the Rhinos when we really need them? For non Canadians or those too young to remember, the Rhinocerous Party was a real party as in a celebration. One of the Rhino Candidates who came in second in a Montreal riding back in the 70's rode a unicycle on the stage and wore a pair of pink rubber gloves at meet the candidates event. Send in the real clowns!
Although I'm a Canadian I could NEVER (and I sincerely mean that) explain any of this so well. Thank-you for elucidating me, many other Canadians and many many other non-Canadians.
Yikes! Thanks for the primer.
Wish our news were showing more coverage of this.
I did google the CBC to find out what was happening after yesterdays post, but, todays posting was indeed a learning experience. I loved learning about Canada's government, I get so involved in our state and federal stuff down here in the US and Wisconsin, that learning that there are other ways of doing things is kinda refreshing (I love it, I hardly ever get to say down here, we're always the ones "up there"). For me, the elections just ended, since I got involved in a recount in my State Senate District.
Back to the Signature needles, they are beautiful. I tried some out at the Sheep & Wool festival in Jefferson in September and fell in love. I love it that they are made by a a small business that is in Wisconsin no less! Injecting politics back into the conversation, myy heart was broken recently when I found out that my politics and the business owners are not the same. I'm always better off when I don't know that. I think it will be OK, they are beautiful needles!
At least Canadians have alternatives for bad leadership (or at least, histrionic leadership). Our system is limited to hissing, posturing and finger-pointing. And the electoral college is so antequated, it's like having your feet stuck in the cement of Colonial times while you're straining toward the 21st Century. Thank you for a fun/witty/smart rundown of the Canadian system. Now I'll have something to think about while I chug through my holiday projects!
Thank you for this. One last question (sorry). How is the Governor General selected?
Excellent summary. Thanks for making it all seem relatively clear in the midst of a whole lot of political confusion.
It's very rare that Canadian politics are interesting that this whole debacle is so much more intriguing.
I think its great that ya'll get a mulligan when things aren't working. As an American in Canada, I'm loving watching all this go down.
Wow. I shall be hoping for the best for you, and for Canada. I think many Americans know the crushing feeling of defeat to feel like your government isn't one you can get behind. My solution was always to go to Canada, but maybe I need to pick a new country to run to. Thanks for taking the time to explain this to all of us.
Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie... I *know* you're upset, but you've thrown elementary grammar all to heck! "It's" instead of "its," "Cheif" instead of "Chief" ...good gracious! Canada's a strong, fine country - we'll be fine, just as long as you don't panic and start spelling all funky on us! The country needs you now more than ever. Be strong!
Wow! Thanks for the civics lesson. I taught World Geography and don't think I had that much info. on the government in Canada. I thought we had a lot going on in the US.
Thanks, Steph! This Ohio political junkie really enjoyed your explanation. Several years ago I tried to explain the U.S. system to an Australian and I nearly lost my mind. The whole thing (both our system and yours) is messy, but it generally works.
I just wish we could have done something similar before we got into the mess we're in now!
And I thought we had trouble. It almost makes me grateful for Pat Paulson and Ralph Nader. However, if you think Republicans are far right, you need to do some more research. There are about 5 flavors of Republicans most of whom don't agree.
Thanks for the explanation, Stephanie! We really should learn more about our northern neighbors in school and beyond. And I'm jealous of a system with more than two real political parties.
(*Technically* there are more than two parties in the US...but you wouldn't know it from watching the media.)
Whew, that was a serious explanation of how your government system works. Very impressive. Doubt there are few of here in the U.S. that could do as well. Sounds like your PM, despite his efforts will be with you long. Change is often painful and expensive - sounds like you guys are overdue. Good Luck. PS I like brown - a lot.
thank you for a wonderful, concise synopsis of what is going on in our wonderful country.
Too bad our journalists can't write as well as you do.
I wish I knew my own system so well.
I can't believe that I have gotten this far in life and had no clue as to how my northern neighbor ran their government. Thanks for the lesson and let us know what happens!
Oh! That's so exciting! This is a great explanation, although I think it's easier for me than for most because I also live in a constitutional monarchy (NZ) and have the Governor General thing. May I ask which system of parliament Canada operates under? is it Mixed Member (MMP) proportional rep.? [You don't need to answer this, I'll just go wiki it when I'm done, but.]
I'll be crossing my fingers for the lefties, and I'm really jealous of y'all having so many leftist parties, by the way. I am guessing there is a rule of some kind that only the party with the most MPs may form a government post-election? Because in NZ the winner (hah) is usually whoever can form a coalition that gives them a majority. This leads to governments who don't have trouble getting stuff done, but who do have to be nice to everyone in their coalition or it will dissolve.
THANK YOU!! I've been trying to figure out what was going on and this made it so much easier. I even think I mostly understand the process!
Much appreciation from a US kid who never got lessons on "how Canada runs..." :)
See, yall are so polite all the time I had no idea it could be so intrigue-ridden.
All that explains indirectly how third-party candidates don't get anywhere in the States.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I will now direct people to this post when they ask, "WTF is up with the government?!"
Two very minor points. . .
1. If the GG calls an election, the house is dissolved by the Act of Dropping the Writ, not porogued. If the house is dissolved, any bills that have not been passed (legislation) die, and must be re-introduced when the new parliment takes office.
2. There are only two types of motions that invoke confidence motions, if they are defeated: a finance bill (called a motion of supply)that involves the spending of money, and a bill that says that Canada is at war with another country. Other bills involving the Military do not involve confidence motions.
Sorry to be Anal. . . .
Wow and I thought US politics was messed up. I hope that wise heads prevail and that government that is best for Canada prevails.
That was extremely educational. Can I ask you to please do a follow up when the Gov. General makes her decision? You really made everything make sense. :)
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! My brain hurts!!!!!!!
must go pet yarn now. and eat fresh baked scones.
ps...dude, I thought we were messed up, but, dang.
Well there was a fair bit of opinion in there, some of which I don't agree with. However, it is your blog afterall. But I must applaud your research, your knowledge and the cohesive way you put all that together. Even I learned something, thanks.
that is a representation of my boggled mind right now. wow; amazing. why aren't they talking about this on NPR down here?!
For those who think the Tories are anything like the Republicans, take it from a Canadian living in the States...the Conservatives are slightly more liberal than the Democrats. Well, with the new president-elect that may change but up until now that's how I've seen it.
Thank you. I learned something new today.
Awesome. Thanks for the excellent explanation. I've always thought that the Canadian system is pretty similar to NZ, and it is apart from a couple of differences. For example we have two votes - one for a local candidate (the electorate vote) and one for the party. It's the party vote that determines how many seats a party gets overall though so that's the most important one, but there's a threshold of 5% to get a seat so sometimes for minor parties they may do better by winning an electorate.
Also, a governor general probably wouldn't ask a leader to be PM if he or she didn't have a majority or agreements on confidence and supply from a majority. This does mean that minor parties can hold the government to ransom somewhat, and I imagine that happens in Canada too - it's generally the minor parties holding the threat of an election over everyone!
Oh, and the term in NZ is only three years.
Make politics so much more exciting, doesn't it? I love it! Except since a month ago we've had a conservative government too... the weirdest coalition though between National (right of centre), ACT (right wing), United Future (centrist family-values Christian party) and the Maori Party.
Sorry for the long comment but I love politics as much as you do!
best definition of Canada's government ever...thanks.
Thank you for this! I tried reading a few news articles yesterday but they were dry and uninspired. Your summary was outstanding!
Thank you! I have been searching for a primer on Canadian govt/politics to try to understand what the h*ll is going on. I have a friend in Toronto and I have felt so stupid everytime she mentions something happening because it's so foreign to our system (I honestly don't know which is worse - having the potential to constantly change governments or being stuck 4 years at a time (8 loooong years) with someone like W).
I'm going to print this entry out for future reference!
Stephanie - you could easily get a job as a technical writer, you know. I am amazed at your ability to take a complex system and break it down into the relevant components.
THANK YOU!!!! Our family just returned from spending Our Thanksgiving Holiday in Your beautiful country (Whistler - it was LOVELY) and I heard in brief about this from our house sitter upon our return home. I was soooo curious - but found zip, zero, nada in the local papers! (so ego centric our media) BUT, I just knew that I could learn more from you and in entertaining fashion. Please continue to keep us posted! (accidental pun)
PS-giving my girls Mr Dressup DVD box set for Christmas along with homemade Tickle Trunk. THANK YOU for sharing that - I'm sure it will be a big hit for our whole family!
Thank you for the very clear explanation. Have you ever thought about writing more than knitting books?
Making Light has a couple of threads running on this, which explain it to those of us who aren't used to parliamentary systems.
(I might actually think about getting a pair or a set of those Signature needles ....)
I've been following this with great interest from south of your border. I most especially love it when politicians who insist that something is wrong-immoral-illegal-unfair are then shown to have supported the something just a few years ago. Even better if there's video!
Thanks so much - hope you don't mind if I share this - fully credited of course- with my French classes tomorrow. Peace.
Thank you for that explanation! Like lots of my compatriots, I'm ashamed that my American education didn't include governmental structures of other countries in North America.
Thanks for this. I've been hearing about some of the wrangling going on in Canadian politics lately, but didn't really understand the inner workings.
So how did Mme. Jean get her job? Was she elected or appointed? And if appointed, I am guessing by the Queen?
Thanks - you did do a better job than my high school Canadian history course!
I do agree that GG Jean is extremely cool - a filmmaker, a broadcaster, an adoptive mother, truly bilingual, and very beautiful as well ...
I don't feel that a coalition could possibly be worse than any more time under the Harper conservatives (such wanna-be Bush republicans).
I have no problem with the actions taken by the opposition parties, I have a problem with the timing chosen for intra-parliamentary fighting. We don't need this kind of instability in the middle of one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression. Defeating the minority government at all costs, and trying to provoke the opposition parties at all costs, is detrimental to us, Canadian citizens, to our livelihoods, to our savings, and to our quality of life. This should be a time-out for all politicians; think of the greater good -- running the country with as much stability as possible until the recession is over. After that, go and fight, and do whatever, settle your scores, but leave the population's financial security out of it. Shame on all of them for the timing they chose.
am totally riveted. cbc all day and all night. nice synopsis - i thought i had a handle on it but you clarified a few points that i was foggy on.
riveted. must. get. back to cbc.
Thank you for enlightening me! I'll be interested to see how this turns out.
Wow, that's so cool, both the process and that you actually KNOW what the process is, unlike 95% (I don't know if I'm being cynical or generous in that estimate) of my fellow Americans. I'm on TENTERHOOKS thinking about what she'll do on Monday. Please keep us posted!!
that is the best explanation I've seen of this whole thing. Even I learned a lot. Maybe you could submit a version to the Globe or the CBC or someone because the state of the debate in the media makes me turn it off rather quickly.
My partner's giggle about this whole thing was how Harper could manage to have a strategy that gives Dion this opportunity. Because on recent form, Dion is not a master strategist. Some days I fear for the quality of our politicians.
Newsweek should come to you asking permission to print this. I did a fair bit of reading of Canadian news outlets yesterday, trying to understand what was up, and this is by far the clearest description. Well done. And have fun up there!
"we vote for parties not individuals"
Legally, we clearly vote for individuals, who can, or not, be party of a party.
If we had no political parties, Parliament would still exist, and would actively elect a PM from their midsts. No constitutional change is necessary. Because we have political parties, Parliament consents to using certain conventions as to whom forms government, but there's no laws per say defining this. All that we really have is the knowledge that Parliament decides things democratically.
Harper only have 38% of the vote. The other 62% isn't happy with him and want a change arrived at democratically. This logic is slam dunk, but his supporters are a noisy, undemocratic bunch.
Stephanie - thanks for the rather concise primer on what is happening. We did some research last night on this topic, but the inside explanation is much clearer ;->
Thanks for the lesson. I had no idea how the government of Canada worked (shame on me and on my education). I am quite sure that Canadians have a much better understanding of the US government than we have of yours, and we really should do better.
This is an excellent summary of the situation Stephanie. On small point of clarification. The Queen is our head of State, and her image is on the coins and stamps etc. The Queen is represented by the GG in Canada and the GG is responsible for making the difficult decisions, and the advice of constitutional experts.
I lived in Australia for 4 years so I was familiar with some of the details of a parliamentary system, but didn't know the specifics of what was going on in Canada.
If only we knitters ruled the world.
>> In addition, we vote for parties not individuals.
Don't you mean we vote for individuals not parties? technically we vote for our MPs who are supposed to represent us and they belong to a party.
Otherwise great article
And now I am a smarter and better person than I was a few minutes ago. Thank you!
Amazing, thank you for that well stated primer on Canadian government.
Politics is proving to be more entertaining than entertainment gossip!
Thanks! I was looking up events in Canada after I read your blog yesterday but didn't know enough about how the government worked to really follow.
I'm torn about whether it would be better or worse if we had a "no confidence" vote in the US. The potential for abuse in party politics seems quite high from the description (I imagine threats of elections would be flying around constantly). On the other hand, a system that leaves us stuck with a president until the next election even when everyone wants him gone (as is happening currently) is inefficient at best, dangerous at worst.
Stephanie, you are very good at explaining things. Thanks for that!
Thank you! I'm passing this onto my husband, who teaches 6th grade, to share with his students.
Very methodical reporting. Thanks for that excellent summary.
Oh, thank you! As a Canadian now living in the States, I was all agog after yesterday's teaser - but then the baby woke up and the other kids came home from school and there was no time to wade through the newspaper sites to find out what was happening back home. Now I feel both caught up and SO pumped! Who knew things up on the Hill could become so exciting?
Thanks for taking the time to write this up for the Americans in the crowd. Very exciting!
I hope whatever happens turns out for the best!
(and dude. Go Governor General!)
So how are that brown hat and sock coming along? Can't wait to see pictures. Cheers!
Lucid, dude. Once again you've made me miss Molly Ivins,who used to do this sort of thing for us with sparkle and twang.
Me, I'd settle for having "several valid, effective parties." Or two.Or one.
As an honors poli sci degree-holder, I have to say you are FAR better at explaining than the majority of poli sci professors everywhere. Brilliant job!
(Yes, poli sci majors can and do grow up to be professional knitters. Don't laugh).
That's a very helpful overview, thanks so much for posting it!
Since I did vote, I do get to bitch and boy would I love to give ol' Steve a good kick in the arse.
Being a good reader, after your comments yesterday, when I had no idea what you were talking about (Bad U.S. journalists! Bad sprite!), I took myself off to the BBC to get a better understanding of the current Canadian political clime.
They gave me a broad brush understanding of the issues at hand, but your post provides a lot of detail and, thus, gives me more insight into the situation. Thank you.
Thanks! I am Canadian and this really helped me to understand what the heck is going on!
Sounds like a fine skein of yarn in a big knot. Fingers crossed for better times.
Some Canadians, such as myself, are also sitting back and realizing... that our PM was 'smart?' enough to wait a FULL week after the Governor General left the country to have his fun and games commence.
Have a friend who was participating in what she was overseas... Harper and those who voted for him... LOOK LIKE A$$ES to a LOT of people in Europe right now.
Back to knitting indeed.
Great explanation. My initial reaction was "How cool!" which I suppose is not very respectful of a real political crisis in a neighboring country, but really, how much more interesting your system is than ours!
I also want to thank you for this wonderful summation of what is going on in Canada. Your mention yesterday was the first I had heard of it, did some Googling - but didn't find anywhere as much info as above! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
No wonder Canadians and Australians get on so well.... we run our countries the same way!
This sort of thing happened back in the 1970s here, and our Govoner-General sacked the Government. (My opinion? He was quite right, they were bankrupting the country, but debate still rages hotly today!!!!)
The guy who sacked the government never recovered from that action... his reputation was smeared and he was vilified by people who disagreed with his action. He ended up quite a sad figure...
It's silly to simultaneously claim that this coalition "represents two thirds of Canadians" and that the "Bloc is NOT part of the coalition." Either this is a minority government with the Bloc willing to let it stand, or it is a majority coalition including the Bloc.
(Though I do like the guy at Making Light refering to the GG as "the Queen node.")
Goody-- another soap opera to watch. I've been short of entertainment since our election.
Oy. My head hurts. In a good way, I think...
Let's not forget that with his "economic update" he also wanted to deny unions the right to strike for three years (something they do not historically do during times of economic challenge) and "drastically reform" the equal pay legislation - this last being something that principally affects women in the civil service sector. I'd cheer if I actually thought that pay equity legislation and payments held the key to our economic salvation (because that would mean that we are being paid more equitably than we are), but I cannot - even for a second - believe that it does. It's rather ironic that he has to go to a woman to beg for mercy/forgiveness/time, is it not?
Thanks a lot for the info, Stephanie. After your comment in yesterday's post, I went looking for current Canadian news and didn't find much. Obviously my ability to google is impaired. You have helped me have a better understanding of the way Canadian government works...and I will have my eyes open for future (near future!) developments.
I also look forward to tomorrow's sock et cetera post.
Steph, EXCELLENT, you come through as always.
I'm sorry but I beg to quibble on one thing - "we vote for parties not individuals. " Many people are saying this right now, but everything I've known (and have been re-reading the last few days) says that is not, technically, correct. I know it's a nitpick (not knitpicks) but I'm pretty sure of it: We, when we vote, vote for the Person who will go to Parliament to represent our riding.
Now, how most voters decide to choose a person, is by their Party affiliation, but that is not ALWAYS the case, and Parties are mutable as are the party affiliations of individual members. A member leaving a party or changing parties does not invalidate their election (though it may wipe out their chances in the next one). See: Belinda Stronach. Among others.
Technically speaking: We cast a vote for a person to represent us, choosing that person most strongly associated with the values we share, which often but not always includes a political party affiliation. But we don't "vote for a party".
Excellent post! Living in Vermont and having a dad from Montreal I often forget how anti-quebec other parts of Canada can be; or how different from Quebec.
I can't wait to call my grandma and see what she thinks of all of this. She's in Florida now but she waited to go down until she voted last time.
I'm Canadian and I hadn't a clue what was going on. Thanks for the very detailed information! I'm going to have to actually pay attention to the news to find out what happens.
This is an awesome explanation, and really manages to sum up whats cool about Canadian politics: when it wants to, it moves quickly.
I enjoyed the linked column my Roy MacGregor, in which he points out that not only did Stephen Harper manage to unite the right, he's now managed to unite the left!
Kudos for the great explanation, Steph. Note, though, that I am (now) a "Westerner" (read: generally conservative). Sigh. I was young and a Liberal when I left Quebec (1976) to come out here with my Vancouver-born hubby. I had lived in Montreal through the War Measures Act, and thought PET was a pretty savvy fellow. Then I watched him and the Liberals try to destroy the West with the National Energy Program. I watched the Arrogant Jean Chretien (he made Trudeau look diplomatic and fair) get away with fraud and robbing the public purse, despite the efforts of the Auditor General and the Commission appointed to look into the Sponsorship Scandal. Sigh (yet again.) If the Liberals and NDP succeed with their coalition, Dion will gloat over getting the power he craves. The impact of parliamentary representation from the West will diminish significantly, and because Ontario is now a "have-not" province, there will be an attempt to institute another NEP-like program to tax Alberta blind (and maybe Saskatchewan, with their potash riches) so that Eastern industry can be bailed out. (The lobster fishers in the Maritimes will be ignored or Hibernia will be used to support them.) The Senate will be re-stacked....
Well, it just won't be a pretty picture.
I love this country, too, but for the past 30years I have failed to understand this penchant for a Total Nanny State and for High-flying Pork Barrelling.
I hope there's an election and that the West will get so flippin' upset about this that we'll vote in a conservative majority. At least that would be one good outcome of all this -- get more people out to the polls.
you know what makes me angry...the Canadian people are "supposed" to have their voices heard...that is the way the whole structure of our government is "supposed" to work...so I went and had my say at the polls and so did the rest of canada whether they agreed with me or not...we made a decision!
I know as you explained there is a lot of political reasons that this is happening and it is all very involved...but to me if the canadian people have confidence enough in their government to re elect them then why are the other politcal parties not respecting our vote? Yes, I realize that the answer to that question is very clear...but it still chaps me!
Let's let this dink do some work!
I am so impressed! Gift suggestions one day, (I bought a pair of size 2 6" DP's, btw, in case you are in line for a commission on the sale), and a detailed lesson on government the next! You are a one-stop spot for information!
Wow what a mess. The Canadian system is much the same as the New Zealand system. We have the same problem with minority governments but the behaviour of your current PM sounds outrageous! Hope Canada comes through this and Madame Jean is up to the job.
Thanks, Stephanie. You saved me a lot of time on getting back up to speed. Now could you explain the electoral college to those in the US who don't get how their own elections work. We do have complicated systems, but you guys win on the convolutions.
I seem to remember something similar happening before in my lifetime (50+ years). Canada went to great lengths to avoid the Prime-Minister-for-life system and to accomodate opposing factions, but it can make things messy. It will be interesting to watch it play out. Hopefully we won't all bear the cost of some people's snits.
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge in easy to understand language. I tried reading various news sources and just got confused.
ooh, thanks for the civics lesson.
Well done! WOW! She knits and knows a bloody lot about politics!! I just couldn't have explained this so well, I'm SO IMPRESSED. loved this post, it made me oddly proud to be Canadian. We are crazy, crazy people.
WOW. How are you getting anything done these days? In the run up to the US election, I could barely pry myself away from any and all news sources.
and, in another stellar example of our centrist media - not a peep of this is on any of the major US news channels. surprising? of course not!
Dudes - does anyone know if she is a knitter?
Thanks for writing this post. I've been trying to read about this whole thing and I just could not make heads or tails of what was going on... not being particularly knowledgeable about systems of government.
Sounds like exciting times!
Thank you for the summary. If my poly sci teacher had been half so coherent, I might have learned something in the class.
Dude. I love your country, too. I wish we had no-confidence votes.
That sounds much more interesting and much more expedient than the US model. I guess the biggest sticking point now is that if both the PM and the Governor General were boneheads...
I read something about this the other day. That the opposition parties in Canada had signed a formal agreement to work together until 2011 (or something like that) Thanks for clearing up what prorogue means and MP (I was clueless on both). I was curious about what was going on up there in the "Great White North" since you guys had just had an election. Thanks for the info.
Great post! :-)
One tiny nit-pick re: the Governor General. She is not the Head of State; the Queen is. The GG is her representative in Canada. If the Queen were actually in Canada right now, she would be the one to call the shots. (In practice, she would do this on the advice of Canadian constitutional experts, of course).
To give a bit of an answer to a couple of commenters asking about how the GG is chosen...
The Governor General is appointed by the monarch (right now, that's Elizabeth II), who takes the advice of the Canadian Prime Minister. (In Mme Jean's case, that was former PM Paul Martin in 2005).
By custom, the GG serves for around five years, but there is no constitutionally set term.
Also, by custom, the position is held alternately by Anglo-Canadians and Francophone Canadians.
The position of Governor General was held by Brits until 1952, when Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person appointed GG.
Thank you very much for that awesome post. It is so interesting to learn how other governments work. I had found articles on what was happening in Canada, but I hadn't found anything that summarized everything as you did. Thanks again!
Awesome!!! That was a great "Cliffs Notes" version of Canadian government. I tried to research some stuff online after your post yesterday and NONE of it explained things even close to that well. Please do keep us posted. Maybe you can have a "Don't read this part if you don't care about Canadian Government" section of the blog!! :)
So well said. I've forwarded your blog entry to friends and family.
I'm living in Alberta (an all Conservative MP province for the non-Canadians out there). If I hear one more person cry "undemocratic", I'm going to LOSE it. More Canadians voted for non-Conservative MPs during the last election (in my riding, the Greens came in second), so in a true representational democracy, Steven Harper would already be on the other side of the floor. I hope to see him there sometime soon.
It's exciting, in that there's a glimmer of hope that we can get Mr. Harper's arse outta there at last. But at the same time, holy moly. We've had too many years of dillying around in Parliament. Sure wish they would all get down to business and quit playing soap opera and student council politics.
Thank you, Stephanie, for an excellent lesson in Canadian civics. It's a worthwhile diversion, because if things go too awry with the Canadian government, well, that might affect your knitting, and consequently, your blog, which we greatly enjoy.
Isn't it exciting?! I'm not sure what's going to happen to this great country of ours, but I can't remember the last time the whole nation was so interested in the way our government runs, or the fate of our country. I hope it causes more people to get out and vote the next time an election is called (which might be pretty soon - who knows really).
I don't envy Madame Jean her position right now, but at the same time I'm glad that she's the GG right now.
Why is there so much surprise over Stephanie's lucid and engaging explanation of the facts? After all, she's a New York Times Bestselling Author.
that was a great summary of the events of late. i've been locked in my study working hard cramming for an exam (that i wrote last night thank god) for the last SIX days and when i came out last night for supper - pre exam - i sat down, looked at the TV and said "why is everyone yelling?"... at which point my partner turned to me with wide eyes and almost squealed "it's democracy in action - LIVE!"
Having never learned about Canadian government in any of my US schools, I really appreciated reading your clear and informed explanation. Your educational system must be better then ours I think!
Amazing - absoloutely amazing situation. Even more amazing is your ability to sum it all up in a short story rather than an epic novel :P Thanks so much for the primer - CNN, BBC etc didn't get to the heart of it like you did.
This whole thing makes me want to knit something with a Maple Leaf on it just to show some support! The US does not have the monopoly on governmental drama, it seems.
Between growing up in Australia (born just months after the Constitutional crisis of '75), and reading more Trollope than is healthy for anyone, I haven't been too confused by what's going on in Canada, except by Harper's slams at the Bloc and mutterings about coups- because this isn't that abnormal, and certainly not coupish!
Thank you for the clear and precise outline of everything that's going down. It's important that people understand, I think. I'm also of the old-fashioned opinion that the personal is political and vice versa, so we all have responsibilities to speak up when it matters, even if the situation is nowhere near as pretty or captivating as a two-row Noro scarf.
That, without a doubt, was the best, most unbiased description of Canadian government I have ever seen. Thank you so much for the primer. I shared it with a (non-knitting) guy co-worker, and we both learned a great deal! We're American, and suffer from the Ameri-centric school system in which we never learned a whit of this.
A much clearer explanation that one would get on CNN or in any major U.S. daily newspaper. Thanks! (The commenter's idea of printing it out for my son's geography/social studies class isn't bad, either!)
dude, thanks for explaning that so i finally understand the whole thing. [not sure why my Canadian public school education didn't include our parliamentary system, but now that you've covered it, I guess they're off the hook.]
As a lawyer who at one time specialized in public law, just one small correction... We do in fact vote for individuals, not parties. I think you were trying to say that we don't vote directly for the Prime Minister. Rather, we vote for a member to represent our riding in the House of
Commons, and then those elected members decide which party will govern based on which party has the confidence of Parliament or a majority. Then, the leader of that party will become Prime Minister.
The reason the US knows next to nothing about its neighboring countries is that it's too self-important to think that anyone else matters. Thanks much for the shortened, condensed version of Canadian government! Knit on . . .
Wow! Sounds like your Mr. Harper & our Mr. George Bush are cut from the same cloth!
That was one of the best explanations of how our system works that I have ever seen!
I thought you were very even-handed since most Canadians feel strongly one way or another about the Prime Minister (note I don't say "our" PM since I don't feel he cares at all about this country as a whole).
On an entirely different note: is your 2009 calendar available at Indigo? if not, where can one get it in Toronto without going online (ie amazon)?
Thanks again for the excellent civics lesson!
Thank you, that was really interesting.
This is so interesting, down below we get no news from Canada. Didn't have any idea this was going on. Thanks
Fascinating! Thank you for that government lesson. I am just intrigued by government negotiations.
Fascinating stuff! Thanks for taking the time to put all that down for us.
Thanks for keeping me up-to-date on Canadian politics. I haven't really been keeping in the loop, but this makes it interesting. As a transplanted Aussie in the U.S. I understand the parliamentary system, but you did a great job of explaining it. :)
WAY better than hanging chads!!! Thanks!
Holy Cow!!! The structure of the Canadian government is very interesting and you explained it so clearly - I will be waiting to hear the outcome. Thanks
Thank you for explaining this about as clearly as I imagine it can be, and bringing some Canadian Current Events to my daily reading. Parliamentary Democracy sounds a lot more complicated that what the US has, but maybe just because this is the first time I've really had it explained. Good luck with a good outcome!
Hot d*amn! You have managed to make the US gov't system appear rational. I can also now see that our President has not been quietly working in the background for the last year or so here, he has donned a costume and crossed the border to act as an advisor to your Mr. Hawkins. My apologies re:that. May I also add, "Go, Madame Governor". Thanks for the detailed explanation. I feel like I just crammed for CA Poly Sci and will ace the final. Awaiting developments...
I think the critical thing to remember in the current political situation is that 62% of Canadians who voted in the recent election did NOT vote for the Conservative party.
Elly in Nova Scotia
WOW. Dude. That's kind of awesome.
Thank you. That was very concise and clear and it's probable that I now know more about Canadian government than about my own (US) government.
This was so helpful! thank you!
Holy crap, I'm flippin' out! That's just crazy!
I bet the PM is Madame Jean's least favorite person right about now. He's effectively spoiled a nice trip to Europe and made her job pretty damned difficult in the process. I imagine he'll get what's coming to him. No one can be that aggressive for long without getting called on the carpet for it, at least most of the time (we'll ignore the current US administration for now, shall we?)
Thanks for explaining it all. I learned something new!
I hope the Queen shows up and give a lecture on how we asked for "Responsible Government", so do it already.
At least we're keepin' it interesting!
Dude, thanks for the tutorial! So many non-USAians were interested in the recent USA election. I felt extremely moronic (and bad) for not understanding exactly what was going on with Our Northern Neighbor.
Best wishes to y'all for getting a good government out of all the confusion. Hooray for democracy in all its variety!
Fascinating. Truly, it is! Makes me wish I were Canadian.
Wow. Thank you so much for that--it was a clear explanation of a complex system. I already believed that Canadians had a saner system than we do, but I didn't really understand how it worked. I really appreciate the civics lesson and current events update!
Just wondering...are you a native born Canadian?
Fascinating! I can't wait to hear what happens. Thanks for the tutorial.
Well, that was a fantastic explanation. I can't understand why this isn't front page news here (In NYC), but I assure you yours is the first I've heard of it. Very interesting.
You have made more sense of this tangle than anyone ... even Peter Mansbridge!
I passed the link along to many others ...
One word: WOW
Thanks for the little tutorial. Even when I lived in Canada for four years, I still couldn't quite figure out how it worked. (yeah, it's bad.)
And, (although I certainly wouldn't want to be her) I wish the fate of the US all rested on the hands of one woman...
That was a fantastic primer! I have avoided reading much news lately, because - well - it makes me cry. (Ignorance has been rather blissful)
This is terribly interesting - thank you!
thank you, i read the news article when you mentioned it yesterday and it made little sense to me. i think i prefer the canadian way of voting, it seems the people have more say. i think it would do wonders if US voting did not take forever and waste so much money!!
I will add my two cents worth re: what is Canada? If you are willing to spend some time reading a great book I recommend, Constitutional Law of Canada by Peter Hogg. It's a door stopper 1,411 pages (2005 edition). He is the leading constitutional scholar in Canada and a kiwi by birth. I referenced the text for a course and continue to take it out of the library to ponder the parliamentary process as it unfolds.
Wow! What a great primer on Canadian govermment.
You should write textbooks.
Thanks for that! My roommate tried to break it down for me- he explained the current situation but not the background or what might be coming up.
Ah, this brings back memories of 1975, when our Gov-Gen, here in Australia, faced the exact situation. He did sack the PM and appointed the opposition's leader as PM. Very dramatic, still talked about, still stunning. (Mind you, our GG was a bit of a drunk) I should say that we have the same system as you, and a jolly good one it is!
I'm generally confused by politics (I read everything & think about nothing else for 6 mo. before OUR elections, as a rule, but otherwise - confused). But I'll be watching this with interest (MERCI for the tutorial!) This has nothing to do with politics, but I think your Governor General is wicked cool, and much admire her husband as well. Has it occurred to you that in its own quiet little way, Canada has been much more progressive than we are as a group, in many things. (I admit it, I'm an unashamed fan of New France & environs.)
I did look up some articles yesterday and none were as clear and educational as your explanation. And why haven't I heard any of this on the nightly news here in New York?
I went to New York for American Thanksgiving R&R, came back Monday and couldn't understand how the government had fallen in FOUR DAYS!!! My bf tried to explain it to me, but your explanation was very clear!
I bet explaining cables was easier than that!
Is Canada still technically a dominion of the UK? Judging from the facts that 1) it is a constitutional monarchy (I didn't actually know this, shame on me) 2) QE2 is on its money (do you remember while we were drinking showing us the coins from different years with the steadily deteriorating but always regal profile? that was fun), I'm going to guess yes -- the Governor General technically represents the Queen, right? even if really the Queen has enough to do on her side of the pond.
Anyway, the bit about governing as though one had a sweeping mandate rather than in a cooperative spirit even though one has been elected by the skin of one's teeth rings a vague bell... something about a court? ...no, can't quite call it to mind. I wish you luck and hope you get an alternative government, since that seems to be the best that can be hoped for.
Maybe someday the US can become civilized and adopt the 5-party system. That assumes, of course, that we do not have a Muslim socialist communist anarchist atheist fascist free-for-all here by January 21, 2009, which a significant minority of Americans seems to think is within the realm of possibility. I am not a member of this minority, but who knows? I've been wrong before.
You are the best!!! Thank you for explaining that so well for us Americans. Everything I know about Canadian government I learned from the Yarn Harlot. (Maybe I shouldn't tell people that...even though it's pretty much true.) And you even made it interesting! I'm sending all my non-knitting friends here to read this. And I'll encourage them to keep reading the next post about the signature needles too. That can't hurt...
Thank you for explaining what is happening in Ottawa. It makes a lot more sense now.
Really interesting post. I was summarising it to my boyfriend - when I got to the part that it all rests in the hands of one woman he said 'Wow the Yarn Harlot has that much power?' Lol finally he understands!
Now I can't wait to see what book Yann Martel sends to Stephen Harper next week! In case you've not been following:
Thanks for sharing these exciting political developments! It's really shocking, though, that none of this is on the front page of the (online) New York Times. Not only is this is important, it makes for fascinating news. (Now, if only we had a GG Jean to have brought order to the States over the last few years!)
Harper's moves remind me somewhat of the great British miniseries "House of Cards". If you like politics and intrigue and haven't seen it, I *highly* recommend it.
Dude, I can't thank you enough for this. Some of this started while I was in the ether in the mountains, so I couldn't really get news if I'd wanted to, other than the local grandfather attacked with a machete by his grandson (a worthy story, noted.) Then I get home and listen rabidly to public radio and yet.....nothing. I have learned of many things, including - I'm not making this up - the pinup showgirl appointed as the Secretary of Equal Rights in Italy. But not word one of Canada. Looking it up is almost as infuriating, since I knew nothing of the basics of the government. Thank you for wording this as if I was ignorant (I mean that genuinely, I really am stupid in this department) and for sating my need to know.
WOW! Very exciting! Keep us posted!
I am always impressed when people know how their own government works (or is supposed to work). Too few people today, of any nationality, engage in their system of government. Canada and the United States both have systems that work better with the participation of the people!
I agree with many of the other posts - the US school system is lacking in teaching any government effectively. The parliamentary system is shared by many countries, including the UK, Australia, Thailand, Spain, Germany, and Japan (to name just a few). You would think that with so many countries using a variant of the parliamentary system, we would learn about it in school... or not. Maybe the school system was counting on all of us reading knitting blogs one day. At least it worked out for those of us clever enough to follow the Yarn Harlot!
I FINALLY understand how this all works for Canada and I'm assuming that it works in a similar way in the UK? Thank you so much for taking the time to explain it so thoroughly to use!
just to add more confusion to the fire.
A Canadian citizen can also run as an independant which means one does not have to belong to a party to become a Member of Parliament. Technically, the Parliament could be made up of 308 independent elected MP's with no party ties.
Not that would ever happen though. We are far to entrenched in the party system to ever see Parliamnet made up only of independants.
Stephanie, thank you SO much! This was excellent. I'm forwarding to friends and family. Most Americans know diddly about any other government, and we need to be informed. I'll be waiting on pins & needles...
That was the best explanation I've read, thank you! I've been following the reports and commentaries on CBC, but few take the time to consolidate all the data in one place, so it's nice to see that what I'd worked out in my brain seems to be correct.
I hope Mme Jean doesn't just follow Harper's will. Having been in Canada for the election (I found one of the non-voters on Queen West - we urged him to change his mind), I love how much more vibrant and honest the election appeared than the tired ones we get in the UK. I am keeping my fingers crossed on this one for you.
This is a very good synopsis of the current Canadian parliamentary dilemma. We are hoping Madam Jean the Governor-General will not let Prime Minister Harper suspend parliament, since this usually only done when the party in power has finished it's legislative program. Since we have only just had a Throne Speech and the minority party has presented a financial update that need the approval of a majority in the House (because it is a matter of a vote of confidence), it is not proper to prorogue parliament at this time. To leave our economy flapping in the wind because our Prime Minister is not willing to take his lumps is totally irresponsible. I hope Madam Jean has the resolve to allow the coalition to bring in a stimulous package and attemp to have it pass in parliament. There is another wrinkle I read about. Can the Prime Minister ask the Queen to fire Madam Jean before she makes a decision that might put him out of power? Usually this is only a formality and the Queen gives her consent.
Wow. I learned so much about Canada's system of government. Thank you! Much better said coming from you than from a history book, imo. Fascinating predicament you all have up there. I now want to know how it will all turn out....
Thank you! I was shocked (but not surprised) that our silly US media isn't covering this, when I read your blog. Thanks for summing it up - it makes a lot more sense now.
Go Canada for putting a woman in charge!
I think that after I graduate, I should go for my master's in Canada... this is far more interesting than what we have in the US.
It actually sounds remarkably similar to the system of government in place in the UK - which really shouldn't have surprised me (Commonwealth and all that), but I'm absolutely awful at history and have only the most rudimentary grasp of it at best... so it did surprise me. Put that down to me being a moron. I'm not sure we have the whole no confidence thing in the Uk, though - although I am not a genius at politics either, so we might and it's just never really come up within my political lifetime.
Was a very interesting read! I have learned a thing today! Thank you for that! :)
I'm interested to know what happens next. I shall be keeping up with it through the online news, I think.
Yo! Thank you!
I have been following CBC, CTV and Global news on TV (my rabbit ear attenae pick up Canadian stations really well and US stations barely at all) and watching Peter Mansbridge barely contain himself with glee (my hero, that guy)
But, you've now helped me sort it all out better and I will watch with every more fascination. It seems both civilized and (slightly) chaotic at the same time. As I watched the reports of the campaigning (and the roundtable of party leaders) during the election (blessedly short compared to the US)and I couldn't help thinking that the non-conservatives were cooked unless they worked together. Which they are now obviously doing. (-;
That was really interesting. You would make a good civics teacher. I learned a lot.
It sounds complicated, but also somehow more flexible than our system. Once we've got someone at the top, it would take a serious crime to get him/her out.
And kudos to Canada having a woman Governor General!
I was on my way to the eye doc this morning listening to National Public Radio and heard about the stuff going on up north. I mused to myself...I don't really understand what is going on but I bet Stephanie will explain it.
I was right! You did! Thank you!!
I am embarrassed to admit I had no idea that this is how the Canadian government works. Complicated, yet fascinating
Thanks! I am a Canadian who listens to CBC radio regularly and I didn't know before about Harper attaching a confidence vote to everything. What a jerk! I have my fingers crossed for a coalition that will cooperate and represent the Canadians who voted for them.
Well, I couldn't've said it better myself. Well done. Another example of how well a knitter can explain a complex garment.
Cool. Tiger tail ice cream, a high density of fiber fanatics, AND fascinating politics. I definitely want to move there.
I've been a Canadian for 48 years. This is the first time I've truly understood how our government works. Thank you.
I think you should be Prime Minister.
Wow that was educational. We haven't heard anything about it down here in the US (stupid US media bubble) and I had to go to BBC.com to figure out what your last post was referring to. Hopefully, whatever the outcome, it will benefit your country to the greatest degree. Good luck and thanks for all the fish.
Wow. Okay. Now I understand, and thank you. So we have the Supreme Court, and you have the Governor General. Under the circumstances, I think you're better off.
I'm coming to live there. That all made sense.
Oh, and just because your PM and I share the same last name doesn't mean we're related. Nor is the PM related to my brother, Stephen. Unless the PM's middle name is Daniel, in which case my lawyer/chemist brother has some explaining to do.
Thanks! That is a great explanation. I really kind of feel sorry for Ms. Jean, though. It seems she might be d"d if she does and d"d if she doesn't.
I'm sure that this explanation is way better than many out there. Thanks for helping a poor American.
And how cool that it's a gal with a French name who's gonna kick you know what? Ok, I'm biased about the French name thing.
Thank you so much for all of that explanation! I tried to read some of the articles about it, but was frankly so confused I couldn't get it. Now I do. And, woah; this should be interesting!
What a well-written primer on Canadian parliamentary democracy! Thank you for this.
All I learned in school about Canadian government was that it was a Parlimentary system,but not how that system worked.Thank you for the civics lesson and I for one will definetly pay more attention to other governments world wide to see how things work outside the U.S.Thank you again!
*hands over a whole bushel full of apples for teacher* This was the best and most easily understood explanation of the mess that I've read so far. Thank you!!! Also, wow. This is really fascinating to see happen!
Is the Gov. General an appointed position or an elected position? If appointed, by whom? If elected, what party does she represent?
If she is not elected, she holds way too much power for an appointee and there is ample potential for undue influence by the person who appointed her.
"Power, however benign, without accountability is still tyranny."
Second - The key to this seemingly crazy quilt system of political parties north you describe is public funding of political campaigns. If Canadians were forced by law to directly support the party they belong to (or agree with) with personal contributions there would be less chaos in their political system and more engagement by voters. Are political parties in Canada prohibited from accepting individual support?
Third - More divides us than just a line on a map. One of the founding principles of the USA is "The government that governs least, governs best." This seems to be a truly foreign concept in many ways to our neighbors to the north. Why is an economic stimulus package so immediately necessary?
The government that robs Peter to pay Paul will always have Paul's vote.
Wow. That's better than a history book! Great explanation. And very very interesting. I'm now glued! Keep us updated.
Americans don't understand Canadian government? Duh. Too many Americans don't even understand our own government structure. (Checks and balances, anyone?) This reminds me of when nine Supreme Court Justices decided George Bush beat Al Gore.
I grew up with the Canadian system, and this helped me out tremendously. Thank you for taking the time to explain all this to us. :)
Brilliantly written, I have actually updated my facebook status with a link to this post, because I really feel that people do NOT have a concept of how Parliament works. Thank you for this post.
thanks. very helpful. can't wait to see what happens!
I've been waiting for something on the news I listen to about this. I've only managed to catch little bits about fall-out from the Mumbai horror and a fair bit about Something Interesting (and very political) happening in Thailand.
Fascinating stuff! Thanks for your patience.
Thanks for the lesson and the patience to explain it to us non-canadians. I actually searched a canadian newspaper yesterday to see if I could understand what was going on but I didn´t understand it. So, again, thank you!
Canada has a very interesting system. Wow.
This is great Steph... I wouldn't be suprised if it get's picked up by The Globe or CBC...
To Lucia's question about Dominion status:
From 1867-1882 Canada WAS a dominion of the UK, but the 1982 Canada Act (passed by the UK parliament in Westminster) removed Canada from any legislative dependence on the UK.
Since 1982 Canada has been a Constitutional Monarchy with the Queen as our head of state, similar to Australia and New Zealand
I can't believe how clear you just made it all seem. Thank you for the explanation.
Thanks to a fellow knitter...I finally understand the government. I think I will have to refer to this post for the next election as well...can you put a link on your sidebar;)
Who would have know that a woman really holds the power! I too love this country!
Thanks for teh background! That is every bit as fascinating as the Noro scarves. Seriously. I've knit 2 in the past 2 weeks.
I think the Canadian-correct term for the situation is a 'kerfuffle'
This is so way cool! All my Canadian friends gave me their opinions about the US election. Now I can debate Canadian politics with them. Thank you!
Some people play hard and fast with the rules and bend them even. If you play like this, then don't be upset when you are called on it!
Some people don't know when to admit they have pushed too hard and have lost. They should graciously applaud the winner for their ingenuity and step aside.
This way they may live to play another day... to do otherwise is to lose the entire game altogether.
Then they better have another day job to go to!
Thanks Stephanie... you detailed our system perfectly as I believe some Canadians get the US system mixed up with ours. If they don't get involved or vote, then they lose all rights to complain!
You go girl!
Thanks for the primer - I grew up in upstate NY near Montreal and have always been fascinated by Canada's governmental workings. Very interesting!
apologies to the grammar fiends for the terrible misplaced apostrophe...
Some people play hard and fast with the rules and bend them even. If you play like this, then don't be upset when you are called on it!
Some people don't know when to admit they have pushed too hard and have lost. They should graciously applaud the winner for their ingenuity and step aside.
This way they may live to play another day... to do otherwise is to lose the entire game altogether.
Then they better have another day job to go to!
Thanks Stephanie... you detailed our system perfectly as I believe some Canadians get the US system mixed up with ours. If they don't get involved or vote, then they lose all rights to complain!
You go girl!
You're not exactly correct on how parliament works.
Parties are not officially a part of the constitutional system of government in Canada (they exist de facto, not de jure). The GG does not ask the leader of a party to form a government, she asks the individual member of parliament she believes is most capable of obtaining the confidence of the house. Traditionally that is the leader of the party with a plurality of seats, but technically party membership is irrelevant.
I think that this one of the best explainations of how our government works that I've ever read. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Nice-- I e-mailed your post to our social studies teachers--it's VERY hard to explain someone else's political practices to a group of students (or their hyperactive teachers--most of us have it, we just don't fess up!) and you did a nice job!
Oh well, may God and common sense guide her decision. And nice to know Queenie and her motley gang of merry me...err, governors are useful for something when the chips are down.
So that explains the Prime Minister, but how is the Governor General elected/appointed in Canada?
Well written and informative. Good work. The one thing that I've learned in all this political upheaval is that it's scary how many Canadians seem to be utterly clueless about who and what they are voting for, in our elections.
Thanks for the explanation. I was in Toronto over the weekend and was reading about it, then came home and watched the news (CBC) last night and was still pretty confused. As a US citizen who hopes to be adopted by Canada, this is kind of cool (well, maybe not for you guys...) I love these posts. Thanks!
You did a great job writing a clear and helpful primer that cleared up a lot of confusion for this non-Canadian. I have a follow-up question: where does the governor general get her power? As in, is she appointed or elected? And who does the the appointing or electing? (Apologies if someone already addressed this and I missed it.) And do let us know if your post gets picked up by The Globe or CBC liked Claire predicted!
Very interesting. You do have a talent for explaining things. Thanks.
Maybe I'll go study Political Science after all...
1. The Governor-General is appointed by the Queen of England upon request by the Prime Minister in power. Madam Jean was appointed at the request a Liberal Prime Minister (Cretien or Martin, I forget).
2. PM Cretien changed the election laws so that corporate and union donations were limited and brought in a public financing system that gives every party $1.95 for every vote they garner in the last election (this is what PM Harper wants to do away with because his party has a much more efficient way of getting donations (like Obama).
3. PM Harper's minority government does not govern less, he is a control freak who decides everything and only gives a few of his minions talking points. He along with most leaders have said this current economic situation needs stimulous and has warned we would be running deficts. But the plan he put before parliament (that is getting a no confidence vote from the opposition) did not included any such monies, instead he took the public financing to political parties, said civil servants couldn't legally strike for three years, women could sue for equal pay for equal value and was going to sell off government-owned assets the taxpayer has paid for in a bad economy and without anyones input.
Hence the opposition has lost confidence in his minority government and will defeat him when this comes to a vote.
Stephanie! You are a genius! Do you think knitting makes one smarter than the average sheep? I really, seriously, enjoyed this article and learned a great deal. You would make a great parliamentarian. Thanks for this post!
Honestly, this entire thing is - well, it's upsetting in a vague way because our government is so unstable, but it's *so exciting* to see the democratic process actually working and the opposition using the constitution and the rights they have instead of letting Harper bully them into doing things they don't really agree with. I can't wait to see what happens.
Awesome explanation! I tried Google to see if I could figure out what was going on, but all that I read ran along the whozits in the whatzits are doing the thingamadoos. I decided I needed an entire Canadian Civics course to figure out who the whozits are, what the whatzits are, and what the result of doing the thingamadoos would be. With three young uns underfoot, I figured that the whole prospect was pretty hopeless, so thank you so much for a clear and concise explanation!
Also, being a lefty myself and hearing all the exploits, I kinda hope that Madame Jean smacks Harper upside the head. But it sounds like that isn't, technically, one of the choices...
my lovely canadian bf tried to explain all this to me last night, but I'll admit you did a far better job. I am wondering, however, if you could recommend some website or something that describes the parties in better detail. all he could say about the liberals was something about farms in the midwest and I think that's just because he's a conservative.. ^_^
Sorry, I meant to say: women could no longer sue for equal pay for equal value.
Great simple explanation. You should be working for the CBC!
Wow. That made me head hurt a little. But it was worth it. What a great post. And thanks for not acting all snotty that we don't know what's going, even if we maybe deserve that a bit.
Of all the people who reside here in Canada, i count myself among the least informed. The poster who said " the canadian goverment is trying to eat itself ".. well, that about summed up my knowledge of what was going on.
And no one would ( or could ) explain it.
Thanks... I think I almost understand!
You r explanation is the first time I've ever clearly understood how parliamentary government works. See, knitting sharpens the mind (except when it wigs you out and you get all gassy eyed when a pattern isn't working)
Good explanation but slightly biased. Prime Minister Harper is not the only bad guy here. The leaders of all the political parties need to take a good hard look at themselves and their motives before pointing the finger.
Oh wow, that is cool. And I am so glad I am not Governor General of Canada.
I learn so much from your blog, about everything.
Good luck with your governmental upheaval... I hope things work out for you all.
Wow. GOOD explanation. Thank you...I've wondered how it worked.
No wonder democrats in the US want to move to Canada when the conservatives do screwy things...and no wonder that people are LAUGHING at the current idiot conservatives who keep saying they'll move to Canada....they would NOT like it!
Although I think I like your system, right now I'm pretty happy with our new leader to be....lets hope that Madame Jean agrees with you and forms a new gov't, and then, come the New Year, both our countries will move FORWARD! Wouldn't that be great?
Wow. I was really close on everything except what a "minority government" is. I didn't know I understood the parliamentary system so well just from watching "Question the Prime Minister" on BBC, English history I and II in college and growing up this close to Canada (I'm in MI's UP... We get Thunder Bay television:).
Thanks for the explanation!
Just substitute Australia for Canada and you'll understand pretty much how things work down here. Although, our GG doesn't appear to have quite as much power as yours.
Here, the GG really has no power - s/he acts on the advice of the PM.
There was a major coup in 1974/5 when the GG dismissed the PM when the Senate (upper house) blocked the Budget bills as part of a campaign by the opposition to oust the government (who had an absolute majority in the House of Representatives, but not in the Senate).
Since then the GG really hasn't had too much to worry about. And we also have our first female GG - yay!
Holy cow! Your parliament is in a mess! I've read nothing about this in either states-side papers or my home paper. Shame on them!
Oz has basically the same system, only we really have only two parties - the Liberals (conservatives) and the Labour Party (currently in power, almost indistinguishable from the libs). The Greens are not yet a power and the Democrats imploded 5 years ago.
Wow, you managed to make that interesting to me. I had no idea your government was so different than ours.(United States) Thank you. I couldn't begin to review our government so well. And it's interesting to hear about political upheavals that don't involve sex with interns, teenage pregnancies and how much someone spent on clothing!
Thanks for the great explanation of Parlimentary politics - I understand bits and pieces but not the whole thing. Is Mr. Harper as disliked in Canada as President Bush is in the US? He sounds at least like a crafty politician,even if not very likeable, unlike W.....
Wowza. I totally love your country, too. I kinda wish mine was more like it so we didn't have the last 8 years of bumbling that we did.
Thanks for the information!!!
The key to the number of political parties in Canada is parliamentary democracy, not public funding. Every single country with a parliamentary system elects members of multiple parties to their parliament, regardless of how those parties are funded.
To those asking about the appointment of the Governor General of Canada: The Governor General is appointed by the Queen (Canada's Head of State) on the advice of (not the order of) the Prime Minister who presumably has the input of at least his Cabinet and possibly the broader House and many advisory staff in making his recommendation.
The role of the Governor General is not, as some assert *only* ceremonial. The Governor General does hold specific powers, including those we are discussing - to appoint the Prime Minister, recall, prorogue, dissolve, etc. parliament, and can also refuse royal assent to legislation should she see it as going against the interests of Canada or being in violation of what our constitution enshrines as our model of Democracy. She cannot unilaterally enact anything outside the specified powers, however. And, acting within those powers, as she must do shortly in this situation, can very well put her in a bad, as someone else said, "d--d if you do, d--d if you don't" position as she may be now. It is that very situation that is its own checkpoint on any abuse of power - she can face career-ending consequence even for acting in the best interests of the country. But it is a necessary position to be held in a system such as we have. It exists to safeguard Democracy as it exists in our model, and in some ways is a sacrifice to ensuring that process.
I immense admire, and do not envy, Mme. Jean.
I can't but think she has an immense staff of experts and advisors who will not be getting a good night's sleep any time soon.
See, now that was a much better explanation than what my grade 6 teacher tried to do. His solution was to set up a mock parliment, and I think we added a few more grey hairs when all the girls decided to be PC because of the "pretty blue". LOL!
Re: Governor General again...I mentioned the process of her appointment at 3:03, and moodygirl at 4:51. One adjustment to moodygirl's note, though: Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada.
She is not the Queen of England; there hasn't been a Queen of England since Elizabeth I's death in 1603. She was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England.
From 1603 the monarch has been titled the king/queen of Great Britain or (since Victoria) of the United Kingdom.
In the U.K. Elizabeth II's title is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She is also Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Belize, the Solomon Islands, the Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Papua New Guinea, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda.
Not that you *needed* to know any of that. :-)
I had to study parliamentary democracy for my citizenship test but you made it way interesting than the proper book.
It's really interesting to read about as well.
johannab beat me to it... :-)
I am sure Mme. Jean is also speaking to the Queen herself, who has dealt with these sorts of happenings before. :-)
My roomate in Canadian and she has been trying to explain the system to me for months. Apparenlty seeing it all written down was what I needed to really get it. Thanks!
That was a really thorough shortnsweet intro to Canadian government....Thanks from a now slightly more well-informed American
I have a fictional book called Avalon and BOY HOWDY am I glad I paid attention while reading that book or this would have confused me.
Now that I know more about The Canadian Government, I too, Love your country.
Plus, victoria is so pretty
I've been a neighbor to Canada all my life (I live in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan) and this is the first time I have ever understood Canadian government. Along with so many other commentators: THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING IT!
Wow! Well said.....I really think you should have a weekly spot on the National (CBC News). An alternative to Rex Murphy!!
Incidentally we have no political parties for our local NWT government, just consensus government which seems to work fine.
Janet MF in the North
Thanks so much! I had been lightly following what was going on, but I was having a hard time making sense of it.
Wow! We really appreciate your ability to distill this situation down. Neither of us new what the heck was going on (I, Lisa, really had no idea how the government really works). Thank you for cluing us in, we feel like a much more informed Canadians now.
You deserve best canadian blog.
Lisa and Justin
Wow, that's something. Fascinating, even. And now I feel like I have learned something today. :)
Thanks Stephanie, I read the articles about it, but this was so clear.
Well done, Steph! That's the clearest explanation of the whole situation I've seen in the last several days.
And everybody has a new word of the day: 'prorogue'
I've been glued to the TV and various news websites most of the day and thoroughly lost track of where I was in a pattern I was testing, had to tink, put it aside and go back to The World's Most Boring Scarf. . .
Thanks for the excellent explanation! I printed and gave to the social studies teacher on my team. The really sad thing is that when I checked my local paper (and I live in a major metro area in NY) there was a small paragraph on an inside page of the world section.
Facinating. And I thought November 4th was an interesting day. December 8 could be pretty interesting too.
Fabulous explanation. Thank you so much. It actually sounds like a darn good system, possibly better than what we have in the U.S. One question -- how is the Governor General selected? Elected by Canadians? Or appointed by the Queen?
Since I've been glued to the news (and knitting) since this mess started, I have just a couple of comments. First, is the the Bloc (BQ) in my mind don't count for much since they are the party that wish to break up Canada and they are very clear about that.
Harper for better or worse got a stronger minority with 143 seats and 37.63% of the popular vote
The liberals strength was reduced to 77 seats with 26.24% of the popular vote (which was the worst ever)
And the leftist NDP, have 37 seats with 18.20% of the popular vote.
Only ONE province in Canada out of 10 and two territories can even vote for the Bloc. If you discount them you have the Liberals and NDP with only 114 combined seats compared to Conservative of 143. There you have it, this coalition is a crock and a coup, my view only and now I'm going to knit some more...ciao
It's probably been said repeatedly in the comments, but I think I learned more about our parliamentary system in this one essay than my entire thirteen + years in the public school system. Knitting can take you to some wonderful places.
I think the process is a bit distasteful since he just won, but the option is suffering through 2 more years of Bush when the country had clearly tired of him. So there are good and bad points to the system.
Now, the real thing that puzzles me is the subsidies. Why does a political party deserve to exist if it can't even finance itself? How does it work in Canada?
I've always assumed that the familiarity that the American Founding Fathers had with the parlimentary sort of government is why they structured the government of the United States as they did. Canada and Great Britain do tend to have relatively stable governments, but the awful side of it is the mess you get in, say, Italy, where they have had eleventy-billion "governments" in the last 20 years and things governmental are usually in a state of chaos.
Oh, and Republicans aren't all clustered at the far right ... I'm more liberal than some Democrats I know ...
Wonderful explanation, and far more interesting than American politics in my opinion. Knew about the parliamentary system and all, but down in the south (of the States) we don't get much news on Canadian politics (or any area of the world really, much the pity) so I had no clue what was going on at all.
Hmmm, time to find a good Canadian news source to add to my news sources.
If you are going to capitalize the names of the Bloc, Liberals, etc., then you need to capitalize the Conservative Party also, in order to distinguish the difference between the conservative ideology and the Conservative Party.
It's nice to be reminded that we US people aren't the only messed-up government in this continent (grin). Aren't politics fun??
Thanks! That was riveting post, suitable for a riveting crisis. I'll just add two things:
First, it galls me and many others that the PM used his "economic update" not to introduce a stimulus package for the good of the country given the current crisis, but to: take away a publicly funded allowance that enables the opposition parties to oppose (and is based on the number of votes they get..totally fair, that); roll back wage increases that are enshrined in collective agreements; rob public servants of their right to strike until 2011; and drastically reform pay equity legislation that women achieved only a few years ago. Petty, petty partisan politics IMHO.
Second, in your post you say:
"Apparently, Mr. Harper, looking to avoid the official vote of confidence on Monday, is going to ask her to prorogue (suspend without dissolving) parliament until January, so that he can have more time to fix this up, or come up with an economic strategy that won't get voted down."
Well, at the risk of sounding supremely cynical, may I suggest that Mr. Harper is going to ask the GG to prorogue Parliament only so that he has the time to get his truly impressive, but Machiavellian, marketing machine in full throttle to perpetuate a bunch of lies and half-truths that discredit the opposition parties and the coalition, and threaten to stir up old animosity between Quebec and the rest of the country for his own political ends!
Good for you for such a comprehensive description of the Canadian system. Let's hope that enough Canadians read it that they don't get taken in.
I really appreciate you taking the time to be so clear and thorough about this - I had a sort of general understanding of it, but you fleshed things out very well for this American. Thanks!
Don't you just love this system. The GG could call a double dissolution as one did in 1975 in Australia. This was not on the PM's advice. The then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, then went on to make the now famous quote, "Well may we say God Save the Queen because nothing will save the Governor General." That GG went on to have the most miserable life and died a broken, alcoholic.
These days we also have a female GG, Quentin Bryce. Wonderful woman. Although both Canada and Australia are behind New Zealand when it comes to female leaders. It wasn't that long back that they had women in all top positions in the country. PM, GG, High Court and Supreme Court. Good luck.
You are completely awesome and made my day. Up the Canadians! Damn, I feel all patriotic.
... and thank you. Since I being Alaskan and you being Canadian, it is to my pleasure that you have informed us of the complexity of your gov't. Please keep it friendly in your gov't. We like seeing your dollar value close to ours, since it helps with our tourism.
We now allow you back to your ribbing.
That was the most awesome explanation of I've heard! Nice and concise yet all the details are there.
Beautifully knitted. :)
Just one comment for the other readers - while Harper is desperately trying to spin this as a crisis, it's not. This sort of thing happens often enough up here - we're kind of used to it. It's the price of having a governmental system that can be brought down so easily - and most of us think it's worth it.
On the flip side, the opposition is trying to spin it that we have an economic crisis, which we also don't really have. Our economy is based on resources, so when the US' economy hiccoughs, we feel the bump. But Canada also has one of the best regulated banking systems in the world and the kind of investments that led to this problem in the US and UK simply didn't happen up here.
That's not to say there's nothing of urgency to take care of up here - just not the big catastrophe that the opposition seems to be arguing is happening.
Really both sides need to take some tranqs and chill a bit.
Still, Harper, after bullying the opposition for eight months, came back and poked them in the eye one more time - and this time they bit back.
If you want to see real hilarity - watch our Question Periods - that's where the opposition can demand answers to any question it chooses to ask of the Government. It's like a reform school fight only with old men and women. :)
I love this country - it's so freaking fun. :)
Thank you for this. I'm amazed at how many people don't know how our gov't system works.
Hey Steph! Long time no see/speak, eh? Thanks for the synopsis, was very entertaining and well written. The only thing I would say though, is that our head of state is the Queen of England and not the Governer General. The GG is the Queen's Representative (formally, the Vice-Regal Represntative) and acts in her stead, but isn't our sovereign (yes, Im the daughter of a loyal royalist, can you tell?).
Oops! The Bloc did sign. The Globe published a picture of the three signatures.
Wow.. Well said - I couldn't have done it better - well maybe but in French !!!
I can't believe they would come up with that Bloc threat !!
Wow! Thanks for the lesson. What a lot of time an energy you spent on informing us all. This really confirms my day here in Western North Carolina. Why do we (as women) continue to live in patriarchal suppression? I am so tired of being asked to define myself in terms of some male (father, brother, ex-husband, you name it). Fortunately for me I procured a copy of Interweave Knits Winter 2008 and the steam is subsiding. And happy for you that your country has the grand opportunity to have a woman choose the future!
Looking forward to brown knitwear tomorrow. Brown is a good color for winter, and if the socks are for one of those males mentioned earlier the washing won't be quite as difficult. :)
(... which, had I read through all your comments I would have realized had already been mentioned. never mind, carry on! )
Whatever the outcome of this Mr Harper owes those of us who have either lost our jobs or are about to an apology for his arrogance in putting this country into the middle of a crisis in parliament at the time when the world is in an economic crisis. He has made a MAJOR mistake.
3. The Bloc is NOT part of the coalition.
But effectively it is, no matter how much the Liberals & NDP deny it. They can't survive without Bloc support.
Otherwise, a good synopsis.
Holy crap, you so totally rock. Maybe if you had been my History/Social Studies teacher... I might have stayed awake. I might actually have ENJOYED it!!
If I hear Harper call the Bloc "the Devil" one more time, I WILL scream. I ain't no fan of the Séparatistes (pronounced with a Quebecois accent, naturally), but as a French-Canadian, I really resent the tone of his comments lately - like being from Quebec makes you evil. My family is from Quebec (though I am not). Some 8 million of us are from Quebec. It's the biggest, oldest, 2nd-most populated province and some say the most precious. Let's not give them reason to hate us more than they already do, shall we?
His presumption that he knows how we all think is going to be his downfall (um...kind of like how we all hate gala-going artsy-fartsy fatcats).
At first, I was really unimpressed with the Opposition for cooking up this scheme, but the more Harper speaks, the more I begin to see their side of it. Big fat bully, indeed!
Go Stéphane! Go Jack! And go Gilles! We got your back!
This is the clearest explanation of the whole situation that I have seen on the internet. People need to remove their Political Affiliations and commend you for a precise explanation of the situtation.
Like others on here I do not envy the Governor General, but I do think she will make the best choice for the nation.
(BTW with such a concise knowledge of Parliamentary rules and regulations, are you positioning yourself to fill the next shoes of the GG? (I'm just kidding))
Dude. That is a great system of checks and balances. In many places, Harper would be removed by physical coup, not political power. Although it sounds like a gentle push on the way out the door might not be amiss...
East, west, north or south, gotta love rule of law.
On another note, was at WEBS today, and scored Noro silk, discounted, IN THE BACK ROOM. So, of course, I had to buy even more.
This was brought in around 2004 by the Liberals as a way to prevent influence peddling. The idea is that most contributions from businesses and unions are made essentially illegal but in compensation, each party gets $1.95 per year for every vote they got in the previous election.
Since the funding is directly from the taxpayer, there's no strings attached and so cannot be used to influence the vote.
Personal contributions are still allowed (with restrictions as well), and not surprisingly since the Conservatives represent businesses and wealthy citizens while the NDP and Liberals tend to represent middle income and low income citizens, the Conservatives tend to get a lot of funding from personal donations.
Thus the problem: the Conservatives only stated they would axe the funding part, but didn't mention removing the regulations part. That immediately gave themselves a HUGE advantage. They also did it at a time when most of the other parties were just recovering from an election.
In the end, the Liberals would survive, but most of the other parties would get gutted.
The fact that he did it RIGHT after an election indicates he did it with the intention of trying to injure the opposition. He could have opened up discussion on how to remove the funding rather that just announcing it was going to be halted.
I'm a long-time lurker but I had to log on and say thank you for boiling all that down. I'm also one of the Americans who weren't taught much of other gov't systems (and what i was taught of ours was for a semester in 8th grade ><). I hope things work out well for your country!
You nailed it Sistah! I am printing your description to give out to all those who do not understand the role of Madame Jean.
Ottawa has been SO EXCITING these last few days!
Thanks so much for this. I'm planning to email it to my sister-in-law b/c my niece and nephews were asking about it this weekend.
I'll be the 50,000millionth US citizen to say this (long time listener, first time caller...), but thanks for putting this all together. It's worth knowing, but unfortunately US schools and media brush off Canadian affairs all too often. Brown hats and socks can wait for another day... like one with fewer political cliff hangers.
woah. i have learned oodles.
Very good synopsis. I love Canada's version of democracy. During the 80's I traveled north on my first visit to Canada. I had the chance to stand in line and meet the GG at his house.(Anyone who wanted to could.) I even got punch and cookies for my trouble. The last time we had anything like that in the US with the President was in the early 1900's.
Ok, I have a tee-tiny question. How does the Governor General get her job? Is she British or Canadian? Does she get elected or appointed, and by whom?
Otherwise, I echo the 342 comments above in saying that you are incredibly succinct and clear in your explanation of what seems like a pretty complicated system.
i was just reminded why i love canada.... it is so similar to australia in so many ways. I think having a governer general (finally have our first woman gg!) as the final stopping point is a great way of keeping the parliament in line (as whitlam found out they can kick your butt out).
Thanks so much for the Canada Civics lesson! I really did enjoy it. However, I'm a little sad that I didn't know most of this already. Its amazing how we Americans have no clue how the governments beyond our borders work. Heck, most Americans don't even have a clue how our own government works. When it works.... But that's another subject.
OH my GOSH! That's so exciting! I wish I got Canadian news so I could watch it all! Actually, I wish I had time to just come to Canada!!! I love your system, it is so wonderful and exciting and awesome.
Ah, but the real question is: Does Madame Jean knit?
Wonderfully expressed. Now can you please forward your explanation to Madame Jean, just in case she is not as well informed as you? :)
Whoa! it's like a game of RISK. Thanks for the summary.
I have to say though, I'm kind of feeling it for Governor General Jean. I do not envy her.
Thanks for an excellent explanation of our Canadian governmental system and its current problems. I voted so I think I can comment that Harper is only getting what he deserves for his previous conduct and unwillingness to cooperate in a minority government. I sincerely hope this Coalition is appointed to run the country by the Governor General. I am very glad to see our system in action and working exactly the way it was designed to work.
I am also overjoyed to see all the folks from the US who are appreciative of your well-written explanation of how our system works up here. I certainly tried my best to figure out the US system in the last elections you have had down south - and I have to say the Electoral College system probably seems as odd to us Canadians as our having a Governor General probably seems to you :P
PS I am not a knitter, but my wife is and pointed me to this wonderful explanation of the current crisis :)
Thank you for explaining all this from a Canadian's perspective. Made Bruce read it. We both think we understand it all better, thanks to you!
Wow, that blows my mind (and confuses it to boot). It also makes me sad that the entire world knows about our government and things that happen here in the states, but our news agencies don't cover important events in other countries. I had absolutely no clue what was happening to the north and I watch the news every night if I get a chance :(
Thanks for the refresher on the parliamentary system, and it is indeed a wild situation. I'm very glad that Harper is in the hot seat now--and it's so cool that a woman holds all the decision-making cards.
Wow. How unexpectedly fascinating. If you ever get tired of writing about knitting, your neighbors to the south could use your sane and cogent writing abilities on, say, explaining the US tax code. Or gasoline prices. Or how to program VCRs. In fact, pretty much anything you want to write about, I want to read. Keep us posted!
Many thanks -- truly fascinating.
Also, I love the way Canadian politicians, even the really big ones, are willing to be seen on shows like "This Hour Has 22 Minutes." Makes them appear more approachable, more human, than many of their American counterparts.
Wonderful primer! I'm printing it out right now to have my grade five class read tomorrow. It's an excellent example of how a blog is used, a good example of an informal letter (both things we're studying this year) and fits in nicely to our Canadian Government unit.
I've been leaving regular comments on CTV and Toronto Star articles, telling the bitching Conservative voters that they can start doing what the electorate always does when there's no election on: they can take notes, and take an interest, and maybe give some money to the party of their choice, but the decision of what to actually DO about the crisis doesn't rest with them. This is a representative democracy and that means the people we elected six weeks ago get to make the decisions for us.
I hope Harper loses the support of his party over this. We need a more-or-less stable government until the Liberals have had time to choose a new leader and get ready for an election, and the Conservatives need a leader who will work with the parliamentary system instead of play chicken using it.
Thanks for the explanation. I need to pay more attention to our neighbors in the north, because yesterday my son announced his intentions to marry a young lady from Nova Scotia.
Stephanie, i think i'll post your awesome writing on the bulletin board at work ! It explains all the nuances so well. Maybe it would end some arguments... people thinking that this situation is undemocratic. Looks like the "do" hits the fan tomorrow. It's soooooo exciting. AND I LOVE THIS COUNTRY TOO.
Great synopsis, just one quick point. We don't actually vote for parties as you said in your correction, we vote for *people* in our ridings ('seats') who are running to become members of parliament. That's how some people run as 'independents' - they aren't affiliated with a party. Remember David Emerson? He ran as a liberal in Vancouver Kingsway in the 2006 election and won. Then he was offered the job of Minister of International Trade in the Conservative government, and switched parties and took it. If we voted based on parties that would be illegal; we don't, so it wasn't. A lot of people were hopping mad anyway, though!
Thanks, that was very informative... And good for those other parties, joining themselves to work together like that!
Slightly strange (at least to and american) but it will make for an interesting thing to watch from over the border
That is awesome drama. Really good. I'll look forward to the thrilling conclusion!
THANKYOU for explaining this (ridiculously straight forward i might add), i had absolutely no idea what was going on, and i live in ottawa! completely oblivious apparently, but its nice to know the opposition havent completely balked at the idea of participating in parliament.
What a wonderful summary! Congratulations on being able to do this, and thank you for taking the time to do so ... clearly and with a bit of humour. Very best regards to you.
This is the way politics should be taught to our kids. This was the clearest demonstration of the way our Government works (or not) I heard in a long time. Oh ! and thanks for not associating the Bloc with Satan ... Politics interests me, but brown socks too. Keep the good everything you do. Bye, Louise
Ya know, that all made sense. I (heart) Canada! I love the fact that up there if you don't like the way things are being run you can call and election or form a new government. The current PM sounds like he's trying to act like a little dictator and the majority of Canada is going, "You know, we don't all agree with each other all the time. But we agree that you're getting out of hand. We're going to do something to fix this. Now." No impeachment process. No waiting another 4 years. *sigh* It sounds a lot more democratic than what we have!
Thank you for taking the time to explain. :)
Wow. What an excellent job. I've actually been on vacation this week, and am kind of bad at keeping up with news in politics anyway. This is just the kind of neat little summary I was hoping to find on CBC.ca.
so, this is the BEST summary I've read on the current situation anywhere. props.
Thank you for your most excellent summary. I knew only the part about how the Prime Minister is the one who is leader of the party that has the most MPs. Now I know a lot more.
Well done! An explication of a complex problem in a clear and informative manner. You should be writing for the NY Times (or the Toronto Star.)
That's the weirdest thing ever. I need a schoolhouse rock version, because I didn't totally understand, but your way seems really complicated. And, the US does the same thing when voting for president- we choose delegates by state, and they vote for their party.
Rocking synopsis! Thanks so much - it puts the articles linked yesterday in the comments into a comprehensible perspective.
WOW. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that excellent explanation. Quite a mess up there. I was all agog listening to As It Happens on my US NPR station last night, trying to figure out WHAT was going ON. Can't help thinking PM Harper rather overplayed his hand after winning your recent election.
Thank you very much. I had a rudimentary understanding of parliamentary procedure and tried to brush up on it on the Web yesterday after I read your post. But I must say, your explanation was far more understandable than anything I read yesterday. I think what was missing from the "official" articles were parenthetical comments. One of your parenthetical comments is worth a thousand words. (?? Well, you know what I mean.)
yes, it is all pretty exciting for a typically low-key, laid-back nation like ours. i'm sitting back with the popcorn and my feet up to watch this all unfold.
so, while in america it was a question of whether a female american or a black american would hold the reins of power, here in canada it's a black, female canadian who wields all the influence and authority. alright!
wow. Here in the US we really could have used a Madame Jean option about 6 years ago......
Thank you! I knew there was some political intrigue going on in Canada, but it is really difficult to find news about it here...at least on the websites I usually haunt. Your clear explanation of the system and what is going on makes me feel like I'm kinda knowledgeable now. You pretty much rock!
Thanks for a very clear and fascinating explanation. I read the Canadian news sites yesterday, but I got very confused. I read your post aloud to my husband - we missed this story even on Google news. We're definitely following along now.
thank you - that was a wonderful explanation and honestly I feel like I understand Canadian politics better now than I do the US. if you weren't such a fabulous knitter, I might suggest you seek out a job explaining other "seemingly inexplicable" things, like what's going in the economy?!
Very good summary-what irks me is Harper's attitude.He is so disparaging of anyone who disagrees with him, and I resent him trying to make the idea of a coalition sound illegal.
The "socialists" he refers to sneeringly, were the people who brought us universal healthcare amongst other things, and the "separatists" were voted in by fellow Canadians, and that wherever a conservative MP was elected, there were votes for the other individuals running in the same race and vice/versa where a Liberal or NDP or Bloc member was elected. So if there's a coalition so be it, they will be representing Canadians just the same.
Thanks so much for the lesson on current Canadian Government! It's been so confusing to me in the past, but this helped so much! Very well thought out article!
Happy knitting! =)
Thanks for the very concise primer! I usually think of myself as fairly knowledgeable about our politics here, but your post helped me understand this whole ordeal a little better. I really enjoy reading your blog, even when it's not all about knitting!!
Um, you lost me at "a very, very different system than the US" How confusing, I thought Canada was the USA but better. ugh.
WOW--thanks for the lesson.
I do usually stop by to see pictures of knitting, like brown hats, but I also hope that you will keep imparting interesting Canadian factoids to us (and let us know how things turn out with your GG and PM).
Thanks for the primer! You know, living in America, you would think that nothing else happened in the world unless A)you isten to BBC Radio News Hour on your local NPR station, or B) it involved American's dying, When I heard the report on what's happening in Mumbai, they reported "5 Americans dead" and didn't mention the almost 200 non-Americans!
And to top things...I read in "The Week" that the Canadian Supreme Court has decided that obesity is a disability that the obese are allowed to purchase two airline tickets for the price of 1. Your country is fascinating!
Thanks! My NPR station runs a Canadian program (I'm completely blanking on the name) that's been talking about what's going on but having some background now, it all makes much more sense. And boy -- the amount of complexity would seem to really encourage a lot of games-playing by the more conniving politicians...
Fascinating and excellent explanation. Best of luck with what happens next!
That does it. I'm moving to Canada! :)
Thanks for all that information. I am still a little confused, but at least now I know something about how the Canadian government works!
I am interested to see how the whole thing plays out up there.
what a terrific explanation. When I started teaching 6th grade here in NH, we spent a semester studying Canada. I think you did a far better job explaining how Canadian government works than any of the social texts I had access to!
Janna, is that Canadian adio program As It Happens? I get it too, from 11 pm to midnight.
This is completely and entirely off-topic; but have you seen the incredible glass spinning wheel on YouTube? I just saw it on the "Confessions of a Bohemian Knitter" blog...
On topic - My son and I were just waiting for a bus in downtown Ottawa about an hour ago... some polite young guy with a clipboard was taking a poll, what did we think about a coalition government? I told him I would vastly prefer it to a conservative government, and was not afraid of the separatists!
Fascinating!! Thanks so much for the Canadian gov't lesson and the awesome summary of what's going on. I'm dying to know how it all will end!
Wow. When I saw your post, I went to The Star and thought you were referring to the plastic bag tax that passed. I was a BIT off.... Which, really, sums me up perfectly *grin*.
You did a lovely job explaining your country's politics (and I'm NOT being sarcastic).
I'm still completely confused.
(Keep trying, though. Eventually I'll get it!)
A lovely explanation! *applauds*
Do you take poli sci? (I was a POSC Major a few years ago and really wish I was right now because everything I ever learned is actually happening!)
Here via Google. I don't even knit, it took me five years to do a three-inch long scarf that wound up never having the same number of stiches in a row twice.
Thank you! I've been distressed about this all week, my workplace is freaking out to the point where I'm not sure that some of them won't settle for just signing every petition under the sun and might start protesting somewhere, and none of them can summarize the situation at all. Til this point, I had not found a succinct unslanted answer about this, and when I tried to blog about it in my own journal to try to scare up some concrete info, I got one response that boiled down to "why so serious", and I felt like an idiot.
So again, thank you for summarizing the situation so effectively. I shall feel far more positive toward knitwear as a result.
Back in the spring, when RRSP deadlines loomed, I popped in to my local bank branch and put a whack of money in our plans, half in mine, and half in my husband's. As I could not sign on his behalf, his funds were held in some form of cash account, awaiting his official instructions, while mine was disbursed through various investment vehicles as per our plan. Enter the inevitable vicissitudes of life, and fast forward six months: one evening at dinnertime the phone rings - it's our bank manager, wanting to speak to hub and get him to sign his papers so the bank can get on with the business of managing his money.
After laughing his head off, he says "Well, I guess I made out like a bandit over the past six months where the bottom fell out of all the investments, then, didn't I?"
I sort of view this federal fiasco in the same way. Perhaps, while the bottom is falling out of the global economy, the fact that our assets aren't being "actively managed" means that they're not getting reamed.
Oh. And I will really - with cackling, handrubbing glee - enjoy the sight of Mr. Harper chowing down on a big ol slice of humble pie.
This is true theatre of the absurd.
I knew I could rely on the Yarn Harlot to clarify the situation - something very similar happened in Australia in 1975 (we share the same structure of government). Our conservative forces can only take power in coalition, as they have done many times over the past 60 years or so. Our Labor Party has always taken more seats than either conservative party (Liberal and National). It'll be interesting to see what happens...
Anna -- Yes, you're right - the CBC program on NPR is As I Happens. Thanks!
Thank you so much for this post, which I'm going to link all over heck and gone.
Thank you for explaining. Not that there was much being said here in this neck of the woods about your government being in turmoil, but it's nice to know there are ways of dealing with it. Wish we had that here, though I'm sure there are times when it's a bollocky system.
Thank you for taking the time to explain that. I wanted to know, but chose to knit yesterday evening instead of doing the research. Now I got to do both.
So, when are you going to run for Parliament?
We all know that you are extremely good (if not brilliant) at explaining knitting (and living a good life, respectful of others). Now we know that that brilliance extends to explaining, concisely and completely, an extremely complex issue.
I heard once an adage that countries should be run by women with small children because they take the long view. Right now, I think that that would be a helluva good idea. Maybe we should let Madame Jean run the country until the children currently in office calm down and decide to play well together.
I was originally against the idea of the coalition but, after Mr. Harper's response, have changed my mind. Mr. Dion may not be everyone's cup of tea but, the one thing I have noticed, is that he is passionate about his country.
Again, thanks for your clear discussion on this most "interesting" issue.
Boy! And I thought US politics could give you a headache.
Steph, you need to go take a nice lie down and have a glass of wine.
Wow. I wonder how many of us Americans can explain the ins and outs of our governmental procedures as well as you explained Canada's? I don't think I could.
Although you'll clearly not make it this far in the comments, I still want to applaud your Canadian Civics lesson. If only my high school teachers had been so clear, I might have made something of myself instead of getting a degree in English Lit.
In fact, I'm printing this out for my husband to read. We've seen nothing of this, either on the regular news or the business news, a shameful situation. (The Economist hasn't even mentioned it, and they're one of yours, or related anyway.) And, oops, it continued right on into yesterday's post about the Signature needles.
I would rather see Parliament prorogued than have power arbitrarily handed over to the coalition. The Bloc did sign the final coalition document - there's a picture of it on the CBC's website, showing the signatures of all three leaders. If the coalition takes power, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to suddenly see massive subsidies and spending packages for Quebec.
The coalition is not what I want - Stephan Dion is not worth of the job of prime minister. He goes from having a snit fit over losing - remember how he said his feelings were hurt? - to suddenly waltzing around the House in a manner described as 'gleeful.' And he couldn't even get his taped reply to Harper's statement in to the networks on time!
It it were Ignatieff or even - God forbid - Rae leading up the coalition, I think I'd feel differently. But in my opinion, Dion is not fit to lead. His so-called 'passion' scares me.
Harper messed up - bad. Really bad. But Dion is not the answer to the problem.
You have again the best explanation of Canadian politics. Thanks so much for your investment of time & expertise.
WOW - and I thought our system of governance was nuanced....
Thanks for the clear explanation.
I am feeling very guilty about how much I'm enjoying the interesting turn that Canadian politics has taken. It's fascinating to see our democratic process put into action and to the test - replete with drama and posturing and unexpected changes in tactics!
Thanks for the primer!
Your blog yesterday led me to look for a couple of articles in Canadian newspapers, but none enlightened me as much as your summary.
Understandably, the Canadian news assumes I know my arse from my Prime Minister, although it seems there may be little difference between the two.
Thanks so much for that run-down. Fascinating! I hope you will keep us informed...I tried to find out on Google yesterday, after you piqued all our curiousity, and couldn't find anything. The American media are so ridiculous. I didn't know anything at all about how the Canadian government worked, except for a vague idea that there were a Prime Minister and the Queen of England somehow involved. :-)
Awesome summary -- thanks!
Angie, here from... some link :)
Wow! This is the most informative post about any topic I've read in years. And I'm a Yank, even! (Which is probably why is was so informative.) If you ever change careers please consider teaching Civics to kids. You'd keep them enagaged enough to learn something. ('specially if you were like my 10th grade Histroy teacher who let me crochet in class (I didn't know how to knit yet.)
Thank you so much for this civics lesson! I really appreciate learning so much about Canada. It's my new obsession.
Thanks for taking the time to explain all of that very thoroughly (though I suspect you're fairly passionate about, if not politics themselves - the inner workings of them). It sounds awfully complicated, but yet it seems to give the people (or those who allegedly represent them) a lot more say in what happens than here in the US.
Sounds like Mr Harper has been taking some lessons from American politics.
Wow. Thanks for the explanation. I read a couple of news stories yesterday about the whole thing, but I didn't really understand what they were talking about.
So, in a nutshell, Mr. Harper doesn't play well with others?
"...Harper doesn't play well with others?"
Har. There's the understatement of the century.
OMG, OMG, OMG, this is all so exciting! I'm sure I'll wake up any minute having drifted off to CPAC only to find its all been a really groovy dream...
Holy cow. Thank you.
I like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent, fairly educated person but I have to say I had absolutely no clue that's how your gov't works (or doesn't, I suppose, in some cases...). Typical American, I guess. Well, except not anymore, quite. ;-)
I have never responded to a blog before although I do love reading yours.
Thank you so much for the detailed explanation. Not only am I proud to be a Canadian (knitter), but I am proud (and I brag) that YOU are a Canadian (knitter!)
Thanks so much, I love reading your blog!
Thank you for the time you put into drafting such an informative, and entertaining look at what is going on right now and what the potential outcomes may be. I am here from a link, and I will be posting a link myself to lead others here.
1. Thanks for the tutorial, I needed it.
2. Harper should be ashamed of himself
3. Governor General Michaëlle Jean is one tough cookie and I have a lot of faith in her ability to make a sound decision.
4. I like brown
5. I'm getting tired of voting, but I can't see the Liberals winning the next elections no matter how many virgins you sacrifice.
6. Is it a patterned hat or a plain hat?
Wow, thanks for the lesson. It was really interesting. I'm off to see if I can look this all up now.
Did you see the cartoon on the front page of the National Post? It's right up there with the one they ran after the Canadian Women's hockey team won gold at the Olympics.
A brown hat and (one would hope) a pair of brown socks is exciting. Which kind of chocolate are they the colour of?
I love your explaination. I am an American who watches Canadian news EVERY day. It has taken me several years to figure out the system. I hope it works out well, during the last election I kept thinking how can Harper keep say the US troubles would not affect Canada.
Wow, this is amazing. Sadly, I had no idea. And you said it all so very well. As one of those 'far right' republicans in the USA (are all republicans considered far right by Canadians? what about liberal republicans and moderate republicans?), I found your comments fascinating, although, as politics run here, I imagine that there are probably some who disagree with a little, or a lot, depending, of what you said.... Thanks for the lesson.
Thank you for such a clear explanation. I read up on it but this helped a lot. I'm following with great interest!
Holy Knitting Needles, Steph! And I thought American politics were weirdly labyrinthine ... dang. Somebody up there said ya'll must be biting your nails over this - well, *I* would be if I lived up there, for sure. Thank you for such a succinct explanation - wow. I wish our gov't textbooks had been written half so well. I'd not have yawned my head off in utter boredom, mayhap. I'd like to know though, right along with several others here, just why we - your Southern neighbors - weren't taught even a little bit of how Canada's gov't worked, if only as a nice-to-know sort of thing? Well, yeah - they mentioned that Parliament thing - but no explanations to um, explain it. Just the words. Y'know...it's a wonder I ever learned how important it was to vote. I think that must've been almost the only thing I picked up in school: vote or die trying :-). It helped that mom and dad ALWAYS voted, so we do, too.
I love brown: hope you post your socks 'n' hat!
Keep us informed! Ya'll's politics are WAY more interesting than ours down here!
I had no idea our government was so damned complicated (why am I surprised)? I also had no idea all this was going on because I don't follow the news (though I DO vote). Thanks for the education. I will be looking to see how it turns out.
I LOVE your explanation! It reads like directions to a very interesting board game that would take 6 hours to play, and would only interest really smart people!! All of which are major plusses in my book. I love Canada too, and a major part of it is just because of this kind of thing. Imagine where the world would be today if the U.S. had this option? (yes, I'm about as left of centre as it gets down here)
Very handy summary to pass along to my (American) husband. Much less confusing than my "Um, well, you see, there's a Governor General, and, uh..." (Not that I don't know what's going on, but it's complicated!)
Just a wee correction to some of the earnest legal students - while it's literally true that we vote for the MP (a person), you could poll quite a few Canadians and discover that they voted for the party affiliation of the member in question, as I did. I wanted a party in power that didn't think socialists and feminists were actual proof of the Devil in modern society (yep, Harper believes this) - so the NDP got my vote, and they would've done so had they been electing a goat to office... sad, but true; at least I could trust the goat to vote along party lines and NOT on morality issues.
To add to the NZ contingent (Tui, Sarah, Dianne), NZ until the beginning of November had had a series of women PM's for so many years that voters in their early 20's would not have known NZ without one! In that time we also have had a woman GG, a woman Chief of Justice, and a woman Speaker of the House.
However a well known woman, former MP, Marilyn Waring said of her years in parliament that her knitting was the only productive thing to come out of that time in her life (some decades ago). She now keeps goats and teaches politics.
What a concise examination of the process and thanks for linking to that letter. Two points:
The Bloc actually states that they are not a separatist party. They exist solely to represent Quebec on the Federal stage.
The Liberal Party inhabits almost the same spot politically as Obama does according to www.politicalcompass.org (click on Canada 2008). Slightly right of centre and north towards Authoritarian. The site provides an excellent rundown of how they classify politicians and parties.
Well, I still don't understand whats going on (I'm not a political person, and never have been, believe me my father is ready to disown me). But at least I made it through your post and will try to understand. Seems the Americans understand (at least from the comments) better than I do.
I didn't read through all 467 comments, so I don't know whether someone else has mentioned this, but I want to say that I am suprised (or not?) that I have not seen anything about this huge political situation in our next-door neighbors' house in the US media. Thank you for enlightening us!!
I can't believe that all this interesting drama is going on in our neighbor, and the American evening news never mentions it. Thank God I know a well-informed, clear-headed, intelligent knitting blogger to explain it all to me.
Below I submit a *very* interesting article from the National Post:
"Eleven critical questions for Stephane Dion to answer - Posted: December 03, 2008, 12:30 PM by Kelly McParland
"Full Comment, Kelly McParland, Canadian politics
"There are a number of questions Stephane Dion and Jack Layton need to answer if they seriously hope to convince Canadians their coalition is a legitimate reflection of the popular will.
• How does the "permanent consultation mechanism" with the Bloc Quebecois work? How are we to know what demands the separatists have made, and which have been granted? Who will be involved in the consultation?
• Do both Mr. Dion and Mr. Layton have the authority to grant demands made by the separatists, as co-leaders of the coalition?
• On what basis will separatist demands be met? According to the best interests of the country, or the danger that a refusal might represent to the coalition?
• Shouldn't any demand that is good for the Bloc, and thus for the separatist cause, by definition be seen as undesirable for federalism, and thus for Canada?
• Where is the $30 billion for the "bailout" coming from? How was this figure arrived at?
• Why is the coalition proceeding with a bailout when the Bank of Canada said Monday that Canada's economy continued to expand, growing at an annualized rate of 1.3% in the third quarter, faster than expected, and the quickest growth rate of the year?
• How can the coalition claim the Conservative government has failed to adequately prepare for a recession, when the economy continues to expand? How can preparations for something that hasn't happened be judged to have failed? How can they be judged inadequate when the extent of the difficulty isn't known yet?
• Do the coalition leaders consider it always legitimate to replace a government if, in the eyes of the opposition, it has not prepared adequately for a problem that has not taken place?
• Green party leader Elizabeth May says she has spoken to Mr. Dion regarding a seat in the Senate, and a role in the coalition government. Considering Ms. May led a party that ran candidates in 307 ridings and was rejected in all 307, what would be the justification for rewarding her with a lifetime sinecure in the Senate?
• An appointment for Ms. May would appear to be a reward for agreeing not to run a candidate in Mr. Dion's riding. Is it the coalition's position that appointing senators on the basis of their personal deals with the Liberal party leader is an appropriate means of populating the upper house? Will Mr. Dion be appointing friends and relatives as well?
• If Ms. May is appointed to the Senate and given a role in the government, she will be an unelected member of an unelected government, appointed by an unelected prime minister. Can Mr. Dion explain how this reflects the will of Canadians as expressed in the recent general election? Can he explain how it furthers the interests of democracy to impose such a government on Canadians?
Thanks so much for your clear explanation of Canadian politics & governance--your occasional discussions of home politics are always very insightful, and as an American, they are very useful to me. You have a real knack for elucidating murky stuff like politics and blog hosting!
my best to you & your fellow Canadians,
Thanks for explaining this! Clearly, I should stop listening to audiobooks instead of news, since I had no idea there was a chance of a new government for y'all.
I also love this country and am really looking forward to showing my support for the coalition this weekend at Nathan Philips Square.
Mme. Jean is, of course. black.
She is the head of state.
A black. woman.
Not mentioned too much by those people down south of us, eh? Isn't the GG of Ontario an Asian woman?
it just seems so normal to canadians we don't mention it. Like gay marriage. Done deal. hah.
I think everyone should realize that Steph's explanation is from one viewpoint. I don't agree with all of it. AFAIC-the Bloc from Quebec are traitors to Canada and have no business taking part in the running of the country and accepting their parliamentary salary. They want to BREAK UP our country and I firmly believe they should all be in jail.
I believe Harper is correct to want to get rid of the $1.95 tax on each vote won by each party. Let each party get out and raise their own money and quit taxing Canadians to death. However, now was not the time to include that in a confidence vote.
What the opposition parties are doing may be legal in the strict sense, but the Liberals and NDP did NOT win enough votes in the recent election and should never have done this in this time of recession. Harper is at fault, and the Three Stooges (Dion,Layton and Duceppe) are worse. They're all acting like a bunch of children and I'd like to take a wooden spoon to all of them.
I just finished a Stained Glass Felted Bag, and a pair of socks. Good for me... ;>)
i've heard about how many people do/do not like Mr. Harper. While i have no say in your government, from what i've heard. i hope Madame Jean makes an appropriate decision (and i tend to agree with you about the economic situation. INSANE to not have parliament sit while the economy rounds the bowl)
Thank you, Stephanie. You demonstrate your skills once again as a great writer and not just a great knitter. Thank you for the lucid, easily digestible lesson. You could write well about anything.
Hi Stephanie - I tagged you. Check out my blog to see what it's about.
Yaaay, Stephanie. Couldn't have said it better myself. But then, I am not a published author, either. I wish your whole blog post could be printed in every newspaper in our fair country, but especially here in Alberta, where voters with views even slightly left of centre are pretty thin on the ground. Most of the citizenry tend to believe any and all Conservative rhetoric, totally, and blindly, and are given to regurgitating same at the drop of a hat.
Seriously, that was one of the best posts ever. Yea, i'm a knitter and don't think that I will put up with blog hijack for long but seriously, that was a great, informative and interesting rant, rave, whatever. Am married to a canadian.
that is an excellent way of putting it, congratulations on being well educated and thereby educating me. Thank you
Well written, and educational to say the least. But please, no test tomorrow on the topic.... unless it's open notes.
As so many others have said, thank you Stephanie for giving a quick and straightforward summary. I'm from the US, but I've lived abroad in countries with parliamentary systems so knew about minority governments, coalitions, etc (and yes, even knew that Canada is a constitutional monarchy).
But I didn't know what prompted Canada's current situation, nor did I know the role of the GG. Nor did I know a similar situation existed in Australia in the mid 1970s, nor that NZ has had women in high political positions for such a long time now. :)
Thank you for the excellent summary and thank you for putting it "out there" so many of the points I think needed to be made clear.
I have never really been interested in politics before, but I must say, I have been following a fair bit of this. Your blog today was a great read, very informative. You actually opened my eyes a bit, and changed my mind on some things (I didn't exactly have all the facts, I was moreso on the "just let the guy run the thing for now, don't f*&k it up with a bunch of kids running around arguing" (which is what I can see happening with a coalition....))
Anyways, why couldn't you have been my Social Studies teacher when I was in school???
Thank you for taking the time to explain your government. It obviously took some time to prepare. Living in a US state with a Canadian border (Washingon), I try to pay attention to the big news up north. I've been frustrated by my lack of understanding of the parlimentary system. Now when I watch the CBC new from Vancouver I'll have a better idea of the chess pieces.
The the Govenor General perform some of the same types of duties as the Queen does in the UK?
As a Canadian who follows politics, this synopsis is right target. Reading the posts, the Governor General is appointed by the Prime Minister as the Queen's representative in Canada. Each Province has a similar post called the Lieutenant Governor. Male or female if it is a King or Queen in England has nothing to do with this. There is precedence for what is happening now. For those interested in history, google the King-Byng crisis of 1926
The King-Byng Affair was a Canadian constitutional crisis that occurred in 1926 when the Governor General of Canada, Lord Byng of Vimy, refused a request by the Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to dissolve parliament and call a general election.
The crisis was watched closely by both the Canadian and British governments, and came to redefine the role of Governor General not only in Canada but throughout the Dominions. It was also a major impetus in negotiations at Imperial Conferences held in the late 1920s that led to the Statute of Westminster, 1931.
According to British Empire constitutional convention, the Governor General once represented both the Sovereign and the British government, but the convention had evolved with Lord Byng's predecessors, and the Canadian government, as well as the Canadian people, into a tradition of non-interference in Canadian political affairs.
Thank you so much for that wonderfully clear explanation. I clearly need to read my (Australian) newspaper instead of specifically buying it for my dogs to urinate on at night!
I read all of it and I found it incredibly exciting. I can also see a few flaws, like being unable to vote for a specific person (what if the leader of the party you vote for has all the charisma of Hitler and yet couldn't be trusted to raise a goldfish, let alone a country?).
Though, to be honest, that is a little like how it's done here in the States, what with the Electoral College and all.
Anyways, I appreciate the time you took to tell us this and I look forward to the socks and hat!
A wonderful explanation, as everyone has said. I've listened to some of the late-night Canadian news on public radio (here in D.C.) but without this background, I couldn't follow it.
I cannot believe we've just been through an American election with ninety million mentions of the possible "first female president" and "first female vice president" without ever being told that Canada, our neighbor, has a female Governor General. Is Mme. Jean the first woman to hold the post?
A wonderful explanation, as everyone has said. I've listened to some of the late-night Canadian news on public radio (here in D.C.) but without this background, I couldn't follow it.
I cannot believe we've just been through an American election with ninety million mentions of the possible "first female president" and "first female vice president" without ever being told that Canada, our neighbor, has a female Governor General. Is Mme. Jean the first woman to hold the post?
You never cease to amaze me, this was great thanks...love what Harper did in 2004, just heard that on the news...smarmy comes to mind...everytime I think of Harper...smarmy....
Thank you so much for this! It's absolutely fascinating, and gives a much-needed perspective on how other democracies operate (for sometimes, we Americans forget there's any other kind than our own). A true multi-party system! That would mean such a difference if it ever happened here.
The Govenor General should dissolve the sentate, put power in the hands of the regional govenors and let fear keep the local systems in line.
(I'm so sorry. I couldn't resist it.)
Hey, Thanks for the information.....I always regret that so much of our education takes place when we're too young to appreciate it, and is so limited in scope that we (are expected to)learn only about our own system.
Guess they don't want us to know other people may have a better way!
You posted in Oct. for news about the Canadian election while in the US on the book tour. That's when I became aware of how little the US media covers Canada news. Britney Spears...well, our media has that covered!
I googled for information after reading your column Tuesday. Wasn't much to be found that was understandable. I truly appreciate you putting these events into something that makes sense. I still had a few questions, but some were answered in the postings. The other I'll google.
But please don't be discouraged by the very few commenter's disagreements. It's politics after all, there has to be other views.
Ditto Alexa's comment:
"Can I ask you to please do a follow up when the Gov. General makes her decision? You really made everything make sense. :)"
Posted by: Alexa at December 3, 2008 2:13 PM
Now, I HAVE to get back to knitting Christmas scarfs...not anywhere where I need to be in accomplishing this. Drat that the fashion is for longggggg scarfs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don't knit at all (my apologies) but I am just so so so so so so glad to see that SOMEONE GETS THIS!!!!!! Being from Alberta, I am alone in a sea of people frothing at the mouth and looking for a Lefty to blame. Listening to these people makes my head spin and the media is not helping matters at all!!
Reading this before I slip off to bed tonight helps me breathe easier and know I'm not alone.
(Sorry about the no knitting thing. It's not personal, just bad hand-eye coordination) :)
@Amy S - nope, it looks like there have been 3 female Governors General:
1984-1990 - The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé
1999-2005 - The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson
2005-present - The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
thank-you for writing such a clear description of what's going on! It really helps to make sense of it all for those of us whose heads spin when politics comes up :)
That was fascinating! Thank you so much for the details. Would you please keep us posted? As sad as it is, my local coverage in San Francisco has never touched on these important events up North. Sad huh. Oh, and love those scarfs, I'm making one now too, dark greys and raspberry yarns, yummy!
Your political posts are some of my very favorites. "Canada Day," "Letter to Mr. Harper," and now this piece are so well done! I know some readers' feathers get ruffled when they disagree with what is written, but that only makes the comments more interesting. I'm off now to read more about this issue -- thanks for a great post.
Stephanie, I tell you, if it were not for the cruel and dark winters, I would be packing right now and apply for residency in Canada.
Thanks Stephanie: I am currently living and working in the Middle East and am not up to date on what is happening in Canadian politics. That was the clearest explanation I have ever read about how parliament works in Canada. I will be watching and waiting with baited breath. Have you ever thought of teaching Civics to kids! We need you!
That was really interesting, thank you. What really amazes me is that here in the UK this has not hit the main news. I'm ashamed of us (again). However, I suspect the Queen is frowning and has a word or two to say about it (but we won't hear that either).
Wow, it's a soap, really... This has not been in the news in Europe at all, but then, Canada is far away and Mr. Harper is not nearly as handsome as Mr. Obama :lol:
I'll be keeping a close eye on the international news and hope that your GG makes a wise decision...
A couple of things. First, a great synopsis. By and large, this is bang on. I do have a couple of quibble points.
1) This wasn't a fumble by Harper, it appears. A tape came out where Jack! Layton admitted to having put this coalition together way long ago, perhaps just after the last election. Harper had apparently preciously heard about this coalition and, instead of having it sprung on the Canadian public just after the spring's budget, he chose to put the poison pills into the economoic update to flush out whether this plan was actually real.
2) The Bloc IS a signatory. A party whose real aim is to break up the country is in.
3) The party subsidy-removing thing was right, IMO. Parties should raise their own money. In fact, I think it should go further: all tax credits for political donations should be removed.
4) A commentor above said that the CPC is the party of the wealthy and such. That's pullplop. Most of the donations received by the CPC are of thee $10 and $20 variety.
So while consitutionally legal and proper, is this potential coalition morally right? Nah, I don't think so. The only option, IMO, is to go to an election. If they believe that the coalition is what Canada wants, let the coalition run as an entity and see how well they do.
My prediction: we get a coalition and it falls within 6 months. The Canadian public remembers this, elects a Conservative majority, and the left goes apoplectic.
Thank you very much. After your cryptic hinting I tried to find out what was going on in Canada, and the BBC did have an article buried somewhere. This is much more comprehensive.
I finally understand it - sort off LOL! That was a great explanation, actually the best I've read so far! As I've said in some previous comments I grew up 30 miles from Canada, spent a lot of time in your country, and watched many hours of the CBC. CBC was one of 4 TV channels we could receive by antenna. Two of those channels were Canadian. I have never quite gotten a working understanding of your government. I've tried but the things I read were much more convoluted than what you wrote and my brain just couldn't get it. I have always thought that Canada was a beautiful, wonderful country with an amazing melting pot culture. I was a bit worried over the last few years when I have read a few quotes from Prime Minister Harper. Some were so conservative that it made me think that Canada was starting to turn in the same Conservative direction as the US. I'm really glad to hear that it isn't. Thanks so much for taking the time to write our Civics lesson for the day. After yesterdays post I went and read some info on it, but didn't quite get the gist of it. It makes a whole lot more sense now!
PS: I am still looking for a great butter tart recipe!
Excellent synopsis and extrapolation, thank you!
I hope that the GG does what I think is the right thing, and allows the opposition to form a government.
Thanks! I'm from the UK and my sister and her husband live in Toronto. Thanks to your handy guide, I can now talk about politics with them at Christmas and look smart and intelligent. You are truly a queen among bloggers.
(and my knitting inspiration!)
Hi it may not have hit the main news in the UK - it has, after all, had to fight for space with shootings in Mumbai, rioting in Thailand, cholera disaster in Zimbabwe, etc., - but if you go to the international page of the BBC News, you can read all about it. In fact the GG is meeting PM Harper at 9.30 a.m. local time today, at least that is what it says on the website!
Exciting times indeed. Australia had a "moment" with a Governor General way back in 1975.(He "dismissed" the Prime Minister and the Parliament).
our own system is not first past the post - we have "preferences" which means that if your candidate doesn't have enough votes to win, they are given to the next person on the list, according to the original candidate's "preferences".
Ah, Governments. Makes you wonder why some people love them so much.
Brilliantly written, and now I feel that I completely understand the situation I'm hooked; can't wait for your next update (and I'll bet the News programmes make sense to me now as well!). Thank you.
Thank you very much for explaining.. I tried to look it up on the internet but couldn't adequately understand everything.. It is always good to learn more about the worlds differing political systems and democracy... thank you again :)
Awesome! Thank you so much for all the information and time it took to type all that in. I am ashamed I haven't been reading my Canadian news.
can't wait to see what happens.
Awesome explanation Yarnharlot. You go to the head of the civics class. Now if only the parliament was filled with knitters we might actually get some where.
Wow, thank you for the primer! I echo a PP way up top - why are Americans not taught how our neighbors are governed?!?! That is fascinating! Must go follow the news to see how it all turns out...
It is also 'funny' that Harper got the Bloc on board to push through some legislation last parliament, but now that the Liberals and NDP are forming a coalition with the Bloc 'they are separatists'. I also point out that Harper has become PM with only something in the neighborhood of 38% of the popular vote... things that make you want to go hmmmmmmm...
Phooey. I had hoped that no others had succumbed to the my-way-or-the-highway mentality that the current US administration believes is the way to run a government. Too bad this attitude has been adopted by your PM. Is it contagious? Here's hoping that this vote-with-me-or-else attitude does not persist.
Never commented before but would just like to thank you for a great summary of Canada's current events. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
I love it! It has me squeeling with pleasure. I hope the govt. falls. Harper deserves it. He is a big old bully.
Wow, You have a great way of explaining things.
Am I the only lady who is amazed that in this world, still a male dominated society that so much responsibility is in the hands of one woman. Girl Power in spades!
Thanks for the explanation. I was missing two pieces of the story yesterday with the stuff I was reading in US sources: the bit about the confidence thing attached to every parliamentary vote, and what the Governor General does.
I hope she doesn't put parliament on vacation. Harper needs to reap what he's sown. I only wish WE could have had a no confidence vote about our own president years ago...
That was interesting---you have explained it very well and now I understand a little more about Canada, a country I've always been fascinated with. One of these days I hope to visit your country.
Candyfloss: Ontario does not have a GG. We have a Lieutenant Governor, FORMERLY Adrienne Clarkson, now David Onley.
Wow....I only wish more folks from the US had as firm a grip on the political machinations of our country (although there are plenty who do). I'm still a little shaky after hearing some of the reasons people voted the way they did (for either side) in our last election. Yeesh.
Very interesting. Is Madam Jean a Canadian or British? How long is her appointment? I thought the Queen was only a figure head, I didn't know she made such important appointments.
An amazing system of government! Sounds like Mr. Harper has been using Karl Rove as a consultant for his strategies.
Gotta knit -- Christmas is coming.
Haven't read all the comments, so maybe someone's already said this - but if so it can certainly stand repeating: the Yarn Harlot is one amazingly talented woman! She knits (a lot), she lays floors singlehanded, she is a wise parent, and now it seems she has a huge talent for making politics interesting and understandable. Is there anything she can't write about with skill and humour?
Thank you! That was so informative. I'm sure that took you forever to write but it was appreciated.
Thanks Stephanie! I'm one of those Canadians who really needed this post. I'm university educated, a professional, and consider myself a pretty smart cookie, but when it comes to politics, well, I'm truly embarrassed at how little I know. You did a great job of explaining this mess in a way that was actually captivating. As important as I think it is to be aware and engaged, the truth is, the majority of info on the subject bores to distraction before I learn what I really need to know - which I'm not proud to admit. So thanks from a proud Canadian who really does care.
It was gratifying to use your primer to explain some drama in Canadian politics that for once, my American husband didn't dismiss as "boring". Thanks, baby.
Wow.... you just made politics interesting! Thanks for the wonderful synopsis.
Just a small point, and I hope it doesn't make a difference . . . but the Governor General is married to a separtist.
Wow! So interesting...and well explained!
you learn something new everyday!
Interesting post, thanks for the clarification! One thing is certain, politicians are the same the world over! (I don't trust any of them, LOL!) An interesting tidbit, when the United States of America was formed, a standing invitation to join the confederation of States was issued to Canada, it is still in effect today, as it was never repealed. It's good to be on nice terms with your neighbor. ;-)
Very well explained. Thanks. But go to your local mall. Restaurant. Any place in canada where consumers make transactions. This christmas is looking alot like last christmas. There is no economic slow down right now. Not yet. There is no rush to fix anything because nothing is broken. Will our economy slow? Probably. Is it good to be prepared? For sure. I do recall that was the plan put forth by our governing body the conservatives.
Wow! That sounds like a fun system! Never a dull moment...
And - I can't help it - you Canadians (with the exception of your current PM) are so darn cooperative. It's almost cute.
Those of us to the south of you could learn a thing or two about cooperation, that's for sure.
Whoa. Anyone else want a Governor General here in the US? Can you imagine if every time in the past 8 years ye old Bush did something MONUMENTALLY STUPID, there was someone who had only the best interests of us in mind?
I want your government please.
Your informative post reminded me of an incident when the then Prime Minister in the UK, Tony Blair, invited President Clinton to visit and *ahem* forgot to mention this to the Queen. The Queen had to haul him in to the Palace and remind him that he was just the Prime Minister and that she was the head of state. Hurried arrangements for a state banquet followed and Tony Blair looked silly on TV trying to get out of another fix he'd got himself into. Much the same as normal then....
Fingers crossed for Canadian democracy in the near future. Thanks for the primer.
Usual lurker on this blog but must post to say thanks. I'm a quebecois but have been away from Canada for a while, and been a bad, bad person, not reading the news from home (usually do it during elections - but somehow thought the action was over)(*so* glad it's not)(Harper, brrrr). I feel very bad about myself for hearing about what's happening in my country in a knit blog, of all things, but I want to say a big warm thanks for writing this informative, interesting post and keeping this place a knitting blog with a kick. Bises!
I think one of my favourite parts of the whole thing so far is when Jean Chretien, when asked about his take on the whole thing, replied 'Je ne comprends pas anglais'.
Living in Alberta is hard right now, because of all the Harper-madness (his riding is here in town, in Calgary). I wish I could explain my beliefs about the current situation well enough to maybe change a few minds.
I'm still bitter over all the stuff he said about artists, which kinda of makes my arguments irratioinal and just angry.
Thanks for the Canadian civics lesson, and I have to echo several other posters, I am ashamed that I did not know more about the governing process of my neighbors to the North. Waiting with great expectation for the next move!
wow thanks for that--if you ever give up knitting you could write constutional history for a living. we've heard nothing about this in the UK
Excellent synopsis - so good that your were linked from cbc.ca (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/12/03/f-rfa-macdonald.html).
As a fellow Canadian, that was all bang on, couldn't have explained it better myself. The only thing you and I diverge on is, well, the glee at the prospect of the coalition taking over. Having never been on this site ever before, I have no idea which region of Canada you are from (I am from Alberta, and no, I don't where a cowboy hat, ain't a redneck, and ain't an oil man either), but I think I can safely assume that the change in gov't will not effect your job security.
I may not directly work for the oil sector, but as a software developer, the company I work for has clients primarily in the commodities markets (primarily oil and gas, energy). John Layton wants to shut down tarsands projects in our province (bye bye jobs in Ft. Mac). With 6 or more seats for the NDP in this proposed coalition cabinet, we are all freaking out in Alberta here. And I am not talking about corporate execs with tons of money, I am talking about accountants, software developers, draftspeople, and yes engineers... normal folk, who earn a decent living but aren't rich and "greedy grubby Albertans" by any stretch of the imagination.
I really don't get it - the NDP/Libs say they are for all Canadians, but they are ok with sticking a knife into our livelihoods in the oilpatch (National Energy Program - Liberal policy in 80s), but are all for the economic stimulus of the AUTO sector in Toronto... Got news for you, cars use GAS! (gasp! a petroleum product) You may say no one said anything about another NEP, but with not one Albertan in this caucus you better believe no one will have our interests in mind when they table policies.
Make no mistake -- it is all about votes. Ontario and Quebec have got the most influence because they have the most seats. Call me a cynic, but it's the truth. All I know is I am Canadian too. I know people who have lost their jobs in the auto sector are hurting, but we sort of like our jobs here too.
I think Easterners need to realize that we are more alike than the media and political parties would make it seem. It's just about trying to make ends meet. If the NDP/Libs want to make inroads in Alberta (don't laugh, I am serious) try being a bit more balanced when you campaign. When you propose legislation that may hurt our main industry here... maybe balance it with something that will help diversify our economy in a way that allows us not to nurse at the teat of "poisonious, environment killing" Oil and Gas. Even better, try scaling it in real people don't have to lose their jobs enmasse, all at once.
Thank you for a great civics lesson. I'm sure I don't have to point out how long ago we would have changed Presidents if we had a similar situation.
Wow, thanks for the Political Science lesson. Seriously. Every country needs a well-spoken person like yourself to provide concise commentary with all the necessary background information.
Political knitting will be the next book's theme, perhaps?
I've been reading a lot about this in the papers (I live in Albera good luck finding an unbiased opinion in anything local) and this is the best overview I have seen. Have you thought about submitting it to the AP? they could certainly learn a good deal about writing a political article for the masses.
Thanks for the lesson in politics. You put it so clearly! I hope a lot of teachers use your text to explain it to their students. As a Canadian, it is interesting times to say the least!
Hey there. Well being a typical American, I was with you up until the point of the 5 items and the prime minister. At that point, I got confused, lost interest and wondered what is going on with Paris Hilton, then promptly turned back to my reality TV ;-).
Thank-you, You did a wonderful job explaining it and remaining unbiased. I couldn't tell if you were for the conservatives or the coalition... and that seems to be a very difficult thing to accomplish these days - cootos!
I am so glad you took the time to explain. I feel you explained it very well. And I'm happy to have learned more about our neighbors to the north.
Very well put. It's nice to finally read a calm and reasoned article, especially with the hysteria in the paper(Toronto Sun). Even my family has gotten caught up in it(they voted Conservative, I didn't). I really enjoy reading your blog. I start my morning off with you and a cup of coffee. Keep it up.
Interesting times. Please write a book on politics because you explain it much better than anyone else I know (usually if someone mentions the dread-word 'politics' my brain immediately closes up and won't absorb any information anyone tells me). This has even helped me understand our own system in the UK a bit better so thanks!
Thank you. I live about an hour from Ottawa, but I'm American. My husband is usually very good at explaining what's going on when I can't figure it out myself, but this week he's been all, "I'm not emotionally ready to pick up a paper yet."
I was concerned about the coalition government thing, because it hadn't occurred to me that it's OK to get a new PM or ruling body without an official election. I am now assured that the process is, indeed, not "hinky".
I've learned a lot of Canadian history and culture from reading your blog (and from having married a Canadian). My friends are very impressed when I tell them I got help from "a knitter on the internet". :D
Good summary but you failed to mention that the "the Bloc, a Quebec only party" main platform is to seperate from Canada. This is a big factor as to why a large portion of Canadians find it hard to take. (BTW The letter did not ask to form a government but call an election)
Thanks, Stephanie. I am a Canadian and thought I understood pretty well, but your post was very helpful and I'm going to show it to my dh and older kids, too. My 4yo sucks her thumb when she is unsure. I knit. I'm off to find my Baudelaire socks. ;)
I wanna be Canadian. That's so much cooler than the electoral college nonsense we deal with, south of the border.
I must be a bad Canadian- I learned more from this post than what I can remember from high school. It's too bad you can't submit it for extra credit or something! Now I actually feel like I understand exactly what's going on as opposed to the skewed slants I get depending on which station I turn on or which paper I pick up. Thank you!
How creative... and can I mention how when Queen Amidala says.. I move for a vote of no confidence.. in the Star Wars movie I get chills hehehhe
Sounds like Canada would be an interesting place to live... maybe next year..
I am from Quebec and I most say I really appreciate your post. It is clear and respectful which is so important in any situation that complex and ... well so emotional for everyone involved.
and back to knitting :-)
Very impressive. I was picking up bits an pieces from the links posted the other day, but this is a very comprehensive explanation to (ignorant american) laymen on what the crap is going on north of the 49th. Thank you! :)
Thank you! That was so informative. My mum and family are Canadian and she told us that the governments were "different" but I never really understood how.
I got so caught up in our election (as usual - I am a government/constitution junkie) down here she patiently sat through the Vice Presidential debates while on vacation.
You were so thorough in your explanation my interest is piqued!
THANK YOU. I was getting nowhere trying to decipher news articles. This was a great explanation to a poor American student studying for finals.
The govenor general is appointed by the Queen of England on recomendation by the primeminister of Canada. I think she has a term of five years. It is my understanding that even if the Queen of England were to visit Canada she would have no authority, it would still rest with the Govenor General.
Very good post, especially after the corrections on how we vote.
It is important to discuss the concept of "responsible government" -- the first principle of our Parliamentary system, established in the early 1850s after the Durham Report.
Basically, the principle stipulates that the "formal" (Crown) and "political" (PM/cabinet) executives only rule or operate with the support of Parliament.
That is a very important point right now -- Ms. Jean should not allow Harper to prerogue without the confidence of the House.
Otherwise, the basic principle of our system would be violated -- the government would rule "irresponsibly", or without the support of Parliament.
Harper covered up this point last night in his speech.
In fact, Harper is trying to undo the basic law of democracy in Canada -- that the government is "responsible" to Parliament, which is "representative" of the People.
Thanks for the civics lesson. I learned more reading today about Canadian government than I did in college...and I was a political science major.
thanks for the clarification!
I'm watching Harper's speech right now after Gov. Gen has agreed to prorogue parliament.
Shame on you, Mr Harper.
Thanks for the lesson, Stephanie.
And yet: she said yes. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081204.wparliamentday1204/BNStory/politics/home
Stephaine girl if you are as good at knitting socks as you are at explaining whats going on here you need to start selling them. I received a mail from my daughter who lives in Ireland this morning asking what was going on with our goverment. I did my best to explain and I might add I failed. I just received mail from her with the link to your posting and it is brilliant. It explains everything but you do it with a touch of humor that makes reading it worth the time. So I suggest that you put down the needles and get a new job on the hill because girl your good and so much better then the stuff shirts we watch. And might I add make it far more complicated than it needs to be. Thank you from both my daughter and myself
I'm so impressed with your explanation, I really had no idea (silly american that I am).
It is so very complex, I feel bad for all your little kids who have to learn it :)
Cool! Thanks for the lesson on Canadian government. I think it's way more interesting than the one here in the US...I'm very interested to hear what the result will be!
An excellent explanation, thanks--I haven't been able to get more than bits and pieces of this from news sites. Would you mind terribly much if I adapted parts of this for use in my classroom? I teach English as a second language in Kazakhstan, and many of my students don't even realize that Canada is an Anglophone nation. (Some think you all speak French and others think "Canada" is an American state.) I bored them all to tears with enough material on the US elections, so it only seems fair to balance it out...
Well...that one woman just put the House in a time out! (in other words she has decided to grant Harper his request to prorogue)
May we live in interesting times!
Wow! Great civics lesson! I wonder how many of us USA citizens could explain our governmental system as well as you did!
I so appreciate your willingness to explain things. I sent this on to my brother who works for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He agreed with me that there is surprisingly little information about this in the American press, and also that Americans scarcely know anything about your government. I am eager for your next lesson.
While our government mostly works for us, I kind of wish that we had something more similar to the vote of no confidence for removing someone who is somehow unfit to lead us. Our process for that feels fairly cumbersome!
Very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to share the information.
Wow! Thanks so much for the lesson in canadian civics. Fascinating stuff! And exciting to go through.
That is all so fascinating! Please keep us updated as to What Madame General decides....
Thanks for a clear picture of what's going on. I've been reading blurbs on google news, but not knowing how the Canadian government typically works, it was a bit confusing.
Great civics lesson...and better than a prime time soap opera! Keep us up-to-date on Madame Jean's decision.
And, isn't it a shame that, when all you have to do is get your a _ _ to the polls to vote, so few people do? It is totally embarassing when you hear about some 3rd world country where the people have to walk, face gun fire and other explosions...and turn out 90% plus...that we can barely get a majority to go!
Thanks so much for the primer. My only question is where does the Governor General come from? (i.e. Is she appointed by the Queen, elected, etc.?) Again, thanks. Can't wait to see how it turns out.
you're right, I'm not interested.
My bad. Adrienne Clarkson was a GG, not a LG of Ontario! Where was my thinking cap?!
Oh! Well. I thought the swiss system was complicated... Yours is full of interesting possibilities!
As a born-canadian (even if my genes and my education are mostly swiss), I thank you for this lesson. I will follow this!
Good reading. As much as many people don't like politics and don't care about civic participation, in their own country or others', this reminds me that government (good or bad) is really important.
I felt it was necessary to comment. While I felt there are some issues regarding the current political situation that was exaggerated to favor one side, I though the explanation of our system was a good one.
I'm also glad to see Americans are interested to learn about this system, as I'm probably just as interested in theirs.
I'd like to respond to "JK" who posted:
"Basically, the principle stipulates that the "formal" (Crown) and "political" (PM/cabinet) executives only rule or operate with the support of Parliament."
Proroguing parliament to post-pone a non-confidence vote doesn't necessarily go against this. The PM has the support of the house until a non-confidence vote succeeds. Though publicly it would appear he doesn't have the support of parliament it isn't official or legal until a vote is held.
I'm glad I wasn't in the Governor Generals shoes today, her decision either way would have been the right one. There really is no precedent for this particular situation in Canada. Usually a Coalition is formed before Parliament sits, before the throne speech which wasn't the case here. Also Coalitions are often built to establish a majority of the house, this wasn't the case here. In fact the combined Coalition fails to even overpower the governing party. Seperatist party or not, I'm not sure of a precedent where a party is not part of the coalition but chooses to support it in an agreement that may or may not be binding. The Governor Generals decision is basically one to delay parliament with the hope a budget can be passed and is supported, but should it fail the Governor General will most likely then choose an election.
Thanks VERY much for the primer on Canadian politics -- it's shameful how little media coverage this gets in the U.S.
Wow...and does she knit? if she does, then I'm certain that she will make the right decision!!
WOW. She just did it -- Mme. Jean has prorogued Parliament. I feel sick -- she's letting the bully boy have his way, and now the playground is even more dangerous.
Hey Steph, this is so concise and smooth readin' - but how did you manage to say it all so ahem, democrATically, with only the merest inference of what a douchebag Harper is? But I guess he makes himself look bad enough all on his own. Yup, pretty cool country...Wink, Om, R
This whole drama has engaged Canadians in a way nothing else (elections, tsunamis, Olympics, NHL finals, etc.) has ever done. Just look at the number of comments on this article. Some other forums have almost shut down because of being swamped with comments. For example, cbc.ca had more than twenty thousand comments posted this week. In one sense it has been great because of that engagement. Unfortunately, however, the Prime Minister has taken an economic crisis and is turning it into a unity crisis with his demonizing the Bloc invoking lots of Québec-bashing on the part of his core supporters.
Thank you for such a clear explanation. I went looking after reading yesterday's blog post, but still couldn't understand what was going on, and was hampered by a migraine so my comprehension was lousy at best. Wow. What an interesting political system. I'll be watching more closely to see what happens, now that I understand.
As a politically engaged American living in Canada, I've been having a helluva time wrapping my head around Canadian politics (first with the sudden October election, and now this). Excellent synopsis--I'll be forwarding this to my family and friends, thanks.
Obviously I'm reading this a bit late, but I went to ctv.ca to find out the later news. Uh oh, lots of unhappy comments following her decision. I hope it all really does work out ok.
Stephanie, thanks for the explanation. This is clearer and makes more sense than what I read on one of the legal bulletin boards yesterday. It also makes me feel better -- we're not the only country with an odd way of doing things -- at least you didn't have to get your Supreme Court involved to decide who was President!
Oh, and can't wait to hear your thoughts on what she did do!
Holy Cow! I wish the best for all Canadians. We have a guy who's looking for a job. Maybe you could send him to a far, far off, cold, cold, icy people-less place. He couldn't get into any trouble there, right?
I did some searching after your previous entry to find out what you were talking about (in my defense, I haven't kept up with any news lately, so I'm as ignorant about recent US drama as I am about Canada's). Thank you for taking the time to write out an explanatory blog entry -- after my cursory searching, your storytelling helped flesh out the drama for me.
Great synopsis. I'll definitely share it with my teens. The whole thing seems a bit surreal out here near Vancouver. But we'll perogies for supper tonight!
Beautiful, clear explanation.
Thank you for writing this.... for Everyone.
Knowing what I know about the American government, our election and bill-passing process, this isn't all that confusing. Canada is certainly interesting, especially with the whole idea, 'You're doing a terrible job. We're giving you the boot' even if said person has only been in office for six months. Americans could've used this, but I digress.
Very interesting stuff. I look forward to Madame Jean's response. (Is the Governor General always female or was that just in this case?)
I clearly live in the wrong country, I actually like parliamentary democracy.
That said, I had no idea this was going on just "map inches" above my own head. After the US election I'm just trying to be an ostrich for a while with the media. I'll have to start seeking out foreign sources, I'm tired of the US ones.
Thank you for being such a great ambassador for Canada. I love your blog, and I love the little hints of politics that you sprinkle in once in a while. Please keep up the great work.
I love your knitting posts, but this one just gobsmacked me. MOST excellent. My husband was working for a week in Ottawa during your last election campaign and he tried to explain it all to me. Totally got lost. Your post? Totally clear in explaining the complicated nature of what you're facing. Thanks!
interesting(1) educational(1) love(1000)
Whoa! Thanks for the Canadian civic lesson!! That really helped explained things simply to us unknowing Americans. You just don't get this in our news or the news I end up catching. Fascinating, honestly, fascinating.
Good explanation, thank you for writing this.
Since I did vote, here’s my 2 cents: I’m not big on one party or the other, well, maybe the Green, but that’s not really what the issue is for me. For me, the opposition parties ran on a different platform and people voted for them according to what they said they would do. Now, they are changing the rules of the game without asking the voters how we feel about it. I know the system is set up that the government is run by the majority of the members of the house; but, in theory at least, these MPs should represent the wishes and needs of their constituents. I can understand their displeasure with the PM, but they should have asked us first (or at least bribed us with yarn) before taking such a drastic step.
There is nothing wrong with this process of seizing power; it’s just, in my opinion, wrong for them not to ask us about it.
Ok, NOW what???? She's supporting him, but WHY??
As we all know, Politicans aren't supposed to learn from history, but maybe, just maybe, Stephen Harper has been doing some reading. A certain Adolf Hilter was elected to the German government, but his party was in a minority. Over a period of a couple of years (with the help of his party) he managed to get four no-confidence votes through, and in the subsequent elections his party gained enough votes to get the majority, mainly because the average joe gave up voting.
Of course after he got in, he abolished all the laws he didn't like and became absolute leader. I would not wish to infer any similarity in personalities, but let us never forget that Hitler was legally elected by a democracy, and then twisted it and twisted it until it broke.
Whoa. That is amazing and exciting and terrifying! Thanks much for the lesson.
I grew up on Canada and was confused at what everyone was talking about.... you have made me a little wiser and a lot more interested in the news.... Thanks!!!
A few minor things...
One, as a financial bill, the financial update automatically had confidence attached - it wasn't the Conservatives being bullies in this case (in fact, I bet they would have preferred to figure out a way to get it through the house *without* confidence)...
Two, as to who was responsible for parliament "not working" at the end of the 39th session, the Conservative memo on how to disrupt committees did get leaked to the press - and, further, the declaration that the Conservatives were having trouble governing due to the "obstructionist opposition" seems rather hard to swallow since the government was defeated exactly 0 times.
But, beyond that, very well done. It saddens me the number of *Canadians* who don't understand their own system of government, really.
your post was the most succinct, fair, and balanced explanation i've come across yet. thank you. i sent a link and copy of your post to friends and family members and will print a copy out for my mom who seems to think that harper is not a ferret of a man.
I love it when you talk Canadian politics. Although it's better when you're off the record. ;)
THANK YOU! This was a fascinating summary of how Canadian government works. You explained it all so clearly and concisely.
The Green Party isn't left of centre, it's right of centre. They even admitted so in the previous election.
Here's some more information on Michaelle Jean:
-she was born in Haiti in 1957 and moved to Thetford Mines, Quebec, Canada when she was 11 years old
-she was appointed Governor General in 2005 by former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin
-she was once a television host on the CBC
-before being appointed as the Governor General, she had to deal with controversy surrounding ties to Quebec seperatists
"[Harper] rolled the dice, believing that he had the other parties on the ropes, and stuck to his guns."
This is the most glorious metaphor mixture I have ever seen.
Just a fast note: (great work, clear and complete)
You might want to note dear American readers, that 'Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces' means something else up in Canada. Technically the Oath is (still I believe) to the Queen and then Canada. In actual fact, The Governor General does not have a finger on a red button. The Chief of the Defence Staff (a soldier) orders the troops. I'm not sure what would really happen if the Queen said one thing and the Canadian Forces Staff thought another.
Hmmm - Like Iraq? Gee, we didn't go to that party...
Wow - great job explaining this, it was really easy to read and understand. I'm pleased I just got a crash course on Canadian politics. It's especially impressive that you stayed fairly neutral through the explanation.
Hope everything turns out for the best, and I'll be keeping an extra eye on Canadian news.
My first thought was "WOW" also. Thanks for the information. I think I'll print this off so I can better understand what is going on in Canada.
Your government is just as complicated as ours. (US) Hope it works out for the best for all Canadians.
Thanks for the awesome description about how the government works. It really made it easier to understand what is going on with our neighbors to the north. :-)
That isn't a primer at all...
That's an ideologically driven hit piece designed to express your distaste for the PM.
I'm surprised to see the claim being made that Prime Minister Harper was attaching these confidence motions to bills coming up for a vote in the House of Commons. Literally, I've heard nothing about this prior to your post.
Do you have any citations (perhaps to the Hansard, or maybe to the text of the bills in the 39th Parliament's first or second sessions) that corroborates this claim?
THANK YOU! so much for explaining to me, in one well written expose, my own form of government. This is, sadly, the first time I've ever been able to make sense of it and you also successfully explained all the political infighting that's been going on.
The woman can knit AND understands politics. YOU should run for Prime Minister!! Now, THAT would get me to the polls.
(in all seriousness...thank you. Really.)
Thanks -- that was probably the most clear and concise explanation of this situation I have ever heard -- Excellent!
Looks like it's going to be an interesting January 2009!
I had to add my thanks to the many others. Great explaination of how your system is working. Thank you
You have burst my bubble. I always thought we could move to Canada to retire when the US government becomes permanently broken. NOW where will we go???
More people voted for the Conservatives than any other party.
There were 5 choices in the last election (excluding independents), not a choice between conservative and everyone else. People did not vote for a choice of conservative or a coalition of the other 4. To get specific, 62.37% of Canadians did not vote conservative. However, 73.76% did not vote Liberal, 81.8% did not vote NDP, 90.03% did not vote BQ, and 93.2% did not vote Green.
Looks like the Conservatives are representing the largest number of people.
another thing to remember. The federal government is attempting to cut costs - becuase we are facing a financial crisis. Cost of federal servant wages, and more were all being dealth with. I was very impressed that the government is starting with themselves to slim up, and cut costs and set an example for others.
The plan to cut per-vote subsidies was for all parties. The party to be hurt most by that cut would be the party that has the most votes - and that is the Conservatives. They had the most to lose, but are willing to do that for the good of canada.
Mr. Harper is doing a good job - he is just running a very fiscal conservative government and that seems to be foreign to the people in parliament.
And while this government acts out their personal political agenda another car plant is being laid off in Oshawa on top of a glass manufacturing plant earlier this week and 2 Magna plants last week. Hope all of you who think Harper and Flaherty are so wonderful are working and paying your EI as the GM workers won't be working to pay their usual maximum premium contribution, and income tax, and GST taxes with their purchases, cause we will be busy just trying to pay the bills over the winter, buy food, mortgage, and we won't be coming into TO spend at businesses there, or going to the theatre, or Air Canada Centre, cause gee whiz we won't be able to afford to do that on EI, and we won't be investing, or keeping our cell phones, cable, satelite. Just to give you a heads up as to what is to come...sorry our community won't be supporting any charity, the millions over the years that autoworkers put into charitable causes won't be happening.
Sorry Steph...we are having a REALLY BAD WEEK here in Oshawa.
I'm very impressed how clear you make Canadian politics to the world (not to mention Canadians). I figure you're about my age (55, probably less). When you were in Grade 10 Social Studies (Mr. Slemko for me), did you ever figure that you'd be explaining Canadian politics clearly in essay format for the world? Wow!
Hey, you're Liberal and I'm more Conservative, but I'm am completely blown away.
Rivetting account of a political crisis. Brava!
Thanks so much for all the info! As a history teacher, I find this all fascinating. I'm an American, and I love teaching my students about the government, politics, and Constitution. Reading this makes me realize how much I have to learn about how other countries' governments operate. I'll be keeping my eyes and ears open to hear how this all gets resolved!
Thanks so much for this post. All the CBC in the world wasn't explaining it well enough for this person.
Oh, that was great. I'm English so I'm familiar with how parliamentary democracy works, but we have two major parties who take it in terms to form a government, and we've never had any kind of hung parliament or a government fall in my lifetime. It's fascinating to hear the difference that having several big parties makes under the same system, and odd how rarely anyone brings up the example of Canada (or the other parliamentary democracies around the world) in discussions of the UK system.
What the GG didn't do is send all the kids back to school and tell them to grow up, play nice and make the minority government work...like has been the case with every other minority government in Canada's history. Oh, well.
AWEsome explanation!! Thanks for posting it!!
I've linked my blog readers over to this page. As a 26-year-old Canadian I've found that many of my peers are woefully uneducated about what is going on right now. I was going to write my own synopsis but yours works awesomely well.
As for Jordan, who commented that this isn't a primer... Well. Let me just say that I think you did a remarkable job at laying out the facts, and even though we can tell which way you lean I felt it was a very fair and unbiased overview. People can draw their own conclusions once they understand the PROCESS behind what is going on.
And to repond to this quote: "Holy Cow! I wish the best for all Canadians. We have a guy who's looking for a job. Maybe you could send him to a far, far off, cold, cold, icy people-less place. He couldn't get into any trouble there, right?"
I hear Siberia has lots of room. We really, honestly, don't want that guy up here. He wouldn't make it long.
wow. Thank you for posting this. For all of the history I've learned over the years I admit that Canadian History and Government wasn't on that list but thank you for posting this, it really is an eye opener and amazing things to see how other countries effectively govern and get things done as opposed to how the Americans get things done.
Nice lesson, Stephanie. It would be lovely if Americans were able to explain our government as clearly as you explain yours. It would be even lovlier if more people would stop with the Liberal/Conservative/Republican/Democrat bickering and realize that we're (all of us globally) all in the same boat and at the moment, we're taking on water. We probably ought to stop sniping and start bailing.
I linked back here. Great explanation!
Small correction - The Queen is head of state and the Governor General is her representative. That is, the GG is the representative of the head of state, not the head of state herself. A seemingly small, but important, detail.
Thanks so much for the comprehensive tutorial - I truly appreciate it. Why is it the US can't be run in as sensible a manner? We could have gotten rid of the chimp years ago...
Thank you for this. It is embarassing how little the US knows about how either Canadian or Mexican government works, but then, most people in the US don't know much about how their own government works. I hope your Governor General does a better job for you that the US Supreme Court did for us in 2000.
Good Summary. Just a quick FYI -- The Bloc has expanded to have ridings outside of Quebec, mostly in the eastern provinces.
Wow! What an awesome and fantastic system of government! Thanks for explaining it so clearly. And I also agree with Leslie in Mass, above - if the US had it, we'd've gotten rid of the chimp years ago. It would have been brilliant...
First off, thanks. I hate politics, I think most politicians are corrupt... okay I think ALL of them are. I didn't vote because I coudl care less, its like going into a steakhouse when you're a vegetarian. I don't want to order cause I won't eat anything on the menu. But you totally made sure it was easy to understand and I appreciate that.
Now on to what has happened. Let me get this straight, this "one lady", has now doomed our country by putting EVERYTHING on hold. While this idiot of a PM tries to figure out a different way to screw the country and get himself out on top. This "One lady" has single handedly pissed off a nation of people, who should be realizing the state of our economic situation cannot afford what she has just done?
I really don't understand the benefit of this. I mean sure another election would have just been silly. but was this really the only other choice?
An excellent explanation...but better to have been written without bias....personal opinion should have been avoided for it to be truly educational...now I have to sort through truth and opinion
One thing that keeps tripping me up...If the BQ is good enough for parliament, why aren't they good enough for government? I mean theoretically, imagine the BQ party fielding candidates outside of Quebec (anglos who agree, like the BQ, that Quebec should be recognized as a separate society and country)? In theory, it's possible that they could field like-minded people in riding outside of Quebec, and indeed win a majority and form the Government of (presumably soon-to-be-split) Canada, right?
My point is, if you're gonna allow them in the House of Commons, then why not allow them to support the coalition government?
Either get rid of the BQ federally, or let them participate federally. You can't have it both ways.
Wow...be it knitting or government, you are a wealth of knowledge:)
Wow. Wow, wow, wow! What a fantastic post! Thank you for being so clear and articulate. The thing that kills me is that I haven't heard *anything* about this stateside. Nothing on the radio, in the papers, on the Internets. Nothing. It happens a lot, actually: America conveniently forgets that Canada exists.
Sigh. So thanks for educating me.
A parliamentary system is actually less complex than the American presidential system (checks and balances triumvirate, bills, primaries, 2-party system, class 1,2,3 senators, senate filibusters, etc. which could give those more familiar with parliamentary democracy a migraine). I am a US citizen and if a lot of Americans were paying attention to their government subjects back in high school or college, this would have been clearer. The US media is also a culprit in not being able to explain this the way the above article does. In any case, Harper is a fcking HYPOCRITE and LIAR! He should step down instead of flinging slanderous innuendos and employing political chicanery for the sake of his LUST for POWER. END THE CIRCUS, HARPER. NOW.
BTW, prorogation of parliament is a regular occurrence, especially with the UK parliament during the end of its sessions. But contrary to some comments here, the PROROGATION OF CANADA'S PARLIAMENT is the first time it has ever occured in order to save a prime minister's ass; in this case, HARPER'S. WHAT A DOUCHE BAG!
Actually, the leader of the party that gets the most seats in Parliament doesn't necessarily become PM. Twice in our history the PM has been a Senator. It's that the party with the most seats gets to form government. And that's only when it's a majority government. When it's a minority government, things can change drastically. The Coalition is such a case.
But, I'll put forth another question: Is it reasonable/ethical for the Governor General to interfere in this way in the Democratic process of Canada (i.e. ignoring the majority of the duly elected officials of Canada) when the person to whom she represents refuses to do so in her own country?
That was very well done. Australians have the same form of government and I never really understood the role of the GG properly until now. At least I think it's the same - politics gives me a headache. Wow - you guys must be on the edge of your seats?!
thanks. that was such a clear explanation! how exciting!
You forgot the sixth way a PM can stop being the PM: retiring! Otherwise, we might still be led by Chretien...
Excellent post, referred here by Guerilla Network News (they love you over there...)
Uhm, Bren, I think Stephanie's spelling is just fine. And correct. No, really.
Or is that reely? Night, or nite? Colour, or color? Ah, well - the 49th divide, it just goes on and on and on...
Thank you so much!!! Harper is LYING to Canadians, saying it's undemocratic.
How is a govt, with 2/3's of recently elected MPs forming a govt, undemocratic? We're a MAJORITY!
Sadly, alot of really dumb people falling for this Bush-like spin.
Wow....I spent an entire year in Canada on exchange and you just explained, in greater detail, your parliamentary system better than my college professors and most of my classmates....
And I was a political science major!
As I'm several days behind the times and offering comment #7-freaking-00, I seriously doubt that Our Lady of the Wooly Wonders will actually read this. Oh well! THANK YOU, Steph. I've been trying to keep up with world news more closely (and Canada's so close and friendly it should hardly count as "world news"), but I have been totally lost on this one. I get it now. Knowledge acquired. Screw Elizabeth. You are my queen. ;)
Thank you for the summary. I found this linked from a friend's blog, and being an American, while I knew a bit about parliamentary democracy, I was unfamiliar with the subtleties. This was a *great* explanation! very accessible.
Don't usually pay much attention to the knitters. More into bricolage myself.
A couple of points left out of your otherwise excellent analysis.
The current government is a coalition of Alliance, Reform, Progressive, Conservative, Social Credit and various other right wing types. Granted this coalition is older and more disciplined for the moment but has a tendency to eat itself after while. However, they can mount no real objection to a coalition.
Another issue is the person of the GG. Her history in the position is interesting. She was recommended by the previous Liberal PM, her Canadian citizenship was rightly questioned and her husband favors Quebec sovereignty and may have consorted with the closest thing we have ever come to Canadian terrorists. If she would have denied Harper's request she would have given him the ammo to get herself bounced from a plush (and until now largely ceremonial) job. She buckled.
The economic initiative that bothered the opposition parties, the $1.95/ vote taxpayer subsidy is an obscenity. A donation to a political party is tax deductible at rate far in excess of any other charitable giving. Our tax system favors giving to ambitious politicians over sick kids. If canceling this subsidy led to the reduced reliance on political parties in Canada, the end result would be to the benefit of all.
Just a few issues that lend a little perspective to this tempest. One coalition will be as good as the next, time to ditch the GG, and time to dial down the intense partisanship that the party system entails.
Very impressive. You should send this to the CBC, Neil Macdonald also tried to explain the situation to our American friends but I think that it was a poor bit of journalism compared to what you wrote.
If you knit as well as you write, you are probably a fashion designer.
Even the Huffingtonpost on twitter likes what you did. You're also on digg.com too!
Wow....that was...complex but it was pretty interesting ....Thanks this might help me in my socials class....
Stephanie, just wanted to say thank you for talking about this - it's absolutely fascinating. I'm really gripped, and there is no way I would ever have heard about any of this without you.
Knitting and learning!
Just donated $20.00 via the Australian office. Try the 21 days of positive thoughts. It may help if you drink champagne regularly with friends. Love your work, merry christmas from OZ. P.S. When are you coming?
The Conservatives are not, as you say, a Coalition. They are a new party that was formed by former members of those parties. But, that's a different beast than a Coalition.
How exactly would Harper have gotten rid of the GG if she denied him what he wanted, if he wasn't the PM any more?
Without the subsidy, it makes it exceedingly difficult for smaller parties to form and/or run in elections. As in, getting rid of it entirely isn't really an option. That said, if it really is a problem (which I'm not entirely convinced it is), there are other ways to deal with it. One could reduce it. One could also keep it the same but have a seat cut off of i.e. if you have greater than X seats, your party doesn't get it any more. One could also remove the tax deductible part. etc.
The party system doesn't necessarily imply partisanship. That only really happens if you effectively have two parties. You might be thinking more of the US than Canada here. But, in Canada, there are several other parties with strong support. The real problem here is that Harper has bred partisanship between the Conservatives and everyone else. So, effectively two groups. It's a problem, but one with a definite solution in a minority government; a Coalition. Well, that and Harper leaving politics (assuming his predecessor isn't of the same kind).
On a last note, I definitely agree that this GG should be dropped. The goal of a GG now is more along the lines of doing what the House wants, not bending over to the PM or making decisions in the best interest of Canada/Canadians. We aren't a colony any more.
But, given this fiasco, I'm starting to think that we should start cutting ties with Britain. Because, even though we are now our own country, it's time we do some modifications to the system to complete that. It's time we refuse to allow a representative of the Queen to have the power to treat us like children.
I wanted to thank you for this post. I linked to it on my blog because I could never have explained things so well - and then I started seeing friends linking to it on their blog and people were telling me that they were e-mailing the link around. I suspect the hits for this post went through the roof. :) Thanks so much!
Tracy, take heart, this is functional and the outcome will reflect what the canadian voters want. We have done some funny things at the polls especially when competing parties take common stands. Then the problem becomes to elect a functional government instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to show what we think of the performance of politicians in general as is tempting when they allign themselves, however temporary, in a common agenda. Recall the Charlottetown Accord.
I'm a Canadian living in the States. I forwarded this to a friend who teaches a North American geography course. He replied "Very, very useful! Thanks. I can't believe that I'm going to rely upon a knitting blog in order to properly teach a university course on the U.S. and Canada!"
Comments from Gypsyhick on December 3 made me think s/he is from Calgary. S/he states that Alberta is an all Conservative MP province. Not so! One riding in Edmonton had enough wisdom and foresight to elect an NDP by the name of Linda Duncan.
cause my little Canadian brain is fryed!!!
you just worsened it o_0
Thanks for nothing......,
confused Canadian that knows nothing
anyone agree??? eh????
I love you country too! And I can't tell you how many times I have wished that it were my country too!
Thank you SO MUCH for that explanation of how your government works. I've only ever known bits and pieces and never had a full picture. I kept meaning to research it.....(for many many years).... but that never happened. So THANK YOU for this fabulous tutorial. Have you ever thought about being a columnist? I'm sure you have. And I know you'd be a great one!
Thanks, again for a wonderful blog.
Happy Knitting on those xmas gifts!
Thank you. I felt I was more educated on this issue from your blog post than 90% of Americans.
I certainly was able to nod knowingly when our leading fake news show finally got around to covering it.
I don't know if you will find this funny or not, but since it pokes fun of how ignorant Americans are of "Our Neighbor to the North," I thought you might. Also, there are some good Stephen Harper jokes.
Note: It is 4 minutes, 20 seconds. Other note: this same show just finished their series on the US Election called "Indecision 08"