dave_littler (dave_littler) wrote,

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On the prospect of a Coalition Government

For those of you who have no interest in Canadian politics, you might want to skip over this one. For those who are interested in principle but don't know anything about the functioning of the Canadian federal government, a super-quick primer: 

The Canadian federal government is made up of a parliament, made up of three hundred and eight members of parliament, each elected locally (much like Representatives down in the US). The Prime Minister is whoever is the leader of the party who gets the most members of parliament elected during any given election. We had an election quite recently, and for the second time in a row, the Conservative government - led by Stephen Harper - won a minority of the available seats in Parliament, but the largest minority; the other three parties - the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP (which I am a member of) - got the remainder.

Recently, the leaders of the other three parties agreed to form a Coalition - in effect declaring their three parties to be ONE party for this purpose - and thus gaining the majority of the seats in parliament, and thus getting to choose the Prime Minister from among their ranks, thus unseating Stephen Harper. They did this basically because harper is a thug and a bully and it was plain they couldn't work with him. The Conservative party is freaking out about this, but are largely powerless to stop this. Their main tactic here is to point out that the Conservatives won the election and should therefore be in charge.

Primer over.

A point which I haven't heard pointed out very much during this discussion is that in a very real sense, the majority of Canadians voted AGAINST Harper's Conservatives. They voted for one of three (well, four, but you know.) other parties, and Harper made it clear that he was not going to work with those other parties, in essence declaring that he didn't care about the will of the majority of Canadian voters. A Coalition government made up of the other three parties would by definition represent the interests of the majority of voters, and what's more, it would REQUIRE cooperation between them, ensuring that a variety of interests would be reflected in a way that could never, ever happen under the leadership of an autocrat like Harper.

On a personal note, I'm reasonably happy with the prospect  of NDP MPs getting a quarter of the available cabinet positions. It seems the very least the Liberals could make available, in light of the fact that the NDP actually got about twice as many total votes as the Liberals, even if the unfortunate distribution of those votes saw us getting less than half the seats in Parliament that the liberals now enjoy. The fact of the matter is that this represents more power than the NDP has had at any point in my memory, which I would very much like to see parlayed into a greater appearance of legitimacy on the national stage in the next election; showing that the NDP can effectively govern even in this limited capacity on a national level can only help our electoral chances.

On a broader note, I also feel this would be very, very good for the country as a whole in terms of peoples' engagement with politics. The most recent election had a DREADFUL turnout, thanks mostly to the conviction on most voters' parts that the election would basically net us a result of "more of the same" (which it did), and more to the point, more failure to reflect the will of the electorate. With this dramatic turn, suddenly, not only do we not see more of the same, we see the direct inverse of the pre-election results, and a result where every party in some measure matters. This can only be good for getting people more excited and engaged than they have been in YEARS. This is always a good thing for a healthy democracy.

We'll see how things go on Monday, where - unless Harper decides to be super-obstructionist and the Governor General decides to indulge him in his petulance - we'll see this re-arrangement of Parliament take place. For the first time in a long time, I wish I had a TV, so I could watch it happen. Maybe I'll go over to a friend's place. If I can think of a friend who has a TV. Hm.
Tags: canadian politics, culture, news

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