In his blog Quoderat, David Megginson provides an excellent summary of the brouhaha that’s currently taking place in Canadian politics right now. If you’re not familiar with the Canadian parliamentary system of government, worry not: he summarizes it quite nicely and lists American governmental analogues to the various parts of Canadian government.
If you’re really pressed for time and can only spare a moment to read six bullet points, my summary of David Megginson’s summary should get you up to speed:
- The Prime Minister announced a piece of financial legislation to eliminate the public funding of political parties.
- Viewed through a strictly Machiavellian, la fin justifie les moyens lens and ignoring all other factors, it’s a clever move. The Prime Minister’s party, the Conservative Party of Canada, are good at fundraising and can live solely off their donations; the others, who for various reasons haven’t got the knack, would be hobbled.
- Viewed through the lens of public relations and real-world pragmatism, it’s a dick move. It’s reminiscent of the Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns blocks out the sun to force the people of Springfield to constantly require power from his nuclear power plant for light.
- The problem: the Prime Minister’s government is a minority government. It means that while his party has more seats in the House of Commons (American readers: the closest analogue is your House of Representatives) than any other party, it does not have enough seats for a majority vote. That means that in order to get things done, the Prime Minister has to get the cooperation (and votes) of at least one of the other parties.
- And therein we see the flaw in the Prime Minister’s plan: the legislation to “cut off the air” to the opposition requires the support of the opposition.
- A vote of no confidence in the House of Commons is all it takes to unseat a minority government. Under normal circumstances, this would force a federal election, but since we had one only six weeks ago, the Governor-General can opt to declare another party leader the new Prime Minister if s/he can make a convincing case. The leaders of the three major opposing parties have formed a coalition, picked a leader and are angling to do just that.