By: Chris Burke
A possible coup-attempt has been brewing in Venezuela since the election of Bolivarian candidate Nicolas Maduro, the successor to the late President Chavez.
With 99.12% of the votes counted, there was a 78.71% turn out, with Maduro receiving 7,505,378 votes (50.66%), and Capriles 7,270,403 votes (49.07%). Opposition candidate Capriles declared that he does not recognise the result and demanded an audit of 100% of the vote (Source).
Although the election has been deemed by fair by numerous independent observers, opposition candidate Capriles, with the backing of the United States, is demanding a recount. That the U.S. is demanding a recount, given its history with coups in Latin America, and own experience with close elections, “demonstrates that the U.S.’s position in regard to Venezuela has nothing to do with the U.S.’s alleged concerns for democracy, but rather its complete disdain for it”, writes Dan Kovalik.
By: Chris Burke
First off, I want to give mention to fellow 1837 editor Alex Ripley who campaigned hard for Joyce Murray over these past few months. Facing up against the name “Trudeau” was always going to be an uphill battle, and it was evident that a lot of hard work went into the campaign. Though not a liberal myself, I will extend my hand out in a gesture of respect.
Now on to Trudeau. If you are a Liberal, even if you didn’t support Trudeau in the leadership race, you are likely riding high. Trudeau’s victory was a landslide. 80% (approximately) of the vote. Not even the Trudeau camp was expecting that. Liberals will now have their sights set on 24 Sussex as Trudeau will start taking on Harper today in Question Period.
For me though Trudeau represents more of the same. Yes, I’m sure his policies are different in some ways. However, I’m not here to discuss nuances in policy. With the environment being my main concern, and driving theme for many of my 1837 articles, I’m interested in where Trudeau stands on issues key to this topic and I don’t like what I see.
The new leader of the Liberal Party has voiced his support for the Keystone XL pipeline. That same pipeline that will spell disaster for the environment if it is constructed. So that’s 3 leaders in Ottawa that support the tar sands, and people wonder why I think voting is a pointless venture?
By: Martin Pharand
There are a number of ways of thinking about Senate reform or parliamentary reform in general. At 1837 we’ve been compelled, by recent events (google ‘Brazeau’) to write about the former as a means of reinvigorating Canadian political life. Some have decided to argue the case of inaction, suggesting a number of reasons why a reformed Senate may not be in our best interest. They state that Canadians have little faith in political parties or ‘whipped’ politicians (things, he believes, would be present in a reformed Senate), that today’s Senate serves an important role by making the long-term decisions the House cannot (something that may be lost if the Senate is elected) and that merely reforming the Senate is meaningless compared to a fresh start with an entirely new political system.
Chris Burke is contributing to the Senate reform discussion when he states that a reformed Senate may be infected by partisanship, and that electing the Senate alone, could destroy its ability to provide long term consideration of issues. I get these criticisms and I think they can be laid squarely in opposition to Clement Nocos’ suggestion, that the Senate should be replaced with the Council of the Federation. But as an approach to institutional reform, one cannot withhold reform measures because of a lingering desire to get rid of our system of governance entirely. This not only compounds the apathy already felt by Canadians, it contradicts the realities of policymaking, of our system of government and I think there is a way of bridging the gap with different reform options, that would be amenable to Chris’ perspective.
By: Clement Nocos
For whatever reason we’ve been given in the last week, the Senate of Canada has once again found its way somehow to the top of the Canadian political agenda. Solutions like Triple E senate reform or the institution’s complete abolition usually come to mind when it comes to treating its chronic democratic incapacities. These resolutions, nonetheless, come with their own sets of problems, while Canadian federalism further complicates any attempts at reform.
As the debate over what to do with the senate heats up, I would like to take a crack at solving the senate question. I propose not abolition or reform, but the replacement of Senators with representatives that have already been elected, have proven to be responsible, are already under the accountability spotlight, and who already properly represent their constituents: Canada’s provincial and territorial Premiers.
As Parliament’s chamber of independent, sober second thought, who better and “independent” enough to exercise secondary legislative review in the Senate than the leaders of provincial governments? Premiers are already charged with intergovernmental affairs responsibilities and meet regularly to discuss united actions in interacting with the federal government through the Council of the Federation.
By: Martin Pharand
In front of the Supreme Court of Canada as of February 1st are 6 questions regarding the legality of proposed reform measures for the Senate. These 6 questions address term limits, methods of electing senators (either nationally or provincially) and complete abolition. Despite the potential reasons for delaying senate reform, it is high time this Government open and shut the Senate reform case for good.
It is no secret that Canadian voter apathy and negative feelings toward Canada’s democracy are on the rise. A recent study conducted by Samara Canada (another good source is the ‘Reinventing Parliament’ series in the Globe and Mail) states that although MPs in the Commons cover what Canadians care about, they still do not feel that confident in their legislature’s ability to affect change in those areas. The study then goes on to suggest several potential avenues for changing Parliament and then appeals to Canadians for more suggestions. The following are my thoughts and suggestions; the central thrust of which is reforming the Senate. (as a first step before getting to the Commons)
Canada’s “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) electoral system has historically led to long lasting majority governments in both federal and provincial level parliaments; where the lead party obtains a legislative majority of seats. The Canadian political experience with majorities under FPTP has entrenched a reactionary disdain for minority government in Canadian politics. The governing party of a minority parliament normally sees itself in an unstable, temporary state that it must endure before obtaining majority status in the next election. Pundits declare a virtual loss for whichever party wins the most seats in a minority and assert that the new minority government is an inefficient lame-duck. Majority government has become the “natural” way to govern Canada.
Nevertheless, minority governments are sometimes the products of close elections, but they do not necessarily need to be the unstable, lame-ducks that Canadians tend to think of. A coalition is just one of several solutions in managing a decidedly unstable minority parliament with responsible government. The idea of a coalition parliamentary government, however, has been relatively absent from Canadian politics save for its brief consideration after the federal election of 2008. Though coalition governance is ubiquitous in parliamentary democracies throughout the world, it is a term still unfamiliar to Canadians. In other countries governed by parliamentary democracy, multi-party coalitions are the norm. Canadians, on the other hand, think of coalitions as formal party mergers such as the Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative merger of 2003 that formed the broad coalition that is today’s Conservative Party of Canada.  Coalitions in this paper will be defined as cooperative parliamentary government formed between distinctly separate political parties.
Coalitions should be seen as a means to effectively govern minority parliaments, yet its opponents in Canada have pre-emptively declared multi-party government to be undemocratic. This assumption negates the merits of coalition governance and overlooks Canada’s lack of experience with it. By examining the Canadian experience with minority government, by providing foreign examples of coalition parliamentary governance, and by highlighting the implications of coalition governance such as the need for electoral reform, this article will argue for the application of multi-party coalition governance to Canadian parliamentary democracy.
By: Chris Burke
I’m not a big fan of the Harper government. A shocking admission, I know. The Harper government has been, on the whole, a negative. However, there are lines to be drawn in the criticisms made. A recent article from Adbusters is a case in point:
Do we Canadians suffer from the Frog-in-Boiling-Water syndrome? As our democracy erodes in the hands of Stephen Harper, we don’t react. Rather than demanding justice and democracy like the Egyptians are doing . . . as hundreds upon thousands of them flood the streets, screaming for what they know they deserve. . . we wait silently, or whimper softly, as our democratic freedoms slip away . . . and before we know it . . . it’s too late. (Source)
As I said I don’t like Harper, but comparing the current state of Canadian democracy to the 30-year dictatorship that existed in Egypt is asinine. This statement reads as if Canadians are complacent, and that such an attitude will lead to a Mubarak-style dictatorship.