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: Clement Nocos
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the schoolyard bullying and trash-talking taking place recently within SO 31 Members’ statements. Liberal leader MP Bob Rae has criticized the recent state of the SO 31:
“(Members’ statements) were not intended to be partisan rants that are written by 25-year-old enthusiasts in the Prime Minister’s Office.”
You’d think this has had something to do with the unprecedented number of young people in the House of Commons today. Such juvenile language during debate and misuse of members’ statements could only be perpetuated by the immature baby MPs that sit on the backbenches, right?
Looking through last week’s debate hansards (i know, thrilling), I’ve picked out each SO31 made by every MP, 30 years of age or younger, who have made stood for a members’ statement from October 15th to the 19th. Here’s what young MPs have said in their SO31s:
By: Clement Nocos
A Canadian stereotype that we fancy ourselves is a replete and infectious politeness that is supposed to fill every facet of Canadian society. Saying sorry for every minor offence you may have committed, acknowledging strangers with pleasantries and niceness, passivity as the extreme form of aggression, and the penultimate ‘agreeing to disagree’ are supposedly typical of Canadian character which we pride ourselves on, for whatever reason. Ottawa during this parliamentary season has so far been everything but Canadian.
Vitriol has been poured by all sides as the CPC persistently resorts to “job-killing carbon tax” talking points during SO31s and QPs in an effort to attack the opposition. You’d think this stuff would pass after a week in Parliament or with the next news cycle, but it’s been a month into this session in the House of Commons and the talking point still dominates. This has led to opposition posturing as NDP House Leader MP Nathan Cullen has pointed out:
“If the Speaker doesn’t clamp down then it’s hard for me to hold off my attack dogs because they say, ‘They’re punching our party or leader in the nose every day, we need to respond.’”
By: Chris Burke
For the past few months I’ve been kicking around some thoughts regarding the political beliefs of liberals and whether or not those beliefs are actually conducive to addressing the challenges faced in the world today. These are people that hold our system of governance in high-regards, that look on to the work done in the halls of Parliament and the walls of the Supreme Court and believe that this is where change will happen, but is it where change can or will happen?
Let’s begin by looking at the issue of poverty. If you ever get a chance to visit Ottawa be sure to visit Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court, and the neighbourhood of Rockcliffe Park. As you pass through these places ask yourself, “can the people working in buildings of such grandeur and going home to houses of such wealth and abundance understand the plight of the poor?”. After you finish your tour of Parliament Hill take a stroll down Rideau street towards the mall, spend some time in that area and you’ll see signs of poverty that are a few blocks yet worlds away from the halls of Parliament. Most of the men and women from the world of federal politics have no comprehension of true poverty. Jim Flaherty doesn’t actually know what a hard job is.
I don’t think a day goes by in which I don’t hear some story about how Harper is destroying Canada at home and embarrassing us abroad, but are the alternatives better? Consider our environmental challenges. Yes, Harper deserves all the criticism in the world for his actions. However, anyone who makes a case that the other parties would give us the improvement we need face an uphill battle. Harper has been chastised for backing out of Kyoto. Meanwhile, the Liberal party did sign the accord, then didn’t do a damn thing afterwards. The NDP won’t be much better for the environment either. Mulcair isn’t opposed to the oil sands himself. He’s worried about the economic impacts on other provinces more than environmental concerns believing there is a sustainable solution to the oil sands. There isn’t.
War: Here’s another issue on which Harper has taken a lot of heat, but once again this misses the point. Harper faced heavy criticism for extending the mission in Afghanistan. Here the Liberal party would like everyone to forget that they got Canada involved in this mission in the first place. The NDP also supported intervention in Libya and support for the (despite what you’d like to think) murderous rebels.
Our leaders, regardless of party, will not address the issues that affect the people. Your most important act as a citizen is not to go and check off a box every few years and hope that the person you voted for will actually do what’s in the best interest of the people. No, the most important thing you can do is to question and act. Question if the system we currently live in really is the best it can be, and if you come to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong with the way things are, then take action beyond passive engagement in democracy. Get involved. Get active.