Fixed-election fraud

Today would have been election day in Canada—and that could have had perverse consequences

Today would should have been election day in Canada, had the Tories respected their own “fixed election” law. Law prof Adam Dodek has an article  today arguing that the law never did what Conservatives pretended it did, and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing super new in Dodek’s analysis, though he does take the time to spell out the perverse consequences of  a true fixed election date in a parliamentary system:

If election dates were set in stone, we could end up with governments continuing in office without the confidence of the House of Commons, unable to enact legislation. Or we might end up with governments changing hands several times between elections, a sustained replay of the coalition politics that we saw last December and January. The worst scenario would see a government that has lost the confidence of the House prorogue Parliament until the next election.

So what was the real effect of the law? As Dodek puts, it: “At best, what these types of laws do is set scheduled election dates. We all have scheduled appointments that we cancel or defer for a variety of reasons. So too with the scheduled election dates. We set today as an election day, if Parliament was not dissolved before.” (My italics.)

But this is something I’ve never understood: How is this in any way a departure from current practice? It says, right there in the Charter of Rights:

4. (1) No House of Commons and no legislative assembly shall continue for longer than five years from the date fixed for the return of the writs at a general election of its members.

So, election dates are already fixed, by law, five years from the last one, if not before. So how was the fixed-election date law supposed to be anything other than a restatement of the constitutional status quo, simply shortening the period between fixed elections by a year (for no obvious reason other than to mimic American practice)?  More to the point, why did anyone ever think is was anything more than this?

Well, it turns out some people didn’t. Back in January, Sen Lowell Murray introduced a bill to repeal the fixed election date law. Here’s what he said when he introduced the bill:

Therefore, honourable senators, I conclude — and some of us concluded in advance, when Bill C-16 was before us — that the law supposedly establishing fixed election dates in this country is literally “non sense;” it is a nullity. To borrow the memorable words of Mr. Bumble from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist: “The law” — that law — “is an ass.”

You can follow the bill’s progress here.




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Fixed-election fraud

  1. Andrew

    Of course there's a difference.

    The Charter sets a maximum period beyond which a government cannot govern (other than in an emergency).

    The law, according to its authors, was designed to set a minimum period before which the Prime Minister was not to precipitate an election.

    • So you must have been outraged by last year's trip to the polls.

    • The law, according to its authors, was designed to set a minimum period before which the Prime Minister was not to precipitate an election.

      But not according to the bill itself! If that was their intention, they should have included it in the legislation, which can be found here. Mr Potter is right; the bill does nothing to prevent what Harper did in 2008.

      • Interesting that Norman Spector thinks what the authors of a law intended is relevant.

        No wonder people get confused when they rely on people like him to explain things.

        • Well, if you've ever studied law you would know that the Courts also often look to the intention or "spirit" of the law, and not just the written words…because, well…mistakes and drafting oversights happen.

    • That minimum period means absolutely nothing if a majority PM can simply engineer his own downfall.

      • A majority PM cannot engineer his own downfall. In such a situation,the government commands more than half the seats in the House of Commons. The only way for the government to lose the confidence of the House would be for either the backbenchers to abstain from voting or actually to vote against the government in a matter of confidence. I doubt any first minister would be foolish enough to do that. It seems to me that the political fallout associated with having lost the trust of your own party far outweighs any temporary advantage in having an earlier election.

        • i beleive i stand corrected. Silly of me. What i should have said was a majority govt may still call an election at whim, regardless of Harper's law. Ergo., the minimum period is meaningless.

  2. Well, of course the analysis that a government could sit without the confidence of the House under this legislation is utter nonsense.

    The point of the bill was to stop sitting governments from calling snap elections on their own accord. Period.

    In other words, an election would be called when:

    A) The fixed date arrives; or,
    B) The government loses the confidence of the House.

    and NOT when:

    C) The PM decides the political climate is right for his party's re-election chances.

    • C) "The PM decides the political climate is right for his party's re-election chances"

      But isn't that APs point? From what i can glean from the links, there is nothing to stop a PM from engineering his own downfall. Which was presumably the point of the fixed election law. Harper demonstrated this by breaking his own law – admittedly in a minority parliament.

    • No one said that a government could sit without the confidence of the House under this legislation, but that that might be the consequence of setting election dates in stone.

      Given that the so-called fixed election date law was, on its face, meaningless from the beginning, it most certainly didn't set election dates in stone.

    • In practice, the fixed election date law is clearly relevant in majority governments only.

      • Or in stable minority governments, where the house is still functional, as it was last year.

        • That was precisely my point, Craig. Exactly.

          If Harper said the law was meant to stop PM's from calling snap elections for partisan benefit, then obviously he broke the law…or exercised a loop-hole in the written law, while breaking the spirit and intention of the law.

          And given that it was his own law, I think that breaking the spirit of the law is no different than breaking it proper simply because of poor drafting.

    • That may have been the idea, but the law explictly contains nothing to actually do that. In fact it's got a line that says the GG's powers are unaffected, and the GG is the one dissolving Parliament and calling an early election. (She does it when the PM asks her to, but no law can stop the first minister from giving advice to the GG, and no law can change the GG's constitutional power to dissolve Parliament.)

      End result? Absolutely nothing is accomplished by this law. It is and has always been a sham.

  3. What would be so bad about having fixed election dates :PERIOD. take away the ability of minority governments to play Russian roulette by threatening to dissolve parliament every time a bill is defeated. Imagine if we had a system where elections are every four years no matter what and its up to the government to find support for its policies. They can bring in a budget and if its defeated instead of having a new election, they have to go back to the drawing board and re-write it in such a way that it can pass. God forbid that we might have to COMPROMISE a little.

    • There are probably a number of ways a highly partisan or idealogically driven govt could bypass such an arrangement. They could claim to have popular opinion on their side, keeping up an endless media/add driven war to get their way. If that governing party had an advantage in its ability to raise funds the temptation would be there. Don't think i wouldn't prefer your idea, i certainly would if i had any confidence that compromise is what politicians are primarily seeking.

    • It might be argued that fixed election dates promote extension of campaigns – Canadian election campaigns are blissfully short, compared to the obvious counterexample across our land border. Knowing in advance precisely when the next election will be held allows far more planning, and the construction of a permanent election apparatus that takes a brief holiday after an election, then returns to work after a couple of weeks. Thank heavens our guys have to scramble a bit – even for the ruling, election-calling party – and that slightly reduces the polish and tight control parties long for to keep the electorate ignorant.

      • I've never been a particular fan of fixed dates. In the worst case scenario you get the US presidential system – two years of governing followed by one or two years of electioneering – not to mention the lame duck years after a second term.

  4. Because elections are the only possible consequence for a government that does not have the support of Parliament.
    Compromise only works when there are consequences for not compromising.

  5. Fixed election dates in majority governments make some sense….the prevention of Chretiens election against a surging Day, before either Day or the Alliance could become truely organized. Bu remember Chretien paid a price in the initial week or two, until Day's disorganization revealed itslef.

    However, in a minority it makes no sense. If he point of the law was to even the palying field a fixed election date in a minority tilts the field to the opposition. Witness Dion going on and on about the power being his, something he actually said, and that he would decide the election date to his advantage. It was perverse and led to an opposition that was as undisciplined as a governmen that feels it has no opposition.

    Dumb law in minority parliaments and I am inclined to say that they dont make much sense in a majority either, since the electorate can punish as it sees fit. Day and the Alliance werent just a few months from being ready, they were years….kind of like todays Liberals. That realization puts some reality into the oposition, or at least it should.

    • One could argue that in a minority, where most of the House is represented by people from other parties than the governing ones, the tables SHOULD be tipped in favor of the opposition

      • Following your logic then there is no need for a law when there is a majority government.

        The empowerment of the opposition, as opposed to protection of the opposition, was an unintended consequnce of the law. It makes no sense in a minority situation and makes little, but marginally more, during a majority.

        I think the people are more than capable of passing judegment….They didnt think it was that important during Chretiens time and they didnt think it was that important during the last election. It is an inside Ottawa idea that like most patchwork interventions into longstanding systems has unwanted unintended consequences that do little for anyone other than generate more "politics"

        • Exactly correct, because in my parliament, the power belongs to us and is wielded by our elected MPs. So if a majority of MPs, no matter what party or combination of parties, decide an election is needed, that's what happens.. and if they decide one isn't needed, then THAT'S what happens.

          In no circumstance should the wishes of the majority of MPs be denied because that's a denial of the majority of us.

          • Well that happens in a minority parliament anyway…the opposition can bring down a government anytime.

            If you want more politics and more gamesmanship then most defnitiely shield MP's from facing the populace in a minority situation. If you want compromise then both sides need to feel the real uncertainty that an election brings. It worked for years and years and in hundreds of minority Parliaments over time in multiple provinces and countries. Why change it now, if not just to engineer a particular result?

          • Yes and no. The opposition can bring down a government, but so can the PM — no matter what the majority of the House might wish, as we saw last August.

            That said, there was a legitimate way in my eyes for Harper to have brought down the house and caused an election. All he needed to do was have his own party vote against the government, or if that was too unpalatable, simply avoid voting like the Liberals did and leave the matter up to the NDP and Bloc. True, these probably would have had some electoral consequences, probably greater consequences then breaking the spirit of his own useless law, but that's the price that should have been paid.

          • But the tension btween the power of the PM to advise disolution and the power of the opposition to bring no confidence is the MAD that brings about compromise. Tampering with that makes it unstabe, as we saw.

            Imagine if the Soviet Union was somehow prevented from launching any of its missles until one struck its soil during the Cold War. What incentive would that have given the US or if it was vice versa.

            You would have seen more overt, conventional agression on the part of the opponent. Same thing here, in a minority the incentives get twisted…..thats what happened. Sadly, both sides need the threat to keep them from becoming too cute…..while I generally dont like fixed date election laws in Parliamentary systems, you can live with one since it offers "protection" for the opposition.

    • One could argue that in a minority, where most of the House is represented by people from other parties than the governing ones, the tables SHOULD be tipped in favor of the minority.

  6. To Michael and Norman: I think we can safely conclude that the law does not preclude Prime Ministers from dissolving Parliament early. See Fall 2008. Thus the law does not do what it is ‘designed’ to do–that is, it is non-sense.

    “More to the point, why did anyone ever think is was anything more than this?”

    Mr. Potter: I think people thought it was more than that because the government claimed that it would or could prevent the Prime Minister from exercising the right to dissolve parliament through the GG. No such law could possibly have any teeth while being constitutional. It’s questionable whether it even serves to reduce the mandate of a parliament from 5 years to 4.

    Derek:

    Sometimes parliament needs to be dissolved early, particularly when there is a big decision that needs to be brought to the people. I do agree, though. Parliament should only be dissolved as a result of a specific vote of non-confidence. A defeated budget should not automatically trigger an election. Then we wouldn’t see the current situation where legislation is held hostage and poison pills are inserted into legislation. Poison pills couldn’t possibly work, because the only motion that could dissolve parliament is a specific vote of non-confidence. If the PM wants an election, they won’t be able to orchestrate it through a poison pill, but rather they’d have to go to the GG.

    I think that would be much more helpful that fixing election dates.

  7. Politically appealing but incompetant legislation, thanks to the HARPER GOVERNMENT. Are we surprised?

  8. …politically appealing but incompetant legislation, thanks to the HARPER GOVERNMENT. Are we surprised?

    • That's true of probably half of all existing legislation, regardless of who legislated it.

  9. If election dates were set in stone, we could end up with governments continuing in office without the confidence of the House of Commons, unable to enact legislation.

    I doubt that's true. What we'd see is more compromise to enact legislation. Anyway, here's an interesting change that might have some merit.

    • Thanks for the link – quite enjoyed it.

      I really do not like how Harper broke his own fixed election law, and how he stalled a vote of confidence.
      My opinion is not biased by partisan politics. I would hate it if any party leader was in power and did the same thing.
      Cons will defend it because they support their party, but I imagine they would be frothing if this happened with another party leader in power. What's done is done, but we really need to fix things up so such things don't happen again. You never know – it could happen again someday in the future when it's not your choice of party in power.

      • Beats ignoring a confidence vote like a previous government…

        Ok, it was "technically" a confidence vote as opposed to an "explicit" confidene vote, but it streteched the envelope of constitutional convention as far, if not further than the prorogue, both were "unprecedented". Both were "technical" decisions, well only one was a decision. Martin never spoke to the GG, whislted while he walked briskly past Rideau Hall I would say. Anyway, the country survived both incidents.

  10. It was a mistake for PM Harper to introduce this law in a minority Parliament. As noted by Vince, under our system of responsible government, this type of law only makes sense in a majority government where the balance of power is tiltedd in favour of the ruling party. That is clearly not the case in a minority government.

  11. It was a mistake for PM Harper to introduce this law in a minority Parliament. As noted by Vince, under our system of responsible government, this type of law only makes sense in a majority government where the balance of power is tilted in favour of the ruling party. That is clearly not the case in a minority government.

    • Yet as Harper proved, minority parliament or no, there's still a large tilt of power toward the PM. That's been an increasing problem with our system as it stands, the vast amount of power that the PM holds. Anything that can reduce that, I'm in favor of.

  12. Few people beyond the Conservative base cared about having fixed elections. Harpoer throws them a bone by passing this assinine law, then goes back on it – and instead of grumbling, that same base defends the decision!!!
    And don't get me started on the Senarte appointments.

    • The Liberals should be thanking their lucky stars that Harper did "break" his own law or they'd be on the way to a monumental thrashing. BTW your assertion that it's just conservative base pandering is just that, let's see some evidence. I'd be willing to bet that more than 40% thought it a good idea.

  13. My understanding is that the one thing the origonal (Tory) law did do was prevent a government from staggering on into its fifth year.

    • I would agree that is a good thing, the election timing of majorities was always just a bit before or a bit after 4 years, but then you would get the death grip by some. We are currently seeing that being played out in the UK

  14. We can split hairs, quibble and argue semantics until we are blue in the face. However, what was very clear when this was enacted, how it was 'sold' to Canadians, was…

    The Prime Minister would no longer have the power to trigger an election just because it was politically advantageeously to the governing party.

    I believe it was pretty clearly understood that the only way we would go to the polls, prior to 4 years from the previous election, was if the government lost a confidence vote.

    • You are correct, it was sold that way.

      Anyway, the people had their opportunity to pronounce….and should it be an issue they will have another opportuntity with Harper, as commentators here say it is an issue of credibility. But it seemed to be pretty low on the scale of priorities in the last election. Dion and Layton seemed pretty happy to have an election as far as I could tell.

  15. typing impaired. advantageeously ??? Sheesh; advantageous would be better.

  16. OK, but even if I accept your argument that the PM still has considerable power, and I do, the fixed election law did not stop him from calling an election or engineering a defeat.

    Opposition parties often make stupid promises that they should not follow through on This was one of them. It's one of the reasons why I'd like to see a political system in Canada evolve to the point where we have two major middle-of-the-road parties that each spend time in government from time to time.

  17. Remember: it doesn't have to be true, just plausible.

  18. OK, but even if I accept your argument that the PM still has considerable power, and I do, the fixed election law did not stop him from calling an election or engineering a defeat. However, I trust that you agree that opposition parties have enhanced power under a minority situation.
    Opposition parties often make stupid promises that they should not follow through on This was one of them. It's one of the reasons why I'd like to see a political system in Canada evolve to the point where we have two major middle-of-the-road parties that each spend time in government from time to time.

    • I wouldn't. Because the larger the parties, the harder it becomes for either of them to do anything creative, and the harder it becomes for the public to influence them. This cacophony of minor parties does us the favor of keeping the pressure on the major parties to pay attention to the electorate. I have a large sympathy for the single issue voter, and the only way that voter really gets their views heard is by the presence of these alternative parties, and even then only when the number of votes they attract could make a difference to the larger parties.

      I like minority parliaments. But I like them more when they're populated by parties that respect the system and understand what it means. The problem is that Harper's party does not, and I'm growing increasingly unsure about whether the Liberal Party does either. Ideally, the electorate would turn around and punish both of them, but it seems that much of the electorate is either too ideologically blinded, or just too damned lazy, to go beyond the media narratives and take a look at the alternative candidates in their riding during election.

      • Blaming it on the electorate doesnt work. I think the "electorate" are generally wise, as long as the system doesnt produce end cases or anaomolies, which does happen.
        Minorities are ok as long as all fear/respect the electorate. We have finally reached that stage. All parties are uncertain of the result and their best play now is to work together. Prior to now, especially under a scenario where you think the minority government is pinned, what possible incentive is there for the opposition to find common ground with the government. You saw the opposition pushing the govenrment to adopt its policies, complete, rather than finding agreeable bits between them. That elections are big deals and bring uncerainty is a very good thing, it focusses the mind of politicians and parties, as we are seeing.

        There are better ways to hold government accountable through reforms. But the ultimate test is and always should be an election.

        • Vince has hit the nail on the head. The fixed election law created incentives that removed the need for opposition parties to act responsibly. The NDP is now acting on a responsible basis by looking for ways to compromise on issues that matter toits supporters. I expect the NDP to benefit electorally from this move. Good for NDP.

        • Vince has hit the nail on the head. The fixed election law created incentives that removed the need for opposition parties to act responsibly. The NDP is now acting on a responsible basis by looking for ways to compromise on issues that matter to its supporters. I expect the NDP to benefit electorally from this move. Good for the NDP.

        • Vince has hit the nail on the head. The fixed election law created incentives that removed the need for opposition parties to act responsibly. The NDP is now acting on a responsible basis by looking for ways to compromise on issues that matter to its supporters. I expect the NDP to benefit electorally from this move. Good for NDP.

    • How democratic of you — government by Frick and Frack.

  19. I don't know why this law passed in the first place. I wasn't paying attention at the time, because i really didn't think this minority government would last that long. In fact, it didn't, save for the intervention of a confused Governor General who in fact let the government escape a vote of non-confidence.

    • The government may have escaped that but the Canadian people escaped much more.

      But regardless of result there was no complelling reason for the GG to insert her judgement ahead of the people's or for her to refuse her First Advisors advice.

      • "The government may have escaped that but the Canadian people escaped much more. "

        That's a matter of opinion. The fact is, she permitted the government to avoid a vote of non-confidence which, without taking into account future events, was really, at that time, simply Parliament operating as usual.

        • Parliament operating as usual

          That too is an opinion, for that matter.

          Proroguement isn illegal, or unconstitutional. It was highly unusual, but then again so were the circumstances. One begets the other. Where it would have reached crisis proportions was if the GG refused the PM and the PM went to the Queen for dismissal…..once again completely constitutional but then we end with an enormous systemic legiticmacy isuse. The Queen could have refused or could have granted the election Harper would have inevitably gone to her with.

          Either way we would have been stumbled into a constitutional crisis for no good reason….I dont know what the result would have been, not only of the elction but even of the aftershocks, constitutional renewal or final disolution of the country.

          • No it isn't just an opinion. Far's i'm aware most constitutional experts would have supported the legality of the coalition. Asuming that the govt fell on the confidence motion and the GG gave them the green light to govern.

          • Even Harper didnt say it was illegal, a constitutional charge, he said it was illegitimate, a politicall charge and he said undemocratic, a hairy version of the illegitimate charge (therefore political)

            See below

          • The circumstances where not unusual. The opposition had lost confidence in the government and where prepared to form their own government. I admit this doesn't happen everyday, but people who understand how our system of government works know it is always a possibility in a minority government.

            The PM made it unusual by demonizing the opposition, falsely claiming what was happening was illegitimate and asking for prorogation.

          • The PM didnt make it unusual. Here is my issue, you cannot argue that using rare but constitutional mechanisms is ok for one side and not the other. The really cold analysis of this is Dion took a chnace and belw it because he, Layton and Duceppe miscalculated. They didnt think the PM would go for Prorogue, I repeat a rare but constitutional mechanism. They misread the role of the GG and most importantly they misread the political reaction.

            The reaction to what the three parties did was really quite predictable and as much as blunt naming of the Bloc as Sepratists was tin earish so to was the underestimation of the reaction of much of Western Canada and suburban and rural Ontario. The latter shows how out of touch Dion and surprisingly Layton was with these groups. Fighting this issue as what was legal or constitutional misses the point. It was a political battle over legitimacy. So keep saying it was legal, nobody will disagree, it just wasnt legitimate in the eyes of most.

      • "But regardless of result there was no complelling reason for the GG to insert her judgement ahead of the people's or for her to refuse her First Advisors advice."

        The people's representatives, the House of Commons, and her First Advisor where giving conflicting advice. She should have listened to the more representative and democratic institution.

        • So now we come back to your statement, "but people who understand how our system of government works know it is always a possibility in a minority government. "

          The Crown has one and only one advisor, for good reason, to stay out of politics. This is the reason why being PM is important. The oposition has no standing with the Crown, other than expressing confidence or not in the House. That there had been no vote of non confidence meant there was no issue, formally. But the circumstances were unusual all the way round. If this had happened in a normal economic times the GG might have been more apt to rule in favour of a change without election….maybe….but that would have meant there was a different issue that the opposition was agitating on. So it all comes down to what is the siuation.

          But absent a compelling reason, like fraud or criminal activity, then following the PM's advice is a safe and normal course. If the crown is so uncertain about the legitimacy of her advisor then it makes sense for the GG to ask the people to pronounce again, and she has just set the agenda for the election.

  20. If we had an election today, the Reformers would have a great chance of winning a majority. *cringe*

    This should be a day all us jilted democracy fans should rejoice; we could have been facing a majority governing party, doling out billions in pork to friendly ridings, overseeing the complete gutting of our multi-party system while keeping the countries finances well obscured in a black (or in this governments case, red) hole.

    It's a bitter-sweet day.

    • If we had an election today, the Reformers would have a great chance of winning a majority. *cringe*

      I'm not so sure about that. No one seems to have noticed that the pollsters and the media no longer report the undecided vote, which is around 17% (it's actually a bit difficult to even find that information). The well-entrenched narrative assumes a Conservative level of support that may not be a reliable predictor of actual election results.

      • Very true and worth noting.

        It is still a silver lining to another broken law/promise/policy.

  21. I think they have a good system in Germany where in order to avoid all the instability in the Weimar republic that led to the rise of Hitler, they brought in some safeguards to their constitution. First of all, the government opposition can only move what's called a "constructive" vote of confidence that proposes an alternative. In other words, the only way in Canada that the Liberals could legally move non-confidence would be to have a motion worded as "this house has no confidence in the current Conservative government but it would have confidence in a Liberal-led government" in which case the government changes hands. The only way you can ever have an early election in Germany is if government puts forth a motion to dissolve parliament, then has a waiting period of several months and then gets approval by the federal President and the constitutional court. In Germany, having an early election is considered to be an unusual thing that should only happen in the most dire circumstances after every other avenue has been exhausted.

    • All politial systems are ultimaely creatures of their own "history", and usually "history" is full of crises, trauma and often dead people . Perhaps we should be thankful we haven't felt the need for German style reform.

  22. I like Potter's point that even if the fixed-election law were taken seriously the results would not be good. The fixed election law was pretty clearly a Conservative faceplant.

    However, Harper's argument has been that he intended it to apply only to majority governments (which, if true, should have been written into the bill). If take that as true, then the bill actually wouldn't be all that bad, yes?

  23. I like Potter's point that even if the fixed-election law were taken seriously the results would not be good. The fixed election law was pretty clearly a Conservative faceplant.

    However, Harper's argument has been that he intended it to apply only to majority governments (which, if true, should have been written into the bill). If we take that caveat, then the bill actually wouldn't be all that bad, yes?

    • You mean which, if true, should not have been contradicted by the bill which demanded today be the first election since the legislation's enactment barring a successful motion of non-confidence.

  24. I had no problem with the spirit of the fixed election date bill. There is no way that Harper should have been permitted to just call an early election for the hell of it a year ago just because he felt like it. His minority government had survived for over two and a half years and had managed to pass budgets and Throne Speeches etc…he should have kept that parliament alive until either Oct. 2009 or when the opposition decided to vote non-confidence – whichever came first. Harper's rationale for calling an early election last year was "parliament is dysfunctional". Many people would say that parliament is even more dysfunctional now – but i don't hear harper demanding an election now to clear the air.

  25. I agree that the defeat of a money bill should not automatically result in an election. Such a defeat should only mean that the minority government has to submit a new bill. Politicians will still play partisan politics but would not risk old-age cheques start being held up because the blame will fall on themselves. A compromise that better reflects the will of the House will be the inevitable result.
    I also agree that an early election could be provoked by an explicit vote of non-confidence, but would require a super-majority (say 75%). This would allow for exceptional circumstances without allowing opposition parties from simply causing an election because of transitory polling advantage.

    • I like those ideas. It might mean would could have some of the benefits of a PR parliament without grafting on some of the more problematic aspects of a PR system. I suppose there are some good reasons why we don't do as you say, but it looks good on paper.

  26. OK, but even if I accept your argument that the PM still has considerable power, and I do, I trust that you agree that opposition parties have enhanced power under a minority situation. Moreover, the fixed election law did not stop the PM from calling an election or engineering a defeat so it seems a strange vehicle to use to restrict the PM's power.

    Opposition parties often make stupid promises that they should not follow through on This was one of them. It's one of the reasons why I'd like to see a political system in Canada evolve to the point where we have two major middle-of-the-road parties that each spend time in government from time to time.

  27. Would could…doesn't look quite right…we could…better.

    • Depending on what you're looking for … but it might be useful to consider what
      the " super-majority " does to the machinery of the US Senate or the California
      budgetary process before polishing it up and making it shiny.

      • Ah…you've got me there Sis. Just what does the super-majority do? What no link? That's a first.

        • Requires 60% to avoid a filibuster in the Senate or to pass a budget in California.

          In practice it turns a majority into a ….. wait for it ……. a minority government.

          • Thankee sir.
            Those dastardly yankees. They're always either one step ahead of us, or one behind. I like it!

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