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You think it’s easy to count elections?


 

John Baird, Monday. I haven’t run across a single person who is saying ‘Canada needs a fifth election in as many years.’

Jason Kenney, this evening. If that’s the Liberal message, that we need two elections in one year, a fifth election in six years, at a time critical economic time, all I can say to my good friend John is, ‘Good luck trying to persuade Canadians that that makes any kind of sense.’

Monte Solberg, tonight. Four elections in six years??

For the record, if a federal election occurs this fall, it will be the fourth vote in just over five years, the fifth in nine years. And every party’s been involved in making it so.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien dissolved Parliament in 2000, a little over three years into his mandate. Prime Minister Paul Martin dissolved Parliament on May 23, 2004, three and a half years into his mandate. The Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois united on Nov. 28, 2005 to defeat Martin’s government. And Stephen Harper dissolved Parliament last fall, just over two and a half years into his mandate.


 

You think it’s easy to count elections?

  1. Unless the Liberals and the NDP unite, or the Bloc withers away, I don't see how these minority governments can be avoided; and it is in the nature of minority governments to fall sooner rather than later. Stephen Harper's last government (2006-2008) was actually the longest in duration of any minority government.

    I actually have a wild & crazy idea for solving this problem, though unfortunately it's a bit pie-in-the-sky. Namely: have the federalist parties (CPC, LPC, NDP) agree not to run against each other in Quebec, but rather to create a federalist version of the Bloc, i.e. a Quebec-only regional party. That would produce a mess of seats (say, 55-60 of Quebec's 75), and the federalist Quebec party (we'll call it "Avenir Québec " or something) which, being non-sovereigntist, could enter into coalition with the federal parties from the ROC (taking Cabinet seats etc.).

    Of course, it would rather deprive the poor Quebeckers of the chance to vote on the issues, but perhaps they could vote on the basis of a particular AQ MP's personal convictions and the AQ caucus could vote internally as to which party to align itself with. Quebeckers could at least have the satisfaction of always seeing their AQ guys in cabinet.

    Anyway, I guess it'll never happen, but it would certainly solve our problem with minority governments, wall-to-wall cant, and too-frequent elections.

    • I think this is a very good idea. It would have the added advantage of virtually eliminating the BQ as a serious political force.

    • Well, Jack, I will give you this much. It is indeed a wild and crazy idea.

    • That is an excellent idea, but it's too far outside the little boxes our politicians have built for themselves, so I completely agree with you that it has no chance of actually happening.

      Ultimately, our political parties are too self-interested to combine forces in order to demolish the Bloc. Also, as you noted, it would deprive Quebecers of the chance to vote on the issues, which might reignite the powder-keg of sovereignty. Imagine the ferocious and persuasive responses of Duceppe, Marois, dinner-table souverainistes and the Quebec media elite. They'd accuse the federalists of an anti-democratic slap in the face, anti-Quebec collusion, disenfranchising Quebecers, etc.

      Although the whole thing is risky, and I doubt that the present versions of CPC/LPC/NDP could ever cooperate in this fashion, it's still an excellent and innovative idea. In a parallel universe, with different politicians leading the federalist parties, it could actually work.

    • That is an excellent idea, but it's too far outside the little boxes our politicians have built for themselves, so I completely agree with you that it has no chance of actually happening.

      Ultimately, our political parties are too self-interested to combine forces in order to demolish the Bloc. Also, as you noted, it would deprive Quebecers of the chance to vote on the other issues, which might reignite the powder-keg of sovereignty. Imagine the ferocious and persuasive responses of Duceppe, Marois, dinner-table souverainistes and the Quebec media elite. They'd accuse the federalists of an anti-democratic slap in the face, anti-Quebec collusion, disenfranchising Quebecers, etc.

      Although the whole thing is risky, and I doubt that the present versions of CPC/LPC/NDP could ever cooperate in this fashion, it's still an excellent and innovative idea. In a parallel universe, with different politicians leading the federalist parties, it could actually work.

    • That is an excellent idea, but it's too far outside the little boxes our politicians have built for themselves, so I completely agree with you that it has no chance of actually happening.

      Ultimately, our political parties are too self-interested to combine forces in order to demolish the Bloc. Also, as you noted, it would deprive Quebecers of the chance to vote on the other issues, which might reignite the powder-keg of sovereignty. Imagine the ferocious and persuasive responses of Duceppe, Marois, dinner-table souverainistes and the Quebec media elite. They'd accuse the federalists of an anti-democratic slap in the face, anti-Quebec collusion, disenfranchising Quebecers, etc..

      Although the whole thing is risky, and I doubt that the present versions of CPC/LPC/NDP could ever co-operate in this fashion, it's still an excellent and innovative idea. In a parallel universe, with different politicians leading the federalist parties, it could actually work.

    • That is an excellent idea, but it's too far outside the little boxes our politicians have built for themselves, so I completely agree with you that it has no chance of actually happening.

      Ultimately, our political parties are too self-interested to combine forces in order to demolish the Bloc. Also, as you noted, it would deprive Quebecers of the chance to vote on the other issues, which might reignite the powder-keg of sovereignty. Imagine the ferocious and persuasive responses of Duceppe, Marois, dinner-table souverainistes and the Quebec media elite. They'd accuse the federalists of an anti-democratic slap in the face, anti-Quebec collusion, disenfranchising Quebecers, etc..

      Although the whole thing is risky, and I doubt that the present versions of CPC/LPC/NDP could ever cooperate in this fashion, it's still an excellent and innovative idea. In a parallel universe, with different politicians leading the federalist parties, it could actually work.

    • Actually, all you really need is to declare that in order to run, be funded as, and enjoy the benefits of a federal party you must have candidates in 51% of the ridings, with at least one in each province and territory. That is, you must be able to form a majority government, at least theoretically.

      • Totally agree, both in practice and in principle, but I think offing the Bloc like that, i.e. by fiat, would create a national unity crisis.

        • Perhaps it's my distance from the FLQ days, but I have to admit, I really don't see what the big deal about a "National Unity Crisis" is. So they say they want to separate. I've never understood why we just don't say, "Sorry, not happening, but emigration is free.."

          • I still have hopes that one day Canada might grow up and embrace PR nationally. This would be the ideal way to kick the legs out from under the Blq, who, i would think, would find it exceedingly difficult to run against an election reform that would be very popular in Quebec – or am i wrong? I assume PR is not viewed as a commie plot there, the way it seems to be by many westerners.
            The kind of tough approach you're suggesting needs someone of the calibre of Trudeau to see it through… those days are no more…for better or worse.

      • It wouldn't make a difference – the Bloc would respond by running candidates in Ontario and Alberta, just to meet the quota. It'd be fun to see if they'd beat the Marxist-Leninists.

        Heck, if they ran candidates in rural Alberta, I think they could finish 2nd in a bunch of ridings.

    • That is an excellent idea, but it's too far outside the little boxes our politicians have built for themselves, so I completely agree with you that it has no chance of actually happening.

      Ultimately, our political parties are too self-interested to combine forces in order to demolish the Bloc. Also, as you noted, it would deprive Quebecers of the chance to vote on the other issues, which might reignite the powder-keg of sovereignty. Imagine the ferocious and persuasive responses of Duceppe, Marois, dinner-table souverainistes and the Quebec media elite. They'd accuse the federalists of an anti-democratic slap in the face, anti-Quebec collusion, disenfranchising Quebecers, etc..

      Although the whole thing is risky, and I doubt that the present versions of CPC/LPC/NDP could ever co-operate in this fashion, it's still an excellent and innovative idea. In a parallel universe, with different politicians leading the federalist parties, it could actually work.

      • Then the other parties could band together to do the same thing in Alberta… which would net maybe 3 seats. I understand the idea of separatists as being bad, but at least they are eager democrats. The citizens of Alberta on the provincial scene seem to believe the only manner for change is to allow a governing party to die of natural causes, in which the members of said party shift under a different umbrella. Their attitude at the federal level appears equally as singular. Of course this is just to highlight how 'wild and crazy' jack's idea is, not for actual consumption…

    • Namely: have the federalist parties (CPC, LPC, NDP) agree not to run against each other in Quebec,

      Sounds to me like you think the federalist parties should rig the election to eliminate the Bloc. I fail to see how this would do anything but make a mockery of our democracy.

      • No, they'd be yielding the ground to a federalist version of the Bloc, having decided that, ultimately, what Quebeckers want is Quebec parties.

    • Eliminating choice for voters is never a good idea.

      (I would note, however, that proportional system would completely eliminate the Bloc's advantage as a regional party, as being parochial is only advantageous in a FPTP system.)

    • How on earth would we assume that whatever mostronsity the federal parties created to offer to Quebecers would be even remotely appealing to them? We'd end up with the worst of the three federal parties all rolled into one, and then Quebecers would be offered the same weak choice in federal politics as they currently have in provincial politics. And then we can tell Quebecers it's for their own good, because the ROC says so.

      I have a better idea, let's have the BQ, NDP and CPC agree to get rid of the Liberals. Pass a law to dissolve them. So instead of removing the democratic rights of Quebecers, we'll remove the democratic rights of Liberals.

    • typos again…. mostronsity = monstrosity

  2. Or you know, we could just bring in a fair and democratic – that is proportional – voting system.

    It would ensure the Bloc has a parliamentary caucus that reflects their level of support.

    And have the not-so-insignificant side benefit of giving every Canadian a vote that actually elects someone!

    • Now that is really wild and cracy. Never work, never!

    • Also the side benefit of perpetual minority governments. Hooray!

      • My entirely misinformed green friend [ no more frog quips i promise] PR is not at all like minority govt. [ which i am coming to loath] Minority govt in our system sets up a perpetual lust to go for the brass ring – power, due to the fact that such a small swing in the voting numbers will get you there. Whatever the ills of PR, this is not one of them. The incentive to grasp opportunistically for power is generally reduced. You could of couse make the arguement that the small swings needed to "kick the bums out" is in fact a positive in our system. Oddly few supporters of the status quo seem to make this very good point in favour of our current system. They would rather set up specius arguements… rather like yours actually:)

      • Minority government that doesn't have the carrot of a majority constantly hanging in front of its face tends to actually compromise, as is supposed to happen.

        (not to mention that a completely different party dynamic evolves in a proportional system, such that big tents aren't as strongly favoured – the coalition moves into the Commons rather than the party convention hall).

        But I suspect electoral reform is as dead an issue for now as constitutional reform – another bitter pill that the Canadian body politic won't swallow however much it may need to.

      • Our "perpetual minority" situation might be the result of the inability of only one party to compromise. It occurs to me that the LPC's legendary success has been due, in part, precisely to their penchant for compromise even in majority situations — that is, to borrow ideas from a broad ideological spectrum and legislate policy amenable to most Canadians.

      • Actually, this is incorrect. In PR countries, they are as likely to have majority coalition governments (governments with two or more parties that control a majority of seats) as they are minority governments (where the government is composed of a party (or parties) that have less than a majority of seats).

  3. Since this morphed into a discussion of parliamentary reform,

    The simplest solution is to break the stranglehold on power resident with the party leader and return the power to where it was intended the HOC. One route would be to directly diminish the authority of cabinet and the PMO. Personally I don't favour that approach, although a dramatic increase in the amount and timeliness of accountability would be a great thing. A second route is through financing. Change the $pervote, taxdeductability so that the money flows to riding associations rather than party central.

    There is a particular cohort of Canadians that (even if they won't admit it) really, really do not want an election. Every candidate that won their seat by a narrow margin (or has been associated with some local snafu) knows they are in for weeks of hard work, at the end of which they stand a reasonable chance of losing their job. (Shockingly some may not yet qualify for full pensions!) Indeed from their personal point of view, for the vast majority of sitting MPs, the best that can hoped for is the status quo i.e. survival.

  4. I favour anything that gets the focus back on the individual MP, or representative, rather than the party heads. I'd love to directly diminish the authority of cabinet and the PMO, I just don't know how you could do it. The Prime Minister must still be the Prime Minister, and all that that entails, and diminishing cabinet's power would only put even more power into the hands of the PM–not the right direction!

    • One way: Increase the size of the House. If we had one rep per 50 000 instead of per 100 000, there wouldn't be enough Parliamentary perks to cow the whole group, and some MPs would opt to focus on being local MPs, without ambitions for committee chairs, cabinet posts, etc, and having been in based on their own campaign, not the colour of their signs. The higher ambitions, and a media attitiude to report any dissent as party-rupturing, are what currently keep MPs in tight line.
      I understand this is what happens in Britain, where the MPs number over 600.

    • How about a parliamentary republic, ala Ireland say?

  5. Nothing wrong with minority governments as long as the parties are conversant with
    basic arithmetic and proceed accordingly.

    • To understand Sisyphus's point, please return to title.

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