Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

RIP Nortel

January 14, 2009

Nortel has filed for bankruptcy. A blow for Canada. Shares fell almost 80 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange before they recovered somewhat, if recovery is what you would call it.  Trading on the NYSE was halted with the stock frozen at 32 cents US.


Canadians confused as to the nature of their government

December 4, 2008

No doubt this comes from being too close to the USA. Canada has a parliamentary democracy, not the mishmash that exists in the US between the branches of government, the judiciary, executive, legislative, and the putative fourth branch of Dick Cheney. However Canadians apparently believe that their Prime Minister is like a US President:

Q. A lot of Canadians just don’t get this. They think whoever wins an election gets to govern, period, until there’s another election.

A. That’s the core of the problem. Formally speaking, we elect a Parliament not a prime minister. That’s what Stéphane Dion is trying to impress upon people: we elect a Parliament and we need to let Parliament find its stable governance. But people commonly don’t think that way. We have debates among the party leaders just like the Americans have debates between the candidates for president. People don’t think they are electing a parliament; they think they are electing a prime minister to lead the government.

Q. So our parliamentary traditions clash with public perceptions.

A. Our formal parliamentary system has bumped up against what goes on in popular discourse. People think we elected Harper, but we elected a whole bunch of MPs.

Oh! Canada is fucked up too

December 3, 2008

Like 99.99% of my fellow Americans United Statesians, I pay little attention to political happenings in Canada (that’s the nation state to the immediate north of the USA). I noted a few months ago that Canada was electing the Conservative party by a plurality, its leader Stephen Harper a strong supporter of Bush’s War in Iraq while the USA, who is actually fighting Bush’s War, was electing a President who was a strong(?) opponent of said war. LIke a famous Canadian singer said in the 90s, isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?? 

Well, Harper and his minority government is in deep shit. Harper, only months after one election, faces being booted out of power due to a certain upcoming no confidence vote in Parliament. It would seem impossible, but all of the opposition parties have gotten together (three, three of them count ’em) ranging from Quebec separatists to I don’t know, new agers?, to potentially create a majority coalition government. What did Harper do in some 60 days to cause this? Trying to shut down the opposition by cutting off their state funding was a start. 

Who would head this unwieldy coalition? Looks like it would be a guy who speaks English with a very heavy accent who happens to share a name with another famous Canadian singer

So Harper does whadda desperate conservative pol’s gotta do. He’s appealing to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain to bail his ass out. Actually, the Queen’s representative in Canada the Governor-General. See, Canada is not a republic. It’s a constitution monarchy that still actually recognizes the head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (also holds the title of Queen of Canada) as its own head of state. Yep, Canada is still part of the British Empire.

The Governor-General’s job is to act fully as the Crown’s representative in Canada, including the duty to open and close Canada’s parliament. Here’s more. The Governor-General is also Commander-in-Chief of Canada’s armed forces. The right to close Parliament is the operative right. Harper has asked the Governor-General to suspend (one of his operatives calls it a “time-out”) Parliament so can’t boot him out of office. Usually, Her Majesty and representatives stay out of political affairs as much as possible and stay above the fray. Good move, look at what happened to Nepal’s monarch when he overstepped himself. One must say that this request by Harper is really, really odd.

There is no precedent whatsoever in Canada and probably in the Commonwealth,” Constitutional scholar and Queen’s University political scientist Ned Franks said. “We are in uncharted territory.”

Oh!, and the Conservatives are running ads saying that the opposition doesn’t have a right to take over the government just because it would be the majority in Parliament. 

Will the Governor-General exercise her power and do as Harper wants? Does this make her a pawn of the Conservatives? Would no doubt in my mind spur an effort for Canadian independence from the UK. Does she have to consult with Queen Elizabeth? It this call really up to Buckingham Palace? Stay tuned.

Update: The deed is done.

Still want to move to Canada?

October 15, 2008

After yesterday’s polling in the frozen tundra of Canada, the citizens of the Maple Leaf has seen fit to re-elect their current leader Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party. I thought about all the attention last year to people of the leftist persuasion who would so disgusted with the Land of Bush that they sought ways to leave for the more ‘enlightened’ climate (certainly colder) of Canada. Well, going by the results from yesterday:

  • Harper was accused by his opponents of being a ‘W’ clone. Actually over half the electorate thinks so too. Not so fast said his supporters, Harper isn’t a Bush MiniMe of the North. He stands up to Bush, on occasion.
  • Canada spent $300 million (US I believe) on the third election in four years. Harper called it because wisdom holds that he needed to be re-elected before the US election because Harper is afraid of an Obama victory.
  • Harper got about 37% of the popular vote (en Français) , resulting in 46% of the parliamentary seats (the first past the post system like in Merrie Olde England), giving him less than a majority of seats in the Canadian Parliament. He gained more seats than before, but is still a minority government. How do these coalition things work again?
  • His main opponent of the Liberal party, Stephane Dion, had three strikes against him. One, he is considered by the Conservatives to be an eco-freak who wanted Canada to adopt a carbon tax to reduce  fossil fuel (but not on gasoline) usage. This in a petrostate. Second, Dion is a “foreigner” to most Canadians. Along with his namesake Celine, he is a Francophone who sounds like a Francophone when speaking English. Québécois have served as PM before certainly, but not ones who sounded too “foreign.” Don’t know enough about politics to the North to say if that’s what did him in (give me credit for being an US citizen who even knows who the Canadian PM is!). Lastly, he comes across as an egghead. Canadians have as much use for an egghead as Americans do. Taking a leap, think Al Gore of 2000 with an unintelligible Southern accent.
  • I’ve noticed that Canadians take no offense in people in the US referring to themselves as ‘Americans.’
  • Canada is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. There are more than two parties in other words. The Conservatives’ four main opponents if you do the math got more votes collectively. Could they form a coalition government and toss out Harper? Legally and technically, yes. Practically speaking, not a chance from what I read. Think of all of these parties collectively as the “Democratic” party of Canada.
  • In Alberta, the Conservatives got over 96% (all but one) of their parliamentary seats. Alberta is actually the petrostate.
  • Le Bloc Québécois did well in Québec as usual. One of these days, one of these days.. Québec will become a member of the UN.
  • Assuming that Obama wins the election in a few weeks, that will mean that the US will have a leader who opposed the Iraq War, while Canada will have one who strongly supported it.
  • Yukon voted Liberal, while its cross border neighbor Alaska, doesn’t and wouldn’t.
  • OK, maybe the election came down to personal charisma, you know, like in America.
  • Harper has claimed that his government has weathered the global economic crisis better than those people further south. Canadians politicians have to distance themselves from ‘W’ too… Now wait for falling oil prices to hit Alberta.

Apartheid in Quebec?

June 4, 2008

What is interesting about Quebec’s threatened secession was that the northern 2/3 of the province threatened in turn to secede from Quebec if it seceded. The northern 2/3 is predominately First Nations (Canada’s term for indigenous, pre-European popualation) who felt quite vulnerable to Quebecois rule. The northern part of the province also happens to have the great hydropower potential that Montreal has exploited (to sell the electricity to the US) to the pain of, the First Nations people. Montreal said at the time that that secession would not be allowed. Ironic no?