For Sam Stone: What about Canadian politics?

Sam, my friend, I have no axe to grind with you or the government of Canada but after several years of reading you discuss American politics I’d like to hear your take on your own government. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?

Of course, the views of others are also welcome.

Too early to tell at the moment what they might be doing right or wrong specifically. My take is that you can probably discuss Canadian politics up till last year . With the American elections coming up in November , No canadian political governing body is going to be making any long range plans.

Right now they are probably working on contingincies

Second Term for Bush , plan A

Kerry squeaks in Plan B

Declan

That could be one reason we get so much input on US politics. If you just have to talk politics and there isn’t any going on at home, well …

Exactly

Its probably going to be a boring 4 years , unless martin is blessed with several defections from the other parties to bring him up to a solid majority, till then any excitement is probably going to be at the provincial level.

I would expect that Dear Leader Mcquinty is going to be very much the target of some liberal regime change , directed by Martin on the sly.

One thing I want to see , is what happens to the conservatives , in the aftermath of their post election efforts , do they stay with Harper , or do they self destruct and fraticide.

Declan

We’ve had plenty of threads about Canadian politics, and Sam has participated in most of them. Geez, we just had an election with extensive coverage of it here on the SDMB. Maybe you missed it all.

What Rickjay said. Basically, I discuss American politics mostly on this board because that’s what everyone else discusses. This is not a Canadian message board - it is predominantly American. That’s also why Rickjay and Declan and other Canadians talk about mostly American politics and policy on this board. Or for that matter, why the residents of all the other countries that participate on this board talk mostly American politics and policy. For some reason, I seem to be the only one who gets repeatedly called on it.

Anyway… What’s my opinion of Canadian politics? In a nutshell:

I think the NDP are socialists who should not be trusted with power, as they would drive the country into the ground as socialists have done elsewhere.

The Liberals are a party that lacks any overriding goal other than keeping their cronies in power. They will govern from the left or the right - whichever happens to give them political advantage on a given day. They have also been running Canada for so long that they have become lazy and corrupt and arrogant, and they should be replaced. I will say that they have done a reasonable job of fiscal management in Canada, and for that I give them a pass on a lot of stuff. However, their treatment of the military has been disgraceful and immensely damaging to Canada’s standing in the world. And for that I can’t forgive them.

The old Progressive Conserative party was almost indistinguishable from the Liberal party. A little stronger on the military, a little less reflexively anti-American, but other than that the differences could be very hard to spot.

The old Reform party was made up of too many old religious farmers for my tastes. The party gave off a distinct vibe of being an agrarian throwback party. I couldn’t support them, despite the fact that a lot of my extended family was heavily involved in the party.

The Bloc doesn’t interest me. It’s a regional separatist party that is not interested in the good of Canada - only the good of Quebec.

Which leaves the New Conservative party, my choice pretty much through default. I like Stephen Harper quite a bit - he’s an intellectual with a solid economics background and a lot of good ideas. But the party he is leading is still top-heavy with old Reform types, and that bugs me. I recently spent an evening chatting with a Conservative MLA, and while he seemed like a pretty nice guy he was shockingly ignorant of the facts. He wouldn’t survive five minutes on the SDMB. I think the party has too many of these types in it.

So, for me there are no real good choices in Canada. I like living in Alberta, and I think Alberta has found an excellent way to govern that the rest of Canada should pay attention to. We budget carefully and conservatively, our spending by and large stays under control, and we maintain a business-friendly, low tax environment and a pro-American stance that encourages trade and investment. We stay away from excessive social spending, and as a result we’ve never had to institute a provincial sales tax.

But Canadian federal politics don’t interest me much any more, for several reasons. One is that I’m totally cynical about it. The strong party discipline in Canada and the lack of disclosure about government affairs means it’s hard to learn what’s going on and in any event the government always behaves predictably. When the government decides to do something, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.

For pure spectator value, the U.S. system is much, much better. There’s always drama. Just because a President proposes something doesn’t mean it will happen. Congressmen can and do cross party lines on individual votes and oppose their own parties and presidents. The system is more open, and the documents are all available online for perusal. Sometimes, just trying to find the simplest of information about Canadian policy can make you pull your hair out.

Another thing that works against Canadian policy wonkism is that our election cycles are unpredictable. If we knew an election was going to be on Nov. 2 of the next year, we would start debating it and we’d have lots of time to clarify positions, expose government fallacy, etc. But that’s not the way it works here. Governments spring snap elections on us all the time, giving little time for debate and consideration of policy. It also gives the incumbent government far too much power, because they can time elections to world events. Imagine if Bush had that power - he could have called a snap election for, say, a couple of weeks after his ‘mission accomplished’ speech, when public opinion on the war was sky-high. You’d never get rid of the guy if he had that kind of power.

Anyway, there are some thoughts on Canadian politics for you.

Is there anybody in Canadian politics who wants to change that? Institute fixed election cycles?

Also – does what you’re saying also apply to provincial elections? And what about municipal and county elections? Do they follow fixed timetables?

Provincial elections, like federal elections, are called, and so can happen anytime.

Municipal elections are fixed.

As a general rule I refrain from commenting on US* internal politics (unless asked for) out of respect for the soverignity of the country and all that.
However I read those threads with moderate interest.

I´m done here. :slight_smile:
** this, by and large involves all other countries too*

Provincial elections are also called at the whim of the party in power. The government only has to give a minimum of 36 days of notice before an election, which in my opinion is ridiculous. It can make it very hard for the opposition to get up to speed and get their messages out.

An election (federal or provincial) must be called no more than five years from the previous election, but within that five years the ruling government has wide leeway on when they must call a new election, subject to the 36 day notice.

Municipal elections are a little different. I think they are called on three-year cycles, in November. Local elections are quite a bit different than those in the U.S., because we don’t elect all of our officials. We don’t elect our dogcatchers, sheriffs, and other lower-level people. We elect city councillors, and they hire who they want.

I don’t know of any strong movement in Canada to move elections onto a fixed cycle. I don’t know why that is - surely I can’t be the only one who feels the game is rigged a little too strongly in favor of the incumbent party. Maybe Canadians dislike change and like their incumbents to stay in power. Dunno.

I see Rickjay beat me to it.

Ale: Feel free to comment on or criticize any aspect of Canadian politics. Outside opinions are healthy, and it’s important for us to know what other people think of what we do.

I’ve heard various rumbling of setting up fixed election dates. Personally I dislike the idea. While the ability to call an election is useful to the governing party to say that the opposition parties are poor helpless lambs caught all unawares is laughable. Hell, I’m giving the press until December before they start the whole “will Martin call an election in the spring?” thing.

The Conservatives weren’t caught unawares this time; they simply hadn’t managed to get organized before hand. Actually the immanent threat of an election call likely allowed the merger of the Alliance and PC parties to take place.

Why is it laughable? It costs a ton of money to set up a campaign. It takes time to line up donors, print materials, do media buys, canvas for candidates, etc. 36 days? Ridiculous.

Plus, the incumbent has the luxury of timing elections based on current events. As I said, if Bush had that power he would have been elected in a landslide last year. Then he would have had five years to time the next election. That’s a huge advantage.

If you’re going to allow the ruling party to call an election, at least make the notice more reasonable. How about allowing the party to call the election, but instead of 36 days they have to give six months of notice? That would minimize their ability to game the system by tuning elections to current events, and it would give the opposition time to prepare a campaign.

The Liberals called an election precisely because the conservatives were in disarray. The new party had just formed, there was still internal fighting going on, and suddenly there was an election call. They didn’t want to wait until the conservatives were organized and had time to get a unified message out.

To be fair, I can see the positives of allowing the government some flexibility in calling an election. With fixed election cycles, you can see governments modifying their behaviour because of an upcoming election. Important bills don’t get signed because they are poison in an election year, etc.

My main objection is with the short notice. Let them call an election with six months notice. That would be a lot better while still preserving the advantages.

Uh, Sam? At what point did the opposition parties not expect an election call once Chretien “resigned”? While the exact day of the election might be difficult to predict, the general timetable is much easier.

Now I agree with you that 5 weeks might be too short, but the idea of 8-10 weeks of CBC/CTV/Global election coverage makes me want to crawl under a bed and weep silently. :slight_smile:

The new Conservative party had just formed and then they gleefully watched as the potential election date was pushed back due to the sponsorship scandal. Had the Liberals truly wanted to smash the new party they could’ve called it earlier.

By the way, heard anything on Harper staying on as leader?

Last I heard, he was. The MLA I chatted with thought he was, too. I heard some rumblings about him thinking of going into Alberta provincial politics, but I sincerely doubt it. In fact, I think it was whispered out there as a subtle slap at Ralph Klein for torpedoing the Conservatives with his threats about health care in the run-up to the election.

Sam , can you give me an example of a country that has been driven into the ground by social democrats? Or do you believe that all socialists are communists?

I believe that BC recently passed legislation instituting fixed election dates. Or some province did, anyways. I’m against it, myself. While I acknowledge the disadvantages of the current system, when I look south I see far greater disadvantages. 2 year presidential election campaigns. Gack! And every other year is an election year, and every last thing moving through congress is strictly about maneuvering for the purposes of being re-elected. I really, really don’t want long election campaigns, and I can’t see how they’re to be avoided once you have fixed dates.

I’m open to being persuaded I’m wrong on this point, though.

Lib: Sure. Britain in the 1970’s. New Zealand. In Canada, the NDP royally screwed up BC and other provinces. The generally socialist Europe lags behind the U.S. in employment, wages and GDP growth.