Friday, December 05, 2008

Oh, Canada ...

Not you, too.


Okay, this may take some explanation, and I'm not an expert on Canadian politics. But - and this is important - we need to know what's going on with our neighbor to the north before it turns into a major crisis on our doorstep.

So here goes.

Canada held federal elections over a month ago (Didn't hear about it? Not surprised; we were engaged in our ritual bloodletting) and the voters returned the majority Conservative Party to power, and the Prime Minister, Stephan Harper, took over for a second term.

With the economy starting to circle the bowl, just as it's doing here (71,000 jobs lost last month, and the automakers asking for a bailout - oh, and the Canadian dollar, the Loonie, hitting a 4-year low against the US dollar) the Conservatives proposed a fiscal plan.

The plan had several rather provocative provisions in it that served to weld together the three minority parties - the center-left Liberals, the left-leaning New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois - into a contrived alliance. That alliance was planning on forcing a vote of confidence in the Parliament in Ottawa with the goal of ousting Harper from power.

Harper had a definite problem on his hands, so he turned to a course of action that, while apparently having some precedent, was at least unique for the circumstances. He asked the Governor-General, Michelle Jean, for permission to prorogue the Parliament until January 27th, at which time the government would submit a budget.

The Governor-General agreed.

Now to explain a few things. Canada, like many parliamentary democracies, has two leaders: A head of state to represent the country, and a head of government to actually run the place. In Canada, the head of government is the Prime Minister, and the head of state is the Queen of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II. Naturally she can't be everywhere at once, so she rules through a representative, the Governor-General.

Proroguing Parliament basically entails sending the entire legislative branch of the government home, closing the doors and switching off the lights until the executive branch tells it to come back.

Aren't you glad that the Founding Fathers didn't go this route when they set up our government? If they had, Bush could have just told the Congress to go home and governed by fiat ... wait a minute; he's been doing that.

Mr. Rob Russo, the chief of the Canadian Press agency's Ottawa office, put it this way:
"I do believe that national unity has been damaged.
"What you have is scorched earth around Alberta for the Liberal party. Westerners, who were never favourably disposed to the Liberals will now say 'You tried to dislodge our government'," he says.
"There's also scorched earth for the prime minister around Quebec….he's told Quebeckers that their legitimate choice for representation in the Canadian parliament are in effect traitors, who have no business in the government of Canada.
"It's really been a dismal week for national unity."

Anyway, let me send this heartfelt appeal - Please, Canada. We're sorry we ignore you. Please don't start acting crazy. Obama has enough stuff to deal with.


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