Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
May 18
Life is good for the most part. If only I could win the damned lottery.


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NOVEMBER 16, 2009 9:24AM

An Idiot's Guide To Canadian Politics

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Now, I don’t mean to imply that you are all idiots, but there is a  a fair amount of disinterest in Canadian politics among many Americans. We know a lot about your fair land and even cheered and cried when you elected your last President. I bet the majority of Americans would be hard pressed to even name our Prime Minister (Stephen Harper). So I thought a brief little run through on how our political system operates might be in order.


First of all we have MPs, Members of Parliament instead of your Congressmen. The country is divided up into ridings, not districts for the purpose of elections. (Anyone who wants to correct me on my knowledge of American politics please do so). Same thing, different name. The leader of the party with most MPs from the ridings wins. But he may have a minority government and the rest of the parties as a team, can gang up on him and frequently do.


In fact we have a minority government now which keeps our idiot in check. ( I say idiot because he is a fundamentalist Christian -or so he says to get those votes. Lots of pictures of his family and him wearing a powder blue sweater) and voted against a federal law providing gay marriage (he lost) and before he was elected was all gung-ho to go to Iraq. Our Prime Minister has a lot less power than your President due to the ability of the other parties to form a ‘team’ to knock him down. A no confidence vote, can mean an election.


The main parties and a minor one give us a little more choice than you. We have the ‘reigning’ government – the Conservatives, run by dope head Stephen Harper - our Prime Minister, the Liberal Party (which is not THAT different from the Conservatives as they are all run from back rooms and an old boy system, but they are indeed more 'liberal') which is headed by Michael Ignatieff (we call him Iggy, not a real popular guy), the New Democratic party which is social democratic  is headed by a rather smarmy guy named Jack Layton but I still vote for them. There is also the Bloc Quebecois, lead by Gilles Duceppe. He is in the federal government supposedly fighting for the separatist movement in Quebec (which is pretty much dead in the water) but everyone know he’s really there to look after the interests of Quebec in Canada. He’s also probably the smartest of the bunch. The half-party, the Greens, who have no seats in Parliament, but they have a rather amusing, somewhat charismatic leader in a woman called Elizabeth May. They are fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and are sort of nowhere right now, but on the rise. That was boring wasn’t it? But I put it in to show you that we have some basic differences from American politics in our choice of parties.


I think we are a bit ahead of you in social issues. As I mentioned, gay marriage is a federal law, socialism and liberal are not dirty words, and we TEND to look after the unemployed and welfare recipients a bit better than you guys. We also pay a lot of taxes. On everything we buy that is not a food item (candy bars don’t count – luxury item) is a 15% sales tax. At first we were outraged – but then we just kind of got used to it. The province takes some (we have ten provinces and the North West Territories not States) and the federal government take some. But that’s what it takes to have universal health care, more free or low rate day care, and better unemployment benefits. We go along with it all and although it jacks up the price of items, we don’t think of it much anymore.


Our Prime Moron made an election promise that he would get rid of the government tax on goods and services but of course that never happened because he realized that there was not enough money to pay for the services we already were receiving. He knew a reduction in services would probably lose his spot as Prime Poop, but he has been slowly and sneakily whittling away at such things as the universal health care.


We go by the Parliamentary system, like the Brits. The Parliament is divided by two sides of the house – the party in power, and the parties that lost. There is a lot of yelling and screaming across the aisle but they do seem to get things done. Boos are the most popular sound. The House speaker is supposed to keep control of these miscreants and certain thing can get you ejected, such as calling someone a ‘liar’. One of our greatest Prime Ministers, Pierre Elliott Trudeau once appeared to mutter ‘fuck’ in Parliament, but denied it with his usual humour saying all he said was ‘fuddle duddle’ which became a Canadian joke. We’re easily amused.


We have Senators, but we don’t elect them, they are political appointees just because they hang around for so long in politics, or have given bunches of money to the party in power. Some are actually there because they are good guys. When Parliament passes a bill, it goes to the Senate, but most of them don’t bother showing up, so it’s a given that a bill will pass, Senate or no Senate. Senators don’t do much of anything except get a nice pay cheque.


So maybe it all balances out. You lot are world power which is far more conservative than us, we don’t have as many Christian right as you, at least not enough to be too scary. You have a huge military, while we have a few ships and subs and a some brave men and women in the service. (We have 2,000 in Afghanistan, which is a chunk of Canadian solders. We have lost 132).We have more of a socialist bent on many of our issues and benefits, but our government representatives are just as kooky. We may have more to choose from, but that doesn’t mean we agree with anyone anymore than you do.


One thing I will never get is the electoral college in the American system, and maybe you'll never get some of our social remedies to problems for the 'have nots'.

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american, canadian, politics

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Prime Minister Sweater Vest is a creep. Iggy is marginally better. I like May (a great debater), but she doesn't have a chance. Layton is a snake-oil salesman. I'd vote for Duceppe if I had the chance.
One thing that amazes me about OS is how it is truly dominated by Canadians, so this primer is timely. Thanks.
Thanks, JLee. Maybe if you figure it out sometime you can pass on the info to me.
B1, as usual we are in synch. I agree with all your comments.
It's true isn't it Kathy - a lot of us on here. We just have good taste I guess :-)
Excellent entry.
Nobody wants to know my opinion of Stephen Harper.... ~mumbles under her breath~ although the knowledge that I would LOVE to shove a hockey stick up his... ahhhhhhhh you get the picture... might hint at my opinion of the man (and I use the term loosely). I'm also none too enthused with the "liberals" who aren't really that liberal (Good God *I* am more liberal than some of them and I'm generally a "middle of the road" person) .

On the other hand, I'm an American living in Canada and unless one of the idiot politicians does something so blazingly stupid that I can't help myself I tend to keep my mouth shut.

The difference in taxes between the US and Canada doesn't really "phase" me. I'd RATHER pay more in taxes and KNOW that my fellow human beings are enjoying at least a minimum standard of living and that their children are being taken care of than I would worry about what amounts to the proverbial "drop in the bucket". Even when I didn't live IN Canada but rather spent several days a month in Canada, I didn't CARE about the taxes that I paid when I was there visiting. Sure, I knew that I could file the paperwork and get most of them back... but I couldn't see any reason to worry about a few bucks when I knew darn good and well that the money in question was going to HELP someone.

Oddly enough, I wouldn't object to paying more in taxes in the US either if it meant that people were being taken care of to a minimum standard... ALL of the people (rather than the current "all EXCEPT one particular race" that the US has going).

In the current "Health Care" discussion in the US I honestly feel that people are buying a "pig in a poke". Insurance is NOT "health care" NOR will insurance provide health care to a single person in an area where there aren't enough doctors to start with. Additionally, insurance does NOTHING to improve the medicine and technology that people are afforded. I had a loved one DIE over the weekend due to liver and kidney failure that is provably directly connected to the medication that he was taking. If we don't IMPROVE the medicine and technology the 106,000 people a year who die due to said medicine and technology will do nothing but increase and we won't have accomplished a THING other than make it cheaper to die.

Sorry about going off on a tangent.
You have put it all extremely well, Mrs. Raptor. Especially the hockey stick bit. I too don't mind spending the extra tax money - for the most part it keeps our country humane. I'm sorry about your relative though. My condolences.
"as usual we are in synch"

Uh-oh. Which one of us should worry more?

Still think this country functions (!?) best with a minority government. Keeps the swine in line around the trough.
Sorry about the 'in synch' there B1 but we do usually agree on stuff. Yes, I agree, minority governments can tie the hands of the ruling party quite nicely. I was worried when Iggy wanted another election - I think it would have increased Prime Minister Poop's government, and been totally useless.
"Our Prime Minister has a lot less power than your President due to the ability of the other parties to form a ‘team’ to knock him down."

It's supposed to work this way here...sigh...

I'd rather we have income tax than sales tax which I think is a tax on the poor
You're right about the sales tax m, but it usually gets back to them in some way. We do pay income tax as well, but for salaries below a certain level they are miniscule if at all.
What's this all aboot, eh?
You should here the accents where I come from "Yes, dar - the ocean be dam flat cam".
Thanks, Tom. I understand your reasoning re the sales tax - I still think it is just a way of using it to return it back to those who need it - but you could still be right. It's an iffy subject.
Dam flat cam? Whazzat, south shore?

15% is the Nova Scotia figure, not the Canada figure, mc and others. It's different prov by prov because its a combination of federal GST (goods and services tax) and PST (provincial sales tax). Since taking office Harper has whupped down the GST from 7% to 5%, then wondered why he has to run huge enormous deficits. (For some reason they imagined that each time the tax rate went down 1% we'd all run to Canadian Tire for the ginormous 1%-0ff sale and jump-start the economy. Seriously. They thought that.) In Ontario we're at 13% but what is taxable at that rate is about to change due to the impending switch to HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Our bean counters sure love their acronyms.
Thanks Bill for clarifying that. You are of course correct. And, yes - I'm impressed you knew that was south shore. How in the hell did you know that?
Great analysis. Yet, surely, you know that we'd do anything here in America to get a system like yours.
Great post.
"One thing I will never get is the electoral college in the American system, "

Most of us here don't either.

I phear the Canadians and therefore refuse to learn about their ways!!


Good post though.
the electoral college made sense in 1789. the world has moved on since then, the american constitution anchors thenation in georgian politics. it was designed to keep the rich and well-connected rich, and well-connected. it has been brilliantly successful in that goal, although the slavers have been replaced by the bankers.

be thankful you have a parliamentary system. they stink, but there is a worse alternative..
Tink - phanks
Al - I still don't get the electoral college but you defininitly make is sound BAD. Yeah, our system stinks too, but it is a little more straightforward.
A very interesting summary. Thank you. (Also, isn't there some sort of French-Indian Thanksgiving in October?) It's hard to make social progress in the U.S., but when it's made, it usually sticks. Medicare and Social Security have not been repealed, and when we eventually get universal health care, it will probably stick too, despite vehement opposition. Excellent post.
As a fellow Canadian, I wholeheartedly endorse pretty much all of this. I just need to point out that you left out two territories in your count: the Yukon and Nunavut!
Great post. I beg to differ with whoever it was who said that OS is "dominated by Canadians." Huh? There are a few pre-dominant Canadian writers, but the vast majority of OSers hail from the United States, at least if looking at countless profiles, the Stat Counter, and people's posts can be believed. The cover isn't dominated by Canadian politics; it's dominated by American politics. Etcetera.
Great post and very educational!

Honestly, I don't think anyone east of the Rockies has much time for Harper and the 15% tax rate is for all of the Atlantic provinces, I thought- NB, NS, PEI and NL. Still, good post!
Lots of people in BC don't have time for Harper either -- a George Bush wannabe intent on making every mistake in the book that his idol made in the U.S. Did you know that his Master's thesis in Economics was on why Canada should join the U.S.? And this man in the Prime Minister of Canada? Unbelievable.
Thank you for such great comments all of you.
Emma - you have educated me - I had no idea that Harper's thesis was on that subject (I should have known). I'm as appalled by that as I am by him. A George Bush wannabe indeed - just one with a little more intellect. Same result.