Saturday, May 22, 2004

What power is

It's old news now (and apparently removed from their site), since the Prime Minister's Office issued the official press release for the election being called tomorrow, but this morning's headline in the Ottawa Citizen was "Liberals Weigh Delaying Election." It was mostly idle speculation anyway. There's been too much momentum building up in the past few weeks to just go and get thing over with; if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly, and all that. But even the suggestion thereof, even the speculation about the possibility, is representative of what infuriates me so in the Westminster parliamentary model. "Whoops, sorry, guys - our provincial party in the most populous province went and screwed up with a budget so egregious as to be illegal. Um, can we put off the election until this all blows over?" It's not even as though fixed election dates are incompatible with the Canadian parliamentary model; the Liberal Party in BC certainly managed to push it through under Premier Gordon "Make that Mai Tai to go" Campbell. However, the federal Liberals know all too well that their overlong stay in power has only been from judicious choice of election dates, and rejected a similar scheme last month. Moreover, it also has to involve the Governor-General; as the Queen's official representative, only she can actually drop the writ of election. So, to recap: Election called whenever the party in power feels like it? Check. Superfluous involvement of an aging literati doyenne in the process? Check. Political paralysis in the meantime, while everyone holds their breath waiting for the call? Check. Is it any wonder I prefer the eight-month campaign of American elections? If nothing else, at least they have a fixed timetable...


Blogger Michael McDonald said...

Of note is that municipal elections in Ontario are held on fixed date province-wide. It's interesting that the provincially-controlled Ontario Municipal Act imposes such a standard on cities, while the province itself doesn't have to adhere to that same level of control.

5/22/2004 11:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, in America here I'm already sick and tired of election rhetoric from BOTH sides. Don't know how I'm going to get through to November without snapping.

You know how the holiday season starts earlier and earlier every year, and at this rate we'll be preparing for Christmas in May by the time I die? Well, that's happening to politics. Already the reelection campaigning begins a *year* in advance. Blech.

As an American, I'd always wondered that about Britain and Canada (and whichever countries follow the same system). Why *do* you have elecctions on such a random basis? How do people decide it's time for more elections?

5/22/2004 11:26:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

"The people" don't. Federal and provincial elections (with the noted exception of BC) are held whenever the party in power decides to have them, within a customary range of three to five years. Only thirty to forty days notice is given; this can and has led in the past to snap elections, such as after a "vote of no confidence" - i.e., a money bill proposed by the government party fails in the House. (Or unicameral provincial legislature.) This (again, by custom, not explicit constitutional law) obliges the PM (or Premier) to dissolve the government and ask the G-G (or Lieutenant-Governor) for an election.

Yes, it's profoundly undemocratic, and disgustingly skews the election towards the party in power. Which was my point, really.

5/23/2004 10:24:00 AM  

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