The Closet Moderate: America junior

Friday, September 12, 2008

America junior

With all the hot air being expended over our Presidential content, it may have escaped some folks' notice that our northern neighbor will be holding an election this fall as well. Like their Thanksgiving, Canadians will have their election a month early, in October. Under their Parliamentary system, the date for an election is not fixed, so the timing is a political choice. The Conservative Party (currently in power) is running well in the polls, so now might be a good time for them. Also, if they had waited too long, the election would have been held in winter, which they apparently frown upon up there.

Like a lot of Americans, I find the fact that a political leader gets to set the timing of the election to be a bit unseemly. I like that ours are on a regular rotation, so no one side gains advantage.

On the other hand, calling the election the way they do ensures an abbreviated campaigning season, which is something that America lacks. This current election campaign has been going on since Obama was born, I think, and even a political junkie like me gets sick of it after a while. I don't see how we could impose the same restrictions under our system since (1) everyone knows the election is coming, and (2) there is no Constitutional way to stop people from campaigning before a certain date.

Despite the differences, I think the parallels will be interesting, especially since Canadians are dealing with many of the same issues we are, including an incumbent center-right government in a worsening economy. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent to our Vice President there, so there is no chance that we'll get to see how they deal with the choice between a sexy governor from the Yukon and a blowhard Senator from Prince Edward Island.

UPDATE: Kate Beaton has a cartoon about it.

3 comments:

Canadian Friend said...

The story is even juicier. The current Conservative PM has pushed legislation for fixed election dates, to eliminate this shotgun style of election (though whether this is good or bad is still debated).

The first proposed date? October. 2009. Yep, the PM ignored his own legislative proposal because the polls are favorable. And he came to power on the platform of government reform, oversight, accountability....

Silent Cal said...

I heard somewhere that Harper said the new law was not intended to apply to minority governments, but that seems like a cop-out.

Still, if the Liberals make hay out of this broken promise, I hope they'll propose the same law should they win in October.

Canadian Friend said...

The Liberals will lose because the Canadian public is made up of an apathetic mass that has endured 3 elections in 4 years, with the 2 main political parties equally capable of buffoonery.

If you polled the public as to what issues were important to them, they would trend Liberal. Will the makeup of the parliament change much after this election? Probably not. Goes to show how much the Canadian public cares.

Oh, how I long for strong Liberal leadership....

As for the fixed election dates...it seems a little wishy-washy, but in practice it's not as bad as it seems. PMs have 5 year terms, max. Should they win a majority, they will govern for at least 3-4 years (election coffers are empty, after all). So you're talking about a 1-2 year "slip" in election cycles.

I agree that this can lead to some shady business, but in the past, if the ruling majority is popular, then why not continue with them in power? Elections are rarely as close as they are in the US, and so minor "revelations" have minimal political impact.

Historically, majority governments that do not return to power do so for very large issues (GST introduction, sponsorship scandal, etc.). Flexible election dates do not convey much, if any, advantage in such cases.

That said, fixed terms is just fine by me.