Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who's on first, what's the score?

Canadian politics are getting out of hand, if I turn off the radio for even an hour or two, I miss the latest upheavals. Yesterday I spent half the day with the radio turned off, knitting and catching up on snail-mail, and apparently I missed the resignation of Stephan Dion, Bob Rae backing out of the Liberal leadership race, the de facto crowning of Michael Ignatieff as new Liberal leader, and some speech by Steven Harper exhorting everyone to work together. Of course once again he could not resist a bit of mudslinging in the process, this time aimed at the NDP.

This morning lying in bed gathering my courage to leap naked out of bed into the 12C air of my bedroom (the perils of older age, wearing PJs to bed runs the risk of seriously overheating during the night), I contemplated the almost daily momentous changes in the Canadian political landscape. What will today bring? Who's on first? When do the rest of us get to say something?

My brother described The Daily Show episode on the so-called Canadian Crisis to me over the phone, it sounded quite funny. How we were in the process of forcing our current leader out of office, and Jon Stewart asking, You can do this?!? 'Cause we gotta guy...

Anyway, it occurred to me that one of the fundamental differences between the American and Canadian systems is that once elected, Canadian MPs are required to vote the party line, while in the US elected Senators and Representatives are free to vote their conscience. For the most part this means voting the party line, but it does allow for forming temporary coalitions to get legislation through.

In Canada, legislators don't get to do that. Forming a Coalition is a Big Deal. But on another level I think it promotes (in Canada) a more vicious level of talking to or about each other. If you know that you will never have to negotiate a liaison with a member of the opposing party, then you are free to bad-mouth them as much as you want. But if you knew that one day in the future you might be obliged to cosy up to members of the opposing party in order to get your legislation through, you might be a little more circumspect in your insults.

Negative campaigning during elections seems to be a big part of American politics. It's catching on here too, but I have to say that my two weeks in the US during their election was a little disconcerting, it seemed like everybody hated everybody else. Maybe election-time is the only time American politicians get to vent their spleen, the rest of the time they have to mind their mouths in order to make their political system work.

A little bit of that here would be a Good Thing.

1 comment:

20th Century Woman said...

The U S Senate used to be a sort of gentleman's club, but in recent years, especially in the last 8 years, the level of civility has declined to just about nil. I always thought Canadian pols were more sedate, but apparently I was mistaken. My husband and I get a lot of Canadian news twice a year driving through BC and Yukon to Alaska. It always takes us a while to figure it out.