History in the Making

We’ve been hearing a ton about Barack Obama and the history he is making.

There’s some additional history being made north of our border. Canadians went to the polls in October to elect a new government.  That government, less than 6 weeks later is on the brink of collapse.

What does that mean?  The Canadian system of government is a Westminster parliamentary system, meaning that the populace or electorate chooses a representative for their “riding,” what we, in the U.S. would call a “district.”  That representative — an M.P. (or Member of Parliament) then represents that riding in Ottawa (the Canadian capital.)

The political party with at least half of the MPs is called a “majority” government, and the leader of that party (elected by the MPs) becomes the prime minister, or active leader of the country.  It’s important to note, however, that this leader is not the executive.  She or he is the leader of the legislative branch — akin to the US Speaker of the House.  The executive is the monarch, (Queen Elizabeth, in this case) and represented in Canada by a Governor General.  The current G.G. is Michaëlle Jean.

There are 4 major political parties in Canada: Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc. Historically, by U.S. standards, these parties are all very liberal, but more recently the Conservative party has become nearly a carbon copy of the GOP.

Things sometimes get tricky, however. What if, for example, no one party wins at least half of the MPs? Then, the party with the most MPs forms what is referred to as a “minority” government.  A minority government is tricky though, because to pass legislation, it’s necessary to work with enough political opponents to make a numerical majority.  The most recent government (led by Stephen Harper) is a minority government.

Things sometimes get even trickier, however — and that’s where we are today, and really, things have never been quite this tricky. The 3 opposition parties have banded together to form a sort of super majority, and have pledged to work together to topple the government of the minority ruling party.  Why?  Primarily, because Canadians are pretty smart — it is sort of analogous to throwing Bush out of office… if only “we the people” could.  Like Bush, Stephen Harper has squandered his political capital, and to put it bluntly, has become a mean person.  People don’t like that too much.  So, we’ll wait and see what happens… no matter the outcome, it is bound to be both interesting and history-making.