Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Canada’s upcoming federal election also important to the U.S.

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Originally published on on Mon, 09/08/2008 – 2:50pm

There is a major election in North America this fall that will do a lot to shape the policy coming from the Western Hemisphere. And there’s also Barack Obama vs. John McCain.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has asked to have Parliament dissolved, the bellwether sign of a new federal election in Canada. The election will be Tuesday, October 14.

At stake will be the direction of leadership on the environment, oil production, terrorism protection, and trade with the United States, all good reasons to pay some attention to the race up North.

Harper, a Conservative, is currently running a minority government, defined as more seats than any other party yet not having a majority of seats.

For those who have been paying attention, Harper has been emulating the current White House occupant, George W. Bush. But there is a history of the Canadian PM blending in well with the U.S. leader, but most of that blending has come from the Liberal Party, which has been in charge of the country the vast majority of the last 40 years.

Stephane Dion is the current Liberal Party leader. The Liberals are running on a platform pushing for a “carbon tax.” The Conservatives, who don’t support Kyoto, have blasted the tax as being unfair.

The U.S. gets more oil from Canada than any other country. And having a good relationship between the two countries is vital to that exchange.

There are other issues ranging from war resisters and whether Canada will stay in Afghanistan.

Harper has copied Bush on protecting citizens from terrorist attacks, leading to harsh practices, some of which has slowed down trade between the countries due to more obstacles at border crossings. A better understanding between U.S. president and Canadian prime minister can help that go more smoothly.

If Barack Obama wins in November, he will have a much better friend in Dion than Harper, especially in reopening NAFTA. Likewise, if McCain pulls it out, Harper will be his new best buddy.

Regardless of politics, Bush has ignored Canada more than any U.S. president in memory. McCain made more trips to Canada (1) than Bush did in his first term. And U.S.-Canadian relations have suffered as a result.

This is the longest stretch of having minority governments in the country’s history. Paul Martin of the Liberal Party previously had a minority government. The Bloc Quebecois in Quebec holds a number of seats in the federal House of Commons – their significant numbers have prevented a majority government. The left-leaning New Democratic Party is the major third party in Canada – unlike the Bloc Quebecois (which only has representatives from Quebec).

In the U.S., there are two major scenarios (no offense to third-party candidates): either Obama or McCain will win. In Canada, the two scenarios become four (again no offense to third-party candidates): Liberal majority, Liberal minority, Conservative majority, Conservative minority. The chances of a Liberal majority are highly slim — the Liberal Party suffered, especially in Quebec over the long ago sponsorship scandal. The Conservative majority is more realistic, though the Canadian electorate hasn’t felt it necessary to trust Harper with a majority.

The election cycle is much smaller in Canada – 37 days. Ironically, the Harper government has been criticized for passing a law setting a fixed election date, and then reversing its stand and calling for a new election. Canadians like to go to the polls around every 5 years, typical in a parliamentary system. This election will be the third since 2004.

There are currently 308 seats in the House. The Conservatives won 124 seats in the last election to 103 for the Liberals.


Written by democracysoup

September 8, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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