Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tories win minority government in Canada

The Conservative Party managed to win a minority government in yesterday’s Canadian federal Parliamentary election. The seat breakdown looks like this:

Conservatives 124
Liberals 103
Bloc Quebecois
New Democrats

Since any party needs 155 seats (one more than half) to govern with a majority, no party has enough seats to govern, even when forming a coalition government-unless that coalition is with the one party who holds the balance of power, the Bloc Quebecois. To put a (very) rough face on the Bloc’s standing in the Canadian federal system, the closest equivalent in our own system might be if the Southern Party held a quarter of all the seats in the House of Representatives. The Bloc doesn’t have quite that many seats, but they might as well…virtually nothing can get through Parliament without the approval of the Bloc.

Although this is not the victory many Conservatives desired (they wanted a majority), it is nonetheless a victory, and they should be congratulated. We know it is a victory in fact, because Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe indicated he would stand by a Conservative government, so long as that government stood by the interests of Quebec. With the Bloc, the Tories can garner 175 votes…more than enough to make Stephen Harper the Prime Minister.

The New Democratic Party, or NDP, is a socialist party that tends to be quite anti-American, has made some serious gains, however, and should be watched. Traditionally, the NDP, known in former times as the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, has had the support of Canada’s many labor unions. The blatant anti-Americanism is a relatively recent historical development for the NDP (some would argue that it long existed covertly), who are likely playing the “American card” to gain political points. In some future Parliament, it may be the NDP that holds the balance of power and could turn a Conservative plurality into a Liberal government.

I should say that I think no matter which party wins a plurality in Parliament, minority governments may be a fact of life for some time until the Quebec Question is permanently resolved, one way or the other. As long as the Bloc remains such a formidable political force in Quebec, they will continue to deny majorities to either the Tories or the Grits, and if history is any indication, these minority governments will continue to be short-lived. For Canada's own future stability, there must be a permanent decision on the status of Quebec.

As far as the Liberals go, Paul Martin has said he will resign as Leader of the Liberal Party, but will remain a Member of Parliament. Believe it or not, much as I am not a fan of the Liberals, there is much to be learned from Martin’s action. His party has lost its mandate to govern, and he is taking responsibility rather than blaming others. Considering the circumstances regarding the downfall of the Liberals, there are plenty of others he could blame. No-as bad a leader as many argue Martin has been, in this regard, Martin is being very much a man. Republicans in Tennessee should do as Martin did. If our Party Leadership fails to field a candidate for Governor, and/or take control of the House and Senate, our State Party Leaders should also be men and resign.

Some may ask why I take such an interest in the Canadian election, besides the fact that I have family in Canada and my grandmother was born in what, in 1949, would become a Canadian province. The reason is because we do more than share a border, we also share a heritage, especially with English-speaking Canada. History tells us that English is widely spoken in Canada today because some Americans took one side in a certain quarrel with the British Crown, and some took the other side. Most of those who supported the Crown went to Canada, which virtually overnight went from being a mostly French-speaking possession won by Britain in the French and Indian War, to having a huge English-speaking population, and was thus divided into Upper and Lower Canada.

Our destiny on this continent is tied with Canada whether we like it or not, and Canada’s destiny is tied with our own, whether they like it or not, and it thus behooves us to take an interest in Canada’s political affairs. Beyond that, however, conservatives everywhere should support other conservatives, wherever in the world they might be.


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