Today on Blogcritics
Home » Canadian Politics: A New Federal Government Without An Election?

Canadian Politics: A New Federal Government Without An Election?

Please Share...Print this pageTweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

There is something very odd going in on Canada this week, Canadian politics are exciting. Normally politics in Canada are about as predictable as watching paint dry, you know what the result is going to be well in advance, no matter how much anyone says otherwise. So what's been going on over the past week, and what will come to a head in another week's time on Monday December 8th, is really quite incredible as its something that has almost never happened before in Canadian history.

For the first time since WW1 and Prime Minister Robert Borden's wartime Union government made up members of both his Conservative Party and Wilfred Laurier's Liberal Party, Canada is looking at the very real possibility of a coalition government running the country. Led by the Liberals, as they have the second largest number of representatives in the House of Commons, it would also include the left leaning New Democratic Party (NDP). Although the Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec nationalist party, would not be part of the coalition, they have all ready made it clear that they would be willing to vote with them on important issues.

What's that, you say, what about the guys who won the election on October 14th (2008)? While it's true the Conservative Party of Canada won the largest amount of seats in the last election, as everyone predicted, they didn't elect enough Members of Parliament to have an outright majority in the House of Commons. Under these circumstances the government can lose votes in the House of Commons without any serious ramifications, except in the case of a vote on fiscal matters, or what is known as a vote of Non-Confidence.

Under normal circumstances, when a government loses in either of these situations they would be forced to dissolve parliament and call an election because they are no longer able to govern. However, there is also the option that the opposition parties can go to the Governor-General of Canada, The Queen's representative, and ask her permission to form the government without a new election being called. Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of England being our titular head of state. Both her role and the role of the Governor-General are strictly ceremonial, and they are not allowed to refuse a legitimate request by the opposition to form a coalition government.

These circumstances came about because last week, Prime Minister Steven Harper's government introduced a fiscal package to the House of Commons that was what they called the first stage of their solution to help steer Canada through the upcoming financial crises. Instead of offering ways of stimulating the economy, they have proposed a series of spending cuts and taking away civil servants' right to strike. The opposition parties were so upset by this that they made it clear they would not support the bill, which means that the government would go down in defeat on a fiscal matter, necessitating an election. Knowing full well the opposition wouldn't force an election so soon after the last one, the government refused to back down, probably not believing that the three opposition parties could set aside their differences and form a coalition.

One of the major stumbling blocks towards forming the coalition is the question of who would be the Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal party, as they are just beginning the process of replacing the man who led them into the last election, Stephane Dion. While he is still the leader of the party, the leader of the NDP, Jack Layton, had made it clear that he would not agree to any deal that made Dion Prime Minister. As the vote on the fiscal package is imminent, the Liberals don't have time to hold a leadership convention, so they will have to pick someone from among the caucus to be leader. The question is whether or not the candidates running for the leadership would be willing to allow one of their number to become interim leader, and Prime Minister.

Initially the Conservative Party was going to hold the vote on this coming Monday, December 1st/08, but when they saw the way the wind was blowing they put it off until December 8th. They hope to use the coming week to convince the people of Canada that the rightfully elected government is being hijacked, and to sway opinion against the coalition. Unfortunately, the extra week will also give the Liberals and the NDP the opportunity to figure out a way to make it work. If the Liberals are able to appoint a new leader in that time (probably Michael Ignatieff),not only will this satisfy the NDP, but the appointment will also take some of the sting out of the Conservative party's spin against the coalition.

In his speech announcing the delay on the vote, Steven Harper challenged the legitimacy of Stephane Dion to become Prime Minister, as he has all ready agreed to resign as leader of the Liberal party. If Stephane Dion does remain as leader when the coalition approach the Governor General about forming the government, Steven Harper and the Conservative Party might not recognize the legitimacy of the new government, precipitating the beginning of a constitutional crisis. Unfortunately for Mr. Harper, constitutional experts say that Governor General Michaelle Jean will have little choice but to give the coalition the chance to form a government as long as they meet certain provisos, even if Stephane Dion remains leader.

According to Louis Massicotte, an expert in government affairs, there is overwhelming cause for not calling a new election under the current circumstances.  Precedent from both British and Canadian parliamentary history dictates that whenever a government is defeated during its first sitting, there is no election. As long as the three opposition parties, the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois, produce a written agreement guaranteeing support for the coalition and how long it would last, it would be Ms. Jean's duty to accept it so soon after an election.

As of now, the NDP and the Liberals are still negotiating, and the Conservative party are putting their spin campaign in motion; the next week promises to be one of the more interesting ones ever in Canadian politics. How it will play out in the end is still anybody's guess, but come Tuesday December 9th, 2008, there might just be a new government in place without an election being called. I guess we couldn't let the Americans be the only ones to make electoral history this year.

Powered by

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Interesting. The Conservatives were in control of the government, called an election, GAINED SEATS in that election, and yet could still lose power? Fascinating stuff.

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    RJ

    The key is that they didn’t gain enough to have an outright majority of the seats – if, by banding together, the opposition can out vote any sitting government, they can force an election. What it comes down to is a reflection of the fact that none of the political parties have the complete confidence of the Canadian public.

    In cases like these, coalition governments are sometimes better reflections of a country’s mood and needs than a single party. In many countries coalition governments are quite commonplace as political parties very rarely win enough seats to have an outright majority in their parliament.

    I’m not sure, but I think Canada is one of the few, aside from England obviously, where a coalition has to publicly announce how long they are willing to work together. That way there is a guarantee that the system won’t descend into anarcy with a new government every three months which used to be common in countries like Italy.

    I know it must seem strange to Americans, with your system of electing a leader separately from its party, but parliamentary governments are actually just as common, if not more so, than out right presidential ones. In fact many countries are a mix, although in those cases the president is usually more of a cerimonial position.

    I’ll let you know what happens on the December the 8th, if the Conservative Party is able to dodge the bullit or it we have a new government.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I gotta laugh at all this, even though it is no laughing matter.

    If only politics here were as dull as Canadian politics, Richard. This all sounds like one of the minor crises we face on a slow week.

    Have a hot toddy and stay warm up there….

  • STM

    Richard, that’s true democracy for you. That’s why it’s good to have the other, minor and not-so minor, parties in the House.

    If you don’t get enough seats, too bad – you don’t govern effectively.

    I don’t think that governments have any right to ram through legislation without it being questioned in the house on the basis that they claim to have a “mandate” from the electorate.

    Parties that don’t with absolute certainty have the numbers needed to form alliances and voting blocs, which is the only way to hold a coalition together, shouldn’t claim victory in the first place.

    I’m a believer in the minor or smaller parties or independents “keeping the bastards honest”. It’s a great way to make sure unpopular or foolish legislation is watered or rethought entirely.

    I don’t know how it works up there, but do you still have a governor-general?

    Last time such a thing happened in Australia, where one party controlled the house and the other the senate, the conservatives blocked supply of money in the senate and ground the country to a standstill (our system resembles the US system in form only, but the British in function and is parliamentary).

    Voila! The Governor General, authorised to act in such crises by sending it back to the people in an election, despite the preferred option being that he/she doesn’t, sacked the government a short time into its second term, a new election was called a few weeks later, and the electorate duly wiped the Labor Party off the face of the electoral map and elected a new conservative coalition government led by the Liberals (a misnomer that, as they’re not).

    I didn’t agree with it at the time, but the Labor Party was doing some bizarre stuff and the whole constitutional crisis was of its own making.

    Besides, there can be no better barometer of public feeling – remembering that parliamentarians are only elected as representatives of the people in parliament – to have the people throw out a lame-duck or unpopular government.

    Rather than it being a problem, I see it as a plus for the parliamentary system of democracy.

    If only your neighbours to the south had such a thing. They have to go to all the trouble of impeaching a president when they have problems. Nasty stuff.

    Because of all the power vested in a President of the US, that’s where they could benefit from having a King or Queen constitutionally obligated to have the people make the ultimate decision in dodgy situations, and not just because they’d get a better flag :)

    Seriously though, simply, if a party isn’t sure it has the numbers in the house for a regular voting bloc in coalition, then it has no right to govern nor to stake its claim to govern in the first place.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    do you still have a governor-general?

    From the text of the article, Stan.

    However, there is also the option that the opposition parties can go to the Governor-General of Canada, The Queen’s representative, and ask her permission to form the government without a new election being called. Canada is a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of England being our titular head of state. Both her role and the role of the Governor-General are strictly ceremonial, and they are not allowed to refuse a legitimate request by the opposition to form a coalition government.

  • STM

    One that can actually do something … like sack a government and have the people make a decision.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Yeah, but apart from that, what does a Governor-General actually do.

    I can’t imagine that generally governing takes up all that much time.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    I’m hesitant to say much in such a situation even though I live in what purports to be a parliamentary democracy. Israel has a state president, which is supposed to be like a governor-general. The state president doesn’t really do a whole lot (which is why the previous president got in trouble – he had time on his hands to chase women).

    I’d imagine the governor-general of any commonwealth or dominion has the same power as the queen, DD. But the governor-general is smart to stay out of the spotlight of the tabloids and go fishing when he or she is not cutting ribbons and making speeches laden with generalities.

    Let’s hear from Richard, though. He is the beady eyed Canuck with the girl for a governor-general.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Not exactly the same power as the Queen, Ruvy, but he or she is the Queen’s executive. Precisely what power the GG has in any given commonwealth probably depends on the constitution and/or laws of that state.

    Nevertheless, it’s generally agreed that John Kerr spectacularly overstepped his authority by dismissing the Whitlam government in 1975: especially since he apparently neglected to inform the Queen first – in the probably quite justified fear that she would promptly fire him.

    With that sobering lesson from half a world away in mind, it’s highly unlikely that Jean will do anything other than what the parties involved advise her to do.

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    There has only been one time in Canadian history where a governor-general has refused a Prime Minister’s request to call an election. That was back in the 1930’s when Lord Bing (his wife’s name, Lady Bing, now graces the annual NHL trophy for most gentlemanly player) refused to allow the Prime Minister to disolve Parliament so he could call a snap election in an attempt to win a majority. The result was the GG was called home in disgrace and an election was called.

    So yes the GG is only a figure head – just like the Queen – and will only do what she is supposed to do under our constitution. If the the opposition are able to provide the required proofs of being able to govern she has no cause to refuse them.

    There have been a couple of developments since I wrote this story on Sunday – the three parties have come to a tentative agreement – I think the NDP and the Liberals have agreed on a two year life with six NDP cabinet ministers and fourteen Liberals. The Bloc have promised not to vote against them on matters that would result in the house being disolved for a period of at least a year.

    One thing that I hadn’t been aware of when I wrote the article was that the Conservative party do have an out – as the governing party they can unilaterally close this session of the house and not recall it until February. It would make them look horrible for the time being, but if they did it the bill before the house would die without being voted on.

    That would buy the Conservatives enough time to prepare a package with meanful stimuli for the economy so voting agaisnt could be construed as being politically motivated instead of
    “In The Best Interests Of The Country”. Also by the time they recalled the house the Liberals would be deeply embroiled in picking a new leader and wouldn’t want to be drawn into an election until after that – which would be the end of May. Since nobody likes a summer election that means it would be fall 2009 at the earliest until one was called.

    Do you really think the electorate would remember that Steven Harper and the Conservatives closed the house down in December/08 the following fall? Would they still care? Sure it would be a cynical gambal on the part of the Conservatives, but we’re talking about politicians here….

    By the way I agree, and it seems quite a few Canadians do to, a coalition government would be the best thing possible for the country right now, as it means there would be a much more representative government in power as it would be more than one party making decisions. In spite of their name the Liberals have always been associated with the business community in Canada, while the NDP and The Bloc Quebecois are concerned with social issues. So you’d have all bases covered.

    I guess this was almost another post, but what the hell I give you a reall follow up when anything important happens – either the government falls or this seating of the house is cancelled.

    It may be boring compared to Israel politics, but this is one of the first times I can remember that people are actually talking about politics in Canada – without swearing.

  • Joseph

    The one caveat I would add on the last comment about progroguing parliament (e.g., closing it down) is that the move would also be a request to the Governor General by the PM (the current conservative leader). Typically, the GG would accede to that request. However, in this case, that move would also be unprecedented as there has been no actual work done in the parliament that just sat. A tentative approval of the throne speech (the initial speech) was given, which typically outlines the objectives of the governing party for the session.

    However, in this case, and in my opinion the root of the issue that caused this situation, the very next day the governing party gave an economic update that in many ways ignored or even contradicted the throne speech ideas outlined the previous day. It was a power-play pure and simple with a few poison pills thrown in at the opposition parties and NO addressing of the still unfolding economic crisis. It is that economic update speech that brought about this totally unprecedented situation.

    My point is the GG could refuse to accept the request for prorogation of Parliament from the sitting PM if she felt (as is clear) that the only reason for the request was to save his government from certain defeat at the next sitting of Parliament scheduled for Dec 8.

    So, just wanted to clarify that even that step is not entirely in the hands of the current PM. Either way, the GG will be asked to make several critical – and most unceremonial – decisions in the coming days. There is no course of action that does not run directly through Her Excellency.

    And people thought Royalty was dead and Parliamentary procedures boring and predictable ; ).

  • Joseph

    Of final note on prorogation of Parliament:

    1) The Coalition leaders today at their agreement signing and press conference went to great lengths to address that they would defeat the government at the next session of Parliament and that they could not state exactly when that would occur (tacitly acknowledging that the idea of prorogation was “floating” out there).

    2) The sense thus far, though certainly subject to change, is that some conservatives might not think it wise to prorogue Parliament. They might think they have a better chance to argue for new elections or simply to work for some type of backlash at the next opportunity.

    My sense if this succeeds is that the Conservative leader could soon find himself facing many questions within his own caucus, who by and large have stuck with him through his heavy-handed decisions and political maneuvers in the past. In this case, they may well decide he has vastly overplayed his hand. Bottom line – you might see the emergence of a rival in the rather rock-solid Conservative caucus of the past couple of years.

  • STM

    It’s all relative Doc … when G-G John Kerr sacked the Whitlam Government, it caused an uproar.

    20-20 hindsight is a great thing, though, and forgetting the constitutional issues, it’s now largely believed that he probably didn’t have much choice but to put it back out there for an election.

    In the subsequent election, Labor got a belting, and we got our country back – even though I didn’t like the Liberal party’s policies at the time.

  • STM

    Ruvy: “he had time on his hands to chase women”.

    Half his luck.

  • Marcia Neil

    Can a government be elected in Canada that does not automatically route constituent personal lives and locations to a foreign Queen? Repre-sentatives of ‘the Queen’ must necessarily address immigrant civil-rights issues in oft-frosty Canada, but an informal/secret network of nonvoluntary ‘contacts’ should be politically contested as potential or real interference.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    So. The Conservatives surged in popularity because the Liberals aligned themselves with a separatist party, and an unelected official of a foreign government told the Liberals to go pound sand. LOL @ Canada.

  • STM

    Why do dopey Americans have such a hard time understanding how this works, and accepting that it’s actually a much fairer and far more representative system of democracy than their own bizarre system?

    The Queen’s representative fulfills the executive role that is fulfilled by the president of the US, but with way less power. Unlike a US president, there can be no interference in the running of parliament and a Governor-General (or the Queen in the UK) can’t refuse a legitimate request of a Government on such matters by law and convention.

    Only the government can make decisions regarding the running of the country. The Queen or her representative has no input and acts virtually as rubber stamd at executive level.

    The whole point of the G-G not interfering is that to do so would undermine the basis of constitutional monarchy, which as a the first modern system of democracy has been running continuously for over 300 years – 100 years more than the US, so it has to have something going for it.

    This current situation might be unusual one, but it guarantees that a government that can’t govern won’t govern.

    Harper will almost certainly lose the no-confidence vote in parliament, have to call an election in the New Year and let the people decide or cave in and accept that the Opposition can form government.

    Unlike in the US, this system virtually ensures that a lameduck government can be replaced according to the wishes of the people – not the wishes of the Queen – and usually at a new election, which can be called by a government any time in its term.

    Imagine if Congress could have got up a no-confidence vote against the lameduck Bush administration, held early elections and replaced them about the time they started going pear-shaped?

    Americans shouldn’t be so smug. I – and millions of other observers – don’t believe the US is a representative democracy any longer, if it ever has been, as the people have no power. It’s democracy in appearance only. Even the electoral college is a nod to the idea that the great unwashed can’t be trusted to elect a president.

    Canadians should be forever glad that they and the British gave the US an absolute belting in the War of 1812 and aren’t now a half-dozen states of the US.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Stan,

    I’m truly surprised I’m writing this – a defense of the American governing system….

    First a bit of background for the great unwashed out there.

    The American and Canadian governments are both modeled after the government of Great Britain – at two different times in its development. The American model is the model of a functioning king, parliament, and law lords. When King George III took the throne, he exercised the power of veto, and was an executive assisted by a prime minister and a series of other ministers. The Americans, in writing the constitution of 1787, took that model, and reworked it to fit a federal republic, embodying principles of divided powers that would supposedly keep politicians from combining to control the government. The authors of that constitution were unable to conceive of a country where real governmental power lie in the hands of an unelected and incompetent managerial class from corporations with limited liability. That is what America is now, and why it is not a democracy.

    The Canadian model of government is taken from Great Britain after it was realized that George III was insane, and it was necessary to run a government without him. So his majesty’s assorted ministers acted in the king’s name, chaired by a prime minister. They developed motions of confidence to determine when a government had outlived its usefulness. By the time this system got sorted out in 1848, a young thing had taken the throne, and she seemed happy to allow the ministers the job of governing, while she romped under the sheets with her royal consort.

    I’m simplifying a bit, of course, but I need to make the point that the healthier of the two systems has been the American one. The only problem was the development of the corporate state extra-contitutionally, and that has killed a very good model of governance.

  • Jordan Richardson

    This current situation might be unusual one, but it guarantees that a government that can’t govern won’t govern.

    Bingo.

    So. The Conservatives surged in popularity because the Liberals aligned themselves with a separatist party, and an unelected official of a foreign government told the Liberals to go pound sand. LOL @ Canada.

    “Surged in popularity,” RJ? Huh? Do you have a predilection to buying any spin with the term “Conservative” on it? When you consider that the “surge in popularity” for the Green Party doubled the “surge in popularity” for the Tories, I’m not sure your argument has much weight.

  • STM

    Ruvy, on occasion he did use veto but King George III’s main problem as an anti-democratic force was that he exercised way too much influence in parliament through cliques and coteries.

    However, that such an institution has survived – for another 200 plus years – is testament to how robust a model of governance this is.

    The Canadian model of parliament, as are all the other models, are based on the British model that came into being in the late 1680s as a result of the Glorious Revolution and once and for all limited the power of the monarch and handed it to the people through their elected representatives in parliament.

    That’s no minor thing, mate.

    George III was an aberration – like a bad president, determined to work his way around the loopholes in the laws and to flout convention (which under Britain’s “unwritten” constitution IS law anyway).

    However, to Parliament’s credit, it managed to work around himn without the whole country falling down around their ears.

    I produce as evidence the fact that around the time of Cornwallis’s defeat, the newly elected parliament in Britain – the Government – which had been in faviour of peace with America decided not to continue the War against the United States. Sadly, it was by then too late for much goodwill to come from it, but it was done anyway.

    George’s influence in parliament began to wane from that time on, despite the best efforts of MPs like Banastre Tarleton, who was a veteran of that war (and a hated foe of the Americans).

    It was during this period that the growing anger among the British populace over slavery led to the rise of William Wilberforce, the prime ministership of William Pitt (the younger, one of the greatest British PMs), and the start of abolition which had begun 20 yearsw or so earlier with rulings in the King’s Bench court against slavery and culminated in the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1808.

    These were decisions of parliament, including the pursuit of peace with America, not of the king.

    So you are not quite right in this Ruve.

    Not aimed at you, but one of the problems I find in discussing this with Americans is that they have little understanding of the role of the monarch in British parliamentary-style democracy.

    They still ask silly questions like, “Hey, ain’t you still under the Queen”.

    The Queen’s true role – and that of her representatives like the Governors-General in the commonwealth nations, are purely as rubber stamps who must by law and convention acquiesce to the will of the people.

    Nothing is really that much different to how it was in 1688.

    Having survived for that 300-plus years, you’d have to say it has something going for it.

  • STM

    And I still believe it to be a better system than that of the United States, where too much power is vested in the hands of one person – the president – and his unelected cabinet – and not enough in the elected representatives of the people – Congress and the Senate.

    You’ll never convince me Ruve. I believe the American system has been flawed from the outset and doesn’t (mostly) represent the will of the people at all.

    Obama’s election is agood example of how it can, but too often it’s not the case.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Why do dopey Americans”

    Why do you dopey foreigners hate Americans so much?

    “have such a hard time understanding how this works”

    Oh, I understand how it works. And I understand that it’s just ridiculous.

    “and accepting that it’s actually a much fairer and far more representative system of democracy than their own bizarre system?”

    Yes, it’s “much fairer” and “far more representative” to have an unelected official who is appointed by a foreign government deciding which political party gets to control government. LOL…

    “The Queen’s representative fulfills the executive role that is fulfilled by the president of the US, but with way less power.”

    Well, it must be comforting to know that an unelected official picked by a foreign government has “way less” power in Canada than the President has in the United States…

    “Unlike a US president, there can be no interference in the running of parliament and a Governor-General (or the Queen in the UK) can’t refuse a legitimate request of a Government on such matters by law and convention.”

    I guess the definition of “legitimate request” is kinda ambiguous though, amiright? Just ask Stéphane Dion!

    “Only the government can make decisions regarding the running of the country. The Queen or her representative has no input and acts virtually as rubber stamd at executive level.”

    Yes, a “rubber stamp” who occasionally gets to decide which party controls the federal government!

    “The whole point of the G-G not interfering is that to do so would undermine the basis of constitutional monarchy, which as a the first modern system of democracy has been running continuously for over 300 years – 100 years more than the US, so it has to have something going for it.”

    Cholera has been around for even longer. Bloody diarrhea really has something going for it!

    “This current situation might be unusual one, but it guarantees that a government that can’t govern won’t govern.”

    Wait. I thought it was the Conservative government that couldn’t govern, which was the argument for removing them from power. It looks almost as if no one is capable of governing Canada!

    “Harper will almost certainly lose the no-confidence vote in parliament, have to call an election in the New Year and let the people decide or cave in and accept that the Opposition can form government.”

    A week ago, it appeared “almost certain” that the Conservative government would fall, and be replaced by a coalition government. But then that unelected official who was appointed by a foreign government stepped in and said “not so fast.” Ain’t sovereignty grand?

    “Unlike in the US, this system virtually ensures that a lameduck government can be replaced according to the wishes of the people – not the wishes of the Queen – and usually at a new election, which can be called by a government any time in its term.”

    Key word: “virtually.” (Unless that unelected official appointed by a foreign government says no!) And it’s interesting to note that the “wishes of the people” seemed to indicate that they approved of the Conservatives, since that party GAINED seats in the election that was held less than two months ago. How can a six-week old government be a “lame duck?”

    “Imagine if Congress could have got up a no-confidence vote against the lameduck Bush administration, held early elections and replaced them about the time they started going pear-shaped?”

    Yes, imagine if we’d never fought the Revolutionary War and we still had unelected officials appointed by a foreign government telling us how to run our affairs!

    “Americans shouldn’t be so smug.”

    Look in the mirror. SRSLY.

    “I – and millions of other observers – don’t believe the US is a representative democracy any longer”

    I – and millions of other Americans – don’t give a shit what anti-American foreigners think about us.

    “if it ever has been, as the people have no power.”

    The people have no power? Well, at least we have freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

    “It’s democracy in appearance only.”

    Yes, Diebold predetermines the winner every four years. Everyone knows that.

    “Even the electoral college is a nod to the idea that the great unwashed can’t be trusted to elect a president.”

    Tell me, are members of the Electoral College appointed by a foreign government?

    “Canadians should be forever glad that they and the British gave the US an absolute belting in the War of 1812″

    Canadians weren’t Canadians then. They were British subjects until 1947. (And one could make the case, based on recent developments, that they still are!)

    Also, it’s interesting that despite the alleged “belting” the United States received, the result of the war was status quo ante bellum – with the exception of the end of impressment of American sailors by the British, of course.

    Most interesting of all is that an Australian has such a hard-on over a war fought between the “Canadians” and the United States 190+ years ago. I’ll bet you still believe the “militia myth” too.

    “and aren’t now a half-dozen states of the US.”

    I agree. That’d be like ten more Democrats in the Senate!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Surged in popularity,” RJ? Huh? Do you have a predilection to buying any spin with the term “Conservative” on it?

    No, I have a predilection to reading polls:

    An EKOS poll suggested that support for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had risen during the course of the crisis, despite the testy atmosphere on Parliament Hill.

    * Harper received 44% support from respondents. That’s a surge from the 37.6% support the Conservatives gathered around the time of the federal election on Oct. 14

    * Meanwhile, support for the Liberal Party fell two percentage points to 24%

    * The NDP dropped four points to 14.5% support.

    * 47% said that a Conservative government with Harper at the helm would be best for Canada during the economic crisis, compared to only 34% for the Liberal/NDP coalition.

    A poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel landed the same results for Harper’s Conservatives; strong showings that creep into majority territory.

    * 39% of Canadians favor the Conservatives

    * That’s compared to 27% for the Liberal Party

    * A startling 42% of Ontarians would support the Conservatives according to this poll, a province usually known for it’s Liberal leanings.

    * With the U.S. election still fresh in the minds of Canadians, 41% chose the Conservatives as the best party to tackle U.S.-Canada dealings.

    Results of a COMPAS poll also show an increased support for the Tories.

    * 51% support for the Conservatives

    * 20% support for the Liberals

    * In Ontario, Harper would be looking at a sweep with 53% of the vote against 24% for the Liberals and 10% for the NDP

    * In fact, the poll even suggests that the Tories could be gaining on the Bloc in Quebec, with 32% support against the Bloc’s 35%

    When you consider that the “surge in popularity” for the Green Party doubled the “surge in popularity” for the Tories, I’m not sure your argument has much weight.

    When you consider that the Green Party regularly elects ZERO members to Parliament, I’m not sure your argument has much weight.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    No, I have a predilection to reading polls

    A couple of months back, RJ, you seemed to have a predilection for reading only those polls which showed a certain Mr McCain to be doing better than it turned out he actually was. How did that work out for you?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “A couple of months back, RJ, you seemed to have a predilection for reading only those polls which showed a certain Mr McCain to be doing better than it turned out he actually was. How did that work out for you?”

    That’s not exactly accurate, DD, but then that’s not exactly surprising.

    The following would have been closer to the truth:

    “RJ read polls during the entire election campaign. He even posted them to Blogcritics when the campaign was tight, especially in August and early September. After mid-September, however, almost all the polls showed Obama far ahead, so RJ felt there was little point in continuing to post them. My name is ‘Dr Dreadful’ and I like to change the subject. Also I’m not a real doctor, I just play one on the interwebs.”

    Now – getting back on the actual topic at hand – would you care to cite some recent (within the last week or so) polls that show the Conservatives losing ground? Or did you already try to find such polls, were unable to do so (because they don’t exist), and then decide to post something snarky to make yourself feel better?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    After mid-September, however, almost all the polls showed Obama far ahead, so RJ felt there was little point in continuing to post them.

    Oh dear, RJ. I was hoping* you wouldn’t make me do this, but…

    Posted the day before the election.

    * Actually, that’s not true.

  • http://jetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Ah yes Doc, but give him props for allowing me to coanchor the night on his article. That was the ultimate in “fair and balance”

    I even failed to rub it in that my prediction of the ultimate results were much closer to reality than his…

  • STM

    This why I think some Americans are dopey, RJ, when it comes to trying to understand even a smidgeon of how things work outside their own country … people like yourself can’t get their heads around the idea that a) Canada has chosen the system it has, and b) that the governor-general is actually NOT interfering in the legitimate process of government, no matter how odd it might seem to you and how unusual a process it is in Ottawa right now.

    As for me being anti-American, I’m anti-stupidity and anti-arrogance, but I guess it must seem like anti-Americanism sometimes. Tough titties. Someone has to tell you the unpalatable truth.

    Problem with a certain type of your countryman is that you’re as comfortable as pigs in shit tipping the bucket on everyone else, but you don’t like it when anyone fires back … because you can’t look at anything except from an americentric point of view, and from where I stand, what you’ve got these days is way worse.

    It’s sham democracy at best. Government by lobby group and cash donation, and way too much power invested in the hands of one person … as you’re all saying in regard to that bogeyman president-elect.

    Canada has a constitutional monarchy. If Canadians wanted to have another system, they’d have chosen it. They’re free to do so. But being a sovereign country, they chosen the system they have because it contains a whole lot of checks and balances, of which this is one … or did you forget that they’re not part of your country.

    Just because the elephant in the lounge room south of the border can’t – or won’t – be bothered trying to understand how it works without putting it down doesn’t make it wrong, and it certainly doesn’t make it worse.

    And no, I don’t believe the militia myth. Nor do I believe Americans should believe the grade-school status-quo myth they learned in skewed history 101. One of the main American goals of that war was to oust the British from North America. The fact Canada exists today should be the only clue anyone with even half a brain needs in regard to the outcome of that conflict.

    One of the reasons I’m so interested in it is because of the myths that go with it, especially on the American side. It’s a classic example of an inability to admit that America can come second at anything, or ever do anything wrong, which is one of the things that pisses the rest of us so mightily.

    Inability to take criticism of any kind is another.

    There’s another myth floating around, too: the myth of American exceptionalism.

  • http://booklinker.blogspot.com Deano

    Couple of minor points…

    1). Yes, it’s “much fairer” and “far more representative” to have an unelected official who is appointed by a foreign government deciding which political party gets to control government. LOL…

    The GG is NOT appointed by a foreign government. The GG is appointed by the Queen (who, as head of state of Canada is not a foreign government) but is selected by the Prime Minister of Canada. The Queen gives the appointment, the selection is entirely Canadian.

    The GG does not decide which party controls government, the electorate does that. In the event a party does not control 50% of the parliamentary seats, it is a minority government. It forms the government as it is the largest collective group of seats however it holds power only with the confidence of the majority of Parliament. Lose the majority, you get turfed and an election ensues. The GG doesn’t decide one way or the other.

    2). “I guess the definition of “legitimate request” is kinda ambiguous though, amiright? Just ask Stéphane Dion!

    The GG acceded to Harper’s request to prorogue Parliament. Generally unless the PM is engaged in a barbaroous departure from acceptable behavior, the GG will give the benefit of the doubt to the PM.

    3). Yes, a “rubber stamp” who occasionally gets to decide which party controls the federal government!

    Again – no. It is decided by the electorate. If Harper had received a majority, then the opposition could froth at the mouth all day long and go nowhere. He didn’t. He received a minority government. Consequently, it is perfectly legitimate for the opposition to turf him out and try to either form a new government or force another election. That is the heart of the parliamentary system. The GG isn’t deciding” one way or the other, the voters are.

    4). It looks almost as if no one is capable of governing Canada!

    Canadians may be fairly polite, mild middle-of-the-roaders outside the hockey rink but bear in mind parliamentary politics is a bare-knuckled bloodsport, far more ruthless, twisted and backstabbing then you would expect.

    5). A week ago, it appeared “almost certain” that the Conservative government would fall, and be replaced by a coalition government. But then that unelected official who was appointed by a foreign government stepped in and said “not so fast.” Ain’t sovereignty grand?

    Yeah and a week before that noone expected any fireworks prior to the holidays. Welcome to Parliament – long stretches of boredom interspersed with vicious backroom dealing. It takes a certain grand level of ineptitude on Harper’s part escalate this one in such a short time frame.

    6). And it’s interesting to note that the “wishes of the people” seemed to indicate that they approved of the Conservatives, since that party GAINED seats in the election that was held less than two months ago. How can a six-week old government be a “lame duck?”

    Actually the wishes of the people are what insured the Conservatives didn’t get the carte-blanche majority they wanted. Most people were less than enamoured of Dion and the Liberals but weren’t prepared to give Harper free rein as they didn’t trust him to work and play nicely with others, so they hobbled him with another minority. He’s a lame duck because he managed to blow himself up so throughly in such a short time. The Tories gained seats, mostly on the back of a piss-poor Liberal leadership, not because of any Conservative popularity.

    7). Canadians weren’t Canadians then. They were British subjects until 1947. (And one could make the case, based on recent developments, that they still are!)

    Actually the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867, so Canadians have been Canadians for 141 years.

    8) Also, it’s interesting that despite the alleged “belting” the United States received, the result of the war was status quo ante bellum – with the exception of the end of impressment of American sailors by the British, of course.

    If I recall correct Thomas Jefferson bragged that the conquest of Canada would be merely a matter of marching. The war of 1812 was about a great deal more than just impressment, even though that was the self-righteous justification cited by American politicos. The fact that Canada remains Canada strongly suggests that the US did, indeed, get “belted”.

    9). Most interesting of all is that an Australian has such a hard-on over a war fought between the “Canadians” and the United States 190+ years ago. I’ll bet you still believe the “militia myth” too.

    Well, blood runs thicker than water and the Australians and the Canucks have fought side-by-side enough that there is a certain affection and mutual shared heritage of sticking it to someone much bigger and stronger. You could call it a mutual admiration society based on the cultural and historical experience of the Commonwealth.

  • U S A

    Canada is barely a country. It’s populated primarily by moose-fucking left-wing hockey players. You just hate the USA because we’re richer than you and we have a real military and our citizens have more rights.

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Excuse me.

    But this was about Canadian politics, not what people think of Americans, or what people think of other people’s political opinions – I think RJ’s first comment was a perfectly legitimate reaction to a system he is unfamiliar with. A constitutional monarchy is a rathe difficult concept to understand if you’ve not studied it -ad nausem – like those of us who grew up in the British Commonwealth were forced to.

    As to the the point about being a soverign nation – while the Dominon of Canada came into being in 1867, it wasn’t until WW2 that we actually had control over our own foreign affairs – we entered WW1 and The Boer War as British subjects. In fact until 1980 our constitution was still a British act of parliament – The British North America Act which dated back to the late 18th century.

    cheers

  • Jordan Richardson

    Canada is barely a country. It’s populated primarily by moose-fucking left-wing hockey players. You just hate the USA because we’re richer than you and we have a real military and our citizens have more rights.

    LOL.

  • STM

    I take it you’re a republican then, Richard? Tsk tsk

    RJ thinks that the Queen is lording it over her subjects. He doesn’t understand it’s the other way around.

    It’s also perfectly legitimate for people to suggest to Americans that they are armed with knowledge before commenting.

    Nothing worse – or more foolish – than contempt prior to investigation.

    And Deano’s right on every score. Thumbs up mate!

  • Jordan Richardson

    I think one of the key differences between Canadians and Americans – and of course I’m generalizing – is how seriously the people take themselves. Canadians tend to be more humble and less overtly patriotic, unless we’re talking about hockey, whereas Americans tend to take every single minuscule process soooooo damn seriously. Like when American news outlets kept trumpeting the idea that the Obama presidential election could “only happen in America,” for instance. We think it’s funny that Americans think we have less rights, less freedom, and so forth.

    In terms of politics, Canadians have a distrust for government largely based on indifference and ignorance, whereas Americans want to vote in a president they can relate to as a father figure/big brother/guy they can have a beer with. If you ask most people what they think about this coalition, you’ll get a lot of confusion and a lot of “meh” answers. In Canada, our governments don’t control our lives and we simply don’t care as much as Americans tend to. I’ve never heard anyone say “well, I better get to the gun store and stock up if the Liberals get in” or “I’m leaving if Harper gets re-elected.”

    Also, when people make fun of us, we usually laugh too. We know that we have floppy heads on South Park, we know people consider us “not a real country,” we know people think we live in igloos and have no TVs or computers. And guess what? We think it’s fucking hilarious!

    A lot of Americans could really learn something if they figured out how to laugh at themselves.

  • STM

    Jordan: “A lot of Americans could really learn something if they figured out how to laugh at themselves.”

    Hooray to that.

    I always think it’s funny when Americans are talking about rights and freedoms, but I’m not the one getting up every morning wondering what my government’s going to do to me.

    Of course, the most bizarre thing about this discourse with RJ is that if he lived in Oz, Canada or NZ, he’d probably be a monarchist rather than a republican – like most conservatives.

    I am certainly not a conservative, but I believe in constitutional monarchy, rule of law and representative parliamentary democracy as the best guarantor of personal freedoms and liberties for one reason and one reason only – it has worked uninterrupted for 300 years.

    Richard: the Statute of Westminster, 1931, which stopped Britain making laws on behalf of the Dominions without their consent? The only thing is, and you know as well as I, that Canada and Australia were running their own affairs without interference from Britain long before Acts of Parliament made it a finality and that the British wouldn’t have dared tell us how to run our own affairs.

    It was a formality, that’s all. Both also made their own declarations of war, as soverign nations, against Germany in two world wars.

    Blood thicker than water, Deano … yep. But I’ve always laboured under what I’m now starting to think was a misconception that Americans were our kith and kin too.

    Since I’ve been on blogcritics, I’ve realised that a large proportion of them couldn’t care less about that. Thank God for the ones who do care.

    The ones who don’t care don’t want to be friends, they think they’re our betters and couldn’t care less what anyone thinks, which is part of the problem in terms of how Americans are viewed in that very big world outside their borders.

    Finally, nice one USA. But I don’t think you should insult Canadians by suggesting they’re all hockey players.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Problem with a certain type of your countryman is that you’re as comfortable as pigs in shit tipping the bucket on everyone else, but you don’t like it when anyone fires back … because you can’t look at anything except from an Americentric point of view,…

    Quoted for truth, Stan. Explain that to Jet – a few times over.

    I stand corrected on the British history lesson. It had been my impression that the British monarch played a far more active role in governance during the 1700’s, in spite of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 – but that the role was limited, and that those limits were understood.

    HOWEVER. When I lived in the States, I thought that the parliamentary system was superior to that of the American presidential system, system qua system (in other words with each system working uncorrupted). Having lived under such a “regime” for the last seven years, one that does not have a written constitution, by the way, and having seen how it been made a mockery of both by it participants, and by foreign powers like the United States, I’m forced to conclude that a system of checks and balances WITH A WRITTEN CONSTITUTION is superior.

    Having said that though, the rise of the corporatist state, where every congressmaggot, state governor and most state legislators are for sale to the highest corporate bidder, has perverted what was supposed to be a balanced system of government beyond all recognition.

    And now, even the courts have been bought off, refusing to look at whether Obama was born in Kenya instead of Hawaii as he claims. I’d not even raise the issue except that Obama has muscled the State of Hawaii and the schools he attended into silence, and he looks a hell of a lot like a liar to me.

    But the Americans did choose the prick, and I cheered that choice on, and lo and behold, the scumbag’s name is even found encoded in the Book of Ezekiel right after Gog.

    So, as Heloise likes to say, “bling him on!”

    Oh, by the way, Jet, I’m stilling aiming that boulder at the beehive to knock it out of the tree. I’ll deal with the bees and their damned stingers later.

  • STM

    Thanks for the comment Ruve. You are right of course, the monarch did have slightly more of a role to play but essentially, parliament had the power and George’s real problem was his meddling in parliament.

    I understand your concerns about Israel. I know the situation is similar in terms of the system to ours, but it does help having a totally independent judiciary and a monarch instead of a president who as head of state and of the executive branch can’t (these days) meddle in politics.

    What’s the story with the bees?

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Umm

    Actually as much as I believe in any form of government I far prefer the British styled federalist parliamentary system that Canada has over the French styled Republic the Americans use. I don’t like the cult of personality that develops when you directly elect one person to be president as they become far more important than their office.

    Jordon, I really think that when Britain declared war in 1914 we were included in that decleration – could be wrong on that though – it’s been close to thirty years since I took a course in Canadian history…I do know that until sometime after that Canada’s supreme court was still the British Privy Council – my Grandfather’s brother was one of the last Canadian lawyers to argue a case in front of them and I think that was after WW2.

    cheers

  • STM

    Richard,

    We have a Republican debate going on here. The premise is that it won’t be any different. The PM will still be the head of government and the president the head of state – simply taking the place of the Queen’s representative. So you can be a republican and still prefer the style of government you have up there.

    BTW, the Queen isn’t the Queen of England here. Although we do have our own G-G, the Queen’s officially known as the Queen of Australia, so she’s not a foreigner at all.

    She’s fair dinkum.

  • STM

    “I really think that when Britain declared war in 1914 we were included in that decleration”.

    I think how it went down here in 1914 was along the lines of “Britain is at War with Germany, therefore we are at War with Germany”. It’s still a declaration.

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Well yeah,

    She’s the Queen of Canada too when it comes to that. I can’t see us in Canada ever having giving up the Queen – hell even the separatists dig her – even if it’s only because she’s a symbol of thier so “repression” …he he.

    You know what I think is really cool… this has to be the most activity ever generated by an article on Canadian politics…

    Thanks.

  • STM

    I love it all too … and I’d have to describe myself as a leftie. A conservative leftie though.

    I’d hate to see us lose the constitutional monarchy and become a republic.

    The flag is a big issue here too. Sadly, we didn’t have anything as cool as a maple leaf to whack in the middle of a nice new flag.

    I’m happy with the Union Jack and the southern cross and the big commonwealth star of federation. It’s now come to mean something, describes perfectly the torrid origins of the modern nation so I’ll be voting for it to stay.

    Heck, if the Hawaiians can keep the Union Jack in their official state flag when they’re part of the US, why can’t we?

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Actually as much as I believe in any form of government I far prefer the British styled federalist parliamentary system that Canada has over the French styled Republic the Americans use.

    Well, we can see that political science is not your strong point, Richard. That is not meant as an insult. Please don’t take it that way.

    The constitution of the French Fifth Republic attempts to combine the better points of both a parliamentary regime and presidential one, and if it is modeled on anything, it is the government of the German Empire that preceded the Weimar Republic. The French president has powers akin to those of the German emperor, and the prime minister is a creature of both the parliament and the president. The chief difference between the two forms of government is the way the power of the legislative branch is arranged; la assemblé nationale is a powerful body, and the senate is relatively weak, whereas in the German Empire, the upper house representing the kings, grand dukes and princes, was the powerful body and the Reichstag, representing the citizenry, was weak and relatively powerless.

    The philosophical underpinnings of the American federal government are the writings of Montesquieu, a French philosopher who wrote of the ideal government having a king, a parliament, and judicature with equal power. The American president is an elected king, a chief magistrate above the political fray, and it was never meant that his election be democratic at all. The only democratic element of the American regime was to be the house of representatives, elected directly by the people. The senate was originally elected by state legislatures, and the electoral college was originally designed to be an independent body, almost. Time has changed much of this, of course.

    The genius of the American system was to build into this a series of checks and balances that forced the chief magistrate to act like a chief magistrate and not a tin-pot tyrant, and which balanced powers in the regime so that nobody could grab them all. This is the real difference between the system in the United States and that in Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Israel. In all of these countries there is a formal concentration of power (sovereignty) – in Britain, Canada and New Zealand, this formal concentration is in the Crown (the sovereign) or its representatives. In Israel, this formal concentration of power is in the Knesset.

    Bit by bit, this balanced system in America has all collapsed. While the first thing to be obvious was the takeover of the federal government by a bunch of thieves after the American civil war, the way had been led by a seizure of power by the supreme court, an attempt to force a national bank on the country in the early 1800’s, and by way the curse of slavery was not eliminated, culminating in the aforesaid civil war.

    The “democratization” of the American polity was accompanied by the erection of a powerful and rich corporate class that was able to buy up the new more democratic polity, people known as “robber barons”. So, while political life seemed more democratic, life outside of politics became more dominated by a rich autocracy of factory owners who told the average joe what time to get up, what time to go to sleep, what time to go to church, etc. etc. and the worker was paid a pittance and lived in a slum as a reward.

    In Europe, this brutal economic dictatorship was sweetened by the governments enacting legislation protecting workers; it was the conservative Bismarck who initiated ideas like social security, workmen’s compensation, a limit on the number of hours one could work, etc., etc. Other European states followed suit when they could. Their populations were voting with their feet, leaving their home countries to go where there were vast tracts of land in America stolen from the Indians.

    But Americans, at least in the States, never figured out that it would pay to enact compulsory health insurance, (first proposed in 1904 by a New York congressman), workmen’s compensation, unemployment insurance, a national pension plan, and other poverty mitigating measures until revolution was in the air in 1932. They still do not have decent health insurance in the States, and at least one of our writers can testify to the disaster that can work on a not overrich man.

    The robber barons, the Rockefellers and others, were stopped from their rape of America temporarily by the anti-trust laws, and invested overseas. They lost lots of money in the Great War, and decided they did not wish this to happen again. So, they put together a think tank, to be filled with respectable types, to make sure this would not occur again. The respectable types they hired were to infiltrate the government of the States and to see to it that American foreign policy favored them.

    This is the Council of Foreign Relations. And it has done an admirable job of the task assigned it. American foreign policy since has favored the small coterie of oil-men and bankers who are at its core, and woe to he who does not tow the line of the CFR. He will never get higher than congressmaggot, and will be stymied by the CFR’s respectable “experts” wherever he turns – in the media, in business and anywhere else. The CFR’s corporatist agenda has entirely distorted the balanced government the American polity was to be, and now it is a mere tool of the “experts” of super-rich.

    And these experts have proven their expertise, inflicting at least one recession on the States, this one, and nearly bankrupting not only the political process there but the economy as well.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I think part of the problem Americans have in understanding the role of the English monarchy – and George III in particular – stems from the language of the Declaration of Independence, which charges not the British government but King George specifically with responsibility for all the complaints the colonists laid forth.

    That doesn’t mean that the King by his direct action did any of the things the DoI charges, and its authors knew that very well. They were simply observing diplomatic form: it was George III’s job, as Britain’s head of state and the figurehead of its government, to take any international political flak, and he was quite properly the person to whom the Founders addressed their grievances.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Heck, if the Hawaiians can keep the Union Jack in their official state flag when they’re part of the US, why can’t we?

    Stan, the Hawaiian state flag has the Union Jack in it only because King Kamehameha liked the look of it, not because of any particular colonial connection.

    And you do have a very obvious symbol you could have slapped on your flag: the kangaroo. That said, I do like your flag and its only drawback is that it’s so similar to New Zealand’s. To avoid confusion, I really don’t see what’s wrong with NZ changing theirs to black with a Kiwi on it, so that it matches the colours of their rugby team.

    Of course it would mean that from a distance at sea, a NZ-registered ship could easily be mistaken for pirates, but that would just add to the fun!

  • STM

    I know the story of the Hawaiian flag Doc. Very interesting stuff.

  • STM

    But it is an excellent flag

    Of course, the King had style. I mean, he was smart enough to watch all the comings and goings, ships with the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, and obviously had a choice in regards to a flag as both Britain and the US were looking for influence there … and he chose the Union Jack.

    Which is just as well, because the Stars and Stripes would look really silly stuck up in the corner of another flag.

    I think it’s hilarious that two centuries after the revolution, one of the states – the best state, in my view (especially when the swell’s up over winter on the North Shore of Oahu) – has a Union Jack in the corner of its flag.

    Definitely the nicest-looking of all the state flags too, and tells a great little story about the king.

  • STM

    And Doc, we don’t want a bloody kangaroo or a boomerang on our flag, and the silver fern is more the emblem of NZ than the Kiwi. The Kiwi is just – damn them to hell – the emblem of the New Zealand Rugby League emblem. All Black, however, and most other NZ sports teams use the silver fern on a black background.

    We’ll stick with the Union Jack I think, both of us. If we do drop it from ours, I’m moving to NZ, Hawaii or Fiji.

  • STM

    I can’t and won’t live in a place that doesn’t have a Union Jack as its flag or as part of its flag.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Then you’ll have lots of choices if Australia ever does the unthinkable, Stan – most of them gratifyingly hot and paradisical.

    Besides the three places you mention, you could also go for Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Montserrat, Niue, Pitcairn, Saint Helena (mais check ze wallpapeur), Tristan da Cunha, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, most of the Canadian provinces, and assorted places which you probably wouldn’t find all that appealing, mainly because they involve either extreme chilliness or large US air bases.

  • STM

    Did you call up that link for the Hawaiian flag Doc :)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Yeah, and numerous others. I don’t understand why Hawaii doesn’t just say, ‘ah, the hell with it’, instruct the mainland to lop one star off their flag, secede and join the British Commonwealth. :-)

  • STM

    Well, they probably should!

    Many native Hawaiians regard the US as an invading, occupying imperialist power with no legitimate right to be there. They don’t like haoles (white folks).

    They seriously want them to bugger off, and there’s also a radical polynesian anti-pakeha movement that wants ALL haoles out of the islands.

    Had they been an independent nation, they’d probably be in a better situation now at least in terms of lifestyle etc, as it’s likely their main source of income would still have been from tourism and their population would be much smaller. The flipside is that it’s probably not bad to be a state of the US a very long way from the US but enjoying all the benefits of federal funding.

    Big problem though … Obama might now be sitting down there at Sunset Beach or Waikiki sipping a cocktail instead of packing up his boxes for the White House.

  • Old Chap

    And mate, if they were part of the Commonwealth, at least they’d have got a railway!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    But my dear ‘Old Chap’, there are railways in Hawaii – the Sugar Cane Train on Maui being the best-known. There are also tourist lines on the Big Island and on Kauai.

    There were once dozens of them: some providing passenger services, but the majority constructed and run by the sugar cane plantations for the purpose of getting their crop to port.

  • Cad and bounder

    Yes, you see exactly what I mean … they would have had a proper railway, one exclusively designed for carting people around in exchange for a very small sum, not one for the transport of sugar cane.

    They don’t burn their cane there, either, BTW. They cut it unburned.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    They weren’t all plantation lines, Stan.

    Hawaii’s best attempt at a serious railroad was the one on Oahu that existed until just after WW2. For most of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was the best way of getting around the island since the roads were mostly terrible and tended to disappear entirely in the wet season.

    After the attack on Pearl Harbor, it played a major role in carting materials in for the rebuilding and supplying of the base – so much so that by the end of the war the railroad and its locos, rolling stock and infrastructure were pretty much worn out from the effort.

    The final nail in the coffin was that meanwhile, the US guvmint had built a nice sturdy network of roads all around the islands, so all of a sudden there was a better, faster way to travel than by train. The owners decided that it wasn’t worth the time, money and effort to modernise the railroad, so they shut up shop.

  • Cad and bounder

    Did you have a ride on the train while you were there Doc? There are some beaut little old railways in England and Wales, and a few down this way too.

    The roads are pretty good in Hawaii (one of my mates drives up to the North Shore all the time from Honolulu), but you can’t beat the train for a leisurely way of getting around.

    Up your way, I hold Los Angeles up as an example of failure on that score. The burghers went for a huge network of roads, and now look at the place. If you don’t have a car in LA, you don’t really get around. And if you don’t have decent car, no one talks to you.

    No one walks, except for exercise. They don’t walk to get places. A bloke nearly had a heart attack when I suggested we walk to the shops – about 15 minutes’ away at most.

    SF is pretty good though.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I haven’t ridden the Sugar Cane Train, but I did have a go on the Kurunda Railway up by Cairns when I was down that way a few years ago. Unfortunately we ended up with a seat on the wrong side of the train, so we were staring at rocks for most of the journey.

    LA does have a metro now, but it doesn’t really go anywhere useful. And there is a limited network of commuter trains. But still. You’re right about the walking. My wife’s grandma lives down in Lakewood, next to Long Beach, and even walking to the mall five minutes down the road is unheard of. My wife and I decided to do so and were supposedly going to get run over, murdered, raped, hung, pickpocketed, drawn, mugged, quartered and set fire to, probably in that order. Needless to say, the walk was perfectly harmless.

    San Fran does have an excellent and very thorough public transport network, yeah. Just as well, as you’ll know if you’ve ever tried to drive in the city!

    BTW, Richard must be tearing his hair out (by his own account he’s got plenty to spare). He tries to get us interested in Canadian politics and we end up talking about railways in Hawaii.

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    Actually if you’ve ever experienced a winter in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, you’d appreciate a conversation about Hawaii – and those types of non-sequitors are what life worth while anyway.

    Oh – and as for the long haired thing – not so long anymore, at least by my standards – check the picture in the profile – that’s about it now. It’s more an attitude than a reality.

  • STM

    Yeah, it’s all connected anyway. Remember, we were talking about how if you were part of the British empire, you always got a decent railway (which a Filipino told me was one of the problems of being colonised by the Americans, all they got was an education system they would have got with the British anyway, and corrupt politics where everyone is getting their palms greased) – which kind of follows on from Union Jacks, parliamentary democracy, the Commonwealth (we love it, and all our mates in it!), the Queen, Governors-General, our American cousins who can’t work out that NO foreign head of state is interfering in our politics, etc.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Remember, we were talking about how if you were part of the British empire, you always got a decent railway

    Yeah… Unfortunately (to be sombre for a moment), if you were part of the Japanese empire, you also got a decent railway…

    Have you seen the memorial in Melbourne to the Aussie servicemen who worked on the Burma Railroad, Stan? One of the most moving monuments in all the world – and all it is is a few wooden sleepers set in concrete.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Yeah, Richard, I’ve seen your new profile pic: I was thinking more of the ‘long-haired Canadian iconoclast’ bit!

    You do scrub up pretty nice, but I think I preferred the old photo where you looked like Cap’n Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

  • STM

    Lol. Yeah, I preferred the old pic too. It almost scared me, the old one, whereas this one makes Richard look more like a uni lecturer with attitude.

    I haven’t seen the Melbourne memorial for the railroad, as I don’t get down there that much.

    Americans would be interested that an official war memorial – The Shrine of Remembrance also in Melbourne – commemorates the Australian and American sailors of both the cruisers HMAS Perth and USS Houston, which engaged a superior Japanese force in the Sunda Strait during WWII.

    They never had a chance but decided to have a go anyway, as they had been ordered to try to stop the Japanese fleet at all costs.

    Perth went down first, still firing whatever guns were left, followed by Houston doing the same thing half an hour later.

    Many were killed but the survivors of the two ships formed a bond in captivity in the face of terrible privations. The Japanese weren’t always kind in those situations, as we know.

    Anyway, the memorial honours the American dead as well as our own, but together. I like the idea that no one forgets this stuff – but without turning it into jingoistic nonsense.

    I must say I was very moved when I visited the US war cemetery in Manila in October too. Very sobering, all those young – and not so young – lives lost. I know of our own but I haven’t always been aware of the extent of the American sacrifice during WWII, so it was an eye-opener.

    It’d be nice if we could learn from it though, and have every bastard not trying to shoot up every other bastard.

    Perhaps peace will break out for five minutes, somewhere on this planet, during our lifetimes.

    I have a personal reason for this too: my son is making noises about joining the Commandos. Why them, I ask? It’s a worry. They’ve already been deployed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan, so hopefully, like most other things he’s decided to do, it’ll be forgotten within a few months when some other idea pops into his head, and he decides that he prefers to have beard and long hair – like his dad (and Richard M, above).