I’ve noticed an influx of Americans on Being Libertarian – Canada. Our neighbours to the south seem curious about our politics and being ever willing to supply a demand, here’s Canada 101.
The most common misperception about Canadian politics is that we like Justin Trudeau. The biggest electoral loser in U.S. politics during my grandfather’s lifetime was Walter Mondale – who received a greater percentage of votes than Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party even as Reagan decimated Mondale’s political hopes.
The most obvious reason why this is the case is due to the fact that Canada has more viable options than the U.S.A. for voting. We have Trudeau’s Liberal Party, a center-left party similar to Hillary Clinton Democrats. We have the Conservative Party, similar to George Bush Republicans. There’s the NDP – our socialist party that’s more reminiscent of Bernie Sanders. The Green party, whose main focus is environmental concerns. We have the regional Bloc Quebecois, that represents my home province, Quebec’s concerns in Parliament. Lastly, as of last August, we have a populist party – the People’s Party, headed by Maxime Bernier who holds views similar to Ron Paul (feel the Bern is a good thing in Canada).
Where the confusion comes in is that Canadians don’t vote directly for a party leader in general elections. We vote for a local representative, who then goes to parliament and the party with the most representatives typically forms the government.
The corollary of this is likely the most shocking thing for Americans about Canadian politics: even with support as low as 35% of voters, our prime minister would hold the equivalent of a president who has ⅔ support of the house and senate. More surprisingly, we don’t vote for our Senate, our Prime Minister appoints senators. In a situation of a government formed with a majority of representatives, our prime minister holds a level of power that even the most popular presidents would be envious of.
As a consequence, whereas half of Americans dislike their government, the majority of Canadians dislike our government even in the most successful cases.
When called out on his atrocious deficits, Trudeau will make claims that Canadians voted for his deficit plan. In fact, 61% of Canadians who voted in the last election voted for a party proposing a balanced budget. This is a major flaw in Canadian democracy. Fixing this problem was Trudeau’s central campaign pledge with his promise to reform the Canadian election process, and it was one of the first campaign promises he broke.
Another major consideration of Canadian politics is regional conflicts. They prop up most commonly between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Quebec tends to be further to the left than Canada on most fiscal issues, as a result, our economy underperforms.
Why this is problematic is because all provinces have highs and lows and so Canada has a federal transfer program. If a province is suffering from an economic low, say our oil-rich province of Alberta suffers due to a decline in the price of oil, other provinces assist their provincial government to pay their bills. When the price of oil rises, Alberta pays more into the program – it offers stability. Due to Quebec’s consistent economic underperformance, we are always recipients and never payers for this program.
To make matters worse, Quebec tends to be an environmentally-friendly province, which is great in and of itself, but when a pipeline was set to be built from Alberta, through Quebec, to our east coast, Quebec vetoed it. The failing Atlantic economy had hopes for improvement but Quebec said no. Alberta was hopeful for a big payout to a country from which it has paid so much into, and alas, it has received nothing.
The plight of our indigenous people should serve as wisdom and warning to the rest of the world. These are the group of people Americans call Native Americans in their country. Their living conditions in Canada are in some places akin to the third world. Sadly, Canada has taken a socialist approach to assist our indigenous and as a result, their communities have been destroyed. The same egregious wealth gaps that exist in communist countries between the government and the people exist today between many chiefs and their people.
The final subject I’ll touch upon because it’s one of the more common questions I get from curious Americans is what relationship we have to the Queen?. In the 1970s she came to Canada to discuss a potential separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada, and she was an impressive leader during her time here. Since then, she hasn’t been involved in Canadian politics. Her formal representative, the governor general, has handled her official duties, but the governor general is chosen by an elected prime minister, and so Canada is effectively a monarchy in name only. Theoretically, she could remove a prime minister from office, but this would have an unpredictable backlash.
Culturally, Canadians are very similar to Americans. Our media is largely American media. Politically, we’re very similar to the British and Quebec is very similar to France. It’s a multicultural hodgepodge, with lessons of success and failure that can inform, persuade, and dissuade the politics of other countries.
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