On Dual Citizenship and Senators in Canada and Australia

Senate of Canada

The British North America Act, 1867 and the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1901 set up the two first federal self-governing dominions within the British Empire, and they contain numerous similarities, sometimes even identical wording. For instance, section 91 of the BNA Act says, complete with the chronic capitalisation of nouns in the mid-19th century style, that the Parliament of Canada shall “make Laws for the Peace, Order and good Government of Canada.” The Australian constitution uses precisely the same wording (but without the German method of capitalising all nouns) in its equivalent section 51 outlining the heads of legislative power for the federal order of government: the Parliament of Australia shall hold “the power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.” Somehow this standard Colonial Office phrasing “peace, order, and good government”, which made its way into most commissions and letters of instructions to governors and governors general across the Empire for centuries, has become Canada’s national creed and a rebuttal of Jefferson’s “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. In contrast, our Australian cousins do not seem to give this veritable cliché a second thought and certainly do not elevate it to a national motto.

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Posted in Commonwealth Realms, Comparative | 8 Comments

Elizabeth May & the Spectre of Proportional Representation, Part II

Elizabeth May’s Electoral System Would Require a Multilateral Constitutional Amendment

The day after the election, May appeared on CBC’s Power & Politics and both bragged that the Greens had tripled their parliamentary party (in the most basic sense, from 1 to 3) and complained that the Bloc Québécois won more seats despite winning a similar share of the popular vote as compared to the Greens.

The big winner in all this, I suppose, was the Bloc Québécois, but they only got a fraction of, or hardly  that many more votes than, the Greens, but they got 32 seats while we have three. So, again, it underscores the perversity of our first-past-the-post electoral system.

First, May provides a mendacious metric. Since the Bloc Québécois only runs in Quebec, the honest and accurate standard of comparison would consist of the Bloc’s support and the Green Party’s support in Quebec alone, not within Canada as a whole.

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Posted in Electoral Reform, Reform | Leave a comment

Elizabeth May & The Spectre of Proportional Representation, Part I

The results of the general federal election of October 2019 – particularly in Quebec –  have revivified the unthinking cacophonous bleating about proportional representation to which the Special Committee on Electoral Reform gave a platform in the last parliament. And this new minority parliament just might give the proponents of PR their big chance, especially since the decennial retribution must occur in 2022-23 anyway.

On the night of the election, Elizabeth May gave a typically incoherent rant in that familiarly grating “Well, actually” tone of condescending moral certitude which she has inflicted on all who dare to disagree with her politics since 2006.  She apparently believed that she presented an argument against single-member plurality but, in fact, implied an argument for it — all without betraying any notion of irony. Perhaps she was just “tired” again, as she sometimes claims after making such utterances. I waited for the epiphany to dawn on her, but she managed to stumble through her oblivious stupor to the very end.

It is worth quoting in full.

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Some Additional Thoughts on the 2019 Election: When Should a Party Leader Resign?

The last few days have featured a plethora of news articles calling Andrew Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada into question. Ipsos-Reid claims that 63% of Canadians want him to resign[1] (though given that only 34.4% of Canadians voted Conservative this week, that inflated figure seems rather self-serving). The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star ominously reports that the “knives are out for Scheer after a disappointing election night.[2] Most damningly of all, the Star quoted a “high-ranking Conservative involved in the campaign in Ontario” who likened Scheer to failed Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark: “This was a bad campaign. Scheer is the 21st-century Joe Clark.” The Star helpfully explained its younger readers that Joe Clark “refer[s] to the former Tory leader who was briefly prime minister 40 years ago.” If you will permit me resort to cliché, sometimes less is more; I doff my cap to this brilliantly understated dismissal. (In contrast, I could only manage a woefully bloated critique of Clark in 2017).

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Posted in History of British North America, Political Parties | 2 Comments

Justin Trudeau Remains Prime Minister But Also Subject to the Caretaker Convention

Results of the Election        

On 21 October, voters elected members to a minority parliament, the fourth in the last fifteen years. In this House of Commons, engorged to 338 members since 2015, a party needs at least 170 to form a majority, though 171 serves as a more practical barrier considering that the House of Commons usually elects a speaker from the governing party; majority governments prefer not to have to call on the Speaker to cast tie-breaking votes in favour of the government as a matter of course. The official standings gave the Liberals a strong plurality but left them 14 MPs short of a practical working majority. The Liberals would therefore need the support of either the Bloc or New Democrats, along perhaps with that of the Greens when the occasion permits.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Constitution (Conventional), Crown (Powers and Office), Formation of Governments | 1 Comment