The Borders between Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador

Since at least the premiership of Rene Levesque, the provincial state of Quebec has refused to accept the facts of Quebec’s border with Labrador. Even under the Liberal governments of Jean Charest and Philippe Couillard, the website of the Government of Quebec and its official map of the Province of Quebec insist that “This border is not definitive.” Of course, this is a bit of a tautology; in legal-constitutional reality, this inter-provincial border most certainly is definitive; only Quebec contests it, without a good argument, so only in that flimsy sense is the border “contested” or somehow “not definitive.” But no other provinces within Canada, nor the federal order of government itself, would recognize this territory as in dispute; all acknowledge that it by rights belongs to Newfoundland and Labrador.

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Posted in History of British North America | 3 Comments

Germany Is The New Belgium: Of Continental Parliamentarism and Caretaker Government

Black, Red, and Yellow Are the New Black, Yellow, and Red.


Germany has become the new Belgium now that the Merkel III Ministry, a Grand Coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats that should only have lasted from 2013 to 2017, has become a Belgian-style long-term caretaker government. Caretaker Chancellor Merkel affirmed her commitment in an address on New Year’s Eve to “quickly building a stable government for Germany in the new year” — but this is, of course, not entirely within her control.

Worse still, instead of hastening the demise of this caretaker ministry, Germany’s  Basic Law, its codified constitution has, in fact, entrenched and enabled this Belgian-style sclerosis. The constitutional conventions which apply to any Westminster Parliament would have rectified Germany`s peculiar problem, outlined below, months ago, but Continental Parliamentarism depends upon codified constitutions and a civil law tradition. In short, Continental parliaments are prone to litigious absurdity, sometimes because codified constitutions can never cover every contingency, or sometimes because — as in this case — the codified constitution enables deadlock.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Codification of Convention, Comparative, Constructive Non-Confidence, Government Formation in Germany, Officialization of Convention | Leave a comment

A New Year’s Resolution for Political Scientists: Stop Saying That Parliamentarism “Fuses” The Executive and Legislature

Introduction: A Lazy and Stupid Metaphor 

Political scientists like taking shortcuts and writing in shorthand. But sometimes, these cause them to get hopelessly lost rather than shortening their journey toward fact and truth.

For instance, too many political scientists of the 20th and 21st centuries — especially those dealing in comparative politics — try to explain parliamentary systems of government not in and of themselves but, instead, implicitly in opposition to presidential systems of government. [1] Consequently, they have committed a categorical error by claiming that parliamentarism “fuses” the executive and legislature together. They use this metaphor of fusion, presumably taken from physics, in order to explain the confidence convention in particular, and to contrast parliamentary government in general to the strong and strict separation of powers which characterizes presidential-congressional systems of government.

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Posted in Reaffirmation of, Responsible Government | 4 Comments

How Early General Federal Elections Can Be Held in Germany

The Grand Coalition of the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats straddles the center-left and center-right like the Colossus of Rhodes and leaves no credible opposition as an alternative government in its wake.


Germans elected a new parliament on 24 September 2017. The main center-right and center-left parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, both lost ground to the far-right Alternative for Germany and the far-left, aptly named The Left. The Free Democrats, a pro-business liberal party, won back the presence and representation that they lost in 2013, and the Greens also made gains.

From 2005 to 2009 and from 2013 to 2017, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats governed in Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats. From 2009 to 2013, the Christian Democrats entered into a more ideologically compatible coalition with the Free Democrats. In 2017, the Christian Democrats won a plurality of seats and sought to form another coalition, but the Social Democrats refused to continue their previous arrangement and instead sought to become the official opposition. The Christian Democrats entered into negotiations with the Free Democrats and Greens — since all three would need to coalesce in order to form a parliamentary majority.

On 20 November 2017, coalition talks between these three parties broke down after the Free Democrats withdrew. The German media then discussed the possibility that Germans would have to go to polls in an early election in 2018.[1] Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel herself reportedly favours this possibility.[2] Most of these media articles did not comment on precisely how the Basic Law allows for early elections under limited circumstances or delve into discussions of constructive non-confidence and confirmation voting. Essentially, there are two possibilities for how an early election can occur in Germany, and I’ve outlined them below.

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Posted in Comparative, Fixed-Date Elections, Government Formation in Germany | 1 Comment

Premier Gallant and the Early Dissolution That Wasn’t


 On Friday, 20 October 2017, CBC journalist Jacques Poitras reported on a strange, ambiguous press release  from the Liberal Premier of New Brunswick, Brian Gallant, and speculated what it might mean. The original press release said that the Premier would meet with the Lieutenant Governor on Monday.[1] This coy phrasing kicked off speculation that the Premier might intend to advise an early dissolution. However, Poitras correctly surmised that the cryptic wording alluded to an upcoming prorogation, short intersession, and new Speech from the Throne.[2]

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Posted in Dissolution, Fixed-Date Elections | 2 Comments