I Miss My Canadian Politics: Something American Politicians can Learn From

I Miss My Canadian Politics: Something American Politicians can Learn From
Government Stalemate
Government Stalemate

Who said the manufacturing industry is dead?  It’s clearly alive and well in the right-most wing of the Republican Party where they continue to manufacture any number of crises.

(Read: The U.S. Congress on ‘Cruz’ Control)

The Monday night deadline for Congress to agree to continue funding the U.S. government came and went.  This was following a series of redrafts to a Continuing Resolution (CR) which – if clean of any ideological amendments – would likely have passed both houses.

Instead, here we are for the first time in 17 years, with part of the government shut down waiting for Congress’ next move.

And who’s to blame?  Well, Republicans will say the Democrats.  And the Democrats will say the Republicans.  And some Republicans will say other Republicans.  And all will say it’s because the “other side” is being inflexible.

I miss my Canadian politics.

Although I may be frustrated by some majority governments that seem to be able to run rough-shod over the voices of the opposition – *cough* Harper *cough* – if you don’t approve of the government in power, you vote for someone else next time.  But in the interim, national stability is (generally) maintained.

And unlike the current situation in America, minority-type deadlocks in Canada either force the parties to work together to find a compromise, or force an election.  Elections are expensive, so the incentive to compromise is generally greater.  The goal of a minority party should be to prove to the electorate that it is capable of governing – not just whining – so that it can earn a fair shot in the next election.

The U.S. system of democracy was set up to have checks and balances so that no one level of government would have too much power or influence over the country.  Sure it’s a good theory, but that only works in a civilized environment where – upon losing a vote – the losing side accepts the loss and moves on for the good of the nation.  When a minority of a party can hold the nation hostage unless their demands are met, not only does the system break, but the very ideals that formed America break.

Unfortunately with this shutdown, the losing side refused to accept their defeat and now the country will have to pay the price.  This is the politics of beating a dead horse.

And for those who would say it’s the Democrats who are being inflexible, I have three arguments against that stance.  One, the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) was enacted as a law by both houses of Congress in 2010; two, that same president was elected to a second term after the ACA was made into a law; and three, the law was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court.

In short, it’s a done deal that was affirmed by an election and deemed constitutional by the highest court in the land.  It’s time to get over it and prove to the country that you’re capable of governing the people… not just willing to play games with their livelihoods.

Americans affected by this crisis can’t afford to wait a year for the next round of elections to bring an end to this stalemate.

Erin Drushel

3 comments

  1. treebeard says:

    I sadly fear there are things that we Canadians and the Americans can learn from the present insanity, but what is arguable.

    We use a system of responsible government, constitutional but much based on tradition and precedent – thus much open to abuse by a power-mad first minister (not mentioning any names, of course). But since the representatives are answerable to their parties, the parties take the consequences when they act up.

    To the extent that they need party nominations (but those can be “bought”) and party campaign cash (though they may have other patrons) the American representatives may be beholden to the parties, but they are answerable directly to their constituents. Thus the party leadership must tolerate certain levels of indiscipline – and when that is expressed through a factional rump, one gets the current type of craziness.

    And in both cases we have the calculatingly sycophantic media using partisanship to push their own agendas, carefully distorting the issues and distracting attention from the basic questions to their own purposes.

    Of the pair, so far our system has proven usually less vulnerable to demagoguery, but whether this represents our good judgment or just good luck is a scary question. We both need to look and learn.

  2. Erin Drushel says:

    Thank for your thoughtful comments Treebeard, I always enjoy reading them.

    For most of your comments / insight on this topic I wholeheartedly agree. However, I will say that I’m inclined disagree with the idea that American representatives are answerable directly to their constituents. From what I see, they are answerable directly to their donors.

    The millions of dollars that are funneled into the campaigns here are obscene and serve as a block to the true interests of the constituents. He/she who is most visible (a.k.a. has the most expensive TV ad time) tends to win the race.

    Now part of that is on the constituents for not looking beyond what is shown to them in terms of candidacy, but until the political donation system here in the U.S. is fixed, American politicians will remain beholden to the flow of cash rather than to the voter.

    Thank you again for your comments!

    • treebeard says:

      You are perfectly correct concerning the role of money, of course, which is why we keep having sporadic attempts to limit the amounts of money our politicians can spend, or be given, for electoral purposes. I am sure Americans must envy our progress at, at least, chipping away at the edges of this abuse.

      But my point was, simply, that a Canadian officeholder (above the municipal level) has a certain responsibility to provide appropriate government services to his constituents, but he is not obliged (though he may find it politic to do so) to represent the views of any specific constituent or group. Rather he is responsible to the party upon whose platform he has been elected; it is the party that is basically obligated to deliver on those promises. And the member is expected to vote with the party in cases where the greater national good requires an action that is against the best interests of the constituency he represents.

      By contrast, the elected American is supposed, in case of conflict, to represent the views of those who elected him, with only secondary attention to the greater good. Thus the congressman elected by a bunch of ranting rednecks is expected to mirror their mythology, however pathological it may be.

      All of this is very nice in theory but in practice, to find the driving force the rule remains “follow the money” – a recipe for corruption.

      Fortunately Canada is at least showing an awareness of the corruptive mechanism and trying to ameliorate it. Unfortunately America seems more intent on sinking deeper into the pit.

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