Friday, 28 November 2008

Canada's Most Successful Coalition Government

Hi, It's late, but with all the hoopla over the possibility of a coalition government in Canada, I have to post this. Mr. Harper suggests a coalition government in Canada would be a violation of the electorate's will and he's blocking a motion of non-confidence for one week.

Is he right?

Since only a minority of Canadian voters voted for his party in the last election, probably not.

More importantly, has Canada ever had a coalition government?


What was the result?


In 1858, Governor General Sir Edmund Head asked Alexander Galt, MP for Sherbrooke to form a goverment after the MPs asked the Queen to choose a capital, then brought the government down because they didn't like her choice of Ottawa.

Much like today, Canada's parliamentarians simply couldn't keep it together and the country was sick of elections caused by parliamentary gridlock and fights between MPPs. (One time the legislators actually had to stop John A. Macdonald, MP for Kingston and Colonel Rankin, Member for Essex, from shooting each other on the steps of the legislature.)

Galt, wisely told His Excellency that he was not the man for the job as he could not command the loyalty of the majority of members in Canada's colonial legislature. Instead he recommended a coalition under the leadership of Georges Etienne Cartier and John A. Macdonald.

Ultimately these two men did join forces. Ultimately they did form one party. But in the beginning, Cartier and Macdonald shared power. And Galt joined their team on one condition -- that they made the federation of British North America into on nation their platform.

In our system, governments only stay in power when they can command enough support get their bills through the assembly. In our system, parliamentarians are under no obligation to support the government. Even the Prime Minister is elected to represent ONE riding. In that sense The House of Commons is designed to be an assembly of ELECTED EQUALS.

Unfortunately since the mid 20th Century, political parties (who do not answer to Parliament), interest groups, and backroom strategists have usurped the role of MPS and concentrated power in the Prime Minister's office rather than where it should be -- with the elected members of Parliment.

We can pray the current constitutional crisis will be as significant for Canada's future as the one in 1858. And we can insist that our leaders relearn the lessons Macdonald's generation learned long ago. Parliament only works when the party in power is smart enough to understand that the opposition is not obligated to support bills. They must sell their policies to the opposition and respect the role of Members of Parliament.

I will continue to blog on the this topic all week.

No comments: