Monday, 22 December 2008

Sorting out Fact from Propaganda

Hi everyone. I hope your Christmas planning is going well and that all this snow shovelling isn't dampening your Christmas spirit. Here's a little political myth busting that the media doesn't seem to want to tackle. I posted this article on the TWG blog about a week ago. The Word Guild is an organizations for Canadian writers are Christians. Since I know many of my readers are of different faith perspectives, I'm also posting it here:

Let me begin with a verse from scripture: Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21

Now let me share a couple of historical facts that I've discovered that run counter to what you hear on the news. First, Michael Ignatieff's, promotion to Leader of the Opposition, without an election, is nothing new in our democratic tradition. Both Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach, in Alberta, became Premiers without an election in their first terms. This has happened several times at the federal level as well.

As loyal members of their parties, the caucus members (MLAs and MPs) of our political parties normally accept their memberships' choice about who should be their leader in the Legislative Assembly or House of Commons.

That is convention. It is not law, although some parties do have by-laws, within their organizations, to require members of the party sitting in the legislature or Parliament (which includes the Crown, Senate, and House of Commons) to follow the party's instruction about who to choose as First Minister or Leader of the Opposition.

But, rarely, a party's caucus (MLAs or MPs who sit as members of that party) chooses a leader without a party vote. That too is acceptable in our system of Parliamentary Democracy.

For example, when Alberta Premier William Aberhart died suddenly in 1943, there was no party convention or consultation. Instead, the Social Credit Members of the Legislature got together at a caucus meeting and made Ernest Manning the Premier. The voters and the Opposition had no say in this decision. This is a perfectly acceptable way of becoming Premier in our system of government.

We are a Constitutional Monarchy. It is the role of the Crown to ensure that there is always a stable government in Canada and the Crown has several options to ensure it. The Crown can also deny unconstitional laws as the LG of Alberta did when William Aberhart tried to deny Freedom of the Press in the Province of Alberta. His decision was backed up by both the Governor General, the Provincial Courts, and the Supreme Court of Canada. I assure you that Albertans are very glad the LG took his job seriously enough in 1935 not to sign away our Freedom of Speech because the Premier asked him to. (Interestingly, this episode is not usually discussed by the popular media, although Lord Byng's decision to deny Mackenzie King an election is.)

Why? Because first ministers (Premiers, Prime Ministers - these words literally mean first minister- are elected as members of an assembly (legislature, House of Commons) for a particular riding (sometimes called 'constituency'). Canadians, like Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, and other Commonwealth Realms elect members of assemblies (Legislatures, Parliaments). They do not elect First Ministers.

It is convention that the head of the largest party becomes First Minister. The leader of the second largest party usually becomes Leader of the Official (or Loyal) Opposition (Also sometimes called Leader of Her Majesty's Official --or loyal- Opposition.

But coalitions are also acceptable: one coalition was between Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Georges Etienne Cartier. It led to Confederation.

In the 1950s, the parties of British Columbia formed a coalition to deny the Commonwealth Cooperative Federation power. In a rather dramatic story, typical of British Columbia's colourful political scene, the plan led to the election of W.A.C. Bennett's Social Credit Party.

Learning one's history and constitutional framework helps us discern what is being said to us by our 'leaders' and, with prayer, leads us to where we need to go.

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