Canadian election preview

I like to follow the political process in other nations. One of the ones I watch most is our northern neighbor, Canada. With the last speaker of the State House now serving as the U.S. ambassador to Canada, we here in S.C. have a bit more of a connection than usual with the Great White North.

Canada, like Great Britain, uses a parliamentary system of government with some similarities to the American system, minus the office of President. Representation is composed of a body whose members are elected in single-member districts, where the first-place finisher is seated. The party with the most (not necessarily a majority) of seats is appointed to form a government.

FYI - their districts are referred to as "ridings".

In Canada, elections were called for January, after the Liberal Party, which governed with a minority of ridings and passing legislation through a now-defunct alliance with the New Democrats, was deadlocked by a temporary alliance of the three other major parties - Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, and New Democrats - against them.

An interesting development is how the Conservative Party has steadily grown its support, and is now showing a modest lead in polling.

A large number of ridings remain in play, according to this poll. While one party could make a last-minute strategic push and snatch up a lot of ridings, the ridings are likely to be divided between the three non-Quebec parties (the Quebec party's support is almost exclusively contained within their province, where they are likely to win most, if not all their provincial ridings) in accordance with their share of support in the last few days.

The Conservative Party was formed from the reunification of the Alliance and Progressive Conservative Parties, whose fracture in the early 90s resulted in a Liberal landslide over the then-governing Progressive Conservative government, led by Kim Campbell, Canada's first female Prime Minister. In 2004, it made great headway and may have been poised to return to power, but stumbled in the closing days of the campaign. Now a strong effort is being made to avoid dropping the ball by the Conservatives.

In previous elections, the Conservatives were predominant in the western and central provinces, but almost non-existent in the major provinces - Ontario and Quebec - as well as in the Atlantic provinces. This time, polling suggests they are poised to run competitively in most of Canada, outside of Quebec, and pick up a number of ridings from the areas which have been considered Liberal Party strongholds.

Monday and Tuesday, the party leaders will participate in two debates which are considered key to the outcome of the election. As with Bush in debating Kerry, a failure by the incumbent Prime Minister, Paul Martin, to KO Harper will likely allow the race will continue, likely reaching a photo finish, or coming down to a race won by the party best able to turn out their political base, like in 2002 and 2004 in the U.S.,

While either party faces the prospect of governing with another fragile minority government, it's a challenge that will face whoever wins, promising political fireworks for the next two weeks, and for months and years to come.

Stay tuned.

1 Response to "Canadian election preview"

  1. Queer as Folks 20/1/06 22:13
    read your blog...good stuff.

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