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Canada is a federal parliamentary democracy within a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the Sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth II), and the head of government is the Prime Minister (currently Justin Trudeau). Any citizen at least 18 years old may vote in any election affecting the place where he or she lives, with two exceptions: the Chief and Deputy Chief Electoral Officers.

A side effect of this system is a close similarity to the political systems of Britain, Ireland, Australia, and India.

Federal Politics

What most people think of as "Canadian federal government" consists of the House of Commons, the Senate, the Governor General, the Supreme Court and other lesser courts, and the usual assortment of bureaucrats, soldiers, and the like.

  • The House of Commons has 338 members, all elected to represent districts known as "ridings"[1] for a variable term constitutionally not to exceed five years - in practice, it's legislated at four for a majority government and usually two for a minority. There is no limit on how often a Member of Parliament may be re-elected. The size of this body varies, and in practice increases size every 10 years after each census. The majority of the Cabinet is drawn from the Members of Parliament, usually from the members of the party with the most seats. Members of Parliament who are not members of the party in power are known as the Loyal Opposition - they're loyal to the State but not to the Government.
  • The Senate has 105 members, all appointed (though in one case the appointed Senator was chosen in a special election by the province he represents) and serving until age 75. For decades, it essentially did nothing. (Well, okay, it's more complicated than that, but the Senate, being appointed rather than elected in most cases, has rubber-stamped legislation from the House of Commons for decades. They are not allowed to introduce financial legislation.) Technically, the Senate is the place for "sober second thought", where the mobbish tendencies of democracy can be curbed and where legislation can be considered away from public pressure. The Senate can suggest changes to the bills, or delay a bill until it expires on the table, but it has almost never defeated one outright. The Senate — following a bit from the American Political System — also allows for some regional representation, where the number of senators from each province is much more equalized. Due to the fact that the senator's seat is usually employed as a way to reward cronies or as a way to get troublesome allies out of the way, and due to a scandal where some senators seem to have spent most of their terms in Mexico on vacation, there as been a call for elections for senators, although the notion was discarded after the Conservative government of the 2000s realized it could stack the deck with its own cronies. Because of a decision taken while he was in the Opposition, Justin Trudeau's government officially includes no Senators; this didn't seem to change anything until 2017, when the Senate started actually giving legislation that "sober second thought" when the independent senators - now a slim majority - realized they were no longer answerable to any party whip.
  • The Governor General, currently Julie Payette,[2] is the Head of State — representative of the Sovereign, appointed in theory by the Sovereign and in practice by the Prime Minister, and with a mammoth assortment of powers including the ability to dissolve Parliament, appoint Senators, Supreme Court Justices, all high-ranking bureaucrats, and the Prime Minister and Cabinet (though they must keep the approval of the House of Commons). She is also Commander-in-Chief of the military. However, these powers are bound by a large amount of unwritten convention, and are almost never used except on instruction from the Prime Minister — the last time they were, in 1926, the resulting "King-Byng Affair" resulted in a massive public outcry that ended in the re-election of the Prime Minister who had been rejected by the Governor General. (The Governor General is supposed to be chosen by the sovereign from a list of candidates chosen by the Prime Minister. For quite some time now, the Prime Minister's list of Governor General appointees has been exactly one name long.)
    • An event in which the GG can become useful is when the Prime Minister starts to show signs of getting dictatorial; at which point, the Governor General (as the Commander-in-Chief) can order the army to forcibly depose the PM.
      • This is taken directly from the Westminster System used by the British Parliament and Monarchy, that serves as the basis for all Commonwealth Countries. Basically, they're meant to keep each other in line.
  • The Supreme Court consists of nine justices, appointed for unfixed terms, though required to retire at age 75. Three are from Quebec, six are from the rest of Canada, because Quebec law is structured differently than the English-derived systems. By convention, three of the other six are from Ontario, two from the West, and one from the Atlantic provinces.

The Prime Minister is the Head of Government, similar to a Senate Majority Leader or Speaker of the House in American Politics (because of the Westminster-style parliament, Canada's executive branch is purely ceremonial, so the usual executive powers is devolved to the Prime Minister). In the parliamentary system, Canadians do not vote for the Prime Minister directly; instead, they vote only for their Member of Parliament in their riding. The party with the most seats in the House of Commons forms a majority government (when they control more than half the seats) or a minority government (when they control less than half, but still more than any other party), and the Prime Minister is then appointed by the party itself [3]. In practice, Canadians know what leader a party will follow during the election cycle, by (unbroken) convention, it is the party leader. In the (remarkably likely) event that the Prime Minister loses his riding, a junior member of the party will typically resign his seat to give to the PM, as the PM must have a seat to serve in Parliament. This happened as early as the 1870s, after John A. Macdonald's government collapsed over the CPR scandal and he lost his own seat in Kingston. From 1878 to 1882, he represented the riding of Victoria in British Columbia, since he couldn't get elected in his home province of Ontario.

Federal responsibilities include external foreign global affairs, defense, justice, agriculture, Indian Native Indigenous First Nations affairs, administration of the territories (to some extent), governing interactions between the provinces, and providing "equalization", essentially welfare payments to poorer provinces. They also oversee a pile of agencies, such as Canada Post, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Canada does not have a term analogous to the American "inside the Beltway", mainly because Canadians tend not to care enough about political minutiae to give a name to the arcane goings-on of Parliament and senior bureaucracy.[4]

Provincial Politics

Canada is divided into ten provinces - from east to west: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island ("PEI"), New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia ("BC") - and three territories - Nunavut, the Northwest Territories ("NWT"), and the Yukon.[5] Each province elects a Legislative Assembly, whose members are normally named Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), though Ontario calls them Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs), Quebec calls them Members of the National Assembly (MNAs), and Newfoundland and Labrador calls them Members of the House of Legislature (MHLs). All provinces and the Yukon territory use a similar election system to the federal House of Commons, though generally the ridings are different. (Ontario has legislated that its provincial ridings have the same boundaries as the federal ridings in the province.) The leader of the party with the most members generally becomes the Premier, though there are occasional exceptions when two smaller parties form a coalition to create a majority (as happened in Ontario in 1985). The Northwest Territories and Nunavut operate using a non-partisan consensus government model, unique to the territories (though similar theoretically to Nebraska's non-executive legislature and most municipalities in Canada); the premier and speaker are then chosen from the elected MLAs, who are all officially independent of political parties. This model is supposedly based on the traditions of the Inuit and other peoples indigenous to the territories. MLAs in the NWT and Nunavut may be affiliated with federal parties privately, however, and should they pursue federal politics, align with a federal party (the two territories are represented by Liberal, NDP and Conservative politicians in parliament and the senate). Each province also has a Lieutenant Governor (or a Commissioner in the three territories), the Sovereign's representative, appointed on recommendation from the Governor General.

Provincial responsibilities include transportation, health, education, and administration of justice. Also, in practice, whining about unfair treatment from the federal government is a major responsibility of Premiers. (The Prime Minister of the day occasionally responds by complaining about all that whining.)

A large range of functions, such as immigration, pension plans, and employment insurance, are under hybrid jurisdiction: essentially, the federal government sets up a framework, and provinces have the choice to either let the feds run the program or run it themselves. Most provinces leave such things to the federal government, with Quebec as a notable exception, running among other things their own pension plan and their own immigration agency complete with international offices in French-speaking countries.

Municipal Politics

Municipal politics are pretty much the same all over: the people of each city elect a mayor and around some number(ranging from a handful in small towns to 44 in Toronto) councilors depending on population. Party politics is legally completely absent in municipal politics in Ontario (including in the country's most populous city, Toronto). In Quebec, even small towns have multiple municipal political parties.

Municipal governments are responsible for things like utilities, zoning, and making sure developments go through the proper channels.

Common Features

Because of the multi-party system, where the party with the most votes may not have a majority, minority governments have occurred several times at both provincial and federal levels. There have been minority federal governments for roughly one-third of Canada's existence.

Canada also has a very short election cycle, which can, in theory, occur at any time. (In practice, Eagleland Osmosis has turned the cycle into something resembling the US model, at least when there are majority governments.) No party can retain control without an election for more than five years. In addition, a vote of no-confidence[6] can force an election, and the Prime Minister can ask the Governor General to dissolve the government at any time (as long as it's been in power for at least six months). Once government is dissolved, the election cycle officially lasts exactly six weeks (although campaign ads usually start running earlier), during which candidates campaign and stump for votes.

  • A different variation of the normal election cycle occurred in 2008, when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois drew up a formal agreement to topple the PM and the ruling Conservatives in a no-confidence vote (Canada was in a minority government — i.e. Liberals, NDP and Bloc together outnumbered the Conservatives), then request that the Governor General install them as a majority coalition government, all without triggering a general election. While such an act is perfectly legit in a parliamentary democracy, the Conservatives launched a media blitz (banking on the correct assumption that many Canadians do not know how their government actually works) characterizing the act as a "coup d'etat" and killing the idea when the Liberals backed down. The fact that the Liberals had just had substantial losses in the preceding election, but would be leading the coalition nonetheless, also made the idea troubling to some Canadians, as did the fact that the coalition would require the support of the Bloc, a separatist party.

Since English and French are both official languages, any federal government service may be received in either language. It practice, it's typically more complicated than that. Suffice to say that French service is easily available only in Quebec, most of New Brunswick, Winnipeg, northern and eastern Ontario (including the capital, Ottawa), and a few other locations, while English service is readily available almost everywhere but small-town Quebec.

Like other Parliaments, the federal and provincial governments are lead by the leader of the party with the most members in the chamber - the Prime Minister and the Premiers, respectively. Unlike other Parliaments, the leader of the party is not chosen by the caucus; instead, each party has a "leadership race" to select its leader. A leadership race is like the Primaries in US politics in that only members of the party are allowed to vote, but that's pretty much the only similarity. (And one can "stuff the ballot box" by signing up new party members after the leadership race has begun! In the late-2010s, almost all of the federal and provincial parties use "one member, one vote" to elect their leaders, but a very few still have riding members send delegates to a convention.) Leadership races can be held at any time, for any reason, although they're usually only held if the current party leader resigns or dies. If the federal party in power holds a leadership race, the winner automatically gets to be the Prime Minister... at least until the next election, and assuming he or she has a seat in Parliament.

Parties

A note for American readers: the Canadian political centre (as used to described parties here) is to the left of the American center. Canadian conservatives might be right-leaning "Blue Dog Democrats" or moderate "Rockefeller Republicans" in the USA, while the Liberals' politics are closer to those of the left wing of the Democrats (e.g. Nancy Pelosi). The NDP are to the left of anything mainstream in the USA — a few prominent names on the American version of the "extreme left", such as Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich, would probably be considered moderate progressives within the NDP.

In federal politics, the three major parties are the moderate/right-wing Conservatives ("Tories" - blue on the maps), the moderate Liberals ("Grits" - red on the maps), and the leftist/social democratic New Democratic Party ("NDP" - orange on the maps). Historically, the Liberals and Conservatives have been the two major parties and the only ones to govern, although both have suffered periods of electoral collapse (the Conservatives from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s; the Liberals from 2011 to 2015). The NDP was from its founding through to the end of the 20th century a perpetual third (or fourth) party, but has been an important force in Canadian politics, propping up minority Liberal governments in 1972-74 and 2006, serving as the Official Opposition (the party with the second-largest number of seats) from 2011 to 2015, and frequently raising policy concerns that were taken forward by Liberal governments. The Green Party (green on the maps), while still small compared to the big three, is increasing in visibility and mainstream support, won its first seat in the 2011 election, kept that seat in the 2015 election, and as of 2019 has had a very few members (count them on one hand!) elected to a very few provincial parliaments. There are many other smaller parties (Marijuana Party, Communist Party, etc.), and a few frivolous yet funny ones (most prominently the Rhinoceros Party) - these parties rarely if ever manage to get anybody elected.

Other parties have also had a major impact in the past. The Reform Party (later the Canadian Alliance), a conservative party with support in the western provinces, did well from 1993-2000 before merging with the Progressive Conservatives to form the current Conservative Party. A similar phenomenon happened in the 1960s-1980s with the Social Credit Party and the NDP, and the 1920s-1930s with the Progressive Party merging with the Conservative Party (of the time). The Bloc Quebecois, a Quebec separatist party with a leftist/social democratic orientation, was the dominant party in Quebec and a significant force in Parliament from 1993-2011, but lost its party status and all but four seats in the 2011 election.

The Liberal Party has had a truly remarkable run in Canadian politics — in the last century, the Liberals have spent more time governing Canada than the Communists have governing Russia, they were in charge for 80 of 110 years between 1896 and 2006, and they won every seat in the Maritimes to cement their 2015 election victory; small wonder that the Liberals are sometimes referred to as "Canada's natural governing party". It doesn't hurt that the Liberals have frequently stolen the most popular ideas from the platforms of the various third parties and then taken credit for them, such as the post-war welfare state originally proposed by the NDP or the drastic spending cuts of the 1990s advocated by the Reform Party. These policies were implemented by Liberal governments, but the third parties played no small part in getting the ball rolling for them.

The 2011 election saw a historic shake-up in Canadian politics. The NDP, largely by gaining major support in Quebec — where they had never before been a contender — gained a third of the seats in Parliament and became the Official Opposition for the first time in their history. This development was also responsible for the demise of the Bloc Quebecois, who fell from dominance in Quebec to only four seats, not enough to qualify them as an official party. The Liberals, for the first time in their history, fell to third-party status. The Conservatives, for the first time since the 1980s, won a majority government. Finally, the Green Party won its first-ever seat in Parliament, with its leader Elizabeth May being elected in a BC riding. The situation was more polarizing than ever before, as the NDP is further to the proverbial "left" than the Liberals on most issues, and the Reform-derived Conservatives are further right than the Progressive Conservative party that preceded them. As if that wasn't enough drama for one year, NDP leader Jack Layton, whose popularity played a significant role in the NDP's newfound success, died of cancer a few months following the election. Nycole Turmel was appointed the interim party leader, and Thomas Mulcair was elected as the new leader in April of 2012. Since the NDP has never previously held Official Opposition status, the leadership race was facing greater scrutiny than ever before, primarily due to the fact that the NDP could plausibly be selecting an individual who may become the country's next Prime Minister.

The NDP's fortunes returned to their usual third-party status and the Liberals (lead by the highly charismatic Justin Trudeau) returned to power in the 2015 election, leading many to think that the NDP's success in the 2011 election was actually Jack Layton's success. The Conservatives are the Official Opposition, with a few "independents" (who are actually members of parties that didn't get enough members elected to meet the threshold for official party status - some Bloc Quebecois members and Green Party leader Elizabeth May) rounding out the House of Commons.

Provincial politics tends to also have the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP as the primary parties, though there are exceptions — the Conservative Party of Saskatchewan imploded in corruption scandals and was replaced by the Saskatchewan Party, the BC Liberal Party is in practice a merger between the Liberals and Conservatives, the second-to-most recent provincial election in Alberta saw the rise of the ultra-conservative Wildrose party, and Quebec politics is just plain weird[7]. The NDP does frequently win in provincial elections, especially in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and BC. Alberta is also an interesting case — having been a province since 1905, they have experienced only three changes of government, one during the Depression, one after popular premier Ernest Manning (father of Reform Party founder Preston Manning) resigned and whose successor had nary a fraction of his political skills, and one after the most recent election when the NDP managed an upset victory. From 1971 to 2015, a string of Conservative leaders won a majority in every election, to the point where Alberta was routinely considered a one-party state, and it's only half a joke.

The result of the above is that although parties can have the same name at federal and provincial levels, often that and their relative positions on the "left/right" spectrum to each other at the same level of government are all they have in common. Canadians, in general, are well aware of this so there's no eyebrows raised when, say, a former NDP premier of Ontario (Bob Rae) can make a serious run at leadership of the federal Liberal Party; the former (and last) head of the federal Progressive Conservatives, Jean Charest, can become the Liberal premier of Québec; or the former NDP premier of British Columbia, Ujjal Dosanjh, can also switch parties to become a federal Liberal cabinet minister.

Municipal politics tends to be officially non-partisan, except in BC and Québec. However, individual councilors and mayors are often known to have particular partisan leanings — for example, Jack Layton, previous leader of the federal NDP, was a member of Toronto City Council before he won the leadership, and Toronto's current (as of 2019) mayor John Tory used to lead the Ontario Progressive Conservative party (from outside the legislature; he lost his election bid in 2007).[8]

Politicians

One significant difference when it comes to individual politicians compared to the United States is that there is no equivalent in Canadian constitutional law to the "natural born citizen" requirement, and in general Parliament (and some of the provincial legislatures) will have a higher number of naturalized immigrants than jurisdictions in the United States. In February 2010, there were more Muslims sitting in the Parliament (all of them foreign-born, including one who was a veteran combat pilot in the Pakistani Air Force) than had ever been in Congress, as well as 15 Sikhs, most of them immigrants as well. The 2016 government saw two Sikh Members of Parliament appointed to the Cabinet, including the Defence Minister. Two of the previous three Governors General (Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean) were also immigrants (from China — well, Hong Kong[9] — and Haiti, respectively).

Of note is the fact that a practicing Muslim, Naheed Nenshi, was elected Mayor of Calgary in October 2010, a first in Canadian cities and only the second in North America (after Mohammed Hameeduddin of Teaneck, New Jersey). This is of particular significance as Calgary is located in southern Alberta, which is generally considered to be one of the most conservative parts of Canada.

One thing that's rare but not unknown in Parliamentary politics is Crossing The Floor: an elected politician changing political parties between elections. The name comes from the physical layout of the House of Commons, where the Speaker sits at one end of a long aisle down the middle of the chamber and the other Members of Parliament sit facing that aisle, with all of one side of the room and part of the other completely populated by members of a majority Government - if you "change horses in mid-stream," you have to physically walk across the floor to take your new seat. Politicians can cross the floor without needing to resign their seats in Parliament; each Member is allowed and entitled to choose at any time whether to support the Government or be part of the Loyal Opposition. However, since each Member enjoyed the benefits of his or her political party helping to pay the costs of the election campaign, it's a serious career move - and, since voters and pundits tend to view crossing the floor as a Face Heel Turn, more often than not a career-ending move when the next election takes place. The most extreme floor crossing in Canada, and probably in any Parliament anywhere, took place in Alberta in 2014 when nearly the entire Loyal Opposition - including their leader - joined the provincial Government en masse. (That particular governing party was defeated in the next election, as were the majority of the floor-crossers.) The Canadian floor crossing with the longest-lasting effect was in 1990, when a half-dozen federal Government Members crossed the floor to form the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Issues

As of when ATT forked from TVTropes - things have changed since then.

Besides the usual sorts of issues that surface in most countries' elections (the economy, taxes, foreign trade, defence, foreign affairs), health care and "national unity" are major issues in Canadian elections. Canada has a national health care system that is considered excellent but underfunded by the populace (and starting to show it in the form of long waiting times for certain procedures); figuring out how to pay for it is always a major point in any party's platform. The half-ton gorilla in recent Canadian politics has been "national unity." A minority of Quebecers want Quebec to leave Canada and become an independent country, while many non-separatist Quebecers believe in Quebec having rights to greater autonomy. There have been two referenda on independence, in 1980 and 1995, the first of which was defeated with 60% of the vote, and the second of which was defeated with 50.6% of the vote. The Parti Québécois keeps threatening to call another one, though they haven't had another term of office since 1995 with which to try. The other federal parties take various positions on how to respond to this, which frequently involve special concessions for Quebec.

The environment has also become a hot topic in recent years. The Liberals and the Green Party have put environmental regulations at the center of their platforms, the NDP also supports reforms, and the Conservatives are more cautious, but still interested in, at minimum, seeming like they care. However, since most of the Conservatives' environment platform seems to be "We'll Just See What The US Does", and the US doesn't seem to be doing much of anything, Canada won't be doing much of anything with regards to the environment for the time being. In the meantime, the provinces are generally content to sit and bitch at each other about who gets what money. This has been described as "exactly like the European Union, just with more land".

Scandals

Again, as of when ATT forked from TVTropes - things have changed substantially since then. Of special note is what happened with regard to particular Senators from 2014 to 2016.

What, you think Canadians are polite and honest all the time? John A. Macdonald was accused of taking bribes back in 1873 in relation to the funding of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Even Wikipedia has a list of Canadian political scandals.

Two of the more recent scandals are the "sponsorship scandal," where large sums of money earmarked for national-unity advertising programs in Quebec were used improperly (read: given away to friends of the then-ruling Liberal Party), and the "Airbus affair," where then-prime minister Brian Mulroney has been accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a German arms dealer as kickbacks on the purchase of Airbus jets for Air Canada, which was government-owned at the time.

Sex scandals are rarer than in the States. Arguably this is not because Canadian politicians are better behaved in this respect, but because before the #MeToo movement of 2017 the Canadian media was less likely to report on it and the Canadian populace was less inclined to care. Two notable exceptions are the Gerda Munsinger case, which embarrassed the federal government of John Diefenbaker and prompted the resignation of a federal Cabinet minister, and the Colin Thatcher case, which centered around a former minister in the Saskatchewan provincial government who was arrested and convicted of the murder of his wife JoAnn after she divorced him for his numerous extramarital affairs.

Two more recent cases of what could be described as sex-scandals have happened in the early 21st century. One involved the VERY public break-up of two prominent Conservative MPs, Belinda Stronach and Peter MacKay, who had been dating, when Stronach defected to the Liberals for a Cabinet post — which she lost the next year after the Liberals lost an election — leading to a stunned-looking MacKay standing on his farm talking about how "at least my dog is loyal", and a narrow aversion of an election in the now evenly-divided House (since the government can't fall on a tie, and Stronach's defection got them up to parity). It also led to a massive variety of ribald jokes at Stronach's expense from prominent Conservatives (like the next one, by former Premier of Alberta Ralph Klein), the most notable of which is that "She didn't have a Conservative bone in her body ... okay, maybe one", many of which naturally proved controversial in their own right. The other involved the Foreign Affairs Minister dating a woman with connections to a chapter of the Hell's Angels and actually leaving important classified documents lying around her apartment (followed by their mysterious disappearance), in a classic Real Life case of Too Dumb To Be Prime Minister.

One can't forget another recent scandal to flag the Conservatives. In February 2010, Conservative cabinet minister (for the status of women!) Helena Guergis was accused of throwing a hissy fit at the Charlottetown airport, located in Canada's smallest province, PEI. The minister allegedly threw shoes across the security screening area and banged on a security door. When media and the Liberals asked for the security tapes, CATSA (the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) could not provide them (many suspect Conservative meddling).

Prime Minister Harper stood by her for a while (in the face of public information), then rumours began to rise that Guergis had been letting her husband, a former cabinet minister, use her office to promote his business. Apparently some photos surfaced of the two in a shady strip club with cocaine and, reportedly, "busty hookers". Guergis was then expelled from cabinet by Harper, not to mention expelled from the Conservative Party caucus, and an RCMP investigation was launched (all thanks to private information). Even after the RCMP cleared Guergis of wrongdoing, she continued to sit as an independent MP, though she lost her seat to the Conservative challenger in the subsequent election. This led to the joke that Harper now always stands behind his cabinet members because it's easier to push them under a bus from that position.

The most recent scandal to rear its head has its roots in the 2011 federal election. It has come to light that someone was sending automated "robocalls" (and, in some cases, targeted live calls) to non-Conservative or ex-Conservative voters in a number of different ridings, falsely directing them to incorrect polling stations or otherwise harassing them into not voting at all. Elections Canada got wind of these incidents via complaints from the public, and since the scandal broke they have accumulated over 31,000 reports of similar calls from across Canada. In the most high-profile case, in the riding of Guelph in Ontario, Elections Canada has traced at least some of the calls to a subsidiary of an automated calling company in Edmonton, which in turn was contacted both by the Guelph Conservative campaign as well as a disposable mobile phone registered under the alias "Pierre Poutine" of "Separatist Street" in Joliette, Quebec. (The "Pierre Poutine" name was likely taken off of an independent food caterer in Guleph, Ontario, while the "Separatist Street" location was possibly a stab at Quebec independence.) In another riding where voter suppression tactics have been alleged (Nipissing--Timiskaming), the Conservatives won by a mere 18 votes — and this was far from the only close riding across the country, potentially making the difference between a majority and minority government.

The opposition NDP and Liberals have (rather predictably) reacted with outrage, while the Conservatives have naturally denied any responsibility, though a low-ranking Conservative staffer from the Guelph campaign has since resigned from his position at the office of a Toronto-area MP. Spin-off allegations have included voter registration fraud as well as illegal campaign financing. Federal opinion polls have registered minimal (if any) impact as a result of the "robocall scandal", but it remains to be seen whether actual charges may be laid and if they will have an effect.

Update note: Charges were laid in one riding, and the person charged was brought to court and convicted. Wikipedia:2011 Canadian federal election voter suppression scandal
Possible next scandal: Rob Ford's behaviour while mayor of Toronto, which made international headlines at the time. Wikipedia:Timeline of Rob Ford video scandal
Next scandal: Some members of the Senate were reported to be charging expenses for things they shouldn't have been. One, Mike Duffy, paid back the money - but it later came out that the money came from someone in the Prime Minister's Office. Duffy ended up being charged with taking a bribe, while the PMO staffer walked away scot-free. Public outrage ensued; the popular view was that said staffer was a Karma Houdini. The government fell in the next election. Duffy was acquitted - the judge even said in his decision that many of the supposedly "fraudulent" expense claims were legitimate. Wikipedia:Canadian Senate expenses scandal
"Scandal"-2017: Chrystia Freeland (Foreign Affairs Minister) and her Nazi Grandpa (in the most biting form, presented as "Canada's Femi-Nazi Problem"). Not because of grandpa's existence, but her repeated attempts to whitewash him (a high-ranked volunteer Nazi propagandist who among the other things urged all patriotic Ukrainian nationalists to enlist in the Galizia Division of Waffen SS - which is far more unpalatable than "I Did What I Had to Do" or "weaker evil is lesser" of most collaborators, and links the issue with celebrating Waffen SS in Canada and Baltic countries) into "a victim too", and combination of this background with job that involves meddling with Ukraine... and Latvia (with its Waffen SS commemoration parades). As several journalists noted, her answers deny or deflect even well-documented parts of the issue, which isn't reassuring at all, thus the press split between "La La La, I can't hear you" and "Ouch, that only gets more disturbing". While the facts are not disputed, this quickly blew over; this has the status of being an attempt at a "manufactured scandal" which was quickly forgotten. Chrystia Freeland became Deputy Prime Minister after the next election. It appears Canadians think the Sins of Our Fathers trope should be averted in Canadian Politics.

Important Phrases in Canadian Politics

Distinct Society

A description of Quebec found in the Meech Lake Accord (see below). The phrase was never clearly defined but still became a polarizing term, dividing Canadians between federalists and regional-nationalists (or separatists).

Sleeping with an Elephant

Cquote1.svg
Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.
—Pierre Trudeau, addressing the Washington Press Club in March 1969, discussing Canada-US relations
Cquote2.svg

The analogy shows how vulnerable Canada is to actions taken by or within the USA, and how oblivious the USA is to this state of affairs.

This reality, paired with a New Republic editorial by Michael Kinsley that called the headline "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative" banal and uninteresting, is the basis for the perception of Flavor 2 of Eagle Land in Canada.

Just watch me

Cquote1.svg

Tim Ralfe: At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?
Pierre Trudeau: Well, just watch me.

Cquote2.svg

Another quote from (then-Prime Minister) Pierre Trudeau, said in an impromptu interview during the October Crisis in 1970. Here's the exchange. Three days after the exchange, Trudeau declared martial law.

The phrase has its own page on The Other Wiki. It’s become shorthand for how a freedom-loving, peaceful Canadian government can take drastic and effective measures to combat terrorism - and taking those measures just once in 1970 prevented a resurgence of terrorism in Canada for decades, until after 9/11.

Meech Lake Accord

The first attempt to amend the current Constitution of Canada. It was intended to "bring Quebec into Confederation" - but it was unclear (see "Distinct Society") and ended up being rejected on June 24 (Quebec’s national holiday), 1990. Instead of bringing the country together, the defeat of "Meech Lake" was one of the proximate causes of the creation of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

Nowadays, "Meech Lake" or simply "Meech" are used as shorthand comments saying a proposed Constitutional amendment is a bad idea. Also, the Canadian Constitution has never been amended.

Not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary

A truly Canadian "solution" offered by then-Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King to the divisive matter of conscription during World War II, up for a plebiscite at the time the phrase was uttered. It didn't commit to anything and attempted to keep both sides happy - and failed in the end when conscription was introduced anyway and the population was divided in their reaction.

It also lead to poet FR Scott saying Mackenzie King "[did] nothing by halves / Which [could] be done by quarters."

Peace, Order and Good Government

What Canada values, where the USA would say "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." It's from the British North America Act - the "first draft" of the Canadian Constitution.

Sometimes an American will say that a government should fear its citizenry instead of the citizenry fearing its government - in the same circumstances, a Canadian would say neither the citizenry nor the government should fear each other. This hearkens back to "Peace, Order and Good Government."

Sovereignty-Association

Separation from Canada, but keeping the benefits of being Canadian. The concept was proposed by Quebec separatists to soften the idea of separation. Then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien compared sovereignty-association to divorce with bedroom privileges, and Quebec voters agreed, voting down the concept in a 3:2 ratio.

(This Troper finds an echo in the concept to the concept of "not necessarily conscription, but conscription if necessary," in that they were both intended to be non-committal but failed in the attempt.)

The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation

Pierre Trudeau again, when (as Minister of Justice) he introduced legislation to decriminalize homosexuality - in 1967. The legislation passed. Somewhat more importantly, the legislation marked a watershed between previous paternalistic federal governments and subsequent progressive federal governments, and started the process that lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada in 2005.

Tim Horton’s Voters

Everyday Canadians. (Commercials for Tim Horton’s tend to show everyday Canadians doing everyday things, with "Timmies" coffee being held or somewhere nearby.)

Contrast "Starbuck’s Voters", the supposed elite.

Vive le Quebec Libre!

Uttered by then-French President Charles De Gaulle in Montreal at the start of a Canadian tour in 1967 (Canada’s Centennial year). The remainder of that tour was very quickly cancelled, but the damage was done - relations between Canada and France soured, and the concept of Quebec separatism took hold in the Quebec psyche.

Five decades later, the phrase is still a Berserk Button for some people.

Vimy Ridge

A battle in World War I, Vimy Ridge was the first time Canadian forces fought as a distinctive group rather than fighting as part of a British contingent - and the Canadians took the objective (at the price of 3500 lives) after the British and the French each failed.

The battle has become a symbol of Canadian national identity outside of Québec, and the battlefield is one of only two Canadian Historic Sites not located within Canada.

Walk in the snow

Pierre Trudeau again. On February 29, 1984, he said that he decided to retire from politics during a contemplative "walk in the snow" - during a fierce snowstorm the previous night. Since then, unpopular Canadian political leaders have often been encouraged to "take a walk in the snow."

You had an option, sir

Canada's version of "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine, and you’re no Jack Kennedy," except that the phrase had a noticeable effect on the election campaign. In 1984, then-Prime Minister John Turner and hopeful Brian Mulroney were debating in a nationally-televised debate. Turner defended his making some patronage appointments at the start of his term of office by saying he had no option but to make the appointments. Mulroney uttered the knockout punch, Turner reacted poorly, and Mulroney went on to a landslide victory to become the new Prime Minister.


Canadian Politics plays with The Wiki Rule at Parli - articles are suggested by readers, but page content is developed in-house.
  1. From the Old Norse term "þriðing", used when they occupied Yorkshire.
  2. Yes, the Julie Payette who was aboard Space Shuttle missions STS-96 and STS-127.
  3. Theoretically, in any situation where there is a minority government, some of the other parties could get together and form a coalition government, but this has not happened since confederation; the one time it seemed like this might happen — in 2008 — it was kiboshed by the ruling Tories' clever exploitation of Eagleland Osmosis and general distrust of the Bloc Quebecois.
  4. "Parliamentary Precinct" refers to the buildings, not the people in them. Occasionally an American news outlet will use the term "inside the Queensway", after Ottawa's only named freeway, but that just shows they Did Not Do the Research - the Queensway is part of the Trans-Canada Highway that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Saying "inside the Queensway" is as content-free as saying "inside Interstate 90".
  5. Territories differ from provinces in that the power of a territory is conferred by the federal government with an Act of Parliament in the name of the Sovereign (like all legislation), while the power of a province is granted directly from the Sovereign by the province's constitution. In other words, it's exactly like the difference between a US state and a US territory, except for the obvious difference that the US, being a republic, doesn't have an individual Sovereign to confer legitimacy, and relies on "The People" to act as a mass Sovereign.
  6. A no-confidence vote occurs when a supply bill - that is, a bill dealing with the spending of money - is defeated, and reflects that the Parliament no longer believes that the Prime Minister is an effective leader. Essentially, it's the legislative equivalent of "We're firing you".
  7. It features the Parti Québécois (PQ), the Quebec Liberal Party (PLQ), and the newly-formed Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). The first is the separatist party, and is slightly left-leaning. The second is federalist, and slightly right-leaning. The third is vaguely described as either centre-right (according to the media) or neither of the right or left (according to their own leadership). The relatively-new CAQ claims to eschew the entire federalism-separatism debate, and has lately been poaching voter support and MNAs from the Liberals, the PQ, and the defunct ADQ. One thing to note: Quebec is somewhat to the left of Canada in general, notably on social issues, and as such, the Quebec Liberal Party is very similar to the Federal Conservative Party; indeed, a past Liberal Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, rose to prominence as a Progressive Conservative minister under Bryan Mulroney — and even became the leader of the party after the 1992 wipeout — before becoming leader of the Quebec Liberals.
  8. That doesn't mean the Conservative Mayor of Toronto and the Conservative Premier of Ontario get along - far from it. Political leanings at the municipal level rarely mean much in Canada.
  9. Clarkson, born Adrienne Poy, was married to the English-born academic Stephen Clarkson 1963-1965 and retained his name after their divorce.
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