Some thoughts after the Canadian Federal Election

There has been a changing of the guard, not only with the governing party but in terms of the number of newly elected MPs. Almost two hundred of the 338 elected MPs are new in that they did not serve in the last parliament. Many are also new to the House of Commons. A number of the Cabinet Ministers are also first timers including the Ministers of Finance, Defense, Justice and the Environment. They have to learn parliamentary procedure, their portfolios and the committees on which they serve. Expect some hiccups. Already we have learned something unexpected about the Science Minister.

The existence of newcomers means that the atmosphere in the HOC will hopefully be more respectful, at least to start with. Question Period occupies a small proportion of a member’s time while the house is sitting, but it provides a public face for parliament and its members.

Originally I was against gender parity in the cabinet, mainly on the grounds that other groups in society will claim representation, as is already given regionally. Racial groups may claim similar representation. Now I am having second thoughts. Parity may improve the atmosphere in the House. If it does not and if Ministers, male or female, don’t perform then they should be replaced and let the gender balance settle where it may. By the way, is 50% female representation an upper limit?

The issues for which the federal, provincial and municipal governments legislate are set out in various constitutional statutes. However in practice and application this is difficult to manage. The provinces are responsible for healthcare and education but actions taken by the federal government, including funding, affect the delivery of these services. A federal Liberal government will be dealing with a number of provincial Liberal governments including Quebec and Ontario. It won’t always be rosy.

The three main parties have resumed their historical positions as government, opposition and the NDP as third party. The orange wave in Quebec appears to have been a one-time phenomenon.

Amending the federal voting system needs to be done with care. Each system has benefits and costs to groups in society. For example if proportional representation had been in effect in the last election, the Liberals would have won less seats and the other parties more. But with PR more parties will be formed which try to attract voters and governing becomes more difficult. If the Liberals move towards PR they will be losing (in the future) some of their recently elected members, which may not be a popular move within the party.

Canada is a poorly defended country. It covers a large area with a long coastline. Its armed forces, especially the navy are inadequate to provide protection. Consequently the country continues to remain under the defense umbrella of the US as has been the case since WW2. Investment in drones may provide more effective security than investment in fighter aircraft and submarines.

Already a budgetary review is undermining promises made in the election. Now the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris may cause Canada to reassess its commitments to allied forces in the Middle East.


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