Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Alas, The Arrogance of Fools

"Progressive" pushes outdated concept of Canadian politics

In yet another ill-conceived jab at anyone who dares disagree with her, Enormous Thriving Plants proprietor Audrey II evidently wishes to take issue with the ideas expressed in a not-so-recent video published here at the Nexus.

(Ironically, her true quarrel is with John Ibbitson, but we'll overlook that for the moment.)

Audrey apparently thinks it's amusing to suggest that Canadians vote for their Prime Minister, despite the fact that the realities of Canadian politics -- even if not the theory -- demonstrate it to be the case.

Audrey has a tendency to appeal to the theory of Responsible Government -- the notion that, in Canada, the Governor General, and not the people, decides who the government shall be. After an election, the Governor General invites a Member of Parliament to become Prime Minister, and form a government that can hold Parliament's confidence.

As it appears on paper, this is precisely how Canadian politics is said to function. But unfortunately for Audrey, it isn't the way Canadian politics has functioned in real life.

It's amazing that Audrey would evidently appeal to Canadian political theory as it appears on paper, and so blatantly ignore how it has actually worked in real life. In order to reveal how this is the case, one only requires a perfunctory examination of Canadian history. Moreover, one simply needs to ask themselves this question:

Of all the people who have served as Canadian Prime Minister, how many of them were not the leader of a political party?

The answer, as it turns out, is zero.

Certainly, Audrey could argue that, under the concept of responsible government, as it appears on paper, the Governor General could invite anyone he or she wished to become Prime Minister and lead the government of Canada -- even an Independent MP. Under the theoretical concept of responsible government, as it appears on paper, all that would be necessary is that this individual and their cabinet be able to maintain the confidence of Parliament.

Unfortunately for Audrey, the Parliament of Canada doesn't merely exist on paper. It has to exist and function in a place the rest of us like to call "the real world", and as it turns out, this is a place that Audrey is fundamentally unfamiliar with.

It's the functioning of Parliament and government within "the real world" that separates the realities of Canadian politics from its theoretical foundation, and Audrey's fantasies from that reality.

Seeing as how the long-standing tradition of Canadian politics has been for the Governor General to invite the party that wins a plurality of seats to form the government -- a tradition violated only once, and only briefly, in 1925, after then-Liberal leader William Lyon Mackenzie King and Progressive Party leader Robert Forke formed a coalition government immediately after the general election, and thus before then-Governor General Lord Bing had chosen Canada's Prime Minister -- Audrey has willfully overlooked a basic functional truth of Canada's political system.

Canadians vote for their Prime Minister through the parties they vote for. The marketplace-styled mode of Canadian politics -- especially in the modern era, in which the news media tends to direct voters' attention toward party leaders and a small band of elite personalities within each party -- drives Canadian voters toward choosing parties over local candidates.

In most cases, it requires a major misstep or political scandal for a local candidate to attract any significant national media attention. Except to the politically engaged, local candidates tend to toil in anonymity.

In many cases in Canada, most Canadians could not name any of their local candidates on the day before an election day, although they would be able to identify the party -- and party leader -- they intended to vote in favour of. This shouldn't be mistaken for an affirmative comment on the virtue of this state of affairs -- just a statement of reality.

In other words, most Canadians do not vote with their local candidates in mind. They vote with party brand identity and leadership in mind.

Canadians very much do vote for Prime Minister -- they merely do so indirectly.

Audrey appeals to long-outdated notions of Canadian politics in order to avoid admitting that:

1. As Canadians have nurtured a long tradition of plurality-winning parties forming the government, and

2. As Canadians tend to cast their votes with party brand identity and leadership in mind, and

3. As only party leaders are invited to become Prime Minister and form the government in Canada, therefore:

Canadians vote for their Prime Minister, even if indirectly. And thus the selection process for party leadership -- which John Ibbitson offers a brilliant critique of in Open and Shut -- decides who the candidates for Prime Minister will be.

It's a simple three-step self-indulgent failure in pragmatic political cognition that has led Audrey into a land of folly into which virtually any anti-democratic attitude can be justified -- including Stephane Dion's ill-fated Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition.

It's rather amusing that a so-called "progressive" wants to push a self-serving conceptualization of "responsible government" that not only appeals to long-outdated elements of the Canadian system, but also appeals to a manner in which the Canadian political system has not functioned, and likely never could function.

In being a "progressive", Audrey has evidently forgotten about the key functional word of that concept: notably, "progress".

Moreover, it's actually extremely amusing that Audrey would dare bandy about the very notion of "responsible government", considering what her idea of responsible is:

In Audrey's fantasy world, the Governor General could appoint anyone they personally wished as Prime Minister, regardless of how Canadians voted, or the expectations of Canadian citizens. There is nothing responsible about this, just like there is nothing responsible about mortgaging the Canadian government to a separatist party -- all while concealing the terms of the deal in question from the Canadian public.

In the real world, we have things we call "elections", and Canadians expect Canada's political parties -- not to mention the Governor General -- to respect them. If one needs proof of this, one needs look no further than the public response to Dion's coalition proposal.

A poll taken after Dion's proposal indicated that only 37% of Canadians favoured allowing that coalition to take power immediately. 32% of Canadians preferred holding a federal election, while 24% of Canadians were uncertain.

In other words, whatever Canadians wanted moving forward from the then-potential defeat of the Conservative government, the majority of Canadians did not want the coalition.

When one considers the argument that 63% of Canadians had voted for the Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party combined, it points to what should amount, for Audrey, to be a very startling reality: just short of half of the Canadians who voted for those three parties wouldn't support a coalition hastily implemented after a defeat of the sitting government.

In other words, Canadians recognized that the election had been contested, that the Conservative Party had won, that the Conservative Party formed the government of Canada, and expected that if that government were defeated, they would have the opportunity to vote on who will form the government -- again, even if indirectly -- in a new election.

Naturally, this notion offends Audrey's nostalgia for the pure concept of a political system formulated in the 19th century -- when women and non-property owning men couldn't vote, and Canada was still a Dominion of the British Empire. Britain is now a foreign country, and Canada is a sovereign state.

In the end, it's all terribly conservative of Audrey. Conservative in the most extreme. Conservative in the sense that it is less progressive, and more regressive.

Which is actually ironic from someone who so obviously hates conservatives, hates conservatism, and hates each to the extent that she's willing to ignore the realities of Canadian politics so that she may attack it.

But little details like this, amusingly enough, are lost on people who are so arrogant that they believe their willful ignorance of these realities is actually a virtue.


  1. Great post. We have a system that is not well known and the rules that allow for a coalition government. In our history a coalition of weaker parties overturning a general election six weeks was an over reaction to a cut in political party funding. Most people who supported the coalition were anti-Harper and the reason for the coalition was unimportant.

    A large number of the "angry" left are divided and have four parties to split their vote. If the four parties united a potential threat exists of an alternative gov't. They could benefit from a merger as did the Alliance and PC.

  2. They don't have nearly the same basis for a merger than the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives did.

    Remember that the Bloc Quebecois is a separatist party, so that fundamental disagreement will be too wide to bridge. Remember that the Liberal Party relies on a significant constituency of right-wing Liberals, who would be repulsed by the NDP.

    Unfortunately, Audrey wants to continue ignoring the difference between how our political system functions in theory on paper, and in reality.

    But moreover, I think the fundamental difference is this:

    I think that many of the changes in the Canadian political system -- not necessarily all of them, but most of them -- have improved our demcoracy drastically. Whereas Audrey seems to think that the Canadian political system was perfected upon its creation in the 19th century, when there was no notion of Canadian citizenship (all Canadians were British subjects), and women and non-property owning males couldn't vote.

  3. Patrick - Don't be too hard on the jungle lady. She is going to leave the dark side for our side in the near future. My crystal ball tells me so.

  4. I wonder what Audrey's horoscope has to say about that?

    (Seriously. She criticized Jonah Goldberg for not knowing enough about astrology. What a moron.)

  5. Whew, my dear Patrick, you had me worried for a sec., seeking Balbull(shit) at the EnormousCompostPile as a credible/unbiased source who perhaps at one time had a bit of fairplay/credibility but sadly he's taken one too many bellyflops at Day's Cesspool to be considered anything more than a bitter old leftie best relegated to the shelf to collect dust...ooh, hang on a sec., your #21 comment does that, carry on then.

  6. I find Balbulican can surprise you, but not nearly so often as I'd like.


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