The Romulan Republic wrote:I pretty much agree with this.
However, their are better places to establish checks to protect the minority than the election of a national head of state. I'm very much of the view that election results should be based on the popular vote to be considered truly representative and democratic. And the concern that smaller states/provinces will be underrepresented in a popular vote election is, in my opinion, somewhat missing the point. States/provinces are artificial constructs, which are ultimately comprised of individual people, not homogenous blocks. A nation-wide popular vote ensures that all individual voters are equally represented, regardless of where they live. To put the representation of a political construct over the equal representation of the individuals that comprise that construct is a mockery of democracy.
I agree, I'm just pointing out that from a practical standpoint electing a president via popular vote alone would almost certainly be a major
issue... to the point where realistically reforming the head of state may be unfeasible if that's the route being chosen. Remember that removing the Monarch would require all provinces plus the Feds.
The Romulan Republic wrote:On the one hand, their are conceivable circumstances where having those powers in the hands of a non-elected official might prove useful. On the other hand, most of the time, they're either going to not be exercised, or it would be horribly undemocratic if they were. And if they ever were exercised, I expect their'd be a huge uproar over it.
Which is why I've always called it "in case of constitutional crisis, break glass" scenarios. It has
happened on occasion in both Canada and Australia.
The Romulan Republic wrote:Their is a risk of demagoguery under any system. Is a Presidential system more vulnerable to it than any other? I'm not sure. Ultimately, it depends on both the system of checks and balances, or lack thereof, in place, and upon the political culture of the nation in question.
In the Canadian context, for the foreseeable future yes I do believe the risk of demagoguery is greater under a Presidential system, particularly if said president is directly elected and has US-style levels of powers.
The Romulan Republic wrote:Their is some truth to this, provided that the popular sentiment is similar to, and the current monarch has the sense of public duty and responsibility that, the current British monarchy does.
However, while it is true that elected politicians will tend to accumulate debts to those who helped them climb the ladder, by all rights they should be most indebted to the people, or at least to the majority of the people who voted for them, as the vote is the source of their authority. If this is not the case, it is because of defects in the current laws such as overly permissive campaign finance laws. I think that we need to differentiate between inherent flaws in democracy, and those which are simply a product of current law (particularly US law).
If, to take an extreme example, the contemporary United States is treated as representative of democratic republics in general, and Queen Elizabeth the Second is treated as representative of monarchy in general, then yeah, the latter looks like the better deal. But that isn't really a fair representation, as I think you'll agree.
Actually outside of the British Commonwealth there are quite a few examples of countries with constitutional Monarchs that tend to do quite well for themselves (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Japan, etc). Queen Elizabeth the Second may be the most well known but she's certainly not alone.
In terms of countries which are strictly democratic republics I would say that Germany is the most successful, and again their president is largely ceremonial and not directly elected by the public.
AniThyng wrote:I'm curious as to how the Canadian method of choosing the prime minister is better at representing the popular vote than the electoral college? Is it not possible for a Westminster style PM to be PM with a majority in parliament but not by national popular vote just like in the latter system? Leaving aside that it's much easier to force a bad PM to resign.
Electoral reform is an issue in Canada and there have been steady calls to replace FPTP. It's quite frequent for a government to win a majority of seats with just 38% of the vote. This isn't confined to the leading party either - we've had bizarre things like the Separatist Bloc Quebecois coming in 2nd place and forming the "Loyal Opposition" despite only running in Quebec and having ~13.5% of the vote. Results like that are usually do to split voting, and though they are rare they do happen.
That being said, you can't really leave aside that it's much easier to force a bad PM to resign as that's a fundamental part of the system as well. The moment the PM loses the confidence of parliament, out s/he goes. The PM is paradoxically much more powerful yet much more vulnerable than the US president.
The Romulan Republic wrote:That said, while it is entirely possible for a party to take a parliamentary majority without a majority of the vote, I am at least unaware of anyone ever becoming Prime Minister when another party had more votes. The ratios may be skewed, but we don't outright reverse who won.
That actually happened once (the King-Byng affair) and was considered a constitutional crisis. Basically the PM (King) refused to resign after his party came in 2nd place, he eventually lost a vote of confidence and requested an election but the Governor General (Byng) refused and offered the leading party the chance to govern instead (note that the Governor General did not
ask Britain for advice as he wanted to keep them above the fray). That didn't pan out, an election was eventually held and King ended up winning a majority the 2nd time around. While Byng resigned. YMMV on whose actions were justifiable, though IMO King was largely at fault for not resigning when he ought to have.
The Romulan Republic wrote:I actually find the indirect way in which our PM is elected deeply frustrating, however. Because the PM is the leader of whichever party gets the most seats in Parliament, one cannot vote for one party for the legislature and another for PM, the way one could, say, vote Independent for Senate, Republican for Congress, and Democrat for President, or whatever. It also makes it basically impossible to have an Independent bid for PM. It restricts the voters' choices and forces them, potentially, to choose between who suites them locally and who suites them nationally.
On the other hand you don't have the perpetual log-jams that so prevalent in the US, since the PM must
have the support of parliament in order to hold the position. The whole idea in modern Canadian politics is that you are voting for a government
with specific beliefs that you agree with rather than a single person. YMMV, though IMO the ladder is generally superior (provided we have a more effective Senate, see below).
The Romulan Republic wrote:As someone who can legally participate in both systems, their are a number of aspects of the US system I prefer. The US Senate is superior in function and design, in my opinion, and Presidential elections in some respects give the voter more choice.
I agree that the Canadian Senate needs reform, and it should be elected. Ideally it should also follow the US custom by having equal numbers of Senators for each province rather than the current setup. The 2nd part is not likely to happen given that Quebec would almost certainly object, but I think that would be the most fair.
However, my views differ on how the Canadian Senate should operate. I would prefer to see it as an effective
"House of Review" over it being a more or less equal House, as is the case between the US House of Representatives vs the Senate. I go could into some discussion on this, but basically my view is that the main problem is not the powers and duties of the Senate so much as Senators just being party favourites who were appointed either appointed as a gift or consolation prize rather than due to any skills, and 99.9% of the time they just rubber stamp legislation rather than seriously look at it. An elected and politically independent Senate would go a long way to acting as an effective check (as it currently stands we tend to have to rely on the Courts too much, as they were never intended to be the sole check of government legislation).
AniThyng wrote:In fact, thinking about it a bit more, isn't the fact that a PM is accountable to parliament and a part of it a double edged sword? A strong PM will definitely be able to count on his legislature being behind him for the entirety of his term, something few American president's can count on.
The biggest problem isn't so much that as the fact that we use First Past the Post to elect everyone. Under a proportional election system the PM would rarely have a majority and would have to compromise with other parties.
Plus we really need to reform the Senate, which was intended on checking a PM's powers instead of the rubber stamp organization it is right now.
The Romulan Republic wrote:Yep. Short of the Governor General (as representative of the Monarch) exercising those theoretical but seldom used powers, a PM with a majority government can pretty much do... whatever the hell they please, for the most part.
See above. The courts do play an essential role as well, but IMO they've been forced into taking a far stronger stance than they ought to, since for practical purposes they are currently they only
real check on government power in most instances.
AniThyng wrote:And if you get a elected President/Governor general who also supports the direction of the PM...well, so much for that check and balance.
But I suppose at that point one must concede that is the will of 50+1 of the people, give or take a few %.
As it currently stands the Governor general abides by the advice of the PM and only intervenes for potential constitutional crises, which does happen on occasion. The most recent occasion where a Governor General did not 100% agree to a PM's advice was in 2008, where Steven Harper requested a prorogue (temporary disbanding of parliament) in order to prevent a potential NDP/BQ/Liberal coalition from replacing him. While the Governor General agreed she refused the unconditional prorogue which he had requested and permitted a maximum of 30 days. While that was
enough to break the coalition, if it hadn't all the indications were that Harper would be replaced and that the Governor General would not have permitted him a 2nd prorogue or calling an election.
The Romulan wrote:Of course, it is not usual for the Governor General to go against the PM/Parliament. So its normally more of a theoretical check than an actual one.
As to checks on abuse by a majority government... to me, the primary safeguards against that are, or ought to be, constitutional and judicial, as well as the presence of a free press. And of course, ultimately, the people themselves.
Ultimately, any political system depends on the will of the people. No government can survive and function forever if the people are overwhelmingly against it. No political system will be be fully functional if the political culture of the country is not healthy. Monarchies are not immune to revolt, or to corruption. No political system is.
So yes, ultimately, and especially if you profess a belief in the fundamental equality and freedom of all people, you have to put your trust in the populace. The structure of government should be designed to facilitate the right of the people (including the minority) to have an informed voice in government, and to create a structure in which those disagreements and shifts in power can occur peacefully.
While I generally agree with that sentiment, I would not go so far as to jump to the conclusion (which you seem to be implying, though I might be wrong) that because no system is perfect, we should therefore should get rid of the Monarchy and make Canada a Federal Republic. If the populace believes that there are benefits to having a Constitutional Monarchy over a Federal Republic, then I don't really see that being at odds with the "belief in the fundamental equality and freedom of all people" and "putting your trust in the hands of the populace."
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