We're coming up on the 5 year anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority rule here in Canada, and for some reason, it's been deemed worthy of recognition. Historically, minority rule does not last long in a parliamentary system, but somehow, our "buddy Steve" (how former President George W. Bush was known to refer to him) has made it work.
It's taken me a long time to understand the parliamentary system. It is a form of democracy, but with not as many checks and balances as we find in the United States. For example, the Prime Minister, with the Governor General's (that's the fancy title the Monarch's representative gets to tote around) permission, can pull the plug on Parliament whenever he wants to. Harper did so last year, right before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and in late 2009, to avoid a vote of "no confidence" that would have triggered a Federal election. Believe it or not, the Canadian Prime Minister has more power than the US President; it takes a mountain to move Congress, but Parliament can bite the dust with disturbing ease. That's just the way it is.
Canada has many more advantages now than it ever has. For one, the country is in much better shape economically, despite a record deficit and things like universal healthcare and GST. Those are two things that would make the heads of many Americans explode, but here they're just part of life. There are more financial regulations in place that prevented a sub-prime mortgage meltdown, because they weren't offered here to begin with.
Don't get me wrong, Canada has its share of problems, but they pale in comparison to the insurmountable woes south of the border. Sometimes I think the Canadian media needs to conjure up some good old fashioned drama in order to compete on the world stage; life here can be somewhat boring, but at this stage, I'll take boring over drama any day. There is no way Canadian politicos could ever ratchet up the drama to the same level as our southern neighbours. They can scream all they want on the floor of the House of Commons, but it can never match the vitriol and rancor of a divided congress. Yes, a minority parliamentary government has its limitations, but Stephen Harper has proven that you can get things done, despite not having a party majority.
I've never been a huge fan of Stephen Harper, and I wouldn't be so bold as to say he's growing on me, but having endured 8 years of George W. Bush, Canadians should consider themselves lucky that he's nowhere near as volatile, not to mention as dumb, as the 43rd American president. He does have a tendency to be somewhat stiff and milquetoasty, and he'll never win any personality contests. He is an economist by trade, and if anything, he's got the smarts to be where he is. He might not be the guy you would want to shoot the breeze with over a beer, but he probably has a better understanding of finance than most people. The right person for the job might not be the most personable, but especially in a position of power - knowledge counts.
As I bring this somewhat verbose political rambling to a close, I just got an e-mail alert from The Washington Post telling me that the House of Representatives voted to repeal President Obama's healthcare bill. That won't go over well in the Senate, and if ever there was an example of partisan nonsense, especially with one of their own lying in a hospital bed, miraculously recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, I don't know what is. As bad as a minority government can be, it's nothing compared to a divided congress.
As Canada contemplates 5 years of minority Conservative government, I hope they're taking a good, long look at what's going on in the US right now. Surprising as it is for a minority government to have lasted this long, they should be grateful they're not emulating Americans. One civil war was more than enough.