The Coalition and Canada’s deficit cutting model

When the coalition’s programme was unveiled in May, one item under the Communities and Local Government section caught my eye: We will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a review of local government finance. Given the critical deficit situation facing the UK, the above goal immediately reminded me of the downloading of federal costs to the provinces undertaken by Paul Martin when he was finance minister and fighting Canada’s massive deficit in the 1990s. I may not be wrong about that. I recently learned that in 2009, David Cameron and his top team attended a seminar where former ministers and officials from the Chrétien government explained how […]

Yes Deputy Prime Minister, Part 2

In an earlier post, I looked at the position of Deputy Prime Minister, specifically in Canada and the UK, contrasting the tradtional role of DPM with the very high profile role assigned to Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, in the coalition government. This post simply updates the previous. On 3 June 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a written ministerial statement detailing departmental reorganisation. When the coalition was formed, Clegg was put in charge of political and constitutional reform. The ministerial statement outlines what that means in practice. The Deputy Prime Minister will be responsible for introducing fixed-term Parliaments and legislating for a referendum on changing the voting system; legislating to create fewer and more equal-sized constituencies, […]

Forming governments in Westminster parliamentary systems

“The verdict of public opinion was pretty clear. Losers don’t get to form coalitions. Winners are the ones who form governments. The coalition in Britain — it is important to point out it was formed by the party that won the election.” – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 3 June 2010 The formation of a government following a general election in a Westminster parliamentary system (in particular, one using First-Past-the-Post) follows certain conventions. It is important to understand that voters in countries such as the UK and Canada do not vote to elect a government, much less a prime minister. They each vote in their individual constituencies or ridings to elect a Member of Parliament (MP), who will represent them […]

Overwhelming support for electoral reform – in the UK

A ComRes poll for The Independent released today finds that almost 80% of voters in the United Kingdom support replacing First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) with a “system that reflects more accurately the proportion of votes cast for each party”. Only 18% disagreed. As well, support for changing the electoral system was strong across party lines. Unsurprisingly, support was strongest among Liberal Democrat supporters, 88%, followed by 83% support among Labour voters. Electoral reform has long been a keystone of the Lib Dem platform, and Gordon Brown’s Labour government had started making some noises in favour of electoral reform last year. What is most surprising – and very encouraging – is that 71% of Tory supporters also agreed that FPTP should be replaced. […]

Political Realignment, Pt 2: Are big tent politics obsolete?

In an earlier post, I looked at possible political realignment in the United Kingdom, something a few journalists have speculated about following the formation of the coalition government there. In this post, I will look at political realignment at the federal level in Canada. The two biggest political parties in Canada, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, are big tent parties, the Liberals more so than the current incarnation of the Conservatives, and both more so, I think, than are the two main parties in the UK (Labour and the Conservatives). The big tent approach argues against any sort of single-issue litmus tests or ideological rigidity, and advocates multiple ideologies and views within a party. Advocates of a big […]

Yes Deputy Prime Minister

The position of deputy prime minister in Westminster parliamentary systems varies from one jurisdiction to another. For example, in both Australia and New Zealand, the position has become an official ministerial portfolio, since 1949 in New Zealand and since 1968 in Australia. In Australia, the duties of the Deputy Prime Minister are to act on behalf of the Prime Minister in his or her absence overseas or on leave. The Deputy Prime Minister has always been a member of the Cabinet, and has always held at least one substantive portfolio. It would be possible for a minister to hold only the portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister, but this has never happened. If the Prime Minister were to die, become incapacitated […]