Conservatives Win In Canada

Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister Stephan Harper has won another minority government in Tuesday’s Federal Election.

Harper’s Conservatives increased their number of seats in Parliament by 18 to 145, however they failed to achieve the hoped for majority. This puts the Conservatives more or less right back where they were before the election began; at the mercy of the opposition parties teaming up to block, delay or defeat various legislation or budgetary items.

The bottom line: Canadians could be back at the polls yet again within the next few years.

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October 14, 2008, marks an event many Americans may be unaware of taking place north of the 49th parallel: Canada's 2008 federal election.

It might be easy to dismiss the election as having no bearing on the United States. But, in fact, the various contenders for control of Canada's parliament have very different stances on two issues that directly affect the United States and should interest Americans: energy and the war in Afghanistan.

In order to understand Canadian politics, Americans must understand the fundamental differences between the two countries regarding both the system of government and where the political battle lines are drawn. Although Canadian politics can be divided between the left and right, like in the U.S., Canada's history over the last fifty years makes the divide more about West versus East -- or more directly, English versus French. While the U.S. celebrates kicking the British out of their country, most of Western Canada, especially the oil-rich Albertans, would celebrate if the British had kicked the French out of Quebec. Western Canadians have long resented the uneven distribution of parliamentary seats and Quebec's special status within Canada. To the West, Quebec seems like the spoiled child among the provinces who always gets her way at the expense of the other siblings. Much of Quebec's special status has been given under the pretense of placating its separatist leanings. However many Canadians now feel the separatism threat is only to get more from the federal coffers. Only in recent years has the West been able to exercise much of a voice in Canada's parliament. It was largely that voice that put the current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in power.

The Liberals who ruled Canada almost continuously since the 1960s aren't really that far to the left of the Conservatives politically. The key difference between them is that the power which once lay in Quebec now lies with the Atlantic Provinces and Ontario. Confused yet? Wait, there's more. Quebec's voice in Canada's capital is currently the Bloc Québécois, a separatist party who would like more than anything to take the francophone province out of the confederation.

Only in Canada would a party dedicated to breaking up the country actually be considered a "national" party.

The favorite contender for various union bodies, socialists, and alternative lifestyle types in Canada's English-speaking urban enclaves is the New Democratic Party or N.D.P. Their current leader, Jack Layton, has gained the nick name "Taliban Jack" among Canada's soldiers for suggesting that negotiations with extremists in Afghanistan is a better idea than actually defeating them.