Politics and Government (And Other Outrages)

Well, now that you're approaching or past voting age, you must be wondering what people do on election day when they go into those school and church gymnasiums decorated with signs and divided into tiny booths. The answer is quite simple. They go to the school to research political theory and constitutional law. Then they go to the church to pray that the idiot presently representing them will lose his seat. Everything else is quite trivial. You may also have noticed that the bars and perhaps the liquor stores are closed that day. This is so that your new MP or Congressman is sober for bloody once when he is giving his acceptance speech.

Politics involves the governing and protection of people; this is done in different ways in different countries. In many backward nations, people are still governed by a king or queen who declares the way it's going to be, and that's the end of it. This system is called a monarchy. In Canada, fortunately, we have progressed beyond such repressive systems. Here we elect representatives to voice our concerns and to assemble in parliament for us. When this is done, the prime minister rises and declares the way it's going to be, and that's the end of it. This system is called democracy.

I feel that I might have gone too fast here. Perhaps it would be less confusing if I defined a few terms which are commonly used in politics:

Parliament: The building where representatives meet. The word derives from the French word parle, and it means to talk together. The English translated the phrase to mean 'everyone talk at the same time.'

M.P.: Member of parliament. Also a parliamentary expression, i.e.: "It will take M.P. (millions of pesos) to get us out of debt." Or, "If we cut seniors' benefits, there will be M.P. (multitudes of pensioners) protesting on the lawn."

Party: What politicians throw when they are forced to attend gruelling, high-tension, unavoidable special conferences on tax or environmental reform, which are always held in Hawaii or Bermuda in January.

Senate: The 'sober second house of thought' where members look over bills passed by the house. Based on the model of the ancient Roman senate, and populated by people old enough to have sat in the ancient Roman senate.

Deficit: The amount which is annually added to our debt. The debt currently runs at about $742 trillion. Fortunately, due to our clever leaders who have solved this fiscal mess by devaluing our currency, that's only about six American dollars.

There are many others. But let us now turn our attention to defining how the party system works in Canada. First you need a keg of draft, and some dancing girls, and then... Whoops, now we're talking about a different type of party. One not nearly so much fun.

The Party System
In America, the system is slightly simplified; you either vote for the Democrat or Republican party. If you are a Democrat, you believe in truth and justice and the American way, and the opposition is an elitist clique of lying, cheating, intolerant, heartless capitalists. If you are a Republican, you believe in truth and justice and the American way, and the opposition is a street rabble of lying, cheating, tree-hugging, yogurt-eating communists. In Canada we are traditionally a more refined and respectful people. If you call someone a yogurt-eating communist you must do so in French.

The Canadian system also has many more parties, with differing ideologies. How can you tell them apart? Parties are usually identified as being left or right wing in nature. Left-wing parties believe that the government should help manage our society. Right-wing parties believe that the state only interferes and that individuals can best help themselves. Both agree on nothing, except that society is best served by giving MPs large raises.

The Liberal party is a little left-wing; the Conservatives are a little right-wing. The Green party has no wings and the New Democrats are somewhere on the next bird. Wasn't that simple? In Quebec, most of the representatives belong to a party called the Bloc Quebecois. This party is usually called a less nice part of the bird. The Bloc also stands apart because it believes that Quebec should separate from Canada. To achieve this goal that people used to get shot for, it elects members to sit in the parliament. Such a good precedent this sets: "Our party wants to burn down the forests and sell Canadians to space aliens to work in underground mines! Where's our passes to the parliament cafeteria? Oh– we also think society is best served by giving MPs large raises."



Local Politics
Local governments are not so ideological, as it tends to be difficult to take a philosophical position on sidewalk paving. Yet they try. I know of a few cities who, years ago, announced that they were standing against nuclear arms by declaring themselves 'nuclear-free zones.' I still have visions of the surrounding countryside melting down into sludge like a Dali painting while the city stands there idyllic and untouched as the bombs veer to the sides to avoid it. I wonder what would happen if, say, you were walking your dog on the city boundaries as this happened and only your left side was razed? (I guess you'd be 'all right.' Sorry about that.)

Recent Events
Canada has lately been in the habit of electing minority governments, which means that no one party has a majority. This creates uncertainty and worries people. If the government falls again soon, we might have to start using Italian lira. Another problem is corruption. A few years ago the governing Liberal party was accused of stealing money from taxpayers. The Prime Minister, thankfully, came up with a wise solution to stop the controversy: whenever reporters tried to report on corruption in the parliament building, the Prime Minister or his aides stole their pens.

Yet another problem is that lately Canadians are in the habit of blaming everything on George Bush, even if he is no longer in office. None of the parties wants to be seen as similar to George Bush. One party has given up eating grapes because they hear George Bush likes grapes. You can't be too sure in matters like this. As President Bush is seen as right-wing, lately all parties seem to have become more left-wing. Lately the Conservative party has drifted so far to the left that it advocates forcibly resettling Canadians on vegetarian communes. This makes things harder for the other parties, who must then be even more left-wing to stand apart. "Oh, yeah? Well, we're in favor of vegetarian communes with full dental benefits!"

But I digress. At any rate, this is how politics works. Candidates run for office, they promise us world peace and eternal life, we vote them in, and then they sit on royal commissions for the next four years. Some parties are left-wing and others are right-wing. Yet the beauty of our system is that even though they may disagree with each other's views, each MP is dedicated to selflessly serving us and making our country a better place to live in.

Oops! The federal debt just rose to $813 trillion. But good news: the European traders have dumped our currency and now the debt can be paid with only five American dollars. There, now, you see? That last raise parliament voted themselves was worth every penny.