Canadian Politics, as it would be explained to an American!




-- Calgary Sun

An American friend bemoans the political scene in the U.S. and asks 
me to explain the Canadian political system to him. 

For some unfathomable reason, he thinks our system is more open and 
more honest. 

Oh, boy, did I disenchant him! 

I tell him the Liberal party --whose main philosophy is pork-barrel 
patronage -- has ruled Canada for 70 out of the last 100 years. 

It's a forgone conclusion that, barring an upset, the Liberals will 
win almost every election. 

They have greased their way to victory. 

Seventy years in power has given them an ingrained patronage machine 
unlike any other country barring some African dictatorships or South 
American banana republics. 

That patronage machine allows them to buy votes, and to buy political 

The prime minister's power is absolute. 

There are no checks and balances. 

He alone appoints members of the Supreme Court of Canada and all 
other courts in the land higher than provincial courts. 

There are no confirmation hearings. 

He appoints thousands of chairmen and members of government 
corporations, and agencies and boards, ranging from transport to 
immigration to harbour commissions. 

There are no confirmation hearings for any of these positions. 

They all go to Liberal party members -- or individuals known to 
favour the government. 

Being a party fund-raiser helps. 

Or running an advertising agency that gives its talents free to the 
Liberal party is also a bonus. 

He asks about the Senate's role. 

Well, we do have a Senate, dubbed the "Upper House" or the "House of 
sober second thought" because it is supposed to be the last check on 
laws passed by the House of Commons. 

The Catch-22: The prime minister -- now purported to be Jean 
Chretien -- appoints all the senators. Hence, every law he wants 
passed gets passed with only token opposition. 

Chretien also appoints, again without any independent assessments, 
all federal deputy ministers. 

Their sole role is to serve the Liberal government's interests. 

They, in turn, appoint their assistant deputy ministers. 

And you know what their role is. 

Since none of these individuals can be dismissed without a huge hue 
and cry, in the rare occasions when a federal conservative government 
is elected , the deputy ministers and the entire bureaucracy go all 
out to undermine that government and pave the way for a return of 
their benefactors. 

Perplexed, he asks: What about House of Commons independent 
parliamentary committees? 

The Liberals, I explain, control all these committees, so in their 
deliberations they simply go through the motions of asking questions 
and probing for facts, and then rubber-stamp whatever the government 
wants them to rubber- stamp. 

Not as in the U.S., where members of the Senate and House of 
Representative criticize and vote against their own government and 
party regularly and with impunity. 


Hear this, I tell him: 

Chretien was once owner of a share in a money-troubled hotel and golf 
course complex. 

The federally-owned Business Development Bank of Canada refused to 
give it a loan of taxpayers' money because the owner, a friend of 
Chretien's, is a convicted felon. 

So the prime minister hauled in the bank's president and made him 
loan the complex $600,000. 

After that it was discovered the complex owed the prime minister 
$300,000 for his share of the business. 

Then the bank president who initially refused the loan was fired. 

Chretien then appointed his former director of operations to the 
position of vice-president of the bank -- with a scribbled note 
saying even if he left the post voluntarily he would get $150,000 in 
severance pay. 

He's leaving within a year -- with his big cheque. 

Ethics investigation? 

Yes, Canada has an ethics commissioner. 

The ethics commissioner is appointed by the prime minister and 
reports only to the prime minister. 

On every single instance, the ethics commissioner has cleared the 
prime minister and other cabinet ministers of conflict of interest. 

Now, I tell my friend, do Americans think the likes of Richard Nixon 
and Bill Clinton are really all that bad?

What do you think?  Email me at with your questions or comments.

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Created: September 11, 2001
Last updated: October 14, 2005
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The story quoted above is © to Paul Jackson, The Calgary Sun, and Canoe.CA. (AFAIK)
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