A brief “I have three classes to teach today” roundup:
I have nothing in particular to add, except to say that most of my conference activities will be off-the-radar in one way or another. But any readers of more-than-passing acquaintance who are interested in coming to a Friday evening “recession-beating reception” may contact me via email for an invite, with the caveat that it’s a BYOB event.
Jacob Levy reports on efforts by some conservative APSA members to organize a boycott of the 2009 APSA Annual Meeting, to be held in Toronto, Canada, not-very-proud home of Human Rights Commission Kangaroo Courts ‘R’ Us.
I, as always, support all boycotts of APSA in body, although not in spirit—in spirit, I agree with Jacob that this boycott is at least as dumb as “NO-LA 2012.”
Matthew Shugart reminds readers of tomorrow’s referendum in Ontario on adopting a mixed-member proportional electoral system to replace its existing purely constituency-based plurality system. If nothing else, it’s auspicious since this term I’m indulging my semi-closeted comparativist in my Introduction to Politics course—with the main theme considering representation and voting systems. Now, if only we were on the right chapter of Electoral Systems, although the chapter on plurality systems—where we are now—does talk a bit about electoral reforms: most notably, Labour’s long-promised but never-delivered referendum on electoral reform in Britain, dating back to 1997.
Looks like Mo Fiorinia may need to write a Canadian version of Culture War? as a companion piece to the American second edition of the same…
Colby Cosh, on the uneasy relationship between social conservatives and the exercise of judicial review:
Can’t social conservatives tell the difference between judicial activism that expands the power of the state—like adding newly-invented “protected grounds” to discrimination law—and judicial activism that inhibits it?
Nah. What they care about is that the power of the state be used for their own preferred ends.
Like all good social science, it generalizes to both sides of the 49th parallel.
Stories like this one make me thank God we didn’t get Hillarycare. On the stump, Canadian Conservative leader Stephen Harper made this, dare I say bold, promise to his countrymen:
[P]atients should not wait more than 10 months for non-urgent hip and knee replacements.
I suspect it’s pretty easy to say that when it’s not your bum hip or knee you’re hobbling around on for the best part of a year.
Of course, Canadians at least have, for now, the choice of private provision: they can come here for treatment and pay twice—once for the not-very-timely provision of services in Canada and once for the actual provision in the Land of the Gringos. In Democratic-wet-dream America, where’s our (and their) safety-valve going to be? Grenada?
Colby Cosh points out a poll showing that nearly 40% of Canadians would never vote for a candidate for public office with a history of alcoholism. Is it the prudes or the pollsters? Colby suspects the latter, and I am inclined to agree.
Good news for consumers: the ban on beef imports from Canada will be lifted this week, which should lead to lower prices for beef products on both sides of the border. As I discussed before and Pieter Dorsman mentioned Friday, the import ban had little to do with the risk of BSE (or “mad cow disease”):
More than anything it was a deliberate move influenced by US meatpackers to manipulate prices. Even in Canada prices somehow remained higher than where they should have been despite the glut of beef.
Reducing this sort of rent-seeking behavior is a very compelling argument for continued progress in dismantling trade barriers in food products.
A question that occurred to me listening to XM on the way back from Memphis today: Why would someone think it would be a good idea for the Backstreet Boys to have the first single off their comeback album sound exactly like an early-90s Bryan Adams power ballad?
I’m serious: listen to it, and you’ll be transported back to the era when we were force-fed a steady diet of Adams to help fill A&M Records’ Canadian content quota. (Mind you, not even this explanation is sufficient for Backstreet’s return.)
Stephen Downes (both in my comments below and at his blog) disputes that the motion voted on yesterday by Canada’s parliament is really a confidence motion; he instead characterizes it as “nothing more than a recommendation to a committee.” This radically understates the nature of the motion.
In parliamentary procedure, a motion to recommit with instructions is more than a mere “recommendation”; it is a message from the floor that the committee must amend the legislation in question and then report it back to the floor as amended. Both Canadian and U.S. parliamentary rules state that anything ordered by a motion to reconsider is mandatory.
The most charitable interpretation—one denied by the Liberals—is that the amendment requires the immediate reporting of a confidence motion by the committee on public accounts. Canadian political scientist Andrew Heard argues that, in fact, the vote was a confidence motion and should be treated as such.
When is a vote of no confidence not a vote of no confidence? When it takes place in Canada, apparently. As Mustafa Hirji of Points of Information explains, Westminster parliamentary rules don’t obligate the executive to resign when they lose a confidence vote, but nonetheless the traditional response of resignation is key to parliamentary sovereignty:
[R]esponsible government’s preservation requires that the Executive honour votes of no confidence. Otherwise, the Executive ceases to be responsible to the legislature and is, instead, responsible only to the unelected monarch or representative thereof.
Responsibility to Parliament is absolutely key in our system of government. Unlike the United States, we lack checks and blances to constrain the power of the Executive. Parliament is the only meaningful constraint on the Executive and their widespread powers. When this constraint ceases to exist, the Governor-General, effectively chosen by the Prime Minister and likely therefore beholden to him/her, becomes the only check on the Prime Minister. That check is neither realistic nor desireable, let alone democratic or accountable.
Of course, if the role of the governor-general (or, in the case of Britain, the monarch) was taken by an official responsible to the electorate or parliament—most other parliamentary regimes use the largely ceremonial president in this role—the conflict of interest would be greatly diminished. Either way, it seems to me that if parliament does vote in favor of a no confidence motion, and the executive refuses to resign, the governor-general has an obligation to dismiss the executive.
Update: More via InstaPundit: perspectives from Ed Morrissey and “ferret” of Conservative Life, as well as liveblogging from Stephen Taylor (not the PoliBlog guy). Kate also has a post at Outside the Beltway, with a link to another news story on today’s events.
Today’s New York Times has a piece in the business section looking at the effects of the Canadian beef import ban on both sides of the border—few of which are good unless you’re an American cattle rancher. It seems fairly clear (to me, at least) that the motivation behind those seeking to extend the ban is naked protectionism rather than concern about Americans’ health.
The small bit of silver lining in this is that, unlike on the steel tariffs, the president is on the right side of the issue, although there are many in Congress who aren’t.
Brian J. Noggle points to news that Alanis Morissette has taken U.S. citizenship. Since the entire raison d’être of her musical career was to fill her label’s Canadian content quota, I expect her musical career (what little of it remains) to come to a screeching halt.
I picked up an autographed copy of Clark Blaise’s Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time a while back at Square Books in Oxford, and just got around to reading it. While I have no doubt that the Scottish-born Sandford Fleming was an interesting individual—in addition to being a driving force between the adoption of standard time zones, he was one of the architects of the unification of Canada and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway—Blaise’s book almost makes him seem boring.
The narrative flow of the book is horrible, employing no discernable organizational approach, and the book seems semi-randomly to leap into discussions of the use of time in literature—which may be one of Blaise’s scholarly interests, but has little to do with Fleming. Except for details of the 1884 Prime Meridian Conference in Washington and some confused recounting of Fleming’s role in surveying and building the CP, little of Fleming’s exploits get much attention. Blaise’s lament is that Fleming is being lost to history, but if he was such an important figure in Canadian and world history, his book does little to solidify his reputation, except as a crumudgeon who was annoyed that politics intruded on his efforts to create a “universal” reckoning of time.
Pieter Dorsman returns to the theme of US-Canadian relations and counterterrorism, and—as always—makes some very good points worth reading.
David Janes passes along word that some folks in British Columbia are planning a monument commemorating draft dodgers. Now I’ve seen everything. David responds:
How about a counter-memorial for all black and poor kids who died in their place?
Au contraire. Such daring heroism as making the mad dash across the Ambassador Bridge in the dark of night or through the shadow of the Peace Arch in broad daylight is clearly worthy of commemoration; I mean, it was just like crossing the Berlin Wall.
Since the Canadian libertarian bloggers are doing it, it must be cool. I hereby endorse the emerging dagger (†) convention for attributing links
stolen borrowed from other weblogs or sites, even if it may make people think the target of the link is dead or is subject to being changed to some other cool-looking character (such as þ or ☣, the latter being highly useful for linking to Atrios or LGF) in the future.
Pieter of Peaktalk notes an interesting immigration pattern. One suspects, however, that he underestimates the number of reliable NDP voters among my northward-bound ex-countrymen. Of course, the substantive effects of the migration are the same either way.
The election came and went, and, while the Liberals did beat the Conservatives in the realm of seat counts, neither side (apparently, pending recounts) won enough to form even a coalition government with a natural partner (a Liberal–Bloc Quebecois coalition would work in terms of seat count, but not in terms of ideology). Collin May suspects the real winner in all this is Alberta premier Ralph Klein, while Albertan Colby Cosh does his postmortem duties. In any event, virtually nobody expects this parliament to last very long.
Contra the quoted individual, I’d like to extend my best wishes to our Canadian friends and allies as they go to the polls today to choose a new parliament (and almost certainly a new government).
More thoughts from Peaktalk, Colby Cosh, and Collin May, all of whom are rooting for a Conservative victory. Unlike certain other American pundits of similar girth, I will not be weighing in on this matter, as it is strictly an internal affair for Canadians to decide for themselves, except to express the view that the GOP might be a more attractive option at the ballot box (for me, at least) if they reflected the more vigorous attitude toward federalism and libertarianism expressed by their ideological counterparts on the other side of the 49th parallel.
Eric Grey attempts to describe the rules for forming a minority government. There are a few points worth mentioning:
- The rules vary among parliamentary democracies. Some democracies, like Germany, require constructive votes of no confidence; in other words, to get rid of an existing government, you have to nominate a new one, which necessarily increases the stability of the system. In some other parliamentary democracies, the government falls if any government proposal is defeated on a party-line vote (i.e. not a “free” vote). Canada generally follows Westminster tradition, where “confidence” is a customary rather than a legal requirement; since only the Prime Minister (well, technically, the sovereign) can dissolve parliament and call elections, essentially this system is equivalent to the German system—although, since a government could only be replaced by a plurality vote, the PM is more likely than not to call new elections before such a vote could take place.
- Minority governments are somewhat more common than one might suspect. Notably, Israel’s government is currently a minority government. Britain and Canada each have had a few since World War II. Interestingly, minority governments are much more common than coalitions in countries with first-past-the-post (plurality) elections.
An interesting study of coalition government, by the way, is Multiparty Government by Michael Laver and Norman Schofield. Laver and Ken Shepsle’s Making and Breaking Governments is probably also worthwhile (from a more game-theoretic perspective, as is Shepsle’s bent), but, alas, I haven’t read it.
Incidentally, I’d appreciate recommendations on a scholarly text (or even a textbook) on Canadian politics, perhaps something comparable to Philip Norton’s The British Polity. For now, it’s just an idle scholarly interest, but maybe an employer one of these decades will be desperate enough to let me teach some comparative courses.
Kate of Small Dead Animals has visual evidence of the Saskatchewan NDP’s hostility to the United States.
Collin May has a capsule review of tonight’s English-language debate among the major party leaders in Canada; by all accounts, nobody really stood out or got bloodied.
Meanwhile, I’d like to channel my inner anti-American leftist in order to complain that I don’t get to vote in this election even though whether Steven Harper or Paul Martin becomes prime minister will have a profound effect on my day-to-day life down here in this satellite-state of Canada.
Avril Lavigne, on Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit (a band name that seems oddly appropriate in light of this account):
“I mentioned to Fred that I was hungry, like, ‘I want an In-N-Out burger.’ “He had someone go out and get me a whole box of them, with fries. I was like, ‘Yeah!.’ Then he took a private jet out to one of my shows, expecting me to bang him. He was disappointed that I wouldn’t even go near him. He was a little pissed that I went to my room alone that night.”
That Fred’s one smooth dude, no?
Via Begging to Differ and Jeff Jarvis.