Since this is the year of a federal election, we’ve been thinking about parliamentary democracy.
We believe parliamentary democracy is the best system of government in the world.
That is especially true when compared to the political system in the country to the south of us.
For one thing, in a parliamentary democracy, the election season is short. After a month or two of campaigning, the people vote and we should have a government in place for about four years.
Compare that to the United States, where elections never seem to end. O
ne election happens and campaigning immediately begins for the next.
We believe that is one reason the United States – with its president, House of Representatives and Senate – is so politically divided and fractious. They never stop political fighting long enough to catch their breaths. There is even that strange creature called the midterm election.
The next presidential election is over a year away, but the process to choose a Democratic challenger to President Donald Trump has been going on for months.
Canada and other parliamentary democracies seem calm by comparison. And that is even taking into account the disruption over Brexit in the Mother of Parliaments – the British House of Commons. Imagine the chaos if something like Brexit happened in the U.S.
In Canada, even the scandal that has shaken our federal politics by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s past penchant for wearing brownface/blackface can be absorbed by the parliamentary system.
Trudeau is not a president, but a prime minister, and can be replaced very easily, if it ever came to that. Admittedly, it is unprecedented in Canada for a prime minister seeking re-election to have once committed such an outrageous act as wearing blackface – not as a child or a teenager, but as an adult.
After an election, if a prime minister loses the confidence of the House of Commons, he or she is out. Simple as that. No need for months or years of soul-searching.
On the other hand, replacing a president in the United States is a convoluted, controversial and divisive process. That’s because a president in the U.S. is the head of state, while a prime minister in a parliamentary democracy is just the head of government.
Say what you will about having a monarch, it comes in handy when you want to get rid of a prime minister, like the British did recently with Theresa May. You don’t have to worry about being labelled disloyal to the state if you simply want to replace a government leader.
Some say a flaw in parliamentary democracy is that the people don’t directly elect their leader, just a governing party, and the prime minister is whoever happens to be leading that party. That concern also exists in the NWT’s version of a parliamentary democracy – consensus government – where there is no public vote for premier and the leader is chosen by MLAs after the election.
All we can say to that concern is the United States has a separate vote for its president, and it resulted in the election of Donald Trump.