Yesterday was Ontario’s provincial election, a frustrating event for this American citizen. Even if Canada were just enough to enfranchise its permanent non-citizen residents, that would not give me a say in how this peculiar country runs itself. My status in Canada is, for now, temporary, and my voting will continue to be in the far more globally significant Florida, where a handful of badly filled ballots or a rash of felony convictions can be the difference between a drawl-feigning warmongering theocrat or an environmentalist deciding what the world’s largest army will do. As it was, Ontario’s Liberal Party sailed into a majority government with no particular difficulty, a source of both elation and disappointment for Ontario’s progressive constituents.
Canada’s parliamentary system affords a much larger niche for third parties than the United States’s legislature. In Canada, if one party’s candidates get 35% of the seats, a second party gets 40%, and a third party 25%, that 40% party will have to form a coalition with one of the others, and that coalition will select the Prime Minister and otherwise set the government’s agenda. If a particular attempted coalition cannot get along well enough to form the government, the coalition dissolves and another one tries. This entanglement between the executive and legislative branches means that the leaders of Canada cannot, usually, afford to ignore people who didn’t vote for them, and it means that third parties that manage substantial segments of the vote don’t necessarily disappear behind the ones that got slightly more, because they can become necessary coalition partners. A system like this one still eventually converges on two parties—it takes a much more complicated system to preserve more than two poles indefinitely—but it takes much longer and affords those third parties and their constituents a much greater voice in the meantime.
So it was with curiosity and interest that I surveyed the pamphlets and cards that the various candidates and advocacy groups kept leaving in our mailboxes. Most of them were political boilerplate, a series of minor promises next to a candidate putting on the best trustworthy-and-not-smug mug xe could manage. But I had to give one of them a lot of extra attention.
Did you know Canada has a Communist Party?