Bringing Down a Government

It is now official. The 38th Parliament of Canada , barely a year and a half in existence had been officially dissolved by no less than the parliament itself ! No need for people power, coup d’etat or a bloody revolution. How did it happen? Unknown to most people, the parliamentary system has a self-destruct mechanism that allows to extricate itself from doom and start afresh. A majority government is always key to a government’s stability and longevity. It is attained by winning a 50% +1 number of seats in the parliament. If the ruling government fails to attain this ratio, it is allowed to govern as minority government , which would be by nature frail, as in the case of Canada’s ruling Liberal govt, incessantly threatened with being toppled with a vote of no confidence by opposition forces which collectively hold greater number of seats.

To appreciate this, here’s an illustration :

The Liberals won the most number of seats in last election ( June 2004) yet failed to make up a majority government. Breakdown of parliament seats:

Liberals : 134
Conservative : 98
Bloc Quebecois ( separatist) : 53
NDP -National Democratic Party- ( socialist): 18
Independent : 4

Total no of seats in the House of Commons : 308

Seats needed by the Liberals to win majority government : 155 ( 50% +1)

Options for the winning party was to rule as minority government or strike a coalition with another party to attain the required 155 seats to reach majority government status. Coalition is a hard sell. The 4 official parties are night and day, totally divergent when it comes party principles. The Liberals opted to rule as minority party and take the heat as it comes.

Why was the government brought down? It had to do with the Gomery commission, a year long investigation on the alleged misuse of federal money,from 1994 to 2003, of some $300 million earmarked for advertising grants to help Canadian companies. The commission found the Liberal government guilty of misusing the funds but exonerated the present Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin from any involvement. Several government officials and business people were indicted as the result of the inquiry. Stephen Harper, the leader of the Conservative Party, the official opposition, expediently tabled a vote of no confidence motion in the House of Commons to topple the disgraced Liberal minority government . The opposition parties fully supported the motion and successfully toppled the Liberal government prompting the Prime Minister to inform the Governor General of the dissolution of the parliament. Elections will be held in Jan 24, 2006, giving all parties about 55 days to campaign in the dead of winter. It is now up to Canadians to decide if the Liberals are worth a second chance.

Some people still put enough faith in Martin, that despite the indictment of members of his party, he never got involved. As well, the thought of a conservative government rubbing elbows with George W. Bush does not appeal to Canadians who have shown repugnance over U.S. led adventurism in Iraq.

Lesson ? Elections can be costly but perpetuating a corrupt government to rule can be costlier. When I see the Arroyo government vacillating on the charges of election rigging, desperately and shamelessly hanging on to power come hell or high water despite the damning evidences, I ask myself the question – why is the RP government so thick faced, pathetically inert and spineless when it comes to the issue of accountability to its constituency? Whatever happened to congressional commissions that are supposed to conduct non-partisan, non-biased investigations of questionable conduct of government officials?

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15 Responses

  1. I am American and it sounds to me that if another minority government is formed, it could be potentially brought down by the opposition. Where do you draw the line ? If elections are held every year or so just because people cannot make their mind up for which majority party to lead them, isn’t this a threat to a nation’s stability? I would look at this situation as a drawback of the parliamentary system. It is the voice of the people that matters and not the party.

  2. Thanks for your comment anonymous… Yes and no. Yes, a minority govt can be toppled anytime by the collective opposition.. No in the sense that before the opposition decides to topple a minority govt and call a new election, they better have a REAL and popular reason to do so! Remember that an election is still anybody’s game.

  3. And now,they wanted to change this government to a parliamentary system.Tsk,I don’t see any difference…We’ll see the same faces but with different titles.

    BTW…Thanks for commenting bw,nice to know that you’re still interested in what’s going on back here.Have a nice day. 😀

  4. The efficiency of governmental change in Canada is truly enviable, the swiftness of the process is one that Philippine bureaucrats should study and learn about. I guess, if we ever have to chnage our form of government here, from presidential into a parliamentary one, then it would be so wise to seek the efficient transitional system offered by Canadian laws.

  5. Hi, BW!

    Ang sa akin, kahit i-change pa ang form of government sa Pilipinas, wala din talab yan kung ang mga magiging government officials naman ay corrupt pa rin to the core. What we need are men and women with solid integrity and 100 percent dedication to lead the nation to soio-economic, political, and, above all, spritual revival. May God have mercy on the Philippines!

  6. Snglguy, point well taken. New systems will likely cause new problems. As they say, it is the players that make the game intersting.

    Major Tom, the structure of the parliamentary system is a little different. For example, all cabinet ministers are themselves elected MP’s ( member of parliament). It makes a difference when you are say Secretary of Finance and your performance will be judged by people’s votes. Big difference with cabinet appointees who are pawns of politicians.

    How true Jayred! It is the heart that matters most, that no amount of enforcement can change the corrupt nature of pinoy politicians. As we see other countries manage their national affairs with patriotism and dedication, I have come to question our Pinoy definition of love of country.

  7. A Pinoy politician’s love of his country is so deep that he will pass on his power to his wife/girlfriend his children,his relatives,and hey,even his dog if he can.Rather than let another interloper take over.Oh,am I being sarcastic here? 😀

  8. You can sound sarcastic but so true Snglguy! Pinoys have accepted this fact and have grown immune to this malaise and seem tolerate the abuse with open hands.

  9. Does that mean that Pinoys are masochistic? LOL!!! 😀

    BTW,mind if I link you?

  10. Masochistic might be a little too strong bro! Sure, my pleasure if you want to link me.

  11. Made me recall those famous words of Pres.Manuel L. Quezon: “Better a country run like hell by the Filipinos,than a country run like heaven by the Americans” or something like that…

    Well,I guess he got his wish…With the help of stupid voters of course.:D

    BTW,thanks.Already linked ya

  12. The Parliament System of Government for the Philippines has been proposed by speaker Joe de Venecia. Do you think this is a better form of government for the Philippines if what we have right now is really not working for the betterment of the country?

  13. Teacher Sol, the parliamentary system has its advantages. First and foremost, the prime minister is not elected by the people. The prime minister who is normally the leader of his party, is installed as such if his party wins ( most number of elected seats in the parliament). The prime minister also runs as member of parliament like the rest and has to win in his riding.

    In short, the party that gets the most seats is given the chance to rule as the government and appoints a prime minister from its
    own ranks. In this setup cheating in elections won’t be as easy compared to popular voting, when people vote directly for the person.

    This for all intents and purposes prevents us from electing someone like Dolphy from becoming president. Also, all cabinet ministers have to be members of parliament themselves and not mere appointees.

    The parliamentary system essentially works on a party system. The setup dramatically reduces the number of political parties in the house because of the majority/minority formula. Political parties are therefore compelled to make people understand what they stand for. It is time for the people to understand what political platforms and agendas mean rather than simply voting

    for the person they like. We are all too familiar with the saying – I’m Republican or Democrat. That simply means that the person doesn’t really care who runs as Republican president. The person only believes in the ideals of Republicanism – more military,
    pro-business, conservative – non of that gay marriage stuff, less taxes. This is what is sadly lacking in RP politics. No one really knows what these politicians stand for!

  14. Bakit ninyo pinagiinitan si Dolphy? Baka pag kumandidato si Pidol ay mananalo pa! Hindi mo alam ang utak ng Pinoy ay unpredictable he he he.

  15. Hi, just dropped by to say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year….:D

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