January 24, 2006 [LINK]

Fallout from Canada's election

It was rather exciting watching the live coverage of Canada's election last night on C-SPAN. To their credit, no preliminary vote tallies were released until polling stations in all parts of the country had closed. It was the first time I had heard Stephen Harper make a speech, and he did fairly well, though he seems not to have as strong a command of French as Paul Martin. Some Liberal politicians made graceful gestures to the victors, which will hopefully restore a much-needed comity. Canadians have a well-deserved reputation for politeness and civility, and I for one hope they resist any temptation to emulate the coarse style of contemporary politics in the U.S.A.

Canada is riven by distrust not only between French and English speakers, but between the urban east and the rural west. The schism between eastern and western conservatives was ended in 2003, thanks in part to the leadership of Stephen Harper, who has roots in both parts of the country. He was born and raised in Toronto, but presently lives in Calgary, where he teaches economics. See the Canada Conservative Party. For their part, the Left in Canada has long been divided between the mainstream Liberals and the radical-pacifist alternative embodied in the New Democratic Party, which often holds the balance in the parliamentary system. Comparing the number of seats won with the overall percent of votes cast (see table below) illustrates how parties with a sharp regional focus have an advantage in winner-take-all legislative election systems with single-member districts. The Bloc Quebecois has nearly twice as many seats as the New Democratic Party, even though it had a much smaller share of the national vote.

Canadian Parliament

Year Conserv. Liberal Bloc Quebec. New Democ. Indep.
2004 - seats 99 135 54 19 1
2004 - votes 29.6% 36.7% 12.4% 15.7% .
2006 - seats 124 103 51 29 1
2006 - votes 36.3% 30.2% 10.5% 17.5% .

SOURCE: Toronto Globe and Mail

I took this photo of the Parliament Building in Ottawa during my cross-continent journey in 1987.

Foreign leaders page

Prompted by the election in Canada, I have put together yet another background information page: Foreign leaders. It covers the major industrialized countries other than the United States, plus Russia, China, and India. Part of my never-ending quest to assemble vital information about the world into a convenient, easy-to-access format, it is similar to the chronology of Latin American presidents.