Politics Canadian Style: Election 2008

October 15, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian politics are likely as confusing to an outsider as American politics can be to an outsider. Yesterday we had our general election. It was the 40th in Canadian history. The result was the re-election of the Conservative Party minority government with their leader Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. They did increase the number of seats by ten, but still didn’t achieve their hoped for majority in Parliament.

In Canada the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament becomes the Prime Minister. To gain a majority government, the party needs 155 seats. Each representative elected is called an M.P. (Member of Parliament).

There are two main parties in Canada. The Liberals who have historically governed Canada the longest, and the Conservatives. The Conservative Party as it exists now is the result of a merger between the Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party. The Liberals are the Canadian equivalent of the Democrats in the U.S., the Conservatives are the equivalent of the Republicans.

Canada’s House of Parliament is representation by population. The American equvalent is the House of Representatives. Our Senate consists of appointed members and is not equal in representation like the America Senate. Many in our country would like to see reform in this body. Right now it is a reward for party faithful. Their power is severely limited.

The only thing at all like the U.S. Executive Branch is the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Cabinet members are appointed by the Prime Minister, but must hold a seat in Parliament or in the Senate. Only rarely does a cabinet member come from the Senate.

Here are some pertinent facts about Prime Minister Stephen Joseph Harper,

  • born April 30, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario.
  • first Canadian prime minister born in the second half of the 20th century
  • Member of Parliament (MP) for Calgary Southwest
  • one of the founding members of the Reform Party
  • Prime Minister since February 6, 2006
  • has Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Economics from University of Calgary
  • married Laureen Teskey in 1993. They have two children: Ben, born 1996, and Rachel, born 1999.
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