This is topic So*, can anyone help me with Canadian politics? in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by sndrake (Member # 4941) on :
This is mostly an appeal to Canadian Hatrackers. In about a month, I'm going to speak at a symposium in Toronto. Given what I do, one of my main themes will be how people in a coalition do - or don't - work with each other. I can give plenty of good examples - and painfully bad ones - from the U.S.

But this will be a Canadian audience - people from the prolife community, disability community and medical community, among others.

I need to be able to at least make an honest attempt to translate this to Canadian political dynamics. Does anyone know a good resource? A website that is kind of a "Canadian politics, parties and factions for dummies" resource?
Posted by fugu13 (Member # 2859) on :
Y'know, I'd be really interested in talking with you on that "how people in a coalition do - or don't - work with each other" issue. That's the sort of thing I'm very interested in as an Informatics student with a cognate (area of specialization) in political science, and a general interest in Non-profits and NGOs.
Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
Nowadays we have three parties with seats in Parliament: Conservatives (formed by the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives), Liberals (who have held power for twelve uninterrupted years), and New Democratic Party (further left than the Liberals).

The obvious coalition example is the Canadian Alliance/Progressive Conservative merger, though that has yet to produce much in the way of data by which we could tell whether the merger was good or bad; the new party has not seen significant gains or losses compared to the seats held by the original two parties. The earliest evidence will probably come with this fall's election.

Recently the NDP and the Liberals formed a sort of impromptu coalition whereby the NDP supported the Liberals in confidence votes on the Liberals' budget but in exchange got to make some amendments to the budget (rescinding some corporate tax cuts in and spending that money on social programs instead). Both the budget and the amendment passed (though the latter not by much), so I guess you could call that an example of a succesful coalition.

I don't think political examples -- at least, recent political examples -- are a good idea, though. A lot of people feel pretty strongly about the two examples I just mentioned, so you run the risk of annoying people who think that one or the other was a good or bad idea depending on how you phrase it. You might be better to delve into Canadian history for examples, though you might have to go pretty far back for good ones.
Posted by sndrake (Member # 4941) on :
fugu, we can have that conversation sometime... I'm about to elaborate on a little of it here, in fact. [Smile]


Being able to relate to current political dynamics is essential. Disparate groups can work together if they put some issues aside while in coalition work.

One of the good examples in the U.S. of a coalition that works well is the anti-Death penalty coalition. You have secular civil rights groups working alongside Catholic activists in tandem. Most of the secular civil rights activists have issues with the Catholic Church on issues ranging from abortion to gay marriage. Doesn't matter - focussing on the task at hand, the secular groups will use Papal speeches, etc. to help promote their message. Catholic activists, while working on the death penalty, don't usually spend time attacking their secular allies for their positions on abortion and gay rights (although, to be fair, some Catholic activists may be supportive of both of those).

Another example is "tax reform" and "reducing social services." The Republican party in the U.S. has been very effective in getting Conservative Christians and Libertarians to line up on tax policies that increasingly favor the rich and reduce support for the poor, elderly and disabled. Rich Libertarians working with Christian Conservatives don't argue about abortion while working on taxes and related policy issues.

In the arena I'm most familiar with - assisted suicide/euthanasia - things haven't worked so well. The media wants to portray these issues strictly as a "culture wars" issue, so disability groups get left out of coverage since we mess up the story. Many (not all) of the prolife leaders consistently tie opposition to euthanasia *exclusively* as both religion-based and tied to abortion (pro-euthanasia people ALL do this - you think that would tell these folks something). Disability activists will take gratuitous potshots at prolifers when they should be talking about the shared concern.

In Canada, there are a couple of advantages. Both the public and the media are at least slightly more aware than their counterparts in the U.S. that opposition to assisted suicide/euthanasia goes beyond the religious community. But the media and public can forget this if the coalition in Canada isn't careful.

Basically, I'm going to try to issue warnings and cautions to all players. And probably annoy everyone. Again.
Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
I somehow managed to leave the Bloc Quebecois out of my first post entirely (which is odd since they hold more than twice the seats of the NDP). I tend not to think about them because they're sepratists, but you could take anyone working with them (the Conservatives and the Liberals have both done so recently -- the former on the budget and the latter on same-sex marriage) as an example of a strange bedfellows; personally I find the notion of a federal party working with sovereigntists pretty absurd, but because Quebec is so seat-rich the Bloc has a lot of power.
Posted by orlox (Member # 2392) on :
Canadian politicians have a much different relationship with interest groups than anything you are used to. Canadian politicians vote strictly according to party discipline on anything that matters. Interest groups do operate in Canada, however there are strict rules regarding political donations that limit how influencial any one group, or even coalition, can be financially.

The big, successful interest groups like the Canadian Medical Association will tell you that to be truly effective, work behind the scenes, go with the flow and the flow will go with you, nothing important is settled in public... And so on.

They are mostly right.

No one is going to screw with overwhelming public sentiment but short of that you will find that it is extremely easy to get politicians seem like they are doing something, extremely difficult to actually get anything done.

And if you get on the wrong side of one of the big players, well, Good Luck!

Grassroots stuff can work but Canada is so large and diffuse that if you are exerting real grassroots pressure, you already have a good chunk of public opinion on your side.

In your case, it is exactly the Canadian Medical Association that should concern you. If the CMA seriously wants to get something done, it will get done. If the CMA wants to give lip-service, you'll get lip-service. If the CMA is against you, well, Good Luck!

In that case, you would really need a groundswell of public support to make a real impact.

Even then, you might only get a Royal Commission to obfuscate everything for as long as possible.

Again, shmoozing is probably far more effective.
Posted by Eaquae Legit (Member # 3063) on :
I'm not sure I can help, but which symposium, and is it open to the public (i.e., can I go?)? Also, give 'em hell.

Right now I'm resentful and angry at this Ontario government, the ones previous, and anyone who has had a hand in screwing up the Regional Centre were I'm working now. But that's a whole different story, and it would take pages and pages to rant it all out.

I have an introductory book about Canadian politics, but I'm not sure it's what you need, nor if I can get it to you in time to be any use.

Please let me/us know how things go, keep us posted, that kind of thing.
Posted by Sean (Member # 689) on :
(Just bumping EL's questions)
Posted by sndrake (Member # 4941) on :
I'll get the info to y'all later today.

(hmmm... should probably drop the "y'all" for a Canadian audience.)
Posted by sndrake (Member # 4941) on :
Sorry for the delay.

Here's the info. (for some reason, they don't have the info up on a website anywhere. I'll see if I can get that rectified)

Note - there is a registration fee, but I won't personally profit from it. The deal I have is that I am getting reimbursed for travel and lodging - no honorarium. Otherwise, I'd be even more reluctant to post this, even with the requests.



When: September 24, 2005

Where: Ramada Hotel (downtown) 300 Jarvis St. Toronto

Time: 10 am - 4 pm

Cost: $50.00 per person, $30.00 for students. (Includes lunch)


Stephen Drake, is the research analyst for NOT DEAD YET, a national disability rights organization in the United States that focuses on issues related to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Topic: Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide world-wide in relation to disability issues and Terri Schiavo.

Mark Pickup is the founder of HumanLifeMatters and a Canadian disability activist. Mark, who has Multiple Schlerosis has worked to oppose the cultural changes that lead to the acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Topic: Bill C-407, a bill to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, and his concern for the lives of people with disabilities.

Peter Aarssen is an Elder Planning Consultant.

Topic: Understanding demographic changes: helping us respond to the future.

To register: Call the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition at: 1-877-439-3348

Posted by Eaquae Legit (Member # 3063) on :
Thanks, Stephen. I probably won't be able to mak it, but I think I'll see what I can do.
Posted by twinky (Member # 693) on :
Sept 24th? That's a Saturday. I might actually be able to make it.

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