While channel surfing earlier tonight I stumbled across a CBC program called 'The Nation' being broadcast on C-SPAN. It was coming from a town library straddling the US-Canadian border in Quebec and compared and contrasted our two elections.
That's how I discovered we aren't the only peeps on the North American continent having elections this year. While much of the world's and our attention have been focused on our upcoming November 4 election, our northern neighbors are having their own pivotal election as well on October 14.
This Canadian election was necessary because of the dissolution of parliament on September 7, thus forcing new elections to be held.
As a child of historians, I've been fascinated by Canada ever since I noted that the African descended peoples of both nations share some interesting connections and parallels in our cultures despite being separated by the world's longest undefended border. It was also heightened by my fascination with a Afro-Canadian junior high classmate who was born in Calgary and lived there until he was eight.
For you Canadian politically challenged Americans, here's a quick primer on Canadian politics (Veronique, Renee and my other Canadian commenters please chime in on this where necessary)
Canada has a federal parliamentary system on the British model. It's a constitutional monarchy, composed of the Queen of Canada, who is officially represented by the Governor General (or by a lieutenant-governor at the provincial and territorial levels), and Parliament. The House of Commons has 308 seats directly elected by the people in national or by-elections at the provincial level. There is an upper chamber, the 105 member Canadian Senate.
The Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982 set the maximum time between federal general elections at five years, except in time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection. An election can also be called earlier than the five year period if the Prime Minister so chooses or if the Government is defeated on a motion of confidence in the House of Commons.
The Canadian Parliament just recently passed a bill implementing fixed election dates every four years on the third Monday in October starting in 2009, subject to an earlier dissolution of Parliament.
MP's represent a riding, which is akin to our congressional districts.
There are 15 registered political parties in Canada, but the three major political parties are considered to be the Conservatives, The Liberals and the New Democratic Party or NDP. There are other parties who are players in the Canadian Parliament such as the Bloc Quebecois, who are the heirs to the Quebec separatist movement and the Greens.
The Conservatives and PM Stephen Harper are currently running thangs in Canada pending the results of the October 14 election. Liberal leader Stephane Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton are vying in this election to deny the Conservatives (or Tories) the 155 seats they need for a clear majority of the parliament and replace him as prime minister.
BTW, if you're interested and seeing a different style of political debate, the Canadian leaders debates will be broadcast on C-SPAN.
So this political junkie, while she awaits her chance to weigh in our on national elections, will be keeping an eye on what's happening with our northern neighbors as well.