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    Diogenes
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Loyal Opposition - Prologue. Prologue: A Brief Introduction to Canadian Government & Politics

This story is a completely fictional sequel to the “creative non-fiction” story About Carl. It follows the narrator, Mark Nielsen, a few years after the events in the first story, and takes place in the same fictional Selkirk County of Eastern Ontario, Canada. It’s not necessary to have read About Carl to follow Loyal Opposition, but it might help to give some back story to the characters.

Most of the characters in Loyal Opposition are involved in Canadian politics, either directly or peripherally. For non-Canadian readers, here’s a brief civics lesson on the Canadian political system which might help explain some unfamiliar terms used in the story.

Canada is a federation comprised of ten provinces with full powers and three territories that have partial powers, each with its own elected government responsible for constitutional areas of regional interest. There is a federal government responsible for constitutional areas of national interest. As a legacy from Canada’s origin as a British colony, it is also a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State. The Queen’s duties in Canada are performed at the federal level by the Governor General, a Canadian citizen, and at the provincial level by the Lieutenant Governor.

The federal capital and seat of the federal government is Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario. The legislative branch of the federal government is called Parliament and it meets in the Parliament Buildings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Parliament consists of two bodies, the elected House of Commons and the appointed Senate. Elected members of the House of Commons are called Members of Parliament (or MPs). The executive branch of the federal government consists of the Prime Minister (or PM), who is the leader of the political party which elects the most members to the House of Commons and is supported by a majority of MPs, and the Cabinet. The Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet are also MPs.

The capital of the Province of Ontario and seat of the Ontario provincial government is Toronto, which is Canada’s largest city. The legislative branch of the provincial government of Ontario is called the Legislative Assembly, and it meets in an ornate 19th Century building in a large park in the centre of Toronto called Queen’s Park. The term “Queen’s Park” is colloquially used to refer to the entire legislative branch of the Government of Ontario, much like “the White House” generally refers to the whole executive branch of the U.S. government. The Legislative Assembly consists of a single elected body whose members are called Members of Provincial Parliament (or MPPs). The executive branch of the provincial government consists of the Premier, who is the leader of the political party which elects the most members to the Legislative Assembly and is supported by a majority of MPPs, and the Cabinet. The Premier and members of the Cabinet are also MPPs.

Canada is divided into 338 electoral districts called ridings, each of which votes for an MP in federal elections usually held every four years. Ontario is divided into 122 ridings, each of which votes for an MPP in separate provincial elections, also usually held every four years. The ridings are named after political boundaries such as counties or municipalities, or after geographical features; hence the name of the riding Selkirk-Ettrick River in this story.

The political landscape in Canada is dominated by three main federal political parties: the centre/centre-left Liberal Party (roughly comparable to the Democratic Party in the U.S.), sometimes colloquially referred to as the "Grit" Party; the centre-right Conservative Party (roughly comparable to the “moderate” wing of the Republican Party in the U.S.), colloquially called the "Tory" Party; and the socialist/social democratic New Democratic Party or NDP (roughly comparable to the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party in the U.S.), whose members are sometimes referred to as "Dippers". Ontario politics features the same three parties, although they are separate entities from their federal counterparts. The three parties are often identified by the colours used in their logos and promotional materials: red for the Liberals, blue for the Conservatives, and orange for the NDP.

Political parties at the riding level are run by volunteers who form a Riding Association and are controlled by a local Board of Directors. Riding Associations are responsible for organizing at the local level and are also charged with selecting candidates to run in the riding in federal or provincial elections. Candidates are chosen at election time at local meetings run by each party where only party members vote.

When an election is held, in each riding the candidate with a plurality of votes wins the riding and becomes the MP or MPP. They do not have to achieve an absolute majority of votes in the riding; in fact MPs and MPPs are often elected with 40% of the vote or less because of the usual three-party race. Canadians do not vote directly for the Prime Minister or provincial Premier; when all the ridings are tallied, the party with the most MPs or MPPs is asked by the Governor General or Lieutenant Governor to form the government. The leader of that party then becomes the Prime Minister or Premier. If at any time in its mandate the government fails to command the support of a majority of MPs or MPPs in a “confidence vote” in the House of Commons or the Legislative Assembly, then the Governor General or Lieutenant Governor dissolves the elected legislature and orders a new election to be held.

That’s probably more information than most readers need to know unless they’re hard-core political junkies, but this should explain most of the unfamiliar terms used in the story. I hope you enjoy it.

This story is a completely fictional sequel to the “creative non-fiction” story About Carl. It follows the narrator, Mark Nielsen, a few years after the events in the first story, and takes place in the same fictional Selkirk County of Eastern Ontario, Canada. It’s not necessary to have read About Carl to follow Loyal Opposition, but it might help to give some back story to the characters.

Copyright © 2016 Diogenes; All Rights Reserved.

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Chapter Comments

Are Ridings periodically redrawn like US Congressional Districts?

 

(I was able to speak with the Openly Gay, now-disgraced former-MP Svend Robinson at the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver, near his Riding. He was very knowledgable about local SF Bay Area Gay issues.)

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On 11/08/2016 06:39 AM, droughtquake said:

Are Ridings periodically redrawn like US Congressional Districts?

 

(I was able to speak with the Openly Gay, now-disgraced former-MP Svend Robinson at the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver, near his Riding. He was very knowledgable about local SF Bay Area Gay issues.)

Yes, ridings are redrawn every 10 years after the census. The principle for redrawing boundaries is that every riding has the same number of people in it. Consequently, cities have latge numbers of geographically small ridings while rural ridings like Selkirk-Ettrick River are very large but sparsely populated. This is similar to Congressional districts in the US.

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