Last night Allan and I were talking about - what else? - the election, noticing the differences between Canada's parliamentary system and the US's republic system. One difference is immediately obvious to us during this campaign season. Since Canadians vote for a party, not a person, the emphasis of the campaign is so much more on issues, and so much less on personality.
I understand that Party Leaders shape the party, that's unavoidable. But since Martin, Harper, Layton and Duceppe are all Party Leaders, vying for which party will form the government and which will sit in opposition, as opposed to who will be the head of state, the focus is not on the men themselves. Or, so much less, that to us newcomers it looks like not at all.
You cannot imagine how refreshing that is. Some of you may not realize the extent to which "the character issue" - as the mainstream media calls it - dominates American politics. In keeping with everything else in American culture, it's been trivialized to the point of the surreal. So we're left with people talking about which candidate has the firmer handshake, and who you'd rather have a beer with.
The party discipline of the parliamentary system - the less elastic party platforms - also makes it easier to vote in federal elections. When my neighbours go to vote, they vote for whoever stands for the party of their choice within their riding. (Excuse me if my terminology is clunky. Please feel free to correct me.) In the US, one votes for a specific Congressperson or Senator based on, hopefully, her or his record. In one party you have a Russ Feingold and a Joe Lieberman. If you're a liberal from Connecticut, you can try to unseat Joe Lieberman in the primaries, but if that fails (which is likely; because of the corrupt campaign financing system, incumbents usually win), what do you do on election day?
To my knowledge, those kinds of differences don't exist within a party in a parliamentary system. Again, correct me if my impressions are false.
There are pros and cons of each system, which I won't expound on. In a healthy, functioning Republic, there are probably more checks on power. Of course that doesn't apply to the US right now.
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So that's my observation; here's my question. It's actually Allan's question.
In Canada, what prevents campaign financing from becoming the corrupt system it is in the United States?
For those who don't know this, here's the Spark Notes version of how things go in the US. It costs millions and millions of dollars to run an election campaign, mostly because of the cost of advertising. Those millions are paid for by industries and corporations. When the candidate is elected, those same industries call in their chits: we gave you this money, we expect you to protect our interests.
So the people who vote have less say in how their elected official votes in Congress than the corporations who put them there.
Even half-assed attempts at campaign financing reform can't get off the ground, because the pigs don't want to push away their trough.
How is Canada's system different? If it is different, what keeps it that way?