Only five months after we moved to Canada, Paul Martin was unseated as prime minister. Watching the proceedings as the government fell was fascinating. No matter how many times the Parliamentary system had been explained to me, I never really understood it until I saw it work.
Then we experienced our first campaign and our first election. Both were fascinating, both for themselves and for Canadians' reactions to them. Our points of reference being American, the campaigns were intelligent and substantive.
Also soon after we moved here, a new Governor General was appointed. I didn't even know the GG existed, never mind what the position was.
Now we'll soon have another election. That alone is so new and noteworthy to me. We've lived here less than two years and we're already seeing our second election! I like it.
Dion's election and his debut as Leader in the House of Commons, along with Harper revisiting the same-sex marriage debate, had Allan and I talking a lot about the Canadian political system again. I see how much more I've come to understand, and the areas where my knowledge is still hazy.
I've learned a lot about modern Canadian history through this blog, both from debates among commenters, and from sites and Wikipedia pages that readers have directed me to. Back when RobfromAlberta, Lone Primate and Wrye used to have at it, the words Meech Lake Accord, Charlottetown Accord and "Night of Long Knives" were always being thrown around.
I confess I'm still struggling to understand those, in part because the debates were always so charged, laden with sarcasm and innuendo that I couldn't follow. When I would asked for help, I still had to figure out what repatriation and the BNA meant! (I got it now.)
Among the many things that amazed me about Canada was how new the Charter and the Canadian Constitution are.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a thing of beauty. I love the US Constitution and revere it as one of the country's three great contributions to civilization*. But the US Constitution's great strength is also its terrible flaw: its purposeful ambiguity. Written in a different world by men whose way of life no longer exists, it must always be interpreted and re-interpreted. But the Charter is such a modern document - so specific and inclusive. (I believe the Charter is the first bill of rights to specifically include the rights of people with disabilities.) Also - correct me if I'm wrong - I think the Charter is immutable, cannot be changed.
The British, on the other hand, have the Parliamentary system, but without a Supreme Court, a Constitution or a Bill of Rights. Canada has made a great improvement and modernization of that.
Early readers made sure I knew about the notwithstanding clause. Through their perspective, I was under the impression that those words were universally hated. Since being here, however, I see that many Canadians support the notwithstanding clause as a check on power. The fact that it has never been invoked helps ensure its use will not be taken lightly. The longer that stands, the weightier the moment, also a good thing.
Last night, as Allan and I were talking about all this, I realized another area of my ignorance: we couldn't think of who appoints justices to the Supreme Court of Canada. You never hear about that in connection with Prime Ministers or Parliament, the way you do during US Presidential campaigns.
We discovered that those justices are appointed by the Governor General, on advice from the Privy Council. Ah, a depoliticized appointment, very sensible. But who are the Privy Council? Where do they come from?
If this post is a bit bumpy, it's because I just wanted to put down these various thoughts and observations, and leave the rest to you. I've learned so much from wmtc readers, and I have a long way to go. Your thoughts on any of this are most welcome.
* The other two are baseball and jazz. Thanks to historian Gerald Early for this.