Friday, April 02, 2004

Country of the Week

In the interests of expanding my knowledge of geography, and all of you (whoever is reading this blog), I would like to start a Country of the Week. I'll pick a country of the week and talk about it generally, what the government, people and land is like, and specifically, what's going on currently.

Since this isn't a published rag, and I'm not getting paid for this, I reserve the right to pick more than one a week, or less than one, depending on my time or interest.
To start this crazy crusade, I'll pick a country close to home.
Now the reason I do this is because of the constant complaint I get from Canadians that we Yanks don't know as much about the great white north as they know about us. This is partially defendable in that we are the most powerful (and therefore most talked about, covered and important) nation in the world, and most international people know lots about the US.

The first place anyone should look to find out information about a country is the CIA World Factbook, which has all the descriptive data you could want, like the size, population, yadda, yadda.

It's important to know how the country is governed and who governs. In the US we all know the three branches of government and generally who resides there, especially the President. But quick, can you name the prime minister of Canada? Any of the major political parties in play up there? How are the members of the senate or house of commons selected? You neither?

The Canadian government is similar to ours, but different in some surprising areas. The Prime Minister is similar to our President. Currently this is Paul Martin of the Liberal party. He entered this spot when Jean Cretien vacated the spot recently, before the natural end of his term.
Interestingly, the government web site still lists the "Sovereign" of Canada as her majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Governor General (traditionally appointed by the Sovereign) as Adrienne Clarkson. The Governor General is a ceremonial position, like that of the Queen, and usually chosen by the PM

For a really good look at how the Canadian Government is set up I recommend (as does this site written by a Canadian Senator, Eugene Foresy. Key quote from the front page:
"We cannot work or eat or drink; we cannot buy or sell or own anything; we cannot go to a ball game or a hockey game or watch TV without feeling the effects of government. We cannot marry or educate our children, cannot be sick, born or buried without the hand of government somewhere intervening."

Sheesh, and I thought we spent too much time thinking about our government.

Anyway, the Only real elections that Canadians have on the National front is the parliamentary elections, that is to elect members of the house of commons. The majority party in this house will usually determine who becomes PM and the PM selects the rest of the cabinet. The PM does not have to be re-elected, and terms are kind of a loose thing up there anyway. There are generally elections every 5 years for the house, but the PM can call for elections before then (and the Governor General can say no. It's all so confusing, but fascinating at the same time). There are 5 parties with seats in the house. The Liberal party has the majority (41%), and the Canadian Alliance party is the major opposition party (26%). Other parties are Bloc Quebecois, New Democratic Party, and the Progressive Conservative party.
The senate, unlike our senate, is appointed by the PM. It's function is similar, to review legislation from the House of Commons.
The Supreme Court of Canada is similar to ours. There are 9 members (one is Chief) and they are appointed by the PM.

Some of the issues that face Canada currently are the same as here in the US. Terrorism is something they have to deal with too.
British Columbia is pleading for the Canadian Govt to come in and save them from an avian flu that is decimating the poultry industry in the Fraser valley.
My favorite headline regarding that was: "Pressure mounts to kill more BC chickens."
Always interesting are the US and Canada trade disputes over timber. The US and Canada are still fighting over timber imports to the US from the north. The WTO just ruled in favor of the Canadians, but NAFTA still has yet to rule on it.

No comments: