Canadian Politics: 42nd Parliament


I know it’s “fun” to talk about US politics, but somebody has to carry on our own political conversation. This thread is for all levels of government (federal, provincial and local) but I plan to start a new one for each parliament as a way of creating time capsules for different political eras.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada and her other realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada


House of Commons


Senate delay on sex assault training for judges bill ‘makes my blood boil’: Ambrose

Former interim Conservative leader says #metoo campaign opening men’s eyes to pervasive problem

Before leaving politics, Ambrose introduced Bill C-337 to mandate training for judges on sexual assault law, saying it was needed after a series of high-profile cases revealed many judges adhere to archaic stereotypes about women who are subjected to sexual violence.

Bill C-337 passed the House of Common with bipartisan support in May, but has languished in the Senate ever since.

Ambrose pointed to “a few Liberal senators and Independent senators that are blocking it from even getting to committee.” She called out Liberal Sen. Joan Fraser, in particular, who has argued “it is neither appropriate nor wise for Parliament to be getting into the fine details of dictating what legal education must include.”

Ambrose said after women muster the “guts and courage” to report a sexual assault and go through with a trial, they should be able to have confidence that the judge understands sexual assault law.

“And the judiciary is unfortunately part of one of those institutions where people think, ‘they’re not going to help, they don’t understand. I will not get justice there,’” Ambrose said.

Do read the whole article.


I work in Detroit overlooking the river into Windsor and can confirm that earlier this year y’all put up a giant Canadian flag on your side of the riverfront. Looks good.

I can also confirm after visiting Ottawa to see Arcade Fire (helluva show) that lots of folks I talked to think Justin’s all talk no action and wish he were a minority leader who had to compromise.

In other news they’re shutting down the Windsor-Detroit tunnel for a long time for repairs.

Sorry about Gord.


Thanks about Gord Downie. He was a much beloved figure here, and his music was and is a huge part of my life, as is the case for many, many Canadians. I was pretty upset when he announced his diagnosis and when he finally passed away. Part of me wishes we’d give him a state funeral.

Trudeau is certainly better than the clowns we had for almost a decade before he was elected, but he’s definitely, definitely not without faults. I admit that he’s probably better than most centre-left politicians in the western world, but he and his party are still, in many (if not most) ways, the smiling, happy face of neoliberalism and the status quo (and I said as much when he was elected). The complete ditching of electoral reform, a major part of his electoral campaign, and the current botching of the inquiry regarding murdered and missing First Nations women are particularly exasperating.


I’m less of a participant in Canadian politics than an observer, so I’ll just be idly keeping an eye on this thread to try and pick up a thing or two as we go along.

That said, I do think there’s at least some parallels that can be drawn between Trudeau and other politicians of the centre (or centre-left). The ditching of electoral reform in particular reminds me of Tony Blair’s half-completed reform of the House of Lords, which remains a truly frustrating aspect of the British political landscape. I guess the logic is that once they’ve won they don’t need to change it, but it’s maddening all the same.


As a Canadian, I’m a bit embarrassed to need to be asking this, but what is up with all the vacant senate seats?


Nice to find a bit of home while I’m away. I try tk read CBC when I can but being in Mexico doesn’t give me the same level of involvement as living in Ottawa did.

Thanks for the thread friend!


The Conservatives wanted to reform the Senate to have term limits and be elected, but the Supreme court said they couldn’t do that without a constitutional amendment, so Harper just stopped appointing Senators.

On July 24, 2015, Harper announced that he would not be directing the governor general to fill the 22 vacancies in the Senate, preferring that the provinces “come up with a plan of comprehensive reform or to conclude that the only way to deal with the status quo is abolition.”

Justin Trudeau has been appointing Senators, but there’s a stream of people being forced to retire at 75. The oldest current vacancy is from September 2016, most are from this year.. There are 14 more Senate retirements by the end of 2019, including the last of the Senators appointed by Justin Trudeau’s father 33 years ago.


Would it be fair to compare the Canadian Senate to the British House of Lords, in that case? Appointed directly through the Prime Minister (potentially with some kind of oversight of it) rather than being elected? I had no idea!


I don’t know anything really about the House of Lords, but yeah, basically Senators are appointed for life by the Queen but actually the Governor General because the Queen isn’t in Canada but actually the Governor General only ever appoints Senators on the advice of the Prime Minister. They do have to retire at 75 and each province is supposed to have a certain number of Senators. That number is actually “hard-coded” into the constitution and not tied to population, which leads us to a situation where Senate seats are distributed very disproportionately to population.


Thanks for this.


Trudeau dropped the ball on election reform, and because of him we might have to deal with another conservative government after the next election…

Other than that I have been fairly happy with him. I would love to live in a world with no pipelines or no oil being used at all, but I can’t pretend I don’t understand why the pipelines that were approved were.

That said I go to work everyday with a bunch of people who wish Trudeau would die and that Harper would come back to “save the country.” So my perspective on good enough might be skewed.


Also pretty consistently exasperated by Trudeau – I remember thinking “well, at least we might get proportional representation out of this,” after the last election, and then watching him totally drop the ball last year and being furious.

Some questions for folks:

What do you think of Jagmeet Singh? I’m not super familiar with his politics, but my weird partisan loyalty lies with the NDP and I’m hoping he’s good for them.

And how do you think Quebec’s Bill 62 is going to pan out? It’s pointedly Islamophobic to a cartoonish degree, and I feel like it’s also pretty clearly and uncontroversially unconstitutional. I would be pretty surprised if it wasn’t formally challenged soon.


I recently moved to Montréal from France and Bill 62 gives me bad flashbacks to the time the french gvt passed a similar islamophobic law under the pretense of secularity. It does seem like it’s probably not going to be fully enforced as it is not only a pain to actually do it but also hopefully it will be struck down soon.
It clearly feels like the current Quebec gvt is passing 62 as a way to appeal to more conservative (and also fairly xenophobic) voters with an election coming up next year but it is still a very upsetting thing to see happen in Canada.


I’m afraid Bill 62 and Scheer’s Rebel ties are the beginning of an era of ugly xenophobic conservativism coming to Canada. I read the Toronto Sun for the first time in while while waiting in a restaurant and 2 of the first 3 stories were just Islamophobic fear-mongering. I know it’s a garbage paper, but still, it reaches a lot of people.
I have a hard time believing that our conservative movement is just going to ignore how successful Trump’s campaign was.


There is a lot of Islamophobia going on and it is very concerning, but the Conservatives relationship with immigrant communities is more complicated than just xenophobia. Many immigrant communities have a tendency to social conservatism and some conservative politicians have worked hard to win the support of these communities, notably Jason Kenney and Patrick Brown. Immigrant communities were a key part of how Patrick Brown won the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, and Brown has come out strongly against Bill 62. Of course this has pissed off some of his base as well, as is clear from the replies on Twitter.

Neutrality is not enough. If feds won't lead Canada, and this racist law passes, ON must support a Charter challenge

— Patrick Brown (@brownbarrie) October 20, 2017

Harper had espoused such a strategy before as well, until he tried to take advantage of Islamophobia to win the 2015 election.

Harper tried to build a big tent party. His successors are burning it down.

In 2006, several months after becoming prime minister, Stephen Harper traveled to Washington to meet President George W. Bush. At a private dinner hosted by Canada’s newly-appointed ambassador, Michael Wilson, the subject of diversity and immigration came up.

There, in the presence of Bush’s campaign guru Karl Rove and several U.S. cabinet ministers (Bush didn’t attend himself), Harper explained how the Liberal party had traditionally been the party of immigrants in Canada — and that he was determined to change that. He told his American guests that Canada’s immigrant communities had the right-of-centre family values that should make them feel perfectly at home in the Conservative party.

In Canada, Harper remained in power for almost a decade, helped by the split in the centre-left and the ferocious control he exercised over the motley coalition of Christian evangelicals, government-destroying libertarians and old-school Tories that constituted the Conservative Party of Canada. Through much of that time, Harper kept the lid on the nasty xenophobic elements in his party and actually made significant inroads in certain communities of new Canadians with the help of Jason Kenney, who continues to argue in favour of open borders and against Trump’s Muslim ban.

It all came apart in the final desperate days of the 2015 election, of course, when a desperate Conservative party cavorted openly with anti-immigrant voters and launched the ill-fated ‘barbaric cultural practices’ snitch line. Since their defeat, the Conservatives have been flailing around looking for direction. Devoid of attractive alternatives who can actually unify the party and make it a viable centre-right option, the leadership race has devolved into a mosh pit of candidates who will literally say anything to get attention.

I also remember that the person who heckled Jagmeet Singh later posted a video about how “she’s not racist” and one of her points was about how “we’ve done great work with the Hindus”. And we’ve seen Hindu nationalists participate in Islamophobic rallies, which racists love to point to as an argument for why they’re not racist.

You might be interested in this episode of Politicoast.


I used to work at a place… let’s just say it was a town that rhymed with Filton, and that was the main newspaper that was read in our lunchroom.

There were some awful things said about the one middle eastern person that was hired, in my last year working there. Can’t say I miss it at all. Anyone who says Canada isn’t racist and doesn’t have white privilege baked into it isn’t payong attention.


I think the comparison is totally fair, but there are some big differences.

Canada’s Senate was modelled after the House of Lords, but in practice wields less power since it was labelled as a chamber of “sober second thought.” On paper, they actually have more power than the House of Lords, since they can reject or delay budget bills, but in practice, they tend to back down when challenged by the Commons, as was the case this past summer.

And since the Senate is unelected and unrepresentative of Canada’s population and can’t seem to go a year without a scandal involving sexual assault, domestic abuse, or incredible racism, their legislative legitimacy is not exactly great.

And that doesn’t even touch the cases of corruption and bribery we’ve seen recently as well.

So yeah, all that to say, I’m somewhat envious of the fact that the House of Lords is at least elected, while Canada’s Senate likely has no hope of ever receiving any significant reform.


The Governor General has managed to make the news, which is unusual. I don’t think what she did is really that newsworthy, but I guess I don’t get to make that call.

The CPC is really trumping up the comments she made, but maybe as a side effect we can have a discussion about the role of the Governor General. I think the notion that the GG should be apolitical is a bit absurd, the office is obviously inextricably political. The only people trying to make Payette’s comments out as partisan are the CPC.


I think it’s a good question, but I’m not sure I agree. The office itself is political, sure; on paper, the GG has considerable executive, legislative, and judicial power (as long as the Queen’s not in town, anyway). However, since the GG is appointed by the Prime Minister and not elected, their real power in a democracy is limited; if the GG were ever to actually exercise any of those considerable powers, Canada would most likely undergo a constitutional crisis and we’d likely no longer have a GG after it was done. See what almost happened in 2009 with the prorogation of Parliament.

So the GG is left to mostly just be a figurehead and live in a nice house; the role is ceremonial at best, and very much local to Canada. However, if we think of the GG as a stand-in for the Queen, it is interesting because the role is invested with more meaning: is the GG speaking for the Queen when she makes comments about climate change? QEII famously stays out of politics because she understands her role exists ceremonially at this point, and it could be argued that as an extension of the Queen, the GG should follow the same rules.

Here’s the thing, though: while I personally 100% agree with Julie Payette’s comments and I think that the government should be promoting a legislative agenda to combat climate change, I worry about a future GG appointment that does not conform to my views and uses the microphone that comes with their office to promote legislation that I find abhorrent. It’s not the GG’s role, we already elect Members of Parliament for that.