Yesterday the Toronto Star hosted an online chat about Canadian democracy. The conversation between columnist James Travers and Green Party leader Elizabeth May was somewhat interesting, sometimes confusing (I get the feeling there was a delay, and May had some difficulty using the Cover it Live system).
At the end of this chat, which lasted an hour, May said something that I just had to respond to.
Her quote (at 12:00 in the chat): “Politicl parties are not mentione in our Constitution, but now their process and power dominate our parliamentary democracy. ”
This drove me a little bit crazy. She’s not wrong, political parties aren’t mentioned in the Constitution. Neither is the office of Prime Minister. We have a Prime Minister because of this little clause in the preamble of the British North America Act of 1867:
“Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom..”
This little section forms the basis of quite a lot of Canada’s political environment. The U.K. has a Prime Minister, we have a Prime Minister, the U.K. has political parties, with that holding the most seats forming government, and by default, that’s the way our system works to.
You learn a lot about the preamble when you do a degree in political science with a concentration in Canadian politics.