Category Archives: European Politics

U.K Voters Elect Hung Parliament in Jolly Good 2010 Election

The British Parliamentary Election took twelve days to count (the pace was so slow because British laws stipulates that after each ballot the vote-counters must drink a full cup of Twinings and salute the Queen before proceding to count the next ballot.) The results weren’t very surprising (though I lost a $50 bet as I predicted Plaid Cymru minority government.) Some thoughts on the results and what happens next:

  • The Conservatives gained 3.8%, the Lib-Dems gained a paltry 1% and the Labour Party lost 6.2%.
  • The Sinn Fein, an Irish nationalist party won 5 seats, but they don’t actually show up to the HOC, this reduces the amount of seats a party needs to form government.
  • British parliamentary tradition dictates that, even though the Conservatives won a plurality of seats the most recent Prime Minister, in this case Gordon Brown, gets the opportunity to try to form a coalition. Though David Cameron has offer Nick Clegg/the Lib-Dems the opportunity to join the 306 Conservative MPs in a coalition government he is going to respect that tradition an allow Brown the attempt (which will most certainly fail.) It is jarring to see a Conservative Party in an English-speaking parliament that respects constitutional tradition and procedures.
  • A non-Conservative coalition is possible. It would probably be formed between the Labour Party (258 MPs, 29% of the vote), the Lib-Dems (57 MPs, 23% of the vote), the Green Party (1 MP, 1% of the vote), the Scottish National Party (6 MPs, 1.7% of the vote) and Ireland’s Social Democratic & Labour Party (3 MPs, 0.4% of the vote) for a 325 seat majority (representing 55.1% of the electorate.) This would be difficult for many reasons: it would be a 5 party coalition with each party many ideological fissures, Labour did very poorly in England proper, winning more than one hundred fewer seats than the Conservatives, a coalition government without the Conservatives would not represent the core of the U.K and with several regional nationalist parties demanding money for their regions their could be a huge backlash, Gordon Brown didn’t win the election (there is really no way to dispute that) so it could be unseemly for him to try to remain PM.
  • Nick Clegg/the Liberal-Democrats have made it crystal clear that they wont enter into any agreement (formal coalition, or ad hoc bill-by-bill support) without an agreement from their partner (Conservative or Labour) to change the U.K.’s voting system to so-called “Proportional Representation.” It is not just their leader who is a stickler on this issue but the MPs who make up his party seem resolute. Tory leader David Cameron and his party are against PR. The Conservatives’ manifesto says they will make all ridings the same size but that is the extent of Conservative electoral reform. This is just the first of many policy divides between the Conservatives/the Lib-Dems (the European Union, taxes, immigration and crime are just a few of the others) so it is not a given that a Cameron-Clegg coalition would be more stable than a polyglot Labour-LibDem-SNP-GP-SDLP coalition. The CC coalition isn’t that bizarre in Europe, from 1966 to 1969, and again from 2005 to 2009, Germany was governed by a “Grand Coalition” comprised of the CDU/CSU and SPD parties which were ideological on different ends of the spectrum, this produce a more moderate government.
  • Conventional wisdom is that Gordon Brown/the Labour Party only supported electoral reform as party of a deathbed conversion. That is quite false, Brown campaigned on changing the electoral system in the U.K. but he was sensibly against “Proportional Representation.” The U.K. election results signal a clear 63.9% of voters supporting reform but only 23% being definitely in favour of “PR.” Commentators are correct when they predict that the U.K. is now entering into a national debate on electoral reform and the essence of democracy no matter which party/parties form the next British government.
  • As Canada’s system of governance is modeled after the British system perhaps we should be having the same debate on the efficacy of our system?
  • Coalition is not a dirty word in the U.K. They are lucky that their leaders are intellectually honest enough not to distort the fact that coalitions are just one facet of parliamentary politics.

“Proportional Representation”: Neither proportional nor representative.

Cleggmania (enthusiasm for the Nick Clegg, leader of the British Liberal-Democratic Party, similar to Olympic Fever, March Madness, and syphilis) has swept across the United Kingdom has arrived in Canada and is looking to rock the political world. Unfortunately for Mr. Clegg and the Lib-Dems the wave of popular support for him/their party that washed over England (appearing to dramatically restructure British politics) seems to have subsided. Now the Lib-Dems are polling around 27% nationally (though national polls don’t actually matter) and Clegg’s lofty rhetoric/discussion of Prime Minister Clegg are slowly being replaced with talk of coalitions and hung parliament. The mild stasis of UK polls is not a huge slump for Nick Clegg (just juxtapose the plateauing of the Lib-Dems’s numbers with the Hindenburg imitation that Gordon Brown/the Labour Party have been doing over the last three years.)

Nick Clegg had 2.5 amazing debate performances and has turned what would have been a boring two-man race ending in the coronation of Prime Minister David Cameron into a three-man race that has been substantive and interesting.

The BBC has a handy calculator that can approximate how many seats each party will win in Britain’s House of Commons. The example below is one concurrent with recent polls but it subject to change:

The Lib-Dems have 1% less nationally than the Labour Party but are predicted to win 183 less seats in parliament. Supporters of the Nick Clegg and haters of the ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system, point to this possible scenario as the ultimate “injustice” and a have twisted their consternation into the argument for implemented a so-called “Proportional Representation” electoral system in the U.K.

The Lib-Dems’s manifesto states that they will implement a Single Transferable Vote (STV) style system, if elected:

[The Lib-Dems will: ] Change politics and abolish safe seats by introducing a fair, more proportional voting system for MPs. Our preferred Single Transferable Vote system gives people the choice between candidates as well as parties. Under the new system, we will be able to reduce the number of MPs by 150.

The outrage against the MP Expense scandal has fueled both the U.K. Conservatives and the Lib-Dems’s campaigns. This same righteous anger has made the British polity chaotic enough that citizens may be willing to suspend logic and actually buy into the false-premisses behind he push for PR.

Some of the many reasons why Proportional Representation is silly (with specific reference to Nick Clegg’s STV) :

  • The idea that fairness can only be achieved when the percentage a party receives of the “popular vote” is equal to/close to the percentage of seats that party receives in the House of Commons is a fallacy. Elections in the U.K. and Canada are not the same as the Presidential Election in the United States. The British election is 650 separate elections just as the Canadian election is 308 separate elections (though Stephen Harper would tell you otherwise.) The view that the party matters more than individual candidates (which is the tacit assumption of all PR advocates) is the opposite of the purpose of representative democracy as MPs should be responsible to the people of their ridings. There is no way to give parties who receive a small percentage of the vote in ridings spread across a country a seat in parliament while having them actually represent the people who voted for them.
  • STV creates huge ridngs with multiple representatives. This makes it even harder for people in any of the mega-ridings to feel truly represented by any of the people who are supposed to represent them.
  • More MPs in the House of Commons is a good thing, cutting the number is bad for democracy. “Proportional Representation” already privileges political parties over constituents,  reducing the number of MPs would lead to a Stephen-Harper-like dictatorship of the executive branch in Britain.
  • The Labour Party has a broad base of support across the U.K. This is what gets them elected and gives them a mandate. Coalition-governments are great for democracy (they are popular across Europe) because they represent the majority of those who vote. The “First Past the Post” electoral system does have many flaws but augmenting it with “Instant Runoff Voting” is more democratic/logical in a parliamentary setting than STV.
  • “Proportional Representation” is the lazy-person’s electoral system. Implement PR implies that democracy ends at the ballot box. There are many ways of becoming engaged in the political process but calling your system “proportional” (when it is actually the opposite) tells your citizens that they only have to vote to take part in policies, and to leave the campaigning and policy creation to the unelected unions, lobbyists, political hacks, etc. who run the parties.
  • Nick Clegg/the Lib-Dems to propose a lot of great ideas (like the ability to recall MPs, budget transparency, British constitutional reforms, and campaign finance reform) which are all sincerely motivated in making policies more free and fair but the STV electoral system is motivated primarily by the interests of the Liberal-Democratic Party

A brief digression on Canada’s Senate:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is gearing up for another run at Americanizing Canada’s Senate. Like Nick Clegg’s STV proposal, Harper’s goal in altering Canada’s Senate is one of self-interest, not Canadian interest. Stephen Harper’s telos is a Senate that allows one Conservative Senator to prevent the majority from governing if legislation proposed by the majority does fit into the narrow, extreme-right ideology of Stephen Harper and the reformatories. Stephen Harper is too much of a coward/intellectual light-weight to actually start a real national debate on Senate Reform so he has tried (an failed) to mutate the Senate but every time he tried reality slapped him in the face

Harper has spent the last four years appointing more Senators than any other Prime Minister even though his party received less than 38% of the vote in the last election. Canada’s Senate was not designed as an institutionalized veto, like the US Senate was, but that is what Harper wants it to be without anyone but his narrow Politburo Executive’s input or consent.

The “Senate Reform” Harper has also be covertly pursuing is appointing the so-called “Elected” Senators from Alberta. Proponents of the incorrectly named “Triple E” Senate point to the elections that took place in 2004 in Alberta (where each “Elected Senator” received less than 50% of the vote and only two far-right parties participated) as a flawless example of how the Senate should be elected. The piecemeal process that Prime Minister Harper is forcing on the majority of Canadians will alter Canadian democracy but not for the better. What the Prime Minister wants is a two-tiered Senate (elected and non-elected) where chaos reigns.

Canadians should not trust Stephen Harper in changing democracy. This is the man who prorogued parliament twice to avoid being held accountable by the peoples’s representatives and lied to Canadians saying that they directly elect the Prime Minister (which they don’t) and convincing his loyal/angry followers that a democratic action was the same a coup.

The specious myth that “elected = democratic” is as dangerous as it is popular. Canada’s Senate should be an effective sober second-thought and it should remain appointed. Mechanisms can and must be put in place so that the Senate is balanced in its regional representation with Senators who were appointed based on merit by a committee that consults with the leadership of Canada’s political parties and the Canadian people.

Conclusions:

Democracy is more than just voting and elections do not a democracy make. David Cameron is opposed to any form of Electoral Reform, Gordon Brown is in favour of mild changes but opposes STV/PR. The coalition formed after election day (May 6th) should be an interesting one.

The Liberal Party of Canada: Making Infrastructure Sexy ;)

I L-O-V-E trains even more than I love nuclear power (that is almost enough enthusiasm for me to collapse into myself like a dying star.) High-speed rail is fantastic for many reasons: infrastructure projects create jobs, they are good for the environment, they can effeciently/quickly move people and goods, Mounties get to save damsels from being crushed by them, they can make Canada less geographically massive/desperate and they remind Canadians of our romantic past while showcasing our fantastic scenery. If Canada invests in high-speed rail technology now a strong foundation for future technology will be created. Europe has already embraced the awesomeness of “Bullet Trains” which has helped unite each separate EU country and the whole European Union culturally, economically and politically.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada have shown great leadership in promoting investment in infrastructure and new technologies. Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty were still denying that Canada was in a recession and refusing to provide any stimulus even after the Coalition and Prorogation. It was Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party that forced the government to pass a budget that included a stimulus package (with a focus on infrastructure spending.) The Liberal Party has now come out strongly in favour of Canada investing in high-speed rail.

Hopefully High-Speed Rail Investment will be an issue in the next election. Conservatives H-A-T-E high-speed rail.* During the next election they will say that super-fast trains cost too much money and will use the words “taxes” over and over (while ignoring how much they have spent since the 2008 election. Liberals need to fight the ignorance and shortsightedness of the Conservative Party of Canada with truth and vision.

The Liberal Party with Michael Ignatieff as leader is the only party that can unite Canada, create jobs and bring Canada into the future, just like High-Speed rail. Canada needs High-Speed Rail. Canada needs Michael Ignatieff.

For all the feasibility studies, expressions of openness from politicians and enthusiastic editorials over the past couple of decades, there has seemed something fanciful about the notion of bringing high-speed rail to Canada. Only the federal government has the resources to make such an investment, and the idea – despite some support at the provincial level – has never truly registered in Ottawa.

That may be about to change. Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal Leader, has previously expressed enthusiasm for high-speed trains. With his party struggling to differentiate itself from the governing Conservatives, there is speculation that promises to build those links – between Calgary and Edmonton, along the Windsor-Montreal corridor, or both – could be part of the Liberals’ next platform.

There would be something convenient about a party that has widely been accused of lacking vision seizing on so symbolic and romantic a project – one that harkens back to the foundations on which the country was built. But Mr. Ignatieff, who has yet to coherently explain in practical terms how his economic management would differ from Stephen Harper’s, would be unwise to view high-speed rail as a quick fix for the Liberals’ inability to generate excitement. While it might deliver them some ridings in Ontario and Quebec (Alberta is a different matter), it would likely be greeted with indifference in some other parts of the country.

As part of a broader economic vision, however, high-speed rail has much to recommend it. In the short-term, it would create jobs. But unlike many other infrastructure projects announced during the recent bonanza of stimulus spending, its long-term benefits would be greater. To be able to travel by train between Toronto and Montreal in little more than two hours would improve productivity, encourage tourism, and reduce emissions by getting people out of their cars. In Alberta, which bizarrely lacks any passenger service at all between its two largest cities, the impact could be even greater.

What remains to be seen, even if the Liberals commit to high-speed rail, is whether they are prepared to scale back infrastructure spending elsewhere. There is a danger that, in order to appease voters outside the pockets that would directly benefit from the new links, they would continue the scattershot spending – much of it on make-work projects – that flowed from last winter’s stimulus package. (A recent tally suggested that the Conservatives have made nearly 1,600 funding announcements since their re-election last October.)

If that is the case, the many billions of dollars required for high-speed rail would be unaffordable. But if the Liberals demonstrate a readiness to make difficult decisions in order to advance a priority, they may finally begin showing some of that vision they have seemed to lack.

*One more point in High-speed Rail’s favour.

Communist Party Loses Moldovan Election (Sort-of)

Thoughts:

Moldova has 2 elections this year. One in April and one at the end of July. After the first the parliament was in a dead-lock and many young voters, upset with the results took to the streets. These so called “progressive youths” met outside the election’s center, the President’s residence, and protested. The early flash mobs were small but they used twitter to encourage others to join them, their ranks eventually swelling to about 10 000 people. This is being referred to by some as Moldova’s Twitter revolution. The Moldova’s who participated tweeted in English and used the hash-tag #pman (which is apparently short-form for their capital) and managed to get #pman as a trending topic. This brought international attention to what was going in Moldova (a country many people may have never heard about.) Unfortunately the government was able to shut down the internet in the area they were protesting. This was the first such “Twitter Revolution” and very much set the scene for what happened in other countries such as Taiwan and Iran. Though the April “Twitter Revolution” failed it did sew the seeds for July’s election.

July’s election is a very good thing for Moldova. Moldova has one o the worst economies in Europe and is the sex-trade capital of the world. The Communists Party controls the Media and the police force so it is a great stride forward that the opposition parties were able to win 53 of the 101 seats in Moldova’s Parliament (one party managed to increase its share of seats by 13 up from 0 in April.) Let’s hope a coalition can be formed and Moldova can work with the EU to create a better future for its 4,128,047 citizens.

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Moldova swings behind pro-EU parties

Pro-EU and pro-reform opposition parties have done better than expected in Moldova’s snap elections. But tough coalition talks lie ahead.

With 85 percent of ballots counted on Thursday morning (30 July), the four main opposition factions got 47.5 percent and the Communist party got 45.2 percent.

The result comes despite the Communist government’s near monopoly on media and significant outside support. Russia recently dangled Moldova – Europe’s poorest country – $500 million (€350 million) of aid and China offered $1 billion.

The new government will depend on whether Democratic Party leader Marian Lupu makes a deal with the three other opposition factions or with the Communist party.

Mr Lupu held the powerful post of parliament speaker for the Communist side until June.

But he left the Communists to join the reformist Democratic Party following a bloody government crackdown on demonstrators and the Communists’ decision not to put him forward for president.

“Expect a couple of months of heavy horse-trading,” European Council on Foreign Relations analyst Nicu Popescu said in his EUobserver blog.

The snap elections were called after widespread accusations of fraud in an earlier poll in April, which ended in violent protests and deaths in police custody.

The EU in the run-up to Wednesday’s vote laid out conditions for deeper integration.

Free and fair elections, respect for human rights and the creation of a credible enquiry into April’s events would secure full participation in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” scheme and EU advocacy with international financial lenders, Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said.

Moldova’s future EU relations will be complicated by pro-Russian authorities in the breakaway Transniestria province, who have risen in stature due to the political mess in Chisinau.

But the election result is likely to spell the departure of Moldova’s 68-year old acting Communist president, Vladimir Voronin.

Gordon Brown: Wiring a web for global good

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is an interesting parallel to Paul Martin. Gordon Brown was the United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (their finance minister) for 10 years. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government came into office after years of Conservative Governments that tore apart the social safety net in Great Britain and left their finances in shambles. Chancellor Brown was a miracle worker who turned their economy around. In 2007 he became Prime Minister when Tony Blair handed the Premiership over to him, he did not gain the office of Prime Minister through an election. Behind the scenes there was lots of infighting between Brown’s supporters and Blair’s supporters. Prime Minister Brown is not as adept at running all of the U.K as he was at running the countries finances. He has been an ineffective PM.

In Cuba I met 10 different citizens of the United Kingdom, and yesterday on my way to Toronto I met a retired couple visiting Canada on the train, also from the U.K. There was a hegemony in their answers to my annoying political questions : they all had voted Labour, they liked Tony Blair, they believed that Gordon Brown was a great Chancellor of the Exchequer, and all of them said they believed David Cameron (the leader of Britain’s Conservatives and the British opposition leader) would eventually become PM and that he was more trustworthy than Prime Minister Brown. Each person from the United Kingdom I talked to (and I acknowledge it wasn’t a large sample) had their own unique was of describing just how “un-charismatic” their current Prime Minister is (“black hole of charisma,” “he can’t win over a crowd who already agrees with him.”)

Like Paul Martin, Prime Minister Brown helped turn around his countries economy, lacks charisma and recentally Prime Minister Brown has suffered a series of scandals involving how government funds are being used by members of parliament from his parliament. The big different between the two is actually the contrast between David Cameron and Stephen Harper. Both men are relatively young (Cameron being much younger.) Both have attempted to change their parties’ public image. Both represent Conservative parties in relatively liberal countries and work within a parliamentary system. The election system in the U.K. is the best system FPTP. This is where both men apart. Cameron was born in privilege but he worked his way to the top of his class at many fine educational institutions (whereas Stephen Harper dropped out of U of T and went West.) Stephen Harper is a career poltician, while Cameron did work for a think tank he spend 7 years in the private sector. The Concervaive think-tank Cameron worked for was in no way as extreme as the anti-government/anti-tax/anti-logic “National Citizen’s Coalition.” Cameron is pro-Environment, is public about his faith, is actually pro-life, supports crime-reduction and is for progressive health reform.

Gordon Brown has many similarities to Paul Martin but David Cameron is in no way analogous to Stephen Harper.

Stephen Harper’s Self-Destructive Czech-Visa Policy

Thoughts:

- If Stephen Harper had put the Visa-restrictions on the Czech Republic just a month ago this would have immediately become an international situation. The Czech President was holding the rotation EU President position and his term ended this month.

- The EU has shown it is willing to act rashly towards Canada when they banned seal products. Then they had no real reason to be upset. Stephen Harper’s visa-restriction policy is asinine, will not “protect Canadians” in any way, will hurt those who have legitimate reason to be seking asylum, will tarnish Canada’s image (even more than Prime Minister Harper already has) and may bring reprisal.

- Stephen Harper is terrible at foreign policy. Czechs coming to Canada and seeking refugee status is in no way an epidemic. Now all 27 EU member states may introduce visa requirements for Canadians. Does Stephen Harper hate Canadians who aren’t a huge philistine like himself and actually travel (he didn’t leave the country before becoming PM) that he wants to punish them?

- Jason Kenney says that immigrants abuse Canada’s “generous, open immigration system, one of the most generous in the world.” He sounds like a border-state republican.
- Eu free trade deal

- Stockwell Day (arguably the only competant minister in Stephen Harper’s government) did a great job working towards an EU free-trade deal. Now Stephen Harper has thrown away all that good will.

- The EU as a whole does have a prople with discrimination against the Roma. Banning them form the country does nothing to fix that proplem. Under the Harper government Canada has apparently stopped being a champion of human rights.
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The Czech government has called for EU solidarity after Canada decided to stop its visa-free regime with Prague due to an increasing number of Czech Roma applicants for asylum in Canada.

Two years after abolishing visa requirements for Czechs as a new member nation of the European Union, Canada re-introduced the visa obligation for all visitors from the country on Tuesday (14 July), following several diplomatic warnings about the likely move.

Although aware of the problem of asylum seekers of Roma origin and Ottawa’s plans to tackle it, Czech officials stated that the decision was one-sided and unfair and should be protested by all of Europe.

As a response Prague withdrew its ambassador to Canada and imposed visas for Canadian diplomats. Imposition of visas for all Canadian citizens would need to be agreed in co-operation with other EU states.

But the Czech government has also officially requested the European Commission to invoke the bloc’s solidarity procedure which could theoretically result in a decision by all 27 EU member states to introduce visa to Canada.

“I’m curious to know how the other EU member states will react,” Czech prime minister Jan Fischer told reporters in Strasbourg on Tuesday, after meeting commission president Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the matter.

The Czech leader said Mr Barroso had already spoken to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and promised he would try hard to help Prague to achieve the lifting of the visa requirements from Czechs.

“We expect the measures introduced by Canada to be temporary, and we hope that full visa-free travel between the EU and Canada is re-established soon,” the commission spokesman Michele Cercone told journalists in Brussels.

The EU executive will reply to Prague’s official request within three months and submit a report assessing the demand for reciprocity to the council, representing member states. The council then has another three months to decide what action to take.

But Canadian authorities have defended their proceedings and refuted Prague’s criticism. The country’s immigration minister Jason Kenney also downplayed the possibility of a joint EU reaction as asked for by the Czechs.

“I met with [the EU's] acting ambassador yesterday and they gave no indication of such a measure,” he told CTV News Channel Tuesday afternoon.

The minister argued that Canada cannot let migrants from other countries abuse its “generous, open immigration system, one of the most generous in the world.”

“We can’t allow the systematic abuse of people who are basically coming to Canada as economic migrants, jumping the queue, by going through the backdoor of the asylum system,” said Mr Kenney.

Czech citizens submitted 1,720 asylum claims in Canada in the first half of 2009, twice as many as in the whole of 2008, with the majority of claims made by Czech Roma citizens complaining about discrimination in their home country.

Canada and the Monarchy

Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom:

Thoughts:

- $51 million is a substantial amount of money. The real injustice is that Canadians are paying more than British citizens to support her.

- We give her $51 million and she barely ever comes over for tea.

- Michaëlle Jean does do an excellent job. Canada has had great Governors General for the past decades. The American system where the head of state and head of government is fused means that everything is partisan. Canada is lucky to have Michaëlle Jean there for ceremonial purposes (though Stephen Harper manages to make the non-partisan partisan anyways.) If there is a national tragedy it is better to have one representative of the government who can give the whole country’s condolances without looking like they are troling or votes.

- And 65 per cent think ties to the monarchy should be cut once the Queen dies. This will call for an overhall of Canada’s system of government and will be a very interesting time for Canada.
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Queen costs us more than the Brits pay

Robert Finch has a favourite saying: “For the price of a cup of coffee, Canadians can enjoy the stability of the Crown.” By this, the chief operating officer of the Monarchist League of Canada means that the monarchy costs Canadians only $1.53 per capita each year, about the price of a large cup of joe at Tim Hortons. But in fact, Canadians are now paying more per capita to support the Queen than the British are.

According to the latest figures out of Buckingham Palace, while Canadians are shelling out $1.53 per capita, the British are only paying about $1.32. And the Monarchist League’s own numbers show the Canadian cost is skyrocketing. Over just the last 10 years, the per capita bill for supporting the monarchist framework— including expenses incurred by the royal clan on Canadian soil, as well as the cost of running the offices of the Governor General and our 10 provincial lieutenant-governors—has more than doubled.

Finch says that the climbing costs reflect the fact that the Queen’s reps are taking on more active roles, with heightened responsibility and more travel time. While that might be costing Canadians a few extra pennies, he stresses that the monarchy “is not a very expensive operation.” But Tom Freda, national director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, is not so sure. “Ah, the Monarchists. They love to break it down to per capita and make it sound all nice and rosy,” he says. “But $40 million or $50 million [a year] sure sounds like a lot to me.” The Monarchist League supports that figure, estimating that about $50,147,000 was spent during the 2006-07 year.

The problem, Freda says, is that Canada effectively has two heads of state: the Queen and the Governor General, as well as a band of provincial reps. And that overlap creates “redundant and obsolete positions” that end up costing Canadian taxpayers big bucks. The Queen’s agents need to learn a lesson in frugality during these tough times, he argues, especially since most of the work done by the lieutenant-governors is already handled by deputy premiers and other officials. Freda says it is “exorbitant,” for example, that the Ontario lieutenant-governor employs nine staff members, and “shocking” that the B.C. office shells out piles of cash each year to run a 102-room official residence for its lieutenant-governor. As for the “highly irrelevant” Governor General? “The Governor General has literary awards and cuts ribbons and plants trees and travels to Nunavut and eats seal meat. But what else?”

Finch counters that the Crown’s stabilizing presence is worth the money. He accounts for Canadians’ more sizable bill with more mundane explanations: our smaller population, for instance. He also explains that Brits have the home court advantage when it comes to the monarchy, since the U.K. receives income tax from royal estates and we don’t. In the end, it’s a small price to pay, he says, to safeguard Canada’s democratic tradition.

Despite such arguments, it seems like Freda and his Canadian Republicans are winning in the court of public opinion. According to a Canada Day poll by Strategic Council, only 30 per cent of Canadians feel a connection to the Queen or Governor General. And 65 per cent think ties to the monarchy should be cut once the Queen dies.

Freda cites numbers like that as support for his group’s radical proposal to completely overhaul the system. He calls for the Governor General to be replaced by “a wholly Canadian institution”—an independent head of state, accountable only to Canadians. Sure, he admits, that would still cost money. “But Canadians wouldn’t mind spending on an institution that they can call their own.”

While $1.53 may not get you very far at Tim Hortons, Freda hopes the escalating cost of supporting the Queen will set the wheels of change in motion. It’s not even about the money, he says. “It’s the 21st century. If we’re going to be an independent country, we bloody well better act like it.”

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Franz, Duke of Bavaria: The Rightful King of England

Pictured above is: Franz Bonaventura Adalbert Maria Herzog von Bayern, Duke of Bavaria and the Rightful King of England. Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is the heir to King Charles I who was unjustly usurped. He went to university in Munich and Zurich for Business Management and is an avid art collector. The Equivocator believes that when Elizabeth II (the Queen pretender) passes, the Real King of England should be returned to the throne.