Well, to this American, the multi-party system in Canada appears to be an ineffectual mess, and the antiquated allegiance to the Queen and the Commonwealth boggles me. What's hardest to understand, though, is how the people continually put up with government that is completely unresponsive to their needs. From the City of Calgary refusing to plow residential streets -- to the provincial government shutting down and demolishing badly needed imaging centers, hospitals, and nursing homes -- to the dog's breakfast of parties in Ottawa and their continually shifting alliances, votes of no confidence, and calls for new elections every few months -- well, yes, it's maddening. Canadians are far more patient with their government than Americans are. Try refusing to plow streets in Denver, or shutting down an MRI center in Houston, and you'd see heads roll. In Calgary, they just shrug and say, "That's the way it is. What can you do, eh?" People complain, but they don't DO anything. Waits for medical service are appalling, but buying private insurance is illegal. The streets in December are impassable, but hiring a private plow is illegal. The government has the people by the balls, and IMO it should be the other way around.
Your post is not representative of my experience, and I disagree with most of what you've said, but I appreciate your explaining why you found it incomprehensible.
I will say, however, that the "antiquated allegiance to the Queen and the Commonwealth" has allowed me access to funding I wouldn't otherwise have had to study in the UK, so I'm quite grateful for it.
I hope I don't come across as if I am trying to "dis" Canada. Far from it; I enjoyed my stay there, and I met many amazing, warm people -- even some politicians! Because I was on a work visa and not a citizen, I felt it was not my place to say anything negative or to try to effect change -- although I did get involved in several community issues and service projects.
The way I see it, you're entitled to run your country the way you want, and my opinion as a visitor should count for nothing. However, if people ask, I am glad to discuss the differences in the two systems, and why I (usually) think the American way of doing things is better. :-)
So when I advise zoethe
that she wouldn't be any happier with Canada's system, it's not because Canada sucks (although don't get me started on single payer!) but because I think most Americans would find living under Canada's system very frustrating. I know I did. Even the Americans I met who had immigrated and become citizens often shook their heads in wonder at some of the stuff that goes on. In the end, it very often comes down to what you grew up with, what you were taught in school, your understanding of history, etc.
YMMV, of course.
You lived in Alberta. To many Canadians, that would be enough to dismiss your experiences right there.
Alberta is very, very different in character to the rest of the country. With the possible exception of Saskatchewan.
>Well, to this American, the multi-party system in Canada appears to be an ineffectual mess,
As compared to the effective and progressive nature of American politics lately?
The Liberal Party provided something like ten years of fairly consistent and strong government. Before that, the Conservatives were pretty good as well.
The system is current facing a variety of problems, partly related to a lack of solid leadership and partly to the fact that we're not used to having more than two or three parties with a real share of the vote (despite the fact that it's happened quite a bit in Canadian history).
>and the antiquated allegiance to the Queen and the Commonwealth boggles me.
Why, precisely, is it antiquated. Having a non-democratic head of state is actually kind of useful. We can, at any point, replace her with a democratic one, which means power is only ever exercised when it's worth risking that. It's a pretty good balance, IMO. :P
>From the City of Calgary refusing to plow residential streets -- to the provincial government shutting down and demolishing badly needed imaging centers, hospitals, and nursing homes --
Dude, you lived in Alberta. The reason private care is illegal in Canada is because this is what Alberta does when it's ILLEGAL to have a private option. If it wasn't, they'd shut the entire public system down completely the next day.
Albertans, as far as I can tell, don't believe in government. I'm not sure they believe in cause and effect. They've been through three oil booms, and the bust will still take them by surprise. Trust me.
>to the dog's breakfast of parties in Ottawa and their continually shifting alliances, votes of no confidence, and calls for new elections every few months -- well, yes, it's maddening.
Dude, how long did you live here? Minority governments happen very, very rarely in Canadian politics, and usually turn into majorities pretty quickly. Under almost any other Liberal leader, the Conservatives would have been back out by now. Under almost any other Conservative leader, they'd either be better off or much worse. This honestly may be the worst Canadian politics has been in decades. It is not a normal situation.
>Canadians are far more patient with their government than Americans are.
That, I'll give you.
>Waits for medical service are appalling, but buying private insurance is illegal.
Er...that's what people use for dentistry and pills, so no, it's legal to buy private insurance.
>The streets in December are impassable, but hiring a private plow is illegal.
THAT is Calgary, man, not Canada as a whole. My impression is that Calgary is considered crappy even by Albertan standards.
Also, wait times vary wildly across the country. I've heard anything from fifteen minutes to four hours as an average, with some going more than that.
However, I've also not heard of small children dying waiting to be seen.
Also also, Alberta massively underfunds their health care system (at least, I suspect they do. They massively underfund everything else they can get away with). They have the lowest tax rates in the country by MILES. They are not trying to provide good public health care because they don't believe in it.
I don't see how the multiparty system is worse than the American 2-party system. Many Americans are fed with both parties right now and have no real options. At least in Canada there is the real possibility of voting another party as well as the possibility of parties who have never had much power, historically, rising to power. While we have that option here in the US, it's hypothetical.
I concede that a multi-party system is good in forcing compromise. I despair when I see the partisanship right now in the USA. OTOH, I believe the fewer laws the better, so gridlock works for me. :-)