Mark Steyn’s primer of Canada, and why we should care
HH: We begin today by going where no radio talk show host has ever gone before. We are going to discuss Canadian politics with none other than Columnist To the World and Christmas caroler extraordinaire, Mark Steyn, he one of two voices on A Marshmallow World. Mark, before we go, I don’t know, into the worst part of radio ever, Canadian politics, how is A Marshmallow World selling?
MS: It’s actually, since I came on your show a couple of days ago, Hugh, sales have rocketed. As far as I can tell now, it’s just rocketing gun sales and sales of my single of It’s A Marshmallow World that are propping the entire U.S. economy now. So if we can somehow combine gun sales with It’s A Marshmallow World, if we could get, say, a semi-automatic that plays your favorite Christmas song, I think someone’s going to make a fortune from that.
HH: You know, I don’t think it’s legal to sell guns from your New Hampshire website.
MS: No, and I thought you were going to say I don’t think it’s legal to sell guns that also play Christmas songs.
HH: Well, that might be okay, depending if you do it at a trade show. But let’s get to the darkness. Let’s get to Canadian politics. I fear going here, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yeah, your ratings all over America, people are slumping into comas around their radio sets, even before we’ve gotten to the nuts and bolts of it.
HH: But what I cannot pass by is this sounds awful, what little I can understand going on up there. You’re going to have to walk us through it slowly.
MS: Well, what happened is that they had an election six weeks ago. And Stephen Harper’s conservative party was returned to power with an increased minority. That’s to say they don’t have a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, but they were the biggest party. So by convention, the governor general, who is the vice regal eminence who represents the Queen, invited the leader of the largest party to form the government. Now six weeks later, there’s been a backroom deal between the liberals, who are sort of the soft left party, the New Democratic Party, who are the hard left party, the socialists, and the Bloc Québécois, who are the secessionist party, to in effect remove the government from the Tory Party, and install themselves as what I called a pantomime horse comprised of three rear ends, which is the problem here. I mean, you’ve got an incoherent, soft left, socialist, secessionist coalition that would be attempting to run the country, and would do very little, actually, except divert billions of dollars in patronage appointments to their own particular obsessions.
HH: Now when we see this happen in places like Israel, where it’s a fairly common occurrence, the government just falls and you go to elections again.
HH: What’s going on in Canada?
MS: Well, the convention in a minority parliament, not just in Canada but by British parliamentary convention is that the crown doesn’t generally accede to a request for a new election six weeks after the old one without looking around to see if someone else can find, can command support of the House of Commons. Now they say that well, in this case, the crown should not permit this coalition to take power because the Bloc Québécois being a party that’s committed to the breakup of Canada shouldn’t reasonably be allowed to enter into power. But if you look, for example, in the 19th Century, the Irish Parliamentary Party, which was committed to the breakup of the union between Great Britain and Ireland, sat in the House of Commons at London and supported liberal governments, Mr. Gladstone’s government, and I believe the Tories, if my memory’s right, actually supported the Tories at one point. So even that isn’t really an argument. But it gets to, I mean, if you’re interest in this stuff, it’s the difference between a parliamentary system and what we have in this country, which is a much clearer distinction between the executive and the legislative branch. In parliamentary systems, the legislative branch essentially decides the makeup of the executive branch.
HH: Well, I’ve always thought that a minority government in a parliamentary system was more closely approximating divided power that we see in America so often. For example, Disraeli’s first government was a minority government. He came in and lasted about a year.
MS: Right, right.
HH: And then he just, they had a vote of confidence after about a year, and it fell, and they went back. And then they go to the people. Are Canadians afraid that the three rear ended horse would stick around longer than other weak and fractious majority coalitions do?
MS: Yeah, I mean, the thing is they’re committed. There’s apparently a piece of paper that’s been signed that would commit this government to sticking around, this coalition for eighteen months. Now the question obviously arises what have the liberal party of Canada, which is the most successful governing party in the Western world, I don’t mean successful in that I like their policies, which are largely disastrous, but it’s been in power for a longer time than any other party in the Western world in modern history. And so the question is what have they offered the secessionist party in Quebec to get them on board for eighteen months? And given that the secessionist party in Quebec is essentially a giant shakedown operation just to empty English Canada’s wallet and dump it in the socialist basket case province of Quebec, the obvious answer to that is money, that they’re going to be transferring billions and billions of dollars from the functioning parts of Canada, like Alberta, into the basket case province of Quebec.
HH: Now I read with interest some of your post at National Review yesterday suggesting that perhaps the governor general, who is a woman, might be doing something unusual in this instance. It appears that she has in fact done that today. What’s the latest?
MS: Well, what’s happened is that the Prime Minister went to see her. This woman, by the way, is an affirmative action appointment. She’s a very attractive woman, who used to host pro-Castro documentaries on the CBC.
HH: Oh my.
MS: And it’s because she’s an attractive black woman, as she herself said shortly after her appointment, let’s face it, I’m hot. Now I don’t believe any other viceroy in Canadian history has ever said that. I don’t think the Marquis of Dufferin ever gave a speech in which he announced that he was hot. But this woman is hot, but she’s essentially been landed a very tricky, difficult, political situation. And today, she agreed, in essence, to send parliament away on a long vacation to the end of January, and that will give a breathing space in which the liberal party can decide whether they really want to embark on something that would be not a good thing for Canadian stability or for Canada’s institutions.
HH: Now I’m going to throw a reference to George Curzon at you, and hope I pronounce it correctly, because that’s the only viceroy I’ve ever heard of in India.
HH: And he was, well, he was pretty unhot, if the biographies are any good. So now in terms of who appointed her, was that the Queen?
MS: Well, this is the interesting thing. The Queen’s governors general in Canada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, are appointed in effect by Buckingham Palace on the advice of the prime minister of that country. So in a sense, there’s a, you have a sort of political stand-off. There was a famous situation in Australia where Sir John Kerr, the governor general in 1975, dismissed, he fired the government. He fired Gough Whitlam’s government. And Gough Whitlam’s first words supposedly were I must call Buckingham Palace. What he meant was that essentially, it was a race to see who could get the dime in the payphone first and get through to the Palace. If Whitlam had got through to the Palace and said fire Kerr, then he would have kept his job. But in fact, Kerr had already got through to the Palace to say to the Queen he’d fired Whitlam. It’s a very, you begin to understand, I think I said this in National Review, that in civilized countries, in Democratic societies, a lot of the so-called checks and balances are in fact kind of gentlemen’s agreements. And if you look at the way, say, you know, a guy like Al Franken is rampaging around Minnesota, you imagine that conducted on a national level, it’s very easy to do great damage to the fabric of a country’s constitutional arrangements.
HH: So when is the new governor, when is the current governor general’s term up, because I wish to begin a Steyn for Governor General movement.
MS: Well actually, it’s funny you should say that, because when she was appointed, she’s a very pleasant woman, a Montreal journalist, and somebody said if we have to have a mediocre hack, mediocre Montreal hack as acting head of state, why can’t we have Mark Steyn? At least we’d get a laugh.
MS: And I was rather hurt. That was one reason, you know, because I thought why is the idea of me as governor general so self-evidently risible, the idea of this affirmative action, Castro documentary maker apparently perfectly routine. I think that tells you a lot about Canada.
HH: It does, and it tells me as well, Christopher Hitchens yesterday worried on this program that we’re all being very parochial in our coverage of India, but you have to tell me in thirty seconds, should we not be parochial in our coverage of Canada? Should we really care what happens up there?
MS: Oh, yes you should, because every single bad Canadian idea, socialized health care, confiscatory taxation, eventually works its way south of the border. That’s why you should, you look at Canada and that’s what’s going to be happening here in twenty year’s time.
HH: Mark Steyn from www.steynonline.com, Christmas caroler extraordinaire, author and Columnist To the World, thank you my friend for that primer on all things Canadian.
End of interview.