Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Posts Tagged ‘NDP’

Radio Freethinker Episode 211 – Election Autopsy Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 21, 2013

Orange-Crushed

This week:
–  A salute to Chris Hadfield,
– Post-Election Autopsy,

– Senate Shenanigans
, and
– Imagine No Religion 3

Download the episode here!

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A salute to Chris Hadfield

Canada’s own Chris Hadfield returned to Earth after being the first Canadian to command the International Space Station. While up there he became an international international sensation for his great efforts to popularize science, communicate with students and celebrities (including Captain Kirk aka Canadian William Shatner) via Twitter and live remote-talks, performing student inspired experiments and just generally being the best PR person NASA has had…maybe ever.

Find out more:

Post-Election Autopsy

public_opinion_pollsA look at the past election and how the pollsters and pundits could get it so wrong. We look at polling and the role polls play in elections

Senate Shenanigans

DEA3828sq-1024x1024In the light of the current flood of senate scandals, we ask and answer the question – can you fire a senator?

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Imagine No Religion 3

4319477674-2What are the issues and what do the two main parties have to say about them? We cover Education, the Economy, Healthcare and the Environment.
Find out more:

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Skeptic Highlights

How Physics Works – a History of the Development of Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics is at the root of essentially all aspects of contemporary life. It contains many non-intuitive features, but these are exploited in, for example, all microchip electronic devices.

Dr. Malcolm Longair will explain at a non-technical level the struggles made by experimenters and theorists to develop a fully self-consistent quantum physics. It turns out to provide a splendid example of how physics works in practice, based on the genius of experiment and theory.

When: Monday 27, 4 PM

Where: Hebb Theatre, UBC main campus

Cost: Free

CFI Public Forum Meeting 

We get together for drinks and dinner and then discuss strategies and goals that CFI Vancouver can pursue. With the recent INR3 conference, we’ll be discussing some of the ideas and suggestions we got there.

When: Wednesday May 22nd at 7pm
Where: the Tipper Resturant, 2066 Kingsway, Vancouver
Cost: Donations Welcome
Link: Event Link Here

Life, Liberty and the Right to Die

CFI Vancouver presents a lecture by Rebecca Coad

Rebecca Coad obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy and a Juris Doctorate from the University of British Columbia. She was first introduced to the legal issues surrounding choice in death as an intern for the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) in 2011

The focus of the discussion will be on the legal arguments made both in favour and in opposition to legalizing a limited form of assisted dying. And an examination of the decision by Justice Lynn Smith of the BC Supreme Court.

When: Thursday, May 31st at 7pm
Where: Room 1700, SFU Harbour Centrer
Cost: Donations Welcome
LinkEvent Link Here

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Radio Freethinker Episode 193 – Solemnized Edition

Posted by Don McLenaghen on December 11, 2012

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This week:
– The Real Noah’s Ark,
– Beyond Secularism in Chilliwack,

– Repressive blasphemy law, and
– The right to solemnize weddings

Download the episode here!

The Real Noah’s Ark

We talk about the launch of a life-size ‘replica’ of Noah’s Ark in the Netherlands. Does it prove the flood was impossible? Was it built for religious reasons or for profit? Listen and find out.

Funnies Noah bit ever

Find out more:

Beyond Secularism in Chilliwack

2012-strawman-macleodEthan checked out a Beyond Secularism forum in Chilliwack put on by the local NDP. He was disappointed but hopeful. Listen and find out what it was all about.

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Repressive blasphemy law

First we talk about the prevalence of blasphemy and similar laws around the world. What they say about the nations involved.

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Then we step back and look at how these laws have affected individuals persecuted by these statues.

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The right to solemnize weddings

20070606An interview with CFI Indiana about there legal battle to gain the right to solemnize weddings; currently limited to government officials or ‘the clergy’.

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Skeptical Highlights:

Philosophers’ Café

Human nature vs. animal nature

When: Wednesday, Dec 12 2012, 7 pm

Where: Lynn Valley Main Library, North Vancouver

Cost: Free

What: There is a theory that humans, like all animals, are inherently selfish and competitive, with only a gloss of civilization restraining us. However, some claim this untrue and assert that primates and other animals exhibit moral sensibility. Primatologist Frans de Waal will give a short lecture on the matter and then there will be an open floor discussion about people’s views about human and animal nature.

Science and religion: An unholy alliance?

When: Wednesday, Dec 12 2012, 7 pm

Where: Lynn Valley Main Library, North Vancouver

Cost: Free

What: Many people believe that science and religion occupy two separate worlds and that never the twain shall meet—yet they both claim to be the truth. How do we honour the claims of both science and religion? Can and should they both play a part in modern life? Has science cancelled religion?
Join professor emeritus in Philosophy and Literature Graham Forst as he discusses and moderates this forum on the subject.

Café Inquiry:

Positive Thinking for Chronic Pain – Helpful or Harmful?

Saturday December 15th at 1pm at SFU Harbour Centre Room 1505 – the discussion is about positive thinking, is it an effective treatment for chronic pain, or could positive thinking be detrimental to ones health?

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Who can form a government?

Posted by Don McLenaghen on May 1, 2011

First the formation of a government….

After an election, the Governor General asks the leader of the party with the largest number of seats if he(/she?) believes they can secure the confidence of the parliament. Obviously in a majority situation it’s a given; however in a minority situation some negotiation may need to take place before a positive answer can be given. When the ‘major’ party believes it cannot gain this confidence, the GG will then give the ‘runner-ups’ an opportunity to meet the standard of confidence. The Confidence of the house is simply the majority of MP’s supporting government either directly in a non-confidence vote (ie. The majority reject this motion) or indirectly by the failure to pass the budget, however the recent government (not uniquely but more frequently) have declared other bill-votes to be votes of confidence in an attempt to browbeat the opposition so as to pass said legislation[1].

What is the difference between minority and coalition government?

A minority government is one where a party forms a government while not having a majority in parliament but maintaining the confidence of the majority of MPs in parliament. We have a long history of minority governments with the first occurring in 1873 and twice the ruling party changed without an election (1873: Conservative to Liberal and 1926: Liberal to Conservative). There are two kinds of minority rule – arrogant or cooperative.

The Arrogant minorities tend to have a short life span as we have seen with Arthur Meighen (who lasted about 6 months) or Diefenbaker (who lasted less than 5 months). This form attempts to implement their party platform irrespective of what the majority of parliament wishes, where they attempt to balance the opposition’s aversion for another election against aversion of the government’s legislation. In this way, Harper has proven quite adept; manipulating the electoral fears of the opposition so as to pass far more regressive conservative (neo-con?) legislation that one would think possible. Of course his domineering control of the conservative party, his totalitarian control of the ‘media message’ (helped by the absence of a pluralistic press) and his contempt for parliament (for which the government ultimately fell) and the democratic processes has helped him push his extremist agenda…sorry, for the rant however true it may be.

The Cooperative minority is one that acknowledges the opinion of the nation is mixed…that it likes policies from some most/all the parties and a responsible Prime Minister should attempt to push legislation that is supported by the majority of the population regardless of the originating party. The greatest of these PM’s probably was Lester Pearson during whose tenure as PM we saw the adoption of such great advances the current Canadian Flag, the creation of universal Health Care, Canadian Student Loans and Canada Pension Plan.

A Coalition government is one where two or more parties form a government which can maintain the confidence of the majority of MPs in parliament. Canada has never had a coalition government (although during WWI, some liberal members joined the Borden Government however, the Liberal party officially declined the offer of coalition). As of yet Finland has never had a majority government, Israel, India and Germany regularly rely on coalitions and currently England has a coalition government.

Recent claims by the Conservatives that the Liberals-NDP planned to form a coalition government WITH the Bloc is incorrect (a lie?). The coalition was comprised of the Liberals (who would get 18 ministries) and the NDP (who would get 6 ministries); the Bloc only offered support so that when the Lib-NDP leadership approached the GG they had a credible claim to have the confidence of the house. By this standard, the Bloc was in a coalition with Harper’s Conservatives government.

Do we elect our Prime Minister?

Yes and no…technically the Prime Minister is simply the leader of the house…the leader of the house is simple any individual who can command the confidence of the house. The office of Prime Minister is not defined in our Constitution; in fact the PM is only referenced indirectly as the person responsible for organising Constitutional Conferences (to amend the constitution). Unlike our American neighbours whose presidential powers are explicitly outlined, we rely on history and precedent to define the PM’s powers and role (there is also a  large degree the willingness or acquiescence of the public/parliament to accept changes for example the recent decision of to officially refer to government projects not as “the Canadian government” but as “the Harper government”…something I find very disturbing and wrong but something that seems to disappear for the headlines due to other Conservative scandals.

In fact all ministers and their portfolios of responsibility are defined by constitutional convention or the whim of the PM themselves. By convention, the leader of the party that holds the confidence of parliament is the PM; usually this is a member of the House of Commons but on occasion are not (John Abbot and Mackenzie Bowell were senators while PM). As well; on several occasions’ ministers of the crown were not elected members of government at all, although this is seen as extreme and against convention. On occasion, governments have had ministers of the crown who only later became MPs and often senators have been ministers with portfolio.

The PM serves “At her majesties pleasure”, meaning that unless a PM resigns, dies or is dismissed by the GG (or Queen), they remain PM even if they or their party loses an election. If a PM party loses a majority, they may still remain PM if they can command the confidence of the house. They may also be dismissed by the GG who will then ask the leader of the majority party (or the leader who can command the confidence of the house) to form the government.

Why are elections called?

An election is called by three mechanisms; firstly in our constitution a government cannot hold power longer than 5 years before an election MUST be called. As well as the Canada Elections Act (CEA) states that a general election is to take place on the third Monday in October, in the fourth calendar year after the previous poll, starting with October 19, 2009. The CEA however can be amended at any time so has little effective weight as our current election shows.

Under parliamentary rules, the prime minister can ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament but the Governor General can refuse the request. This precedent was set in 1926 when William Lyon McKenzie asked the GG to dissolve the parliament but Lord Byng refused and gave the Conservatives a chance. When Paul Martin was in a minority situation after the 2004 election, Harper drafted an agreement between the opposition parties (including the Bloc) to approach the GG to form a government. In 2008, the shoe was on the other foot and the NDP and Liberals signed an agreement to form a coalition; this was avoided by the unusual act of prorogation of parliament.

For those who do not know, prorogation  is ending one session of parliament and starting a new one without calling an election traditionally done to allow MP’s to engage their constituency. In modern times, the length of the first ‘session’ of parliament is around 6 months to a year. Harper has the record for the both the shortest session, 17 days[2], and also the earliest call for Prorogation after an election… 51 days[3].

Lastly, an election is triggered whenever the sitting government loses the confidence of the parliament. As mentioned before, this can occur by a direct motion of non-confidence or the failure to pass a moneyed bill (such as the budget). Technically, any bill can be declared a confidence vote by the sitting government, but only a motion of non-confidence can be moved by the opposition to defeat a sitting government. It is interesting to note that a third motion may become an automatic non-confidence motion resulting in the defeat of the government; that is a motion of contempt of parliament. Technically that was the motion that caused the Harper government to dissolve parliament and request the GG to call for an election. In the future it may become constitution convention that to be found in contempt of parliament is to also be fired as government…as so it should be.


[2] I have excluded session a) 1873 which was only to call an election, b) only enacted the War Measures Act in 1914 c) the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, and d) 1930 for no good reason at all!

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