In this Week In Canadian Politics, we have a very, very full plate. We will be discussing the first week of the 39th Parliament (under new Management), more candidates throw their hat into the Leadership position for the Liberal Party, US Passport requirements get more heated, and the end of the political King of Alberta.

This Week in Canadian Politics is a summary of postings at Maple Leaf Politics.
Let’s Get Ready to Ruuummmbbbllleee!
The 39th Parliament came to session on Monday. The first order of business was the election of a Speaker. All three candidates were Liberals, the winner being the previous Speaker Peter Milliken. Now why would an opposition party member be Speaker of the House? Because the Speaker only gets to vote in the case of a tie. That the Conservatives only have a minority government, they need every vote they can get. So what will be Milliken’s responsibilites – to manage the flow of daily business in the House of Commons, such as when legislation is presented, and keep order and decorum during Question Period when opposition parties query the government. This could be fun. That it will be the Liberals that may do the most grilling of Harper’s Tories.

On Tuesday, the Throne Speech was given. It was probably one of the shortest Throne Speeches ever given, but it outlined the minority government’s agenda. Many called it vague, some called it to the point. What ever it was, it did single that this is a new government that will try to take Canada on a new direction.

On Wednesday, the fireworks started to go off. Prime Minister Harper stated that the previous 13 years of Liberal governments was “13 years of waste, mismanagement, dithering and corruption.” This did not go over to well across the aisle. Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham tried to quiet the floor.

“The bottom line is that the public expects parties to make Parliament work with a degree of co-operation, respect and even collaboration,” said Graham.

While there seemed to be some compromise when the Conservatives stated that they may consider keeping the Liberal income tax cuts, Steven Harper still a bomb to drop. He raised the possibility of a free vote on Gay Marriage. Even though, it did not appear anywhere in the Throne Speech, Harper seemed to keep to his campaign promise to bring the vote up even though there was already a previous vote on it in the 38th Parliament.

Many feel that there is probably not enough votes to end Gay Marriage. Even if there were, it would go back to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has already stated that gay marriage is protected under the Charter. This is Harper satisfying his base. The good thing is that if Parliament votes for gay marriage, it will be a done deal for good.

The Makings of a Race
This week, the Ontario Minister of Education Gerard Kennedy stepped down, so he could enter the Leadership race. Mr. Kennedy will be a top favorite because of his stance on numerous topics especially education.

Also, Montreal MP Stephane Dion made it official.

“We cannot afford to miss out on the next industrial revolution: the sustainable economy,” Dion said as he announced his bid.

“For that reason, we must weave together economic growth, social justice, the environment and public health. That is why I want to become leader of the Liberal party and then prime minister of Canada.”

The other potential frontrunner, Toronto MP Michael Ignatieff, is expected to enter the race by the end of today.

Also entering the race British Columbia’s Hedy Fry. Fry use to be the secretary of state for multiculturalism under Jean Chretien.

Fry says women need a stronger voice in government and so, she says, does Western Canada. Fry, who is from British Columbia, says Stephen Harper is the first prime minister from the West in two decades, yet there was not a single word about western Canada in Tuesday’s speech from the throne.

The surprise was Belinda Stronach saying that she would not run.

The auto parts heiress and onetime Tory leadership candidate blamed a flawed leadership selection process for her decision, saying she wants a more open and democratic system. But sources close to Stronach said the bottom line was that the Newmarket-Aurora MP knew she couldn’t win. Her inability to speak fluent French along with shallow roots in the party were huge detractions.

It has been less than a year since she joined the Liberals last May after a blockbuster defection from the Conservatives.

Party officials warned last week that they’ll strictly enforce limits on donations and spending by all contenders. That could have nixed Stronach’s one big advantage: her ability to amass a formidable war chest.

That prospect, said one official, had “everything to do” with Stronach’s decision to sit out.

I always felt that Stronach was going to have problems. There was the French issue, there was the “buy your vote” concern, but there was also the “she was a Tory a year ago and she ran for the Leadership position” issue. In America, this would be like Bill Clinton running for the RNC Chairman position.

Overall, I would say by this time next week, candidates will either be in or out. The big names are already declaring and starting to run.

“What Do You Mean Passport, Eh?”
Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, again requested for a delay in the requirement that anyone entering the United States have a passport. There are still many concerns that the requirement could hurt tourism and trade between the two countries.

“We have doubts as to whether the timetable can be met,” Mr. Wilson said at a conference on Canada-U.S. border issues in Washington.

He said Ottawa is willing to work with the White House and Congress “to get it right,” even if that means pushing back deadlines.

Under a U.S. law passed in 2004, all travellers entering the United States by sea or air will need a passport, or some other form of newly issued identity card, by next January. The measure goes into effect at all land borders a year later, on Jan. 1, 2008.

To allay fears that the law will deter cross-border travel, U.S. officials are working on an alternative credit-card-size identification card, embedded with a radio-frequency chip that can be read at border crossings.

U.S. officials acknowledged that meeting the law’s deadlines will be a challenge. But James Williams, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security senior official, said he’s not anticipating a delay. “It is a very aggressive timetable,” he said, “but I’m not planning for an extension.”

A delay would require Congress to amend the original legislation, which is considered a long shot.Instead, Mr. Williams suggested Canada should follow the United States and issue similar ID cards, which would carry similar information and could even be linked to databases in both countries.

There are many concerns with this change. Only 20% of Americans and 37% of Canadians have passports. Everyday along the border, thousands cross to visit, shop, and even work. What is going to happen, when this requirement goes in to effect? I am a firm believer that if there is no discussion about changing this, it will explode in someone’s face. However, it won’t be at the Canadian border, it will be at the southern borders. When thousands of college co-eds realize that they can’t go to Cancun or Jamaica for spring break because they don’t have the proper papers, then the crap will hit the fan.

Bye Bye Ralph
Last Friday, Alberta Prime Minister Ralph Klein was dealt an embarrassing leadership confidence vote by the Alberta Conservative Party. He only received 55% of the vote. That was a majority, but it was enough for Klein for to announce his resignation.

Premier Ralph Klein says he will resign in September to make way for a leadership race.

After suffering a crippling blow from Conservative party members on the weekend, the premier said today he doesn’t have the confidence of the party that he needs to continue in the job he has held for the past 13 years.

Although he technically isn’t required to resign, he says it would be impossible to continue. “The political reality is it would make it impossible for me to do my job,” he said.

This is an end of an era in Canada and probably the beginning of a rough road for the Tories in Alberta. There were calls by some of his loyalist that their were traitors in the party and even some saying that Steven Harper may have behind Klein’s fall. It may get interesting in the run to replace him. Some of the candidates are Jim Dinning, Preston Manning, and Lyle Oberg.

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Well that is all for This Week in Canadian Politics, talk to everyone next week.

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