Parliamentary vs. Presidential Systems - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Parliamentary vs. Presidential Systems

F.H. Buckley of George Mason University Law School has an interesting piece on the mainpage which makes the case that if we had a parliamentary system like Canada we could have avoided a downgrade in our credit rating last August.

As someone who was born in Canada and subsequently had the opportunity to see the inner workings of the House of Commons in Ottawa (as well as Westminster in London) I think there are considerable merits to a parliamentary system. But with that said, I don’t believe a parliamentary system would have prevented Standard & Poors from taking action against the United States.

Indeed, back in 1991, S&P and Moody’s downgraded the credit rating of Ontario, Canada’s richest province, which was governed at the time by the socialist New Democratic Party (NDP). Consider what I wrote about Ontario at the time of the U.S. credit downgrade:

Now Ontario’s credit rating woes were largely unknown outside of Canada. But the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating is news the world over and yet antoher stain against our reputation abroad. However, the political implications might not be so clear cut. It’s well worth remembering that in Ontario (as in the rest of Canada) the legislature and executive are concentrated. The Premier and his cabinet ministers sit in the legislature. There is no separation of powers. So the NDP bore that cross all by itself.

If the Liberal Party of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin had engaged in the kind of profiligate spending undertaken by the NDP, Canada would have faced the same fate as Ontario. So Chretien and Martin really had no other option but to cut spending in real terms.

Buckley notes that “when Prime Minister Chretien decided to cut the budget, then, there was no one to oppose him.” Well, indeed, that was almost literally true. In 1993, Chretien’s Liberals were elected to a large majority while the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats while the NDP was relegated to nine seats. Since both parties had elected fewer than 12 MPs neither was recognized as an official party in the House of Commons. The official opposition was the separatist Bloc Quebecois and the Reform Party which was based almost entirely in western Canada. Neither party was able to offer a national alternative to the Liberals so yes Chretien was free to govern as he chose. His only real obstacles were the credit rating agencies in New York not the opposition parties seated across from him in Ottawa.

But after Chretien left office, Canadians elected a series of Liberal and Conservative minority governments (until Stephen Harper finally attained his elusive majority government last May.) If Chretien were governing under those conditions it is unlikely they would achieved their fiscal goals. It is worth remembering that after the 2008 federal election, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois nearly forced the collapse of the Harper government after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had tabled an economic statement. Fortunately for the Tories, the opposition parties could not agree on terms to form a coalition government.

The best argument that could be made for a parliamentary system in America is Question Period. Imagine how unpopular President Obama would be if he had to answer questions from Republicans about his policies on a daily basis.

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