Classrooms examine political turmoil in Ottawa | DrumhellerMail
Last updateFri, 21 Jun 2024 5pm

Classrooms examine political turmoil in Ottawa

Last week was a period in Canadian politics that will be discussed and debated in the coming days and years. The Loyal Opposition exercised the tools of the Canadian Parliamentary system to its fullest potential, and threatened to take power. This was not before the Prime Minister introduced the country to the word ‘prorouge,’ and was granted a reprieve until January 26.


    What happens in the next few weeks; whether the coalition breaks up, or the governing party fails to deliver, it will be the fodder that fills Canadian history textbooks. Those studying Social Studies during this ‘constitutional crisis’ certainly had a chance to watch and discuss history in the making.
    Kurt Phillips, teacher at St. Anthony’s School, said he discussed and fielded questions from students in his high school Social Studies classes.
    “I asked the students if it was being discussed at home, and what were their thoughts on it. I also fielded some questions too,” said Phillips. “One I dealt with is ‘what exactly is happening?’ because they have been hearing some information and misinformation from both sides.” 
    “One of the things I wanted to focus in on was the parliamentary process. They have been hearing words like coup and undemocratic. Whether they like it or not, this isn’t undemocratic. In Canada we don’t vote for a government, we vote for MPs and it is in Parliament, when they get together, a government is formed.”
    Phillips says while typically because of the party system, the party with most votes is asked to form the government, but is it well within the Governor General’s powers, if there is a vote of no confidence, to ask the Opposition to form government.
    Owen Neal, Social Studies teacher at DCHS concurs the coalition is a product of the parliamentary system.
    “We try to make sure the students know the Governor General is the ultimate umpire. It is her prerogative. The phrase that sums it up is, it is her job to 'make sure Canada has an effective government,’" said Neal. “Everyone in the west thinks this is a coup d’état, and I am with them, but it is all within parliamentary tradition. That parliament will determine who the government should be.”
    He says it has been an unusual semester with the constitutional dust up, and two national elections.
    “And now this crisis here where you have an attempt to change government without an election, this has only happened one other time in Canadian history,” said Neal.
    He says while this has been a dust up in the news, there are a few students who are engaged and interested. If anything, the issue has taught Canadians more about the Parliamentary system. Phillips agrees.
    “I hope this shakes Canadians out of their general apathy of what happens in Ottawa, and what happens in Canada,” said Phillips. “For the last number of years some Canadians have been quick at criticizing the United States for what some perceive as their ignorance of their electoral system. Here we have a situation where both sides of this issue can’t come to a rational, reasonable agreement.”
    He adds the debate has ignited some political passion.
    “I am somewhat encouraged by this because people are taking an interest in government at this point, whereas during the election we barely had 50 per cent of the people show up to vote.”
    Phillips says while the debate is passionate, one thing he emphasized for his students is to remain respectful.
    “The one thing I urge my students to do is discuss these things in a way that does not demean the other person,” said Phillips. “Argue your points but do it in a respectful manner. I would like to see politicians do that on both sides of this issue.”

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