I would like to tell you about my country of Beartopia.
Beartopia is a small country made up of a number of regions gathered together under the Federal Government of Beartopia. Each region has legislative Houses that handle the regional laws and whatnot, much as your provincial or state governments do.
Items that fall beyond the Regional Governments’ purview rise to the federal level and are dealt with by the Government of Beartopia.
The federal system of government in Beartopia is bicameral with the Representative House of Beartopia (the House), the Senate of Beartopia (the Senate), and the Head of State of Beartopia.
The government is formed by the party that amasses the greatest number of seats in the Representative House following a general election as long as they can gain the support of the majority in the House. Usually the government is headed by the leader of the majority party in the House, who in turn selects his or her Secretaries to head the various Departments. This group, headed by the First Minister is referred to as The Government. All others are referred to Members of the House.
While most laws and amendments to existing laws can be generated by either the House or the Senate, all financial bills must come from the elected Representative House. This is because the House is an elected body and the Senate is a made up of appointed members.
Now the fact that the Senate is an appointed body shocks many people, but I calm them by explaining that this is the way it has been done in Beartopia for many years and that it is enshrined in the Constitution of Beartopia and that the Constitution is a bugger to amend.
Often the next question is “How does one get appointed to the Senate?”
The process, I reply, is quite simple. The First Minister selects a person from the region he or she is to represent and gives that name to the Head of State who installs them. Easy.
“And does the Head of State check them out?”
They needn’t bother. We only elect responsible people to the House and besides, the First Minister names the Head of State as well. I mean you have to trust the person who gave you your position, am I right?
“So the First Minister names the Head of State, the members of the Senate, and who else?”
Just the Justices on the Supreme Court of Beartopia, oh and the Secretary of Justice names the Federal Judges as well. It works perfectly well.
“And these people, the judges and the Justices are vetted by some committee or another?”
I chuckle when people don’t understand Beartopians. We only elect responsible, honourable people to govern us. The First Minister has his office vet these people before naming them.
At this point they often take a deep breath and ask “By ‘his office’ you mean the Government, right?”
Oh certainly not. His office is made up of people he’s hired to take care of the niggling day to day stuff, so he can concentrate on running the Government. They take care of small things like writing speeches, providing fact sheets to members of the First Minister’s party so they can easily answer questions on policy, and other stuff.
“Dare I ask what else the First Minister can do? Is he in charge of the military? Can he take Beartopia to war?”
The Head of State is in charge of the military, but the First Minister can decide to enter a conflict if the need arises. Usually the First Minister will hold a debate before sending our troops into action though. It would be unseemly to do otherwise.
Let’s see, the Federal Police, their head is named by the Secretary of Internal Security, so that’s not the First Minister’s job. Ah the top General in the military is named by the First Minister! And let’s see, oh yes, the committee that oversees the domestic and international Security Services, the First Minister names them too. There may be more, but that’s all that I can think of for now…
“So let me get this straight. By virtue of being the leader of the party that has a majority in the House, the First Minister get’s to name just about everyone who is supposed to be a check on the power of The Government? I suppose he names the Head of the Post Office too?”
Goodness, I forgot about that. Yes he does, and the Directors of the Public Broadcaster too!
“It seems to me that you have an awful lot of power concentrated around one person, the First Minister that is and his office.”
It might look that way to you, but I must remind you that Beartopians only elect honourable, responsible people to represent them. And besides, our system works so well, there is barely a hiccough to be seen in the running of our little nation.
“Just to satisfy my curiosity. How did you manage to cobble together such a… shall I say, unusual system of governance?”
It was easy. We just did what Canada does. Canadians seem like such nice people, very polite, very level headed, they would never elect representatives that are not honourable and responsible. Would they?
We have a nice Charter of Rights as well. Would you like to see it?