Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Mystique of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition

The Mystique of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition

By Airi Altinate
The Daily Magi
November 26, 2058


In Canada, His Majesty's Loyal Opposition (French: L'Opposition Loyale de Sa Majesté), commonly known as the Official Opposition, is usually the largest parliamentary opposition party in the House of Commons or a provincial legislative assembly that is not in government, either on its own or as part of a governing coalition. This is usually the second-largest party in a legislative house, although, in certain unusual circumstances, it may be a third or fourth party or even the largest party.

The Official Opposition is viewed as the caucus tasked with keeping the government in check. It is also generally viewed as the alternative government or "government in waiting". The Official Opposition maintains a shadow cabinet, with the Leader of the Official Opposition at its head, of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Senators who often have the same portfolios as actual ministers. The spokesperson for each portfolio is known as an opposition critics. Thus, in the event the government loses the confidence of the House or the Official Opposition party wins a general election, the party is ready to become the government.

The Official Opposition is styled as His Majesty's Loyal Opposition to demonstrate that, although the group may be against the sitting government, it remains loyal to the Crown (the embodiment of the Canadian state) and thus to Canada.

The Leader of the Opposition has an official residence in Ottawa known as Stornoway and the salary and perks of a cabinet minister. Additionally, the Leader and other shadow cabinet members have the privilege of meeting with visiting foreign dignitaries, which is not always granted to members of smaller parties.

The Official Opposition party has advantages over other opposition parties in the House. They are assigned to speak first after the government, and receive more time in question period than other opposition parties. It also gets more office space, funding for research, and a larger staff than other parties.

There is also an Official Opposition in the Canadian Senate. This is the largest party in the Senate that is not in government. As the governing party is determined in the House of Commons, the Official Opposition in the Senate may actually be larger than the government party in the Senate. It is customary, however, for the Senate to pass legislation approved in the House of Commons even if the government has a minority in the Senate. Although the Senate nominally has the power to block most legislation (excepting bills which would trigger a non-confidence motion if defeated in the House, such as money bills), this power is rarely exercised in practice.

The party that forms Official Opposition in the Senate is not necessarily the same party as in the House of Commons, however. From 1993 to 2003, the Official Opposition in the Senate was the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, even though the Bloc Québécois from the Official Opposition in the House from 1993 to 1997, followed by the Reform Party of Canada, and then the Canadian Alliance from 1997 to 2003. This is because the BQ, and Reform Party had no Senators. However, when Senator Gerry St. Germain crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives to the Canadian Alliance in 2000, he argued that he should be recognized as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate as the Canadian Alliance formed the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the Canadian Senate ruled against him, however, as the Progressive Conservatives were the larger opposition party.

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