The North American Relationship:
Different, But Also All the Same
By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
On the northern side of the border, the Canadians still run their government much like Great Britain. With many similarities to the British Parliament, they have many differences to American state governments.
Charlie Parker is an example of just one of those differences. As the speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly, Parker doesn’t help push legislation through the process or help beef up the pet projects of his party. Instead, his role is to make sure the legislature runs smoothly and he must be completely nonpartisan. He’s not a “horse trader,” as he would call it. He doesn’t take part in debates and he doesn’t vote—except in the very rare case to break a tie.
On the southern side of the border, speakers of state houses and presidents of state senates have quite a different role, pushing legislation through the chambers and lending extra muscle to the majority party.
But for the differences, the U.S. and Canada share many similarities—and these play a part in the overall North American relationship.
“We both have strong democracies, but just with a different system,” Parker said.
It’s important for officials in U.S. and Canada to understand their differences to understand their counterparts, experts said at the session Monday at The Council of State Governments’ 2010 National Conference in Providence, R.I. When officials understand each other, that lends to a better North American relationship, officials said Monday.
It’s an important relationship to keep up, said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris. Even though he’s definitely not from a state that borders Canada, he’s still interested in the Canada-U.S. relationship. That relationship is worth more than $10 billion in trade between Canada and Tennessee alone, according to Norris.
“The thing that’s sort of sexy about Canada is you can talk about international relations without leaving North America,” Norris said.