THE OPPOSITION IN A
Political and Social Affairs Division
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE OPPOSITION IN A PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
A situation in which the activity of politics is devalued is inimical to parliamentary democracy. Parliament, after all, is fundamentally about debate – “rhetoric” in the classical Greek sense – and the transacting of the people’s business in public. It is also about the right to dissent in a civilized manner. Genuine political opposition is a necessary attribute of democracy, tolerance, and trust in the ability of citizens to resolve differences by peaceful means. The existence of an opposition, without which politics ceases and administration takes over, is indispensable to the functioning of parliamentary political systems. If these systems are perceived as not working well – as being “seriously overloaded,” to quote a distinguished Canadian Opposition Leader, the Hon. Robert Stanfield – it may be the rights of political oppositions which are immediately and most visibly at stake, but ultimately the threat is to democratic rights and freedoms generally. The following paper is an attempt to come to grips with the challenging nature of the opposition’s role in Parliament, specifically in the Canadian context.