In this season when the talk is of peace, Iraq has elected a new parliament just as we Canadians are sizing up our own pretenders to power.
Except for these coincident campaigns, our two countries are outwardly as different as could be. One is the symbol of the most intractable and gruesome internal conflict, the other the perfect picture of peace and prosperity.
But the Iraq that will be governed by its newly elected legislators has more in common with Canada that at first meets the eye. In particular, the home away from home for the foreign press corps now has a federal system of government.
Now, few peace activists would look to something as abstract as a system of governance to build a campaign around. "Troops out, federalism in' would almost certainly not carry well over a hand-held loudspeaker at Nathan Phillips Square.
By its nature, federalism is anti-passion, based as it is on compromise. But there's an efficiency to the way it attempts to transcend regional and ethnic differences through power-sharing with a central government.
There are many who promote it as a cornerstone of peace-making. One who has put it at the centre of his mission is former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae. Just a few months ago, he flew to Baghdad to coach Iraq's National Assembly on governance, in a bid to persuade Sunnis and Shiites to stop fighting and live in uneasy peace - like Quebecers and Albertans.
It was the latest in a series of strategic interventions Rae has made in the service of constitutional power-sharing. A little over a decade ago, he backed then-prime minister Brian Mulroney's ill-fated Meech Lake campaign, urging the country to give special powers to Quebec.
The former premier's interests have since gone global. For Rae, the f-word offers a real possibility for peace in a world whose security is threatened less by war between countries than by internal conflicts.
Largely in connection with his leadership of Ottawa-based NGO the Forum of Federations, he's been jetting around a troubled globe encouraging communities torn by animosity and seeking separation to instead share sovereignty. He has talked up the peace dividends of federalism at countless conferences and acted as conciliator between Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan government.
But his Iraq foray could prove in the end to be a hard sell. For the strife-torn communities there, the bargain at the heart of federalism isn't so easy to see. For the Shiite majority, there's no need for a strong national government (or, for that matter, a nation at all), because they're sitting on those oh-so-valuable pools of black gold. They could just as easily finance their own independence (exactly the way Albertans often muse that they could).
Meanwhile, the minority Sunnis, who have the bad luck to call the interior parts of Iraq home and don't have oil, feel threatened - rightly. The weakness of the central government in relationship to the power of the 18 regions in the new Iraq means Sunnis will be less able to assert their interests.
And for the Kurds of the northwest, the dream of a homeland is closer than ever, and it will be ensured if, as many fear, Iraq disintegrates into its component ethnic and religious parts.
Certainly, the latest reports from Iraq about the fate of the country's new political system haven't been encouraging. The adoption of federalism has done little in the short term to reduce the daily casualty rate - currently an average 60-plus deaths a day.
Rae seems to believe that if Iraqis understood constitutional give-and-take, they'd go for it. "The federalist ideal is something that has to be learned,' Rae told a group of university students last month. "It's new for people [in Iraq].'
But there is something innately unsatisfying about federalism as a peacemaking device: it requires group sacrifices in exchange for the financial benefits of living with those outside the clan. It entices former foes to become partners for the sake of economic rather than political rewards.
Of course, it would be uncharitable to suggest that able meddlers like Rae are more effective at making Canadians feel good than they are at solving long-term problems in faraway lands. Some might even say such ventures are naive - or arrogant - in that they portray the absence of peace as merely the inability of people to get along.
Still, naíveté can be a coping mechanism, since without the far-fetched belief that stability is possible - even in Iraq - there would be no point in working to bring about even the unsatisfying compromise called federalism, let alone in trying to build that perfect peace.