Canadians woke up on Tuesday to the news that a divisive and disruptive federal election campaign had produced little more than a sense of déj vu.
The overall results are so similar to the 2019 election that a magnifying glass is needed to see the difference. As of Tuesday afternoon, with some votes still pending, no party had led or lost more than two seats, and any seat-holder other than the free-falling Greens had gained two percent of its popular vote. Didn’t see any change in the marks.
What is familiar about the result is that it gave Canada another minority government. Since 1962, 10 out of 20 federal elections have led to minorities; Since 2004, the count is five out of seven.
Welcome to the era of minority government. With the NDP, Greens and Liberals stealing votes from each other, the People’s Party stealing from the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois stealing from everyone else, it is more difficult than ever for any party to win the magical 170 seats that are parliamentary. provides a majority.
And yet the parties – especially the liberal and conservative, the only two that ever form a government under various developed names and guise – continue to covet and strive for the power of the majority, as if the minority were just an empty participation prize.
Stephen Harper twice concocted reasons for dissolving parliaments, in 2008 and 2011, in which he led a minority Conservative government in 2008 and 2011 to win a majority. That’s what Justin Trudeau did in launching this election, when he thought he saw an opening to upgrade his minority to a majority.
He made the wrong calculation, but it’s easy to understand why he went for it. There is almost no government in the democratic world that is more powerful than Canada’s parliamentary majority, and is subject to general opposition scrutiny.
The party that occupies more than half of the seats in the House of Commons can control almost every aspect of Parliament, from committee to House proceedings. Government bills face little meaningful opposition in their journey from conception to royal assent. Add to that the power to name senators and Supreme Court justices, and being the prime minister of a majority government in Canada provides a level of (albeit temporary) omnipotence that can feel to a prime minister like Louis XIV.
But as much as past, present and future prime ministers want you to believe otherwise, the truth is that the absence of a majority doesn’t mean things can’t happen.
Mr Trudeau was hardly impressed by the minority status of his previous government. He was instrumental in passing a budget, bringing in hundreds of billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief, launching a program to provide low-cost child care for Canadians, and enacting a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. were capable.
The things Mr Trudeau failed to do while in power during the pandemic, such as enforcing proper border controls, introducing a federal vaccine mandate or rapidly creating a generic federal vaccine passport, were not the result of his government’s minority status. . He had power; His government simply decided not to use it.
And yet he sold the need for a midterm election on the grounds that parliament had become too divisive to continue. Canadians weren’t buying it. By the time of his winning speech in the early hours of Tuesday, Mr Trudeau had also given up on that pretense.
The new parliament will have almost the same form as the old parliament in terms of seat mix, meaning that with little effort the liberals can govern, and make and pass laws.
Interesting ideas were presented during the campaign that ended on Monday: a liberal climate change plan; NDP’s pharmacare and dental care plans; Conservative tax credit for low-income workers. The government can find parliamentary support for any and all.
Cooperation is possible if you have the will. Lester Pearson’s two Liberal minority governments from 1963 to 1968 created modern Canada, bringing in a new flag, the Canada Pension Scheme and National Medicine.
Mr Trudeau should this time show more respect for the ability of minority governments to advance the interests of the Canadian people, rather than wait for the moment to try to advance their own.
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