Canada to the polls?

The minority Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper could be defeated in the House of Commons on Friday.

The government tabled its budget this week. It has been long expected that both the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois would vote against it. Yesterday the New Democrats, not finding enough “sweeteners” in the budget, announced that they also will vote against.

The immediate trigger for an election, however, would be a motion by the Liberals that the government has lost the confidence of parliament on account of having been ruled “in contempt” for failing to provide the House with information on some of its policy costings.

If there is an election, it will likely be in early May, and it will be the county’s fourth in about seven years. The Conservatives, who have been leading in the polls but not usually sufficient for a majority of seats, are counting on their budget to have enough in it to please Canadian voters even if it did not please any opposition parties. In fact, it appears that was precisely the government’s strategy: send a budget the opposition would “have to” reject, and have an election.

If Harper falls just short of a majority, he is likely safe for another few years as head of the government. But what if he falls well short again? Could talk of a coalition, like the aborted one after the last election, be revived?

6 thoughts on “Canada to the polls?

  1. Crooked Timber has a good thread on why Canadians are so resistant to the idea of coalition governments.

    One commentator proposed that since English speaking Canadians get most of their media and therefore political information from the United States, they don’t understand the Canadian political system, thinking the Prime Minister is directly elected and so on. If this is true, I would be really concerned if I was a Canadian political scientist. Its bad enough that Americans don’t understand their own political system, due to the media coverage from the same broadcast networks.

  2. @ Ed
    That’d definitely be troubling. One wonders why in the obsession with standardized testing, it’s always maths and reading that keeps getting emphasized. Shouldn’t high school graduates be expected to have taken enough civics classes that they know not only how their political system works, but also how it compares to different, not necessarily inferior, systems?

    If it’s like in the States then it’s definitely troubling. I recall the runner-up for the Democratic primary for the Oakland election completely missing the whole point of IRV.

  3. Not to mention “Joe” in the Molson Beer commercial.

    If it’s any consolation, despite the fact that voters in Ireland and NSW have, in the last four weeks, voting under STV and AV respectively, booted out two long-dominant ruling parties with landslide seat losses (one contest was Keneally vs O’Farrell… the other was an Irish election) – yet this will not stop British voters from rejecting (or too-tepidly approving) AV in a month’s time, on the basis that “AV is a pproportional system and, like all proportional systems, means endless hung parliaments, deadlocks, coalitions, and inability to ‘throw the rascals out’ and ‘have the removalist’s van outside Downing Street the day after election day’.” Depressing.


    As much as Canadians don’t like coalitions and/or minority governments. Bloc Quebecois holds the balance of power where no party has a clear majority.

    If the conservatives or the liberals can’t win at least 30% of the vote in Quebec. Canada will always elected permanent minority government unless Quebec leaves Canada. Canadians need to grudgingly accept that the Bloc Quebecois holds the balance of power and are in denial about it, and now have permanent minority government with FPTP.

    It is obvious that Canada has a multi-party system and it does not look like it going back to a two-party system anytime soon.

    A change to PR will be a huge improvement and lead to far less regional polarization.

    Has anyone ever tried to re-run the previous Canadian election if the IRV system was used? Would there have been a Liberal-NDP majority coalition government or a Liberal lead minority government with NDP backing? There are a lot of ridings in Canada’s Federal elections where a candidate does not win a clear majority.

    Would Canadian be better off with the Alternative Vote than FPTP?

  5. The Bloc has been winning outright majorities in 30+ ridings each election. So even assuming no voters for federalist parties preference Bloc candidates, ever, you still have a problem that a party needs to win a landslide in the three quarters of the country outside Quebec to get a majority.

    Landslides have happened in federal Canadian politics before so I don’t think this is insurmountable. In fact, even before the Bloc, majority governments that did not win landslides have been not been that frequent, essentially 1974, 1980, 1988, 1993, 1997, and 2000. And in the last three elections the Liberals won nearly every riding in Ontario in circumstances that were rarely unlikely to occur again.

    By comparisons, 1958, 1968, and 1984 were landslide elections, and 1962, 1965, 1972, 1979, 2004, 2006, and 2008 produced no parliamentary majority for anyone. Canadians might be misremembering just how many minority governments they have actually had since MacKenzie King left office.

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