16 October 2015

A minority progressive government would be the best result of the election

I wouldn't dare to be so bold as to play the prophet and predict the shape of the government that will result from Monday's federal election. Polls and electorates are much too fickle. I can only observe that if the polls are accurate and the electorate doesn't suddenly change its collective mind, after the Governor General has been duly consulted and all the other dust has settled the best bet is a Liberal minority government.

I would prefer an NDP minority, but regardless of whether it's Liberal or NDP what's important is that it be a minority. We don't need another dictator for the next four years, and that's what we tend to get under our current system. Our prime ministers have the power of presidents, but unlike presidents they aren't elected by the people—I won't see the names Harper, Trudeau or Mulcair on my ballot.

Stephen Harper has been more of a one-man government than we have ever had, but both Mulcair and Trudeau are playing too much of the same tune. Trudeau constantly refers to "my plan" and Mulcair tells us "I will do this and I will do that." And the parties seem to have no objection to their leaders assuming royal postures.

And a minority government will mean more than imposing a much-needed constraint on the prime minister. It will also mean, if the polls hold up, 60 per cent, a solid majority, of Canadians will be represented in their parliament, just the opposite of the last four years, in which 60 per cent have not been represented. The result will be a reasonable facsimile of proportional representation.

The question of the effectiveness of minority governments has long been settled. Lester Pearson led a minority for five years in the sixties and it was one of the most productive governments we've ever had. Among its achievements were Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, our flag, the Auto Pact, the Order of Canada, a 40-hour work week, the de facto abolishment of capital punishment, and the initiation of two Royal Commissions that contributed to legal equality for women and official bilingualism. Compare this to the sterile years of Harper's majority.

Neither the Liberals nor the NDP would like to head a minority government because with political parties it's all about power. But from the citizens' perspective, a leashed prime minister and a majority of our MPs forced to co-operate for the good of the country would be a very good thing indeed.


  1. I agree, Bill. A reasonably balanced Liberal/NDP coalition is probably our best bet for genuine electoral reform. We can't have another assault on democracy as we've experienced under Harper.

    It might also give the NDP pause to reformulate its political posture. Abandoning the Left was a gambit to gain power but it came at a real cost to Canada. They need to ditch the Thatcherite, Likudnik, free market neoliberal Mulcair and go back to truly progressive leadership. I'm not a New Dem but I know there are plenty who agree with this.