The notification lit up on my phone as I walked home in the too-early hours of Oct. 22, 2019: Canada had chosen a Liberal minority government. As I climbed into bed, dreading my 9:00 a.m. lecture, I realized I was not upset by the results of this election.
I think a minority government is a good outcome, regardless of who the prime minister is. It can ensure accountability and fair decision-making at best, and a swift trip back to the voting booth at worst. While the House of Commons is colourful now with Green, New Democratic, Independent and Bloc Quebecois parties, it more fairly represents the divisions in Canadian values and encourages accountability and compromise between parties — even if it looks like a bowl of Froot Loops.
Allyssa Walsh, a political science graduate from Dalhousie, says there are a few ways that the Liberal minority government might work. One of these options is that the Liberal Party and the New Democrats (NDP) might form an informal coalition in the House of Commons.
“If they don’t work together to push things through, the Conservatives will put up a roadblock against every single thing, ” said Walsh. This doesn’t mean that the Liberals will concede portfolios to the NDP, but according to Walsh, it is unlikely to see a Liberal-Conservative coalition, or even much compromise between these two parties.
Coalition governments are rare. They’re created when two or more political parties work together to form an alliance big enough to gain enough seats for a majority. This allows them to form government and pass legislation. Jagmeet Singh, NDP party leader, had previously stated that he would join a coalition and support a minority government if six conditions were met. These include climate change action, national pharmacare, interest-free student loans, cuts to cell phone bills and investments in affordable housing as well as a new tax on the “ultra-rich.”
Although the Liberals are staying coy when faced with questions of a coalition, it is likely that the Liberal party will likely appeal to the Bloc Quebecois, the NDP or the Green Party for numbers to push against the Conservatives. While the Liberals hold a significant amount of power against these parties, it will likely increase accountability on big ticket issues such as the environment and taxation.
Cooperation with the Liberals or Conservatives might be the best bet for the NDP, Green and Bloc parties, as well as Independent Jody Wilson-Raybould. Together they do not hold enough seats to block or push anything forward but they might make up more ground by advocating together for their shared stances on environment, taxation and healthcare.
Conservatives are strong opposition
Having gained more seats since the 2016 federal election, the Conservatives hold significant power in their role as opposition. Their previously critical tone undermined the Liberal majority government on issues like the Trans Mountain Pipeline, the SNC-Lavalin scandal, and the Resolution Action for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; with added numbers, however, they might now simply keep quiet on issues like the ones mentioned that fall in line with their own platform. Walsh commented that the Conservative Party might accuse the Liberals of wasting time and money, even if it were tactics they would have taken themselves, especially concerning the pipeline.
Minority governments don’t last long in Canada
Minority governments in Canada often have a lifespan of 18 months to two years. Walsh believes that the Liberals will call another election once they feel they’ve won back enough popularity with voters to gain a majority government.
While it will take longer for anything to get passed in the House, historically, what is passed under a minority government stands the test of time. Let’s not forget that a minority government introduced the Canadian flag, the health-care system, and the public pension plan.
I would rather a government that debates hard before compromising than one that makes decisions solely to secure their position in the next election. Either way, we will all be back in those voting booths in no time. Don’t forget your mini pencil.