Minority governments in Canada.

October 18, 2015

canadian-flag-blowing-in-the-wind-PublicDomanThe Canadian election is tomorrow, October 19, 2015. The present government is the Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper. They have had a majority government since the election of May 2, 2011. Prior to that the Stephen Harper and his Conservatives were elected twice before, but both times with minority governments.

In 2006 for the first time, but were 30 seats short of a majority. This government lasted 2 years, 207 days (total 937 days) before another election was held. Then in the subsequent election held October 14, 2008 the Conservatives again failed to obtain a majority. This time they fell 12 seats short. This time the minority government lasted 2 years, 4 months, 9 days (total 859 days).

Finally in the next election of May 2, 2011 the Conservatives won the majority they were seeking. The two minority governments he and his party formed are the two longest lasting in Canadian history.

There are pros and cons to both majority and minority governments. Failing to obtain a majority government forces the winning party to work with the other parties on important legislation. This need to compromise is not easy, but if important legislation such as a budget are defeated then the government must resign and another election called. With a majority these is no need to compromise. However, if the government doesn’t take other parties and stakeholders concerns into account then at the next election they may be defeated or lose their majority. Minority governments require a deft balancing act to remain in power.

Here are some interesting facts about minority governments in Canadian history since 1867,
– the longest consecutive term was 937 days (2 years, 6 months, 24 days) by the Stephen Harper Conservatives. Elected January 23, 2006 and dissolved September 7, 2008.
– the shortest duration of a minority government was the John Diefenbaker Progressive Conservatives elected April 12, 1957 and dissolved February 1, 1958. It lasted just 177 days (5 months, 25 days).
– smallest minority was the Stephen Harper Conservative government elected in 2006.
– average duration of minority governments in Canada is 479 days (about 1 year, 140 days)
– first minority government in Canadian history was William Lyon Mackenzie King led Liberals in the election of October 8, 1921. Initially this government held an exact number of seats for a majority but lost two seats in by-elections of 1924 and then continued as a minority government until later in 1924 when another by-election returned them to a majority.

The election of 2015 is too close to call at this writing, but polls show the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau forming a minority government. The other two parties having a realistic chance are the incumbant Conservatives led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Thomas Mulcair. It would be a huge surprise if a majority government is elected on October 15th. Voter turnout is anticipated to be heavy based on the Advance Polls so anything can happen.

** Update – Liberals pull off upset majority government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau) will be sworn in November 4, 2015.

Ten Tidbits About Canada’s Prime Ministers

July 27, 2007

1. First Prime Minister of Canada (after Confederation in 1867) was Sir John A. Macdonald (see photo)

2. First and only (so far) prime minister forced to resign due to scandal – Sir John A. Macdonald

3. Most prime ministers from a party (Liberal Party – 11). Conservative – 9, Others – 2. Total number of prime ministers – 22 (as of 2007)

4. First female prime minister – Kim Campbell, Progressive Conservative Party, 1993

5. Shortest-serving prime minister – Sir Charles Tupper at 68 days

6. Longest unbroken term – Wilfred Laurier at 15 years, 87 days.

7. Longest serving prime minister – William Lyon Mackenzie King with three terms (21 years and 95 days)

8. Youngest prime minister – Joe Clark at 39 years of age (became prime minister the day before his 40th birthday).

9. Prime ministers who died in office – Sir John A. Macdonald (June 6, 1891) and Sir John Thompson (December 12, 1894).

10. Province with most prime ministers: Quebec (7), Ontario (6), Alberta and Nova Scotia (both with 3), British Columbia/Manitoba/Saskatchewan (each with 1).

The current Prime Minister of Canada is Stephen Harper (Conservative Party) from Calgary West who was elected January 23, 2006. His party has a minority government, but so far has managed to survive votes on major issues. Another general election is looming because minority governments do not last.

Canada has a multi-party system. At the present time there are four major parties in the elected House of Commons (equivalent to US. House of Representatives). They are the Liberals, Conservatives, New Democratic, and the Bloc Quebecois. The parties with the largest number of seats (representatives) are the Liberals and Conservatives.

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