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.

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Politics Canadian Style: Election 2008

October 15, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian politics are likely as confusing to an outsider as American politics can be to an outsider. Yesterday we had our general election. It was the 40th in Canadian history. The result was the re-election of the Conservative Party minority government with their leader Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. They did increase the number of seats by ten, but still didn’t achieve their hoped for majority in Parliament.

In Canada the leader of the party with the most seats in Parliament becomes the Prime Minister. To gain a majority government, the party needs 155 seats. Each representative elected is called an M.P. (Member of Parliament).

There are two main parties in Canada. The Liberals who have historically governed Canada the longest, and the Conservatives. The Conservative Party as it exists now is the result of a merger between the Progressive Conservative Party and the Reform Party. The Liberals are the Canadian equivalent of the Democrats in the U.S., the Conservatives are the equivalent of the Republicans.

Canada’s House of Parliament is representation by population. The American equvalent is the House of Representatives. Our Senate consists of appointed members and is not equal in representation like the America Senate. Many in our country would like to see reform in this body. Right now it is a reward for party faithful. Their power is severely limited.

The only thing at all like the U.S. Executive Branch is the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. Cabinet members are appointed by the Prime Minister, but must hold a seat in Parliament or in the Senate. Only rarely does a cabinet member come from the Senate.

Here are some pertinent facts about Prime Minister Stephen Joseph Harper,

  • born April 30, 1959 in Toronto, Ontario.
  • first Canadian prime minister born in the second half of the 20th century
  • Member of Parliament (MP) for Calgary Southwest
  • one of the founding members of the Reform Party
  • Prime Minister since February 6, 2006
  • has Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Economics from University of Calgary
  • married Laureen Teskey in 1993. They have two children: Ben, born 1996, and Rachel, born 1999.

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