rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Trust and confidence: Post-election co-operation in Parliament

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

It seems increasingly likely that none of the federal parties will win enough seats on October 19 to form a majority government. Broadly speaking, this leaves two possibilities: a minority or a coalition government. Both options demand co-operation and compromise between our parliamentarians -- and both may offer many advantages over a "false" majority government (in which a government wins less than half the popular vote but more than half the seats in Parliament).

Minority or coalition governments can represent the broad interests of a majority of Canadians. Although coalitions are rare at the federal level, Canada has a long history of minority Parliaments. Minority governments have given Canadians our national health-care program, our pension plan, and bilingualism. But the effectiveness of minority governments depends on the leadership of the parties involved.

The key to forming government in a minority Parliament is securing the trust and confidence of a majority of elected representatives. This is because in Canada we do not directly elect our prime minister. We vote to choose an elected member of Parliament (MP). Our elected representatives form the government. A party leader must earn the confidence of the majority of MPs in order to become prime minister. It is not necessarily true that elections decide who will form the government. If no party wins a majority, government is formed after the election by determining which party or coalition can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

The effectiveness of minority governments depends on the leadership of the parties involved, their spirit of cooperation, and their responsiveness to the public. Minority governments often rest on a "supply and confidence" arrangement whereby one party governs with the support of another party or group of MPs who provide votes of confidence and votes for budgets.

Coalitions are another democratic alternative. They are commonplace in many parliamentary democracies around the world. Coalitions involve agreements among parties to share cabinet and other appointments. They are often highly stable and tend to be broadly inclusive.

Parliamentary systems of government are uniquely well suited to ensuring that stable governments are formed even when no party wins a majority of seats in Parliament. We have a history in Canada of productive minority governments that have worked co-operatively in the best interest of Canadians and examples abound of successful coalition governments around the world.

If our leaders act in a spirit of co-operation for the common good, the advantages of post-electoral parliamentary co-operation -- whether minority or coalition government -- could include restoring independence and integrity between the government and legislature, introducing policies favoured by broad majorities, and giving greater say to our elected representatives. It could also result in policies supported by a broad majority of the public: action on climate change, electoral reform, a fairer tax system, and a new relationship with First Nations. More voices in government mean better policies for a stronger Canada.

This post was adapted from the paper Trust and Confidence:Post-Election Cooperation in Parliament.

Max Cameron is a Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at UBC anad a research associate with the CCPA-BC. You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxwellACameron. 

Like this article? rabble is reader-supported journalism. Chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.