CBC News Federal Election

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Analysis & Commentary

Building consensus

Canadians have elected another minority government. The standings are not dissimilar to the last one, with the Conservatives and Liberals switching places, of course. The head of a minority government has two basic choices:
  • Form a coalition: This would be difficult with the current makeup of the House. The Conservatives must pick a Speaker, putting them down one vote if they choose from their own caucus. The only parties they could join with to have a majority of votes would be the Liberals or the Bloc Québécois. The Liberals, though, are the Official Opposition, and Stephen Harper would not want to be seen joining with the separatist Bloc.
  • Go it alone: Under this scenario, the governing party must obtain the co-operation of others to pass legislation. Since earning their minority in 2004, the Liberals relied on the NDP for a crucial budget vote, but didn't have a longer-term agreement. Without a formal coalition, other legislation passed after much review by the other parties.
The Conservatives are most likely to do this, relying on consensus building, and the lack of any appetite for another election. After two elections in two years, the parties are running on financial fumes, and will need time to rebuild their campaign war chests.

If the Conservatives can't find consensus

The government is the government unless it is defeated or resigns. The Conservatives will keep trying unless they are specifically defeated on a money bill, or in a non-confidence motion. Then, one of two things could happen.

The Governor General could order a new election, or ask another party to try to govern. Michaëlle Jean has the right to ask the Liberals, as the holders of the second most seats in the House, to try to form a government, either on their own, or through a coalition with another party. Joining with the NDP would put them ahead of the Conservatives in the seat count, but still well below a majority.

Coalition governing isn't unheard of in Canada. It was been tried in Ontario in 1985, and federally by William Lyon Mackenzie King after the 1925 election. But it is unlikely to happen this time out.

Is very unusual for the Governor General to offer the government to another party, if the governing party has asked for an election (especially since the King-Byng affair). However, one of the reasons this power is given to the Governor General is to protect Canadians from excessive visits to the polls and an unstable Parliament. It is yet to be seen how many elections is too many.

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ELECTION RESULTSDetails>
1241035129
Total Elected and Leading
CON124036.27%
LIB103030.23%
BQ51010.48%
NDP29017.48%
IND10.52%
OTH005.02%

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