PEI

New minority government is an 'exciting era' for P.E.I., says Bob Rae

Former politician Bob Rae has learned a thing or two about minority governments over the years. He draws on his extensive experience to offer some thoughts on P.E.I.'s new government. 

'Winning the support of the people in the legislature is something that happens on a daily basis'

As leader of Ontario's New Democrats, Bob Rae agreed to support the second-place Liberals and topple the minority Progressive Conservatives weeks after the 1985 election. (CBC's: Power and Politics)

Former politician Bob Rae — who knows a thing or two about minority governments and the lively political dynamics that often accompany them — said Tuesday's election results have ushered in an exciting era for P.E.I. politics.

"I think it's a reflection of the move for change," said the former Liberal MP. "I think the surge and the support for the Green Party is very interesting and compelling."

In 1979, it was Rae's motion as an NDP member of Parliament that precipitated the end of Joe Clark's minority government.

Rae was leader of Ontario's New Democrats during the general election of 1985, which culminated in a minority Progressive Conservative goverment led by Frank Miller. Rae signed an accord with Liberal leader David Peterson to support the second-place party and, weeks later, tabled the motion of no confidence that toppled the Conservatives.

Later, as a Liberal MP and interim party leader, Rae had a front-row seat to watch Stephen Harper's two consecutive minority governments in action.

'I think it's a reflection of the move for change. I think the surge and the support for the Green Party is very interesting and compelling,' said Rae. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

'The move for change'

With eight seats in the House, Rae said the Greens now have an unprecedented place on the political stage.  

"This means people will be looking carefully at them but it also gives them an opportunity to demonstrate what they can do — and I think for the sake of Canadian politics I think it's a good thing," he said. 

The PCs earned 12 seats in the House, eclipsing the six seats claimed by the Island's Liberals. (Brian McInnis/CBC)

While the PCs earned 12 seats in the House, eclipsing the six seats claimed by the Island's Liberals, Rae said the victory is yet to be won.

"Winning the support of the people in the legislature is something that happens on a daily basis," he said.

Successes and otherwise

While there have been both unsuccessful and successful minority governments in Canadian history, he said the Liberal governments led by Lester B. Pearson from 1963 to 1968 were an example of successes, yielding legislation like the Canadian Pension Plan. 

Rae said having a front-row seat for Stephen Harper's two consecutive minority governments offered insight into the importance of negotiation and compromise in daily governance.   

"The years of 2008 and 2011 were not the happiest of experiences. He [Stephen Harper] was tough and he was tough in 2011. He liked getting his own way and ultimately his government was brought down and then ultimately formed a majority government after 2011," he said. 

Everybody's got to remember you're also governing in a climate of public opinion that's looking at you and doesn't want too many games played on a daily basis.- Bob Rae

"What a minority government means is how you drive and how fast you go and what turns you take are not only yours to make." 

Rae's experience with the Liberal Party in 2008 and 2011 demonstrated how essential compromise is in governance —especially when keeping an eye on the next election. 

"It forces you to listen quite a lot. And to try and figure out how to do that. Whether you do it on a daily basis or because you have one big negotiation that you have at the beginning — but everybody's got to remember you're also governing in a climate of public opinion that's looking at you and doesn't want too many games played on a daily basis," he said.

Rae now works as a lawyer, negotiator, mediator, and arbitrator. He also teaches at the University of Toronto..

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With files from CBC's: Island Morning

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