Minority government probable – and preferable
If you’re fed up with the ‘Stephen Harper Conservatives,’ you might be ready to hand the reins of power over to Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair and the NDP.
Or perhaps you’re convinced – despite non-stop attack ads that suggest otherwise – Justin Trudeau actually is ready to lead a Liberal government back into office.
Your third option, of course, is to send Harper back to the prime minister’s office for four more years.
With just 92 days until the federal election, Canadians are witnessing a rare three-way race and a spirited argument could be made for any of these scenarios. But one that’s becoming increasingly unlikely is that any party will get enough seats to form a majority government.
A series of national polls going back to May have consistently put the NDP in the lead. The Globe and Mail, in a new election forecasting tool unveiled last week, put the probability of the NDP winning the most seats at 52 per cent, just ahead of the Tories. And CBC, in a new online ‘poll tracker’ that debuted this week, put the NDP ahead with 32 per cent of decided voters, the Conservatives at 29 per cent and the Liberals not far behind at 27 per cent.
The Globe also pegged the probability of a majority government at just 0.9 per cent. And frankly, I’d be OK with that.
Detractors of minority governments worry they’ll lead to instability and gridlock. If that happens, I suspect there’ll be a non-confidence vote and we’ll be going back to the polls sooner than later. But there’s also a good chance the party with the most seats will reach out to another party (or parties) to form a coalition that allows them to govern. In that event, they’ll have to do something that has seldom happened over the past four years of the Conservative majority – compromise and cooperate. In that environment, there’s no reason legislation that’s in the best interest of Canadians can’t wind its way through Parliament. In a Tory minority, for example, Opposition parties would have the numbers to amend or defeat the far-reaching measures in omnibus bills such as C-51 (aka the anti-terror law).
If not a Conservative minority, what about the NDP? The party is already in uncharted waters, completing its first-ever term as the official Opposition. But if Canadians do vote the NDP into office, they may opt to keep them on a short leash by denying them a majority. Polls suggest the Liberals are a much longer shot to form government. But under their young leader, they should grab a lot more seats than the 34, which reduced them to third party status in the 2011 election.
With the election still three months away, though, we should take the polls, probabilities and simulations for what they are – a snapshot of what Canadians are thinking about today. A lot can change over the course of a campaign that doesn’t officially begin until the end of summer.
But in the countdown to the vote I won’t be discouraged if it remains a tight three-way race that returns a minority government — red, orange or blue.
Like a good segment of the population, I don’t trust any of the rascals enough to give them the keys to the kingdom, at least not right now.