Mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment prob­a­ble – and prefer­able

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Wayne Young Wayne Young is an in­struc­tor in the jour­nal­ism pro­gram at Hol­land Col­lege in Char­lot­te­town

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.

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