When is an­other party one too many?

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 36 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­[email protected]­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

(Case in point? Premier Doug Ford’s cur­rent On­tario gov­ern­ment, now wast­ing its elec­toral cur­rency on forc­ing an is­sue — the size of Toronto’s city coun­cil — that mat­ters more to Doug Ford than to the elec­torate.)

Mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments are keenly aware of their mor­tal­ity, and that means they tend to be more will­ing to reach con­sen­sus with other par­ties. And that con­sen­sus of­ten means bet­ter de­ci­sions and bet­ter laws.

In the At­lantic re­gion, New­found­land and Labrador has only briefly had a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment. If there had been one seven years ago, I’m sure the Muskrat Falls project — now a hor­ri­ble eco­nomic mill­stone for the prov­ince’s elec­tri­cal ratepay­ers — would have got­ten the kind of full im­par­tial re­view the project needed in the first place, and sim­ply didn’t get.

Mi­nori­ties aren’t all that com­mon in the At­lantic re­gion. New Brunswick last had one in the 1920s, and P.E.I. had three, all be­fore the 1900s. Nova Scotia’s the only prov­ince to have had mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments post-2000.

But there’s an­other side to that coin: the more frag­mented par­ties are, the less likely they are to gov­ern at all — and some­times, that gov­er­nance is held hostage by rel­a­tively few seats.

The whole of Bri­tish Columbia pol­i­tics now hinges on three Green Party seats, mean­ing the con­cerns of the less than 17 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion that voted for the Greens get more than their fair share of at­ten­tion.

Stephen Harper’s suc­cess­ful runs as prime min­is­ter, it can be ar­gued, de­pended on the uni­fi­ca­tion of con­ser­va­tive-minded can­di­dates, both hard core and softer-C con­ser­va­tives, un­der a sin­gle ban­ner. Even then, his first two gov­ern­ments could only garner mi­nor­ity ad­min­is­tra­tions, part of a longer-run­ning string of fed­eral mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ments.

But now, Maxime Bernier is try­ing to strip away tra­di­tional sup­port from the Con­ser­va­tive party by break­ing away and form­ing his own closer-to-Lib­er­tar­ian Peo­ple’s Party of Canada.

Mean­while, there was word Mon­day that the last five of seven mem­bers of Par­lia­ment who dra­mat­i­cally quit the Bloc Québe­cois in Fe­bru­ary over their leader’s be­hav­iour were re­turn­ing to the fold — mean­ing that there will be seven dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties that hold seats in the House of Com­mons, with two in­de­pen­dents and three va­can­cies.

Bernier, and maybe even the Bloc, might again end up hold­ing the bal­ance of power in a fed­eral gov­ern­ment. It is, at least, not in­con­ceiv­able.

But on the whole, it seems like they are more likely to leach sup­port away from the NDP and Con­ser­va­tives.

With the fed­eral NDP gen­er­ally slip­ping or stag­nat­ing in the polls (and hav­ing long-time NDPers leav­ing pol­i­tics), the frag­ment­ing is hap­pen­ing only on one side of the po­lit­i­cal map — in the op­po­si­tion.

And that gives the mod­er­ate left — the Lib­er­als — a dis­tinct ad­van­tage.

The Lib­er­als held onto power in the past long af­ter they were stale and too com­fort­able gov­ern­ing, pre­cisely be­cause their op­po­si­tion was split into dif­fer­ent fac­tions. That could eas­ily hap­pen again, as early as 2019.

Many par­ties and a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment can build con­sen­sus.

Many par­ties on one side of the ledger — and only one on the other side — makes ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments that don’t truly rep­re­sent the pol­i­tics of the na­tion.

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