Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Minority Gov't Scares Party Leaders

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Minority Gov't Scares Party Leaders

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Minority gov't scares party leaders

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An editorial from the Prince George Citizen, published Sept. 9:

If there is one thing that Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau agree on, it's the election outcome that frightens them the most.

That would be that delicate matter of what happens if no one wins enough seats next month to form a majority government.

Harper made some puzzling remarks this week about the scenario.

Harper insists it is the right of the party that wins the most seats to form government.

He says he "would not serve as prime minister" if his party finished second.

Puzzling because it completely disregards the elements of the Westminster system of government that Canada has followed since Confederation.

If you don't recall your high school social studies class, here's a quick primer.

In a constitutional monarchy like Canada, the Queen is the head of state and the Governor General is her representative.

After a federal election, the Governor General invites the leader of the party that won the most seats in the House of Commons to form government.

If that party won a majority of the seats in the election, that leader can govern and pass legislation without the co-operation of the other leaders and parties. There are 338 seats up for grabs in this election so a majority will be 170 seats (169 plus one).

If the party that wins the most seats doesn't reach 170 seats, the Governor General will still invite that leader to form a government but the prime minister will need the support of another party and its leader to have enough votes to pass legislation.

Harper spent his first five years as prime minister governing this way, with the majority of the seats split up between the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberals and the NDP. He sought support for various bills on a case-by-case basis, rather than forming an allegiance with one of the other parties.

Harper paints such a coalition as anti-democratic yet it's a key component of the Westminister model and perfectly legal.

If a minority government is defeated in a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons, that doesn't automatically mean another election. In the interest of government stability, the Governor General must approach the leader of the party that won the second-most seats to see if that leader can form government. …

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