Canada's New Political Wind Ruffles Status Quo Separatist-Reformist Shift Portends a Break with Two-Party System. PARTY CHANGE

By Fred Langan, | The Christian Science Monitor, October 18, 1990 | Go to article overview

Canada's New Political Wind Ruffles Status Quo Separatist-Reformist Shift Portends a Break with Two-Party System. PARTY CHANGE


Fred Langan,, The Christian Science Monitor


CANADIAN politics are heading for a big change.

Instead of two traditional parties - the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals - there could be five political parties after the next federal election, none with a majority.

At least one of those parties, the Bloc Quebecois, is dedicated to splitting up Canada. Another, the Reform Party of Canada, does not care if Quebec secedes and wants to get rid of official French-English bilingualism.

"The day of the two-party system appears to be over," says Angus Reid, who runs one of Canada's largest polling firms from his base in Winnipeg, Manitoba. "It is hard to imagine one party forming a majority after the next election."

It may seem early to start speaking about an election. Under the Constitution, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has until 1993 in his present term, although an election would be expected by 1992 at the latest.

But this year has brought some political surprises. A by-election in August resulted in a separatist winner in Quebec, the first time a separatist has been elected to the federal Parliament.

Gilles Duceppe, a union organizer, won that by-election in an electoral district in the east end of Montreal on the same day a socialist New Democratic Party candidate won another by-election in Toronto's Oshawa suburb.

"We're not going to Ottawa to make a career," says Mr. Duceppe. His object, he says, is to gain an independent Quebec.

The Bloc Quebecois was formed by Lucien Bouchard, the former minister of the environment, who left the Mulroney cabinet in the spring because he felt the Meech Lake Accord to reform the Constitution would fail. The accord fell apart June 23.

Other Quebec Members of Parliament (MPs) joined Mr. Bouchard. There are now nine Bloc Quebecois members in the House of Commons. Only Duceppe was elected as a representative of the party; the others defected from the Conservatives or the Liberals.

The ruling Conservative party received about 5 percent of votes cast in the two recent by-elections. The Liberals, the party of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and which ruled the country for all but 19 of the last 70 years, did only slightly better.

Such stirrings portend a change in the status quo. There are 295 seats in the House of Commons. To rule with a majority, a party needs 148. Politicians and pollsters agree it will be hard for any party to collect a majority in the next Canadian election.

In western Canada, pundits say the Reform Party of Canada could capture 40 of the 88 federal seats held by the four western provinces - Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia - in the Commons in Ottawa. The party easily won a by-election in Alberta in March 1989.

The Reform Party is led by Preston Manning, a pro-business, antigovernment politician. …

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