The Canadian Election

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Joe who?


I think it should be made clear that ‘minority’ and ‘coalition’ don’t quite mean the same thing. ‘Caolitions’ can take forms (say, like in Italy) very different from the way they happen here.

Minority governments in Canada are fairly rare, partly because of the way ballots are counted - whoever gets the most votes in one constituency (‘riding’) essentially is considered as having gotten all the votes there. This procedure inflates the number of seats the winning party gets.

A ‘minority’ government is a situation where the party with the most seats in the House doesn’t have more than 50% of the seats. With 308 seats up for grabs, this would apply if the party with the most seats (the government) manages to capture less than 155 of them. Now, they can:

  • Form a coalition, in which they formally agree to vote/act en bloc with another party, thus effectively giving them a majority of the seats.

  • Govern as a minority, and try to make every bill amicable to enough of the opposition members/parties that bills actually get passed. For important legislation, like budgets, this can be risky, because defeat of the bill brings about defeat of the government. (That’s what happened to Joe.)

The differences are pretty subtle, really, since a coalition can fall apart at any time, over disagreements. But’s it’s more formal, and more consistent, and involves more discussion between the coalition partners than the case where the government goes alone as a minority.

In any case, minority governments tend not to last as long, but something closer to consensus comes out of the house; the government has to plese at least some of the opposition, not just enough of the population to keep their seats in a far-off election.

In the case of a Liberal minority this time, they might try to go alone, because they probably won’t want to align with the Conservatives, and because of Layton’s demand for the switch to Proporitonal Representation. (I wouldn’t completely rule out a coalition with the NDP, though.) In going it alone, if they govern a bit from the left, they may be able to count on support from the NDP for some things, and also from the Bloc, which is fairly lefty. A formal coalition with the BQ is impossible, IMO, beause of the separation issue.

Nice. A 10 minute drive to downtown Ottawa, the second largest city in Ontario does not a backwater make. Now mind you they split the riding in two recently. The old Kanata and Stittsville are now the major part of the new Lanark-Carleton.

  1. What if you have a party you want to vote for, but you think the particular leader they chose is a total moron? ‘The people’ per se don’t get the choose who the leaders of the party are, right, unless the party takes into account who’s popular?

  2. How much does personality count in this election? Is the campaign going “Vote for Paul Martin!” or “Vote for the the Liberals (and get Paul Martin *absolutely free!” I guess it would be strange for me not to see the party’s candidate on the ballot, although I know all these folks have their own riding.

  3. I’m probably missing something basic, but what if Harper or Layton or whoever lost the election in their own riding (caught with dead girl or live boy, etc.), but their party still won a majority? Can a guy who can’t sit in Parliament still be PM?

You are soooo lucky your campaigns don’t start the day after each Inaugaration like ours, though. Sheesh.

No. Usually what happens is some old party warhorse in a safe seat resigns, and the party leader runs in a by-election. Don’t know that that’s been necessary in recent history though. Normally a leader will already be in a safe seat. That Toronto riding is going to be interesting to me; I’ll have to start checking in on The Star again.

Thanks for the answer, TYM, but I still don’t quite get it–why would the voters of the warhorse’s riding be any less disgusted with the leader than the ones in his own riding? And you don’t have to live in the riding you’re running for to begin with?

<not that I’m one to talk, having HRC as a Senator. I mean, I like her and she definitely lives here NOW, but…:D)

Because typically, as a courtesy, the other parties will not field a candidate for the riding. The idea being that leaders of party’s should be present in the legislature.

Thanks, but what I meant is if the leader is caught up in a scandal and loses their district’s vote, I don’t see how running in another riding is going to solve the problem, whether he’s unopposed or not. Would the party just choose a new leader, and let him run in the old warhorse’s district?

I based my assesment on the time I spent living in Smiths Falls (an hour from Ottawa, or so), which at the time was in Lanark-Carleton (or, at least, I think so). Now, it seems, it’s in Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington. There’ve been more changes than I realised. Stormont-Dundas-Charlottenburgh is now Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry (another place where I think the Conservatives might pick up a seat).

That’s sort of the way you’re stuck. You have to consider the party, the leader, and the local candidate. Last time, I voted for one party because the leader was alright, and the local candidate was pretty good, even though I liked the policies of a second party more. But the main reason was that there was a third party that I really didn’t like, and voting for the not-so-awful first party might have helped keep the awful third party out.

More than usual, it seems, the parties are playing up their leaders more than the party itself. Liberal banners and signs carry the label “Team Martin”, and in many cases, Martin’s portrait. Stephen Harper’s photo is prominently featured all over the Conservative website, though the “Conservative: Demand Better” line and logo are still very prevalent. The NDP are selling themselves as “Jack Layton and Canada’s NDP”. The BQ have got a new photo of Duceppe staring into the camera (personally, I find it less compelling than the last one), but seem to be still relying on the party label more than the leader.

The Liberals are trying to make Harper look evil and right-wing, while not attacking the party so much. The Conservatives are doing their best to associate Martin with the Liberal Party, to link him to stuff people don’t like about the Liberal government under the previous leader. Personality is important, but so are party affiliations. Especially

For those interested, here are the party websites:

New Democratic Party: ( is the French-language site)
Bloc Québécois:
Green Party:

If a party leader, plagued with scandal yet able to lead his party to a win, lost his/her seat then I would doubt that the party in question would call for a leadership review. It would depend on the party’s constitution I suppose.

A winning party leader who had lost his/her seat would be dropped into a new riding following the noble resignation of a party member who had won. Since typically the “winner” is unopposed they can’t possibly loose. If they did I would assume a leadership call would quickly take place.

An election loosing leader who had also lost his/her seat would be replaced post haste.

wolfstu, sorry about that, I was a bit snarky.

Whew! Thanks, me Smart Merkun now! Your system combines a few different ones, not stricly UK style, not US style, but I’m glad it seems to work for you. I have a lot of relatives in NS, including one who was active in the provinicial government for a while, and I’ll have to see what they think.

Although I did start out ahead of the pack; most people down here don’t even know that Steve Martin is your new PM.

<d & r>

It’s hard to keep up. I mean after Prime Minister Poutine resigned its been nothing but cheesy political ramblings. I can see how that could smoother out the proper names. :wink:

I was about to respond to this in more detail, but I see Grey’s covered it nicely. He’s right, if you lose your seat, but manage to lead your party to victory, the party will probably find you a seat somewhere. If you lose your seat, and the party does miserably, you’ll probably not be around for long as leader (ahem Kim Campbell)

The definition of ‘miserable’ depends on the party, of course. The NDP doesn’t have to win to do way better than usual. The Conservatives, mind you, seen to have a habit of turfing the leader every time he doesn’t win an election for them… then they change their name and try again. (See: Reform & Manning, Alliance and Day)

Grey, No problem. I was wrong about the riding that town is in, now. And I can see how calling Kanata a backwater makes me look like I don’t know what I’m talking about.

(Kanata, for those who don’t know, is a big centre for high-tech industry, full of companies that make network hardware and electronics and stuff. It’s a semi-affluent suburb of Ottawa, with perhaps 100,000 residents out of the ~900,000 Ottawa total. Numbers very approximate. Smiths Falls, on the other hand, is the biggest town in its locale, but has ~9,000 residents. The next town over (Carleton Place) recently hosted the International Plowing Match and a festival called “Rural Expo”. Obviously, Kanata and the Smiths-Falls/Carleton-Place are are very different, demographically.)

No, you don’t. Any elector can run in any riding. All you have to do in the riding is get 100 signatures from electors living in the riding.

Of course, the only time a candidate is normally from away is either 1) where the party has no chance and just wants to have a full slate; 2) the aforementioned leader scenario; or 3) a star candidate living elsewhere in the same city. Otherwise, it looks kind of bad.

Part of the problem is that Mike Harris did not want to come on board ,and that meant that the big blue ontario machine did not waste time even thinking about helping out.
So Harper is left with the second or third team organizers.

What may hurt the fibs in Ontario , will be the McSquinty government. If Martin can divest himself of that provincial wing of the fiberal party, fine, but he gots some fancy foot work ahead of him.


First, the Prime Minister is named by the Governor General – neither elected by the voters (except, by one riding, to a seat in Parliament) nor elected by a party. The catch is that her choice has to be from among those people who can command a majority in the House of Commons. Needless to say, if one party has a majority in Commons, the leader of that party is the only person who qualifies. However, in a case where the composition of Parliament is fractured, with no party having an absolute majority, she has some flexibility. Ordinarily what will happen is that the leader of the largest single party will negotiate with another party or parties, for support to put together a majority. The smaller party or parties get to state the price of their support; the big party gets to decide whether that’s an acceptable price to pay. The GG of course is privy to all this negotiating, and sends for the guy who has put together a coalition and can do it. But suppose the following results (and we’ll reduce it to three parties for ease of explanation): Conservatives get 44%; Liberals 41%; NDP 15%. But Conservatives can’t agree with Liberals, and even less so with NDP. Liberals and NDP can come to terms, however. So a coalition that has 56% support is possible – without the largest party. Finally, imagine that Joe Maverick is officially a Liberal, and is supported by 10 people, but refuses to toe the party line on some issues. Liberals and NDP can’t agree – but Joe can come up with compromise proposals that the Liberals and NDP can both stomach. It’s constitutionally possible for her to send for Joe to form an interim coalition, rather than the leader of either party.

matt_mcl, are you standing again this election? If so, best of luck to you!

I’d point out that it is entirely possible to command a significant majority of seats in the House with less than a majority of the popular vote. In the case of the current government I believe they received 38% of the popular vote but commanded 168 of 308 seats.

The results are due to a “first past the post” system that I’d like to see modified to a transferable ballot system. We’ll see I suppose. Parties tend to talk in grand terms about democratic reforms but fall silent once in power.

Matt didn’t want to run this election, but he’s been busy working on Anthony Philbin’s campaign.

That’s why Jack’s made proportional representation a condition of forming a coalition.

I’m still not convinced Martin would join NDP automatically. Ideologically, he is closer to the Conservatives, he has a long history of working with people he hates, and he could spin it up as “reaching out to the Western provinces,” since the Reform-CRAP-Alliance party of Conservatoria is still very much a regional party.

Well after Layton called him a murderer I’m not laying a lot of money on a Lib/NDP love fest either. :slight_smile: