Minority governments do a better job of representing the interests of all Canadians

Majority governments don’t hold officials as accountable as minority ones

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Trudeau's minority government requires greater collaboration with parties like the NDP and Bloc Québécois. PHOTO: Jason Hafso / Unsplash

by Evan Eschelmuller, SFU Student

Another federal election in Canada, another minority government. Minority governments have often been viewed as less effective than majority governments, but they can also force a politically diverse parliament to work together across party lines. With the diversity of our country, politically and geographically, we are better served by federal minority governments going forward. 

In a Canadian election, a minority government “exists when the governing party does not hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons (or provincial legislature) but is still able to command the confidence of the House.” This is determined through a confidence vote, which works to signify if the party in question has the ability to form a functioning government that can pass legislation in the house. 

With a minority Liberal government, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals must collaborate with non-Liberal MP’s (most likely the NDP or the Bloc Québécois) to pass legislation in the House of Commons, or else risk a vote of no confidence. And if recent minority governments are any indication of how things will go, it seems both the Bloc and the NDP will be willing to do this. 

Now, as an example of where this will be beneficial, consider the climate crisis. The planet overall is heading towards a climate catastrophe. In Canada, we are looking at extreme weather events like an increase in heat waves, more wildfires, and much warmer temperatures in our future. 

Both the NDP and Bloc Québécois have environmental issues front and centre in their platforms, and have the power to shift the Liberals towards stronger action. While this isn’t a guarantee the current government will do enough to confront the climate crisis, having a check on the Liberals from more environmentally conscious parties is better than the alternative — that is, a Liberal majority which feels justified in continuing to do less than is needed to fight climate change. 

The parliamentary system in Canada concentrates an overwhelming amount of power in the hands of the Prime Minister. And this has caused problems many times in Canada’s recent history. Stephen Harper’s Conservative majority government imposed publication bans on scientists from publishing their work on “climate change and other politically sensitive issues” without permission, and also did not allow them access to media without prior approval. This essentially stopped scientists from being able to share their work. 

During the SNC Lavalin affair, Trudeau and the Office of the Prime Minister put pressure on then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to resolve the fraud case against the group. This ended with Wilson-Raybould receiving an apparent demotion within the partys cabinet. Following this, the Liberals shut down the justice committee’s investigation of the whole affair. The power given to majority governments can often result in outcomes that are not in line with Canada’s best interests.

Having a minority government means the Prime Minister and ruling party need to work harder, together. Members of parliament take on one of the most important roles in Canada, and working to serve the public’s best interest is part of the job. Minority governments necessitate collaboration with other parties, bring in a diversity of views for policy decisions, and provide a check on prime ministerial power. Minority governments may be here to stay, and that’s a good thing for Canadians overall.