Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pro-Minority Majority

There is a recent article in the Globe and Mail that despite Stephen Harper’s success and advertising campaign very few Canadians are comfortable giving him and his party a majority government. Only 26% of Canadians according to this poll are comfortable with the idea of Harper winning a majority government in the next election, 30% are extremely unhappy with the idea.

People are obviously welcome to whatever opinion they desire, but I would like to comment on this feeling. I cannot help but think that Canadians are hesitant to give any party a majority government. Given the constitutional power invested in the Parliament, which has accrued to the Prime Minister, we elect a virtual dictator when we put a majority government in office. Majority governments are dramatically less accountable and cannot be as easily held to public pressure.

While minority governments may be “unstable”, majorities suffer from far too much stability. The fate of the government is in the hands of one leader, not the people’s. I wonder if similar percentages would exist (or be higher) for Michael Ignatieff, or Jack Layton? Maybe Canadians are tired of majorities.

It’s unlikely that Canadians are intellectually thinking that majorities are less accountable, but they probably like the idea of the power of the government constantly being confounded by the Opposition. I know I do anyway, at least until we can make Canada a more democratic country.


Jake said...

So what initally seems like an extremely slow and problematic way of running a country, is actually the best way to ensure the public is represented? By forcing more than one party to agree on an issue, policies must be reflective, or at least compromising enough, to benefit more than the conseratives?

I never really looked at it that way before, but it does make me a little less apprehensive about Harper being in power.

Would that concept apply if more fringe parties win seats? If a few more green, or pirate, or even bloc were elected, would the diversity further help shape policies in a similar manner? Or would our parliament approach the fabled deadlock, with too many voices arguing to accomplish even relatively small changes in policy?

SJL said...

Allow me to put it this way. If the Liberals or Conservatives get 40% of the vote they win a majority government, and therefore 100% of the power. In a minority government the Conservatives about 38%, and the NDP 18%. Together, that's 56% of the popular vote, and has a real mandate.

The Bloc is roughly at its natural maximum. They currently hold 47 seats, and will probably never hold more than 60, ever. The Greens frankly deserve a seat in Parliament. In the last election they got nearly a million votes. If there were more small parties (I reject fringe) we would shift towards a coalition mode of government. If Parliament was slightly more divided, i.e. a smaller Conservative block and larger NDP, and Green representation, Harper (or Ignatieff?) would likely be forced to get a coalition together for the sake of stability.