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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Canada in minority government for many elections to come

The Bloc Québécois makes it nearly impossible for a national federal party to form a majority government. With a lock on around 50 seats neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals are likely to win enough ridings to gain complete control of Parliament. So Canada is stuck with minority governments and the resulting constant threat of elections and instability.

There are only two ways for a majority government to become possible again.

The first way has been recently pointed out by Jane Taber. The plan to create new constituencies in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario will change the regional balance of Parliament. Quebec’s population compared to the rest of Canada has been in steady decline, and so it only makes sense that Quebec’s weight in Parliament will also decline. With more seats outside of Quebec, the Conservatives and the Liberals will be able to win enough ridings to form a majority government.

The problem is that the balance is not changing enough to make majority governments that much more likely. If we assume that the BQ can rely on winning 50 seats, this means that in the current seat distribution they will make up about 16% of the House. If the proposed changes come into place the BQ will still make up about 15% of the House. So there will still be a large bloc (if you excuse the pun) of seats that are out of reach for the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party. In the long run Quebec will likely continue to decline in population, but it could take decades for the seat distribution to change enough that majority governments will again become plausible.

The second strategy is to try and win the support of “soft-nationalists” away from the BQ. This is the strategy that the Harper government attempted in the first 2 years of power. They called Quebec a nation within Canada, and funnelled ever more money into Quebec provincial coffers. But when Election Day came Quebec voters did not award the Conservatives. Instead they voted for the BQ again.

So evidently the so called soft-nationalists aren’t in the mood to be wooed. Which makes sense, the BQ are best able to lobby for Quebec in a minority Parliament, so why would they vote for anyone else? What does the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party have to offer that the BQ can’t give the nationalist voter?

Going after the nationalist voter with more Quebec subsidies has proven to be a bottomless pit strategy anyway. There is no amount of funding that will be enough.

So both paths to majority government are, for the moment, out of reach. The reality is that we are now in a time of prolonged minority governments. We should all readjust our thinking accordingly.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on August 18, 2010 | Permalink


As a native Ontarian, living in the Beauce region of Quebec now, I am just now realising what I have gotten myself into.

There should be a warning to anyone wanting to relocate here, just as there is some guidance provided to the hand picked pre-selected immigrants invited to come.

There can be no doubt that rural Quebec is simply beautiful and the ordinary citizens are nothing but generous and accomodating to any visitor.

Rural culture is rich, alive, invigorating, creative, artistic and family oriented.

Urban stress does not exist in the rolling hills and expansive farmland of the Beauce.

Inviting and captivating are the words to use when describing the simple pleasures to be found here.

But do not attempt to make your permanent home here. You will immediately become aware that you do not belong here and are not wanted here on a permanent basis.

The sentiments are not those of the local people but rather the dictates of regional elected officials, who collectively, run everything for miles around.

Unlike in the rest of Canada, you cannot integrate here, if you are uninvited, unconnected politically or over the age of 35, no matter many french language courses you have successfully completed.

It doesn't matter how well qualified you are to work, in fields where there exists urgent demand for people in your field - it is not your Canadian contribution that is wanted - they're adamant in hiring their own, skilled or not, or invite someone from France.

So party here and enjoy your visit. But don't ever confuse 'Quebec culture' with 'Quebec politics' ...

The first is freely and proudly shared with everyone who comes along ...

the other is a collectivity of the 'chosen few' determined, as their priority, to retain their positions and their control by means of any abuse of power available to them - blatant discrimination presented to the populace as the preservation of culture - to the detrement of the governed and economic development in the region.

Just my experience ...

Posted by: chevymo | 2010-08-18 7:27:26 AM

I think Hugh is quite correct in his assessment. If we do ever get a majority government, it will be the exception rather than the rule. What will likely occur is a series of Italian-style parliaments, with an unending whirlwind of horse-trading with the sole aim of redistributing loot taken from the productive.

Short of an abrupt philosophical change in the overwhelmingly collectivist mindset of Canadians, there is no political trick that will get us out of this mess.

Posted by: Dennis | 2010-08-18 8:06:17 AM

chevymo, very interesting. The state cannot be involved in the preservation of culture without discriminating. It is impossible. But one day, maybe 20 or maybe 100 years from now, it will change.

Posted by: TM | 2010-08-18 12:08:55 PM

There is a 3rd way, make it law that any federal party running in a national election must run at least one candidate in all our provinces and territories. Or simply ban the Bloq as the treason bastard party that they are!!!

Posted by: Merle Terlesky | 2010-08-18 6:08:45 PM

The implication from the idea that the CPC could not "buy" the Quebec voter is clear. It would cost political parties (CPC and Libs) nothing to cut back on equalization payments to Quebec. The surplus could be used to reduce taxes on the rest of us.

Posted by: DML | 2010-08-18 7:59:52 PM

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