In what could be termed as both good and bad news for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada’s ruling Liberal Party is set to return to power and form a minority government for the second straight time. News channels projected on Monday that a minority government would be formed after a tight election race.
Justin Trudeau, who has led a minority government in Canada since 2019, called an early election hoping his party could capitalise on the handling of the pandemic situation and return with a stronger mandate. Six parties are contesting the election.
Polling over the weekend indicates Liberals and the Conservative Party are in a tight race, with the possibility that Liberals could lose seats in Parliament instead of gaining a majority. Justin Trudeau’s main political rivals and some voters have blasted the prime minister for putting his own political interests ahead of the public during COVID-19 times.
Opinion polls indicate no party will gain a majority of seats in the Canadian election. This means for both the front-runners, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will govern the country with a minority government.
If Trudeau wins a majority of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, he will remain prime minister.
In Canada, a party needs at least 170 seats for a majority. The Liberals currently have 155 seats.
If O’Toole wins a majority, he would take over as Prime Minister after a two-week transition period.
But winning the most seats isn’t always the same thing as winning the right to govern.
To govern, a PM must show that he/she has the confidence of the House of Commons, the elected chamber of parliament.
The incumbent PM has the opportunity to test his/her standing with a vote of confidence if the result is a minority.
That would be the case even if Justin Trudeau wins fewer seats than his rival O’Toole.
If the Liberals win more seats but fall short of a majority, Trudeau would have to rely again on opposition parties.
There is little chance of formal coalition with the left-leaning New Democratic Party or the Greens to pass legislation.
How minority government functions
Minority governments are particularly interesting in parliamentary systems, where the government is responsible to the parliament.
A minority government is one that comprises ministers from one or more political parties who do not simultaneously hold an absolute majority.
In a minority situation, governments must rely on the support of other parties to stay in power, so is less stable than a majority government.
In Canada, most of the time political parties stand on their own and rarely form official coalition governments to form a majority.
Canada has had only one coalition to date and that was in 1917, during World War-I.