DNA Explainer: Canada heading for minority government? How minority government functions

© Provided by DNA

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.

The possibilities

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.

(With Reuters Inputs)

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