It’s really a small thing to ask – don’t take it upon yourselves to declare what form of government we will have following an election result in which no party has a majority. Wait until the parties sort that out. That’s their job, not yours.

A request to Canada’s media for Election 2015

Note to readers: This is an update of a post I wrote back in 2011. It is very likely that the vote that will take place on 19 October 2015 will result in a hung parliament. Given this likelihood, I want to repeat the request I made to the media in this country back in 2011. I would ask that as the vote is counted, you refrain from declaring or calling what form of government this country will have. Simply put, it is not your prerogative to make that determination. Canadians do not elect governments. The result of an election is a parliament. In this case, it will be the 42nd Parliament. In the event that one party does manage […]

To ensure effective governance in the transition period, it is essential that the Prime Minister and government do not resign until the next regular government has been formed.

Dr Petra Schleiter and Valerie Belu

Remedial Tutorial on Government Formation

Quite dishearteningly, the leaders of the three main federal political parties have made erroneous statements regarding government formation following a hung parliament result. All three have stated that the party with a plurality of the seats gets to form the government: In an interview with the CBC, Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following comments: Q: HERE’S THE QUESTION THOUGH. UM IS IT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION TO MAKE THAT WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP, IF WE’RE IN A MINORITY SITUATION, WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP WITH THE MOST SEATS SHOULD FORM THE GOVERNMENT? A: Yeah that’s my – that’s I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that’s – that’s my position. Obviously […]

I know the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition was far from perfect (as is the case for all governments), but for this politically despondent Canadian, it was inspiring. In fact, it was so inspiring, I started this blog. The new UK Parliament sat for the first time on 18 May to elect the Speaker. I started this blog that day and my first post appeared on May 21 2010.

Five years ago this month

Around this time five years ago, I was quite despondent about the state of politics here in Canada. I was finding it increasingly difficult to pay any attention to the news, simply because it would only further anger and frustrate me. Part my job requires that I follow parliamentary events in other jurisdictions, and so I was paying  nominal attention to the 2010 UK election campaign. I wasn’t on Twitter at the time, so relied on UK online media. My interest grew as talk of a “hung parliament” — words never heard here in Canada —  came to dominate. I was startled by the number of studies and opinion pieces in the press by Constitutional and political experts explaining government […]

First, the people don't choose who governs in a Westminster parliamentary system. We do not vote for governments -- we vote for our Member of Parliament, and we elect a Parliament. It is the make-up of that Parliament which determines what party -- or parties -- will form the government.

On dumping first-past-the-post for all the wrong reasons

In an earlier post, I explained how Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson was wrongly pinning the blame for most of the problems facing Canada’s parliament on the country’s voting system, first-past-the-post (FPTP). Today a similar article has appeared in the UK media, Hung parliaments are on the up across the world – it’s time to dump first-past-the-post. This opinion piece is far worse than Simpson’s. The author, Richard McGinley, demonstrates a notable misunderstanding of how the Westminster system of parliamentary government works. He also calls for a change of voting systems, because FPTP (occasionally) leads to hung parliaments, but fails to acknowledge that PR systems almost always result in hung parliaments. It’s all very confusing. McGinley begins saying: THE […]

So if FPTP isn't really the problem here in Canada, what is?How do we explain why two countries with very similar parliamentary systems and identical voting systems differ so much in how well their parliament functions and in their approach to government formation?

Everyone may love PR, but FPTP isn’t the problem

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s latest piece argues that Canada’s voting system, commonly referred to as First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) is increasingly inadequate for our multi-party political system. He points out how almost everyone else uses some form of proportional representation (PR), which forces parties to work together and form coalitions since PR rarely results in a single party winning enough seats to form a government on its own, and also provides more checks and balances on the head of government. Simpson writes: In contrast to many other systems, the Canadian provides very few checks and balances on a prime minister with a majority. The unelected Senate is a wet noodle; the government backbenchers are yes-men; the cabinet members are appointed […]


A parliament of winners

The UK media is normally much better at writing about hung parliaments and government formation than is its Canadian counterpart. That being said, there are exceptions, such as this recent op ed piece by David Blair in the Telegraph, On May 8, a loser could enter No 10. Consider the following excerpts: The polls show that no party is on course for an outright majority: that much is clear. But they also suggest that the relationship between votes cast and seats won – always a pretty tenuous link – could be on the verge of breaking down. If so, this may be an election where the losers are rewarded with power and the winners consigned to opposition. (…) With Labour’s […]