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 […]

The constitutional rule is that the politician who can command the confidence of the House of Commons becomes PM. This could be the leader of the second largest party, if he can secure sufficient support from third and minor parties.

The Constitution Unit

Government Formation Revisited

I’ve written a number of posts exploring the issue of government formation in a hung parliament, but in the lead-up to the May 7 2015 UK General Election, a number of helpful guides and videos on the issue have appeared. While they specifically address the current situation in the UK, the basic principles apply here in Canada as well (except for the conditions imposed by the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act). Preparing for another hung Parliament: 9 key questions answered : The media and voters may assume that 2015 will then see a replay of 2010, with the swift formation of another coalition government. Not necessarily so, as explained by the former director of UCL’s Constitution Unit, Prof Robert Hazell in […]


Much ado about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

It would be remiss of me to not comment on the growing worry over the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FPTA) and its possible consequences should the May 2015 election result in another hung parliament, as most pundits expect will be the case. While I wrote a fair bit about the FTPA when it was going through the legislative process back in 2010-11, I will briefly outline its main features. Unlike Canadian legislation fixing election dates, the FTPA is binding. The duration of a parliament is set to five (5) years, and the Prime Minister cannot unilaterally call for an earlier election. The royal prerogative of dissolution has been removed. That said, an early election is still possible, by one of […]

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 […]