Is a Majority Government Better or Worse than a Minority Government for Canada?
The minorities of Canada function in a very different way than the minority governments of Europe and other countries (Cowdy 2008). The purpose of writing this paper is to find out if majority government is better or worse than a minority government of Canada. Before going in detail, it is important to know that in Canadian Parliamentary system, the party with the majority of the seats forms the majority government. However, when none of the party has majority seats than a minority government is formed by the party that wins half or less than half seats.
The majority government formed is obviously powerful and has ability to bring big changes. Contrary to this, a minority government works hard to maintain the confidence of the legislative assembly in order to stay in power and for securing a right time for general elections. It also depends on other parties for passing legislations; therefore, it effectively communicates with other parties and adjusts policies according to their demands in order to get enough votes to pass the legislation.
According to Stewart (1980), the tradition of the Canadian Parliament is to give the role of forming government and taking decision always to that party who wins maximum seats. Despite cooperation and negotiations, some parties support it while some oppose its agenda and do not vote. This makes minority governments less stable than the majority governments, which enjoy the full power and are less dependent on other parties.
It is a very common assumption that minority governments are very problematic in Canada. They are politically unstable, badly opposed, fail to accomplish goals and therefore are not in any way better than a majority government. However, in my opinion the minority governments that have been very rare in the history of Canadian Parliament have always played important roles. They have proved to be an excellent opportunity and have taken those steps that majority governments failed to take. Norquay (2010) also claims that the minority governments are remarkable due to their intense partnerships, little progress on the legislative items and big controversies on minor issues. This background supports to formulate a thesis statement:
Thesis Statement: Minority Government is better than a Majority government for Canada.
This paper will explain in detail how minority governments are better than the majority governments of Canada. The thesis statement will be supported by following three ideas:
1. Minority Governments: A golden opportunity
2. Minority Governments: Capable of Delivering Key Initiatives
3. Minority Governments: Responsive, Accountable and Transparent
Minority Government 'A Golden Opportunity'
A minority government comes into existence when a party is unable to win seats it needs for making a majority government but still wins more seats than a party is unable to win seats it needs for making a majority government but still wins more seats than a party is unable to win seats it needs for making a majority government but still wins more seats than the competing party. A minority government is more complex than majority government because a large number of seats are under the control of the opposition party. Therefore, in order to work with the opposition, the party often has to compromise by listening and passing their agenda in return for confidence.
Despite of the above listed complexities, minority government can be taken as an excellent opportunity as it allows doing something, which is not possible to do in majority governments. Minority government taking benefits from its power can do the opposite of what majority governments do and get some fundamental things and essential tasks done. Eugene Forsey also states in his seminal article on the minority government "minority government can be not a problem but an opportunity, not a threat but a promise" (Forsey 1964, 11).
Canada had three minority governments during the period of 1963 to 1968 in which governments performed several good jobs and achieved many targets objectives, which will be discuss later in this paper. Looking at the achievements of minority governments in the past, why cannot the public consider minority government as an opportunity. Why they look at the negative side of the screen, which show that glass is half-empty; why not at the positive side which show that glass is half filled.
It is obviously not possible to change everything in seconds with a magic sword but there are few issues on which many liberals and conservatives have same opinions. The problem with minority governments in Canadian system is that enough time not provided to them for their acceptance and completion. The focus is on the formation of majority government and parties keep competing with each other instead of accepting the reality of minority government.
In my opinion, instead of wasting time, minority governments should utilize the time and situation and try to make some tough decisions. If parties keep competing with the aim of forming the next government and none of them withdraws than it is just simply time waste. Therefore, it is better to utilize this time and consider it as an opportunity. If all the parties or the two major competitors agree on something common and put it, forward than there will be no political damage. Parties will move together in the same direction with the same objective so there will also be no risk of negative criticism from the other party. Indeed, this will create positive image of the parties, as they will highlight their role, compromise and participation in solving a particular issue. If minority governments work together in a better way, they can bring several positive changes, which can serve as an example for the majority governments.
Minority Governments: Capable of Delivering Key Initiatives
Minority governments although being very few in the history of Canadian Parliamentary, have played several important roles in the politics of Canada. In recent times, Canadians elected three consecutive minority governments; the Liberals led by Paul Martin in 2004, and the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper in 2006 and 2008. However, if we look at the minority governments of past, we find out that they did several tremendous works and proved themselves as capable of delivering key initiatives.
Canada had three minority governments in a row from 1963 to 1968 and it can be observed that a lot was accomplished in this period by the coordination and cooperation between the Liberal government under Lester B. Pearson and the NDP under Tommy Douglas. The minority governments formed in years 1963 and 1965 under Lester B. Pearson played an important role and reformed the Social welfare system of Canada. Some other achievements include enactment of the Canada Assistance Program (CAP), Universal Health Care and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The minority governments made this possible only under the close alliance and partnership with the opposition NDP, led by Tommy Douglas. In other words, they agreed mutually on the issues, policies and worked together to drive the House to reach to a final positive decision. Therefore, opposition should form alliance in case of minority governments and should try to enclose the major seats of the House. Following is a list of achievement of the minority governments:
Universal health care
Canada Pension plan
Introducing Canadian flag
The first "race free" immigration system of the world
Unification of the Armed forces of Canada
Creations of royal commissions on bilingualism, biculturalism and women status
Refusal of sending troops to Vietnam
The Auto Pact
Students Loan Program
Looking at the list of above achievements, it seems that these were achieved by a majority government but surprisingly no, these were achieved by informal coalition which gave the change to Liberals to act and play like the majority government. The main reason behind this success was the leadership and cohesion, which both parliamentarians Douglas and Pearson showed to the world. They realized that doing compromise could result in several benefits and make many impossible things possible. Their compromise gave fruitful results for everyone and they created an example for future minority governments to unite and work together rather than opposing each other and achieve nothing at the end. Therefore, there is no doubt in saying that minority governments proved capable of delivering key initiatives and they can so something which is usually opposed in times of majority government.
Minority Governments: Responsive, Transparent and Accountable
Many Canadians favor minority governments because they belief that minority governments offer many benefits; they are responsive, transparent and accountable for the actions they take. This part of paper will discuss all of the above-mentioned traits of minority governments in detail.
Majority governments do not worry much about the other parties for passing the legislation but contrary to this minority governments have to be responsive. They not only take views of their members but also negotiate with members of other parties in order to get any legislation passed. In other words, they are more concerned about the opinion of public and are more responsive to it…