Canada is now headed into its fourth federal election in the last 10 years after a particularly raucous session. Accusations flew, Parliament was prorogued, and many, many bills were left unfinished.
Majority or not, many Canadians are now wondering if the next government will be able to get any work done with all this partisanship. Therefore, in this final Candidates’ Corner, the Gazette asks: “In the undesirable case of a minority government, how would you work with the other parties in order to get Parliament to pass legislation?”
Green and NDP
A minority would not necessarily be undesirable, says Green Party candidate Peter Johnston, as it would keep any one party from controlling the Parliamentary agenda. “It allows for fresh ideas … and hopefully engenders a feeling of co-operation within Parliament which is very much missing in Canadian politics at the moment.”
The Greens place great emphasis on co-operation and collaboration, Johnston says. “If another party has a good idea, we’ll support [that]party and the idea.”
The Conservatives argue that coalitions are unstable and bad for the economy, he continues, but that’s not the case — Germany has a coalition government and the strongest economy in Europe. “The whole idea of stability under the Conservatives is a myth,” he argues, as they’ve racked up a destabilizing structural deficit.
The NDP offered to work with the Conservatives in 2004, says candidate Brian LaBelle, formed a coalition with the Liberals and the Bloc in 2008 and offered to support the most recent Conservative budget if certain conditions were met. “I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re willing to work together with the other parties.”
The Liberals and the Conservatives, in contrast, have said they need a majority to govern. “Based on their statements, I can only assume it would be difficult to work with people who are campaigning on a platform stating they need a majority because they are unable to work with others.”
Liberal and Conservative
Minorities are not in themselves undesirable or unworkable, says Liberal candidate Kevin Taron. Lester B. Pearson had a minority, yet still managed to bring in the Canada Pension Plan, national health care, and the Canadian flag.
“You can achieve great things in a minority government, and it comes down to the leadership of the prime minister,” Taron says. “If Stephen Harper is unwilling or unable to work with Parliament, I think that says more about his leadership style than anything else.”
The Liberals would schedule regular meetings between party leaders to discuss issues and monitor the tone of the House, Taron says, and would promote open information so that MPs have what they need to make decisions on legislation. “The price of the jets, the prices of the jails and the price of the corporate tax breaks … you can’t even engage in a debate about this because you don’t have that information.”
While the Liberals would not commit to a formal coalition, Taron says they would work with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis.
Conservative candidate Brent Rathgeber all but rejected the concept of co-operation with the other parties. “Parliament by its very design is an adversarial system,” he says. It would be nice to say that all the parties would work together for the betterment of Canada, “but I’m not naïve enough to believe that.”
The last Parliament was caustic at the best of times, Rathgeber says, and riven by irreconcilable ideological differences. It’s “fairy dust” to believe these parties could work together and pass a budget, he says. “The prospect of passing legislation absent the prime minister having control is wishful thinking.”
Rathgeber says he cannot find any middle ground with parties that propose policies such as a carbon tax. “The reality of a country as diverse as Canada … [is that]you have a fractured Parliament that doesn’t work.”
Canadians have elected three consecutive minority governments, he says, none of which have worked. “If Canadians elect a fourth successive minority parliament and expect it to be more functional than the last three, I think they’re being naïve.”