Editorial: Minority government can work, and it has to

Co-operation being forced upon Canada’s political parties

A minority Parliament will only serve Canada well if the parties represented in the House of Commons are committed to making it work.

A minority government sounds all right to many Canadians. Theoretically, policy will only move forward with at least two parties supporting it. So although a minority has potential to delay government action and slow the pace of change, it does mean that one other perspective has to be part of all decisions, in addition to the usual debate that any bill would face as it moves through the House.

What sounds sensible in theory might not turn out so well in practice, however. The Liberal Party of Canada won the election, but a minority government tempers that win. It’s the nature of party politics that opposition parties will feel that since there’s no clear winner, there are no real losers, either. They might not be quick to embrace a minority Parliament with a spirit of co-operation; rather, they will continue to try to delineate themselves and their messages, try to stay election-ready, grit their teeth and bear it.

Certainly it wasn’t an auspicious start to see the leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all on split screen on election night delivering their speeches overtop of each other; for Canadians, cacophony not clarity. To be fair, election night might not always be the appropriate occasion for humility, not when supporters would prefer a rallying cry, not when there are still political points to gain, not when there is (should have been?) a captive national audience.

The election showed again that Canada has pronounced regional divides that only accentuate partisan lines. But it’s what happens next that matters, as ever. A minority government can work for Canada and Canadians, and it has to.

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