The era of electoral half-wins

Gerald Butts, who served as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Justin trudeau from 2015 to 2019, said he was “amazed” this week by the “efficiency of the liberal vote”. Because despite the decline in its support (33.1% in 2019, against 32.6% in 2021) – and thanks to our first past the post electoral system -, the Liberal Party of Canada managed to strengthen its presence in the House of Commons: 46.5% of seats in 2019, against 47% in 2021.

“Trudeau’s three Liberal campaigns were among the most successful in history [du Canada]. The effectiveness of the vote is not accidental ”, underlined Mr. Butts on Twitter, by saluting the work done for the PLC by “the little-known team of super geniuses” of the firm Data Sciences. “Campaigns are a ruthless optimization exercise. […] We count seats, not votes, so smart campaigns focus on [la] delivery [de sièges] Added the Prime Minister’s longtime friend, not without receiving some criticism.

Monday evening, despite all its “effectiveness”, Justin Trudeau’s party has nevertheless failed to regain the parliamentary majority that escaped it two years ago.

Has the Liberal vote reached its limits? Are minority governments now the rule for the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, which have been exchanging power for 157 years in Canada? After all, their competitors are now garnering the support of a third of the electorate: the New Democratic Party (NPD), 17.8 %; le Bloc Quebecois (BQ), 7.7%; the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), 5%; le Green Party of Canada (PVC), 2,3 %.

Only two of the seven general elections held over the past 17 years have produced a majority government: those of 2011, won by Conservative Stephen Harper, and those of 2015, in which Liberal Justin Trudeau emerged victorious.

However, before the creation of the Conservative Party of Canada The current (CCP), born from the marriage of the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance in 2003, minority governments were rather rare. Indeed, only 10 of the 37 general elections held between 1867 and 2000 led to this result.

“A question of the cycle”

“Parliaments without a majority, called here ‘minority governments’, have been more and more frequent since the turn of the millennium, but have not for all that become ‘the rule’ in Ottawa,” argues the professor of political science at the Louis Massicotte retirement. To think otherwise would be to underestimate the “formidable ability to create parliamentary majorities” of the current electoral system, “even in a context of political fragmentation”.

“It is certain that over the past 20 years, the electorate has become more fragmented, like almost everywhere else in the West. But life is difficult for third parties, ”adds Louis Massicotte, before recalling the electoral hardships suffered by the NDP (1993) and the Bloc (2011). “The Greens are currently in trouble, and the issue that propels them has become a concern also articulated by other parties. Other third parties that have known their heyday – the progressives and the creditists – have now disappeared, ”he continues.

The president of the Léger polling firm, Jean-Marc Léger, also does not believe that Canada is destined to be ruled only by governments without a parliamentary majority. “It’s a question of the cycle,” he says. Monday’s poll shows that, at this point in its history, the Canadian people “are comfortable with a minority government”. “It’s like having a belt and suspenders,” illustrates the economist.

Eddie Goldenberg, political advisor to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien between 1993 and 2003, does not believe it either. “Every election is different,” he insists. The controversial question on “discriminatory” policies in Quebec posed by the leader of the leaders’ debate in English also plagued the PLC campaign, he notes. Despite this, the PLC “is 11 constituencies from the majority”, having elected 159 deputies, including 34 in Quebec.

Despite the half-wins of 2019 and 2021, Justin Trudeau’s team also believes that a parliamentary majority remains within reach. Had it not been for Shachi Kurl’s question, the PLC would have preserved the riding of Châteauguay – Lacolle, which had fallen into the Bloc camp, in addition to getting its hands on three, four or five more ridings in Quebec, we are convinced.

And, who knows, if the Liberal leader had better explained why he plunged the country into elections in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps he would have hit his target of 170 Commons seats. Moreover, the PLC will not do without this question during the autopsy of the electoral campaign, it is pointed out to the To have to.

An uncomfortable posture

But for now, Justin Trudeau, who has again been banned from wearing the clothes of an elected monarch reserved for majority heads of government, will have to be content with his “very strong minority” in Parliament to set in motion his political program.

The “legislative ambition” of the PLC will perhaps be hampered by the absence of a majority, fears a liberal strategist, wondering if the opposition parties will “move forward together” and allow the adoption of the measures promised in the ” First 100 Days ”of the third Trudeau government. Bills on the prohibition of conversion therapy, on the sharing of revenues from digital platforms with Canadian media and on the strengthening of the Official Languages ​​Act have notably died on the order paper and must now be reintroduced.

Are prime ministers wrong to seek to lead majority governments – by throwing the country into an early general election, for example – rather than seeking to govern regardless? “Justin Trudeau must certainly regret having anticipated the elections to find himself at the same point, but he did what all his counterparts do in such circumstances: extricate himself as quickly as possible from a posture deemed uncomfortable”, answers the political scientist Louis Massicotte.

“The search for a majority is an obsession shared by all its predecessors, and it has a good chance of remaining so,” he concludes.

Governments without a majority in Parliament since 1867

What role for Quebec?

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