Some Additional Thoughts on the 2019 Election: When Should a Party Leader Resign?

The last few days have featured a plethora of news articles calling Andrew Scheer’s leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada into question. Ipsos-Reid claims that 63% of Canadians want him to resign[1] (though given that only 34.4% of Canadians voted Conservative this week, that inflated figure seems rather self-serving). The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star ominously reports that the “knives are out for Scheer after a disappointing election night.[2] Most damningly of all, the Star quoted a “high-ranking Conservative involved in the campaign in Ontario” who likened Scheer to failed Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark: “This was a bad campaign. Scheer is the 21st-century Joe Clark.” The Star helpfully explained its younger readers that Joe Clark “refer[s] to the former Tory leader who was briefly prime minister 40 years ago.” If you will permit me resort to cliché, sometimes less is more; I doff my cap to this brilliantly understated dismissal. (In contrast, I could only manage a woefully bloated critique of Clark in 2017).

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Posted in History of British North America, Political Parties | 2 Comments

Justin Trudeau Remains Prime Minister But Also Subject to the Caretaker Convention

Results of the Election        

On 21 October, voters elected members to a minority parliament, the fourth in the last fifteen years. In this House of Commons, engorged to 338 members since 2015, a party needs at least 170 to form a majority, though 171 serves as a more practical barrier considering that the House of Commons usually elects a speaker from the governing party; majority governments prefer not to have to call on the Speaker to cast tie-breaking votes in favour of the government as a matter of course. The official standings gave the Liberals a strong plurality but left them 14 MPs short of a practical working majority. The Liberals would therefore need the support of either the Bloc or New Democrats, along perhaps with that of the Greens when the occasion permits.

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Posted in Caretaker Convention, Constitution (Conventional), Crown (Powers and Office), Formation of Governments | 1 Comment

Andrew Scheer Is Not Exactly Wrong: Forming Governments in Minority Parliaments

“Whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties.”

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Posted in Crown (Powers and Office), Formation of Governments | 3 Comments

Minority Parliaments and the Governor General’s Special Warrants

Joe Jordan’s Column

The polls indicate that Canadians will elect a minority parliament next week, and this has naturally spawned much speculation on the roles of the Governor General and political parties in the formation of governments and what would happen to incumbent Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One of the more outlandish pieces appeared earlier this month in The Hill Times by former Liberal MP Joe Jordan. It involves not only the prospect of a minority parliament but also an erroneous invocation of the Governor General’s Special Warrants.

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The Over-Zealous Caretakers of the 2019 Election

The Caretaker Array in Star Trek: Voyager

Caretaker Convention

During the writ in 2015, Parks Canada infamously agonised over issuing a routine public advisory about the threat that bears and mountain lions posed to hikers in Rocky Mountain national parks that fall, falsely believing that the Caretaker Convention in general and the Privy Council Office’s Guidelines in particular prohibited such communication. Parks opted not to warn the public of the feline and ursine dangers prowling and lurking in the forests. I had hoped that the civil service had worked this sort of over-zealous hypercorrection (which invariably indicates something incorrect) out of its system in 2015, but the quadrennial madness has only worsened in 2019.

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