What if the voters return a Tory Minority government

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 1st, 2019



The latest polls are telling us that unless things change we are heading for a minority situation after the polls close election day, with neither major party winning the magic number of 170 seats.

And that will almost certainly leave either the Liberals or the Conservatives looking for support among the smaller parties.

Mace leaves the House

The Sergeant at Arms carries the Mace out of the House of Commons signifying that it is no longer in session.

The options include a formalized coalition as the Liberals, NDP and Bloc had proposed back in December 2008. At that time the opposition parties were upset that the governing minority Tories didn’t have a fiscal plan to protect Canadians from the evolving global recession. Facing an imminent non-confidence motion Harper convinced the governor general to prorogue Parliament.

Once Parliament resumed he over-compensated for his near blunder by running up the largest deficit in the nation’s history, much of it wasted on frill spending for the G7 meeting in Toronto. With that, the coalition dissolved and Harper dutifully paid closer attention to opposition demands, at least until he won a majority in 2011.

The legal community was divided about the legitimacy of shutting down parliament in the face of a non-confidence vote just to avoid Harper’s almost certain defeat. British PM Boris Johnson recently tried to use the same tactic to shut down the British Parliament. In this case though, the British Supreme Court unanimously overturned his prorogation, citing that it was an affront to democracy.

After an election the party with the most seats can claim the right to form government, even without a formal coalition. Lester Pearson is seen by many as one of our best PMs though he never had the luxury of a majority of seats, nor a formal arrangement with any of the opposition. Notably he delivered universal health care and the Canadian flag. His approach was to find common ground on matters of policy in order to avoid losing the confidence of the house.

Pierre Trudeau and Stephen Harper for the most part followed that leadership model. Joe Clark, on the other hand, was inflexible and uncompromising, which accounted for his relatively short time in office. He was defeated on a budget in the House, and ultimately by the Canadian voters at the ensuing election.

Sheer loves oil and gas

Pipelines are dear to his heart.

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are currently leading in some polls, so the question is what happens if they get the most seats but not enough for a majority. Some of Scheer’s main policies involve building a trans-national oil pipeline, scrapping the current environmental assessment process, cancelling the carbon tax and rolling back other climate action initiatives.

Only his former colleague and opponent for the Conservative leadership, Maxime Bernier, and his ultra-right People’s Party would be on-side with those kinds of reactionary policies. Bernier is, after all, one of the last great climate deniers. And he has positioned himself so far to the right that the only seat his party may be able to win is in western Canada, the home to so many other real dinosaurs. That is unless Rob Ford’s widow surprises us all in Etobicoke. And we should have learned never to underestimate the Ford nation.

Scheer pointing at self

The country doesn’t know this man all hat well. This election campaign is making him much more visible to people of every political persuasion.

Scheer’s recently unveiled environment plan, which he labels as the best climate action plan, has been estimated to actually increase rather than reduce emissions by 2030, Canada’s target year under the Paris climate agreement. While there is independent analysis which shows the Liberal plan is likely to miss the 2030 target, it will at least reduce emissions.

Mr. Scheer’s claim made in the same breath that he attacks Mr. Trudeau, for likely missing the target, is more than duplicitous – a case of ‘talking rather than walking’, and following the lead of Tory provincial governments in Alberta and Ontario. Mr. Ford, for example, is increasing speed limits on its multi-lane highways which will lead to increased fuel use and auto emissions of at least 10%.

Bloc Q logo

The Bloc is still a strong political force in Quebec.

There is no social acceptability for an oil pipeline in Quebec, so Mr.Scheer won’t find any support among the separatist Bloc Quebecois, the provincial-only federal political party which is rising in the polls again in Quebec. Bloc policies for the most part are similar to those of the NDP, without a lot of the separatist rhetoric.

But even on separatism, it is no secret that Quebecers switched their votes en mass from the Bloc to the NDP once Jack Layton defied the Supreme Court and promised Quebecers, were he the prime minster, they could separate on a vote of 51%. And Jagmeet Singh has learned well from the master, stirring the pot with fresh foolish promises for a new federal deal and a more independent Quebec.

Singh - blue turban

Jagmeet Singh doesn’t have a lot of room for any political maneuvering.

Singh, in the short time he has been leader of the NDP, has proven every bit as opportunistic as Layton was. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth on TMX and the B.C. LNG project, approved and subsidized by both the feds and the province. Still, both he and Green Party leader Elizabeth May would have a membership revolt were they to support Scheer’s plans.


Green Party leader Elizabeth could end of holding the balance of power.

And without that support Scheer would have to go it alone, hoping the Liberals would support him on some issues. But Scheer has been particularly nasty when it comes to Mr. Trudeau, even in the pre-campaign period, so if there is some support it won’t be out of love. Scheer would need to try a little tenderness when it comes to his main opponent.

TMX pipeline

If you live in Alberta – this pipeline is the path to prosperity.

One Alberta news media is pleading for a majority government by either main party, amid the fear that the TMX pipeline may be cancelled as a ransom demand by third parties in a minority government. The parties on the right can count on about a third of the all the votes, another third will likely go to the Liberals and the remainder will be held by the smaller left leaning parties.

The stronger the support for the third parties, the greater the chance that Mr. Scheer will able to slip up the middle and win a majority government, much as Ontario premier Doug Ford did last year. But the reality is that unless Andrew Scheer breaks through the 170 seat barrier he might as well trash most of his party’s platform. He will not be able to implement it in whole, nor even most of its components. Trying to do that would doom him to the fate suffered by Joe Clark – a short lived term in office followed by another election.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Election Tipping Points – Political Coalition –

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6 comments to What if the voters return a Tory Minority government ?

  • gfraser

    Liberal Minority with the NDP supporting JT while the Bloc supports the PC and the Green party swinging the votes to what they wish.


  • Stephen White

    Whatever one may think about Andrew Scheer the fact is he is nobody’s idiot. People have underestimated him throughout his career, to their detriment. Just ask Lorne Nystrom, the former NDP MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle and a capable parliamentarian who Scheer defeated not once but twice. Scheer didn’t become Speaker of the House without demonstrating some poltiical smarts and acumen, and learning something about the art of negotiating and compromise.

    That being said, it is unlikely either the NDP or the Greens will support a minority Conservative government. The NDP are likely going to be steam-rolled, and as soon as that happens the NDP rank-and-file will drag poor Jagmeet Singh to the gallows the same way they unmercifully dispatched Tom Mulcair, one of the best speakers and parliamentarians in the last fifty years, following the 2015 debacle. Then the NDP will go through one of their interminable, navel gazing leadership/policy conventions with the usual collection of social activists, rad-feminists and left-wing activists vying for control. Since a third of their caucus resigned/retired before the election poor Iain Angus will get the nod.

    As for Elizabeth May, she will dig in her heels and prop up the Liberals, and demand all sorts of concessions from her Liberal friends. Justin will hem and haw his way through another term while continuing to brush aside the SNC Lavalin scandal, the black-face incident, embarassing trips to India, etc. Parliament will have a shelf life of about a year, and then we’ll be into another election. By then, the deficit will hit $30 billion, we’ll probably be into a another global recession, and then we can all be treated to another six week campaign of politicians flying around the country making all sorts of lofty promises with no clue how much they cost, where the money to pay for them will come from, or what outdated programs they will cut. But all that doesn’t matter because money grows on trees and deficits don’t matter. Right Ray?

  • Roger

    Scheer is a talking head – no conviction – just wants to be prime minister – if elected to a minority the BLOC might support but what federal party wants a legacy of support from a party whose objective is to leave Canada – he will last maybe 3 / 6 months – most likely Liberal minority with Greens and/or NDP holding balance of power – People’s Party will take enough of the vote to slim down the Conservative vote

  • Mike

    I support Scheer just for his idea of the energy corridor. This is a bold new idea, not unlike the railroads, to bring access and prosperity across the country. There is too much focus on this being for oil pipelines. It will also and more importantly be for high voltage electricity transmission. This will enable the greening of energy production in Canada by nationalizing the capability to move electricity from green generation across the country to where it is needed. One example is the NL development of hydroelectric power in Labrador. This needs reasonable access to markets, not unlike oil and gas from western Canada as Quebec is not making it easy for NL to get their energy to other provinces or the U.S. through its own grid or those in NB and NS.

    Peeling away all of the other noise, this is a strategic endeavour to get behind.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Here’s what Ray doesn’t mention–the Conservatives would be in office long enough to call a judicial inquiry into the Lavalin Scandal and easily win the support of the NDP for such an action (the NDP would win the support of the left side of the political spectrum with the results of such an inquiry). The results of the inquiry into the cover-up would spell the end for Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. Hopefully we could call separate inquiries into the Norman Fiasco and the financial flows in the Trudeau Foundation. But Ray is right about one thing, the Scheer government would be short-lived, but would reap enormous political benefit.

  • Fred Pritchard

    Today, about 65% of voters are on the left or progressive. So even if Scheer gets a few more seats, the progressives should get together and form government. Under the Liberals, we have seen taxes lowered, 900,000 people brought out of poverty, the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, restored respect for veterans, and so much more. We can’t afford to go backwards with a narrow right wing view. Ontario has seen first hand how ignorance for facts and science has done with dumb doug.