On how the hung Parliament/minority government is working in Canada

John Ibbitson makes two mistakes in his otherwise good article, Parliament takes another step toward being a true arm of government inThe Globe and Mail. First up, he says this:

For 24 years, from 1980 to 2004, majority governments ruled at the federal level. Successive prime ministers used those majorities to expand their own powers at the expense of their party caucus and Parliament itself….

Cabinet ministers were turned into ciphers; parliamentary committees became rubber stamps; the opposition was demonized or ignored.

It’s the part in bold that I think was a mistake. While PM have expanded the powers of the PMO, ministers, at least in the Chretien government, were anything but ciphers. As I recall, Chretien was consistent in having his ministers be front and center on the files that they were working on. I saw an awful lot of Allan Rock and Paul Martin in the days that the Liberals held consecutive majorities. In general, good ministers have a way of getting out there. Bad ones, not so much. (Or in a bad way).

Second, he says this:

There have been mistakes. The attempt in 2008 to force a coalition government on the Canadian people was an adolescent effort by the opposition to wield its newfound power. As coalition negotiations in London this week demonstrated, voters expect the party with the most seats to be part of the government.

I don’t think this is true, either. Stating categorically what voters want is a losing game. But in terms of preferences, I think what voters want first is good government. And if good government can come as a result of the smaller parties joining together, most voters would prefer that.

I also find this mistake ironic, since I believe Ibbitson is not a big fan of first past the post. I thought he would have said, voters expect the party with the most votes to be part of the government.

Otherwise, a good article.


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