Friday, May 6, 2011

On minority and majority governments: Reconciling the positives and negatives

Some people might have been surprised that in my May 3 reaction to the outcome of the Canadian election I said that a majority was one of four good outcomes, whereas in an earlier post I had welcomed thoughts of a minority government.

Here's how I reconcile these two thoughts: I think that both can be good. In my May 3 post, I was trying to find positives in an outcome I did not really like (that the Conservatives will now be able to wield power unconstrained). There are certainly positives in having a majority; it results in a period of stability. For the Greens, the NDP and Liberals, it will give then a chance to build or rebuild, and for newly elected MPs to gain experience. It will also give allow the Conservatives to show their true colours: Next election they will not be able to blame the opposition for anything.

Minority governments are also good: They allow voices to be heard and influences to be felt that will be suppressed in a majority situation. We would have been less likely to have developed our Canadian medical care system had their not been a minority government many years ago; and we will likely never achieve such goals as a reformed voting system or enlightened environmental policy without a minority government allowing smaller parties to use their influence though having the balance of power.

So, overall a mix of majorities and minorities over the years probably gives rise to the healthiest democracy, even though we will have to put up with governments we don't like sometimes.

Proportional representation, or other schemes, such as the alternative vote system that was voted down in the UK yesterday, are more likely to give rise to minorities, unless party mergers take place.

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