Friday, April 22, 2011

Choosing a Prime Minister King-Byng All Over Again

The Canadian First Past the Post electoral system is designed to create majority governments. As Canadians prepare to go to the polls in a few weeks, they face the possibility of electing a 4th consecutive minority government. If the Conservatives win another minority will Harper still be Prime Minister has become a real question.

Harper was the first one to spin the debate to keep his job, by attacking the concept of a Liberal, NDP, Bloc coalition. It put the ball in Ignateif's court and his response was gaurenteed to help the Conservatives. If he said he was willing to form a coalition, then his more left wing supporters have no fear in peeling off to the NDP because it would still knock Harper out. It would also alienate his more right wing supporters who don't like the idea of the NDP in government. Rejecting the coalition would make it more difficult to come in 2nd place and argue he has a mandate to be Prime Minister. This week Harper also said that the who ever has the most seats should form the Government. If they lose the support of parliament they should go back to the polls. Harper is taking the side of Mackenzie King side of the King-Byng affair.

Ignateif this week tipped off how he would become Prime Minister even if he loses the election. The Government still has to pass a budget. If the budget were defeated, the Governor General could act as Lord Byng did in 1926 and ask the Liberals to form a Government. Ignateif could keep his promise to not form a coalition as long as he is able to pass the budget. Fearing the backlash from voters of another election would buy him the time he needs to put the fingerprint he wants on Government.

There is another variable that has started to emerge. The NDP are polling strong in Quebec and are showing signs that they may beat the Liberals and form the official opposition. The more voters accept the possibility of a real NDP breakthrough the more likely they are not going to lost that support to strategic votes for the Liberals. They could repeat the above scenario with Layton becoming Prime Minister.

Canadians may wake up on May 3rd to discover they have no idea who they have elected to govern. As Harper, Ignateif and possibily Layton stake out their political ground the Governor General may be the one deciding who really won the election.