During this entire election I have been advocating for strategic voting where it would make a difference to ensure a Conservative defeat. The last few days have been causing me to rethink this position in light of a question posed to me “what happens if no one wins a majority and Harper refuses to leave?”. This questions seem obvious to Canadians who have lived through previous Minority Governments, the party winning the plurality of votes will win. During many years of Canadian Parliament, when government was conducted by principled gentlemen this worked fine, however, as we have seen repeatedly, Stephen Harper is no gentleman.
Harper is so obsessed with power it is entirely possible that without any party securing a Majority of votes, that he may in fact try to hold on to power by any means. I can hear readers saying “he can’t”, in fact he can. Canada does not have the hard rules and policies that England and Australia have, since with Gentlemen conducting themselves they were never required. Our government in many ways functions by practice and precedent. The past rules dictate that the party winning the most votes gets the first chance to form the next Government, however, there is also precedent that says that the party which was governing at the time Parliament was dissolved has the first chance to govern. Articles in the Canadian Bar Association National Newsletter support this position.
This means tomorrow morning when we wake up we could find Trudeau winning a Minority Government and Harper refusing to leave. Arguing that he has the first right to try and govern. While he may not ultimately be successful, we could be faced with months of Harper hanging on, conducting business without the authority of the House of Commons. In fact the late Eugene Forsey wrote in 1984 an essay on this exact topic which could have been written today. In it he states “I must emphasize also that, in law, the government could stay in office, and finance the ordinary business of government by governor general’s special warrants, for a very long time. True, it would have to summon Parliament within 12 months of the last sitting of the previous Parliament. But, having done so, it could then prorogue it, after a session of a few hours, and repeat the performance a year later. (Indeed, it could dissolve Parliament after a session of only a few hours, as Mackenzie King did on Jan. 25, 1940.) The only protection against such conduct is the reserve power of the Crown, the governor general, to refuse such prorogation or dissolution, and, if necessary, to dismiss the government which advised such prorogation or dissolution. ”
The questions all Canadians may have to come to is who will stop him? Will this result in our own “Canadian Spring”? I truly hope not, however, only time will tell.
Consider this carefully when you vote today. Perhaps only a Liberal Majority can protect us from this scenario.