Coalitions and Democracy

What does it say about the state of democracy in Canada when the first salvos in the campaign revolve around how to interpret our constitutional system?

The Prime Minister seems to think that elections in Canada result in a winner, and the winner (whoever gets the most votes) forms the government. In this view, it is not legitimate for the party that wins the most votes to be prevented from forming the government.

But in a parliamentary system, we don’t get to choose the Prime Minister. We choose our member of parliament, and the party that commands the confidence of the House forms the government. The leader of that party becomes the PM.

It behooves our politicians to stop treating coalitions (whether formal or informal) as somehow illegitimate or non-democratic.

After all, unless one of the two major parties forms a majority, we are likely to face either a coalition government of a minority government with ad hoc coalition support.

And since the Harper government was just brought down on the basis of contempt for parliament, it is hard to see how the Conservatives can stay in office short of an outright majority.

Which is, of course, exactly why the Harper government does not like talk of coalitions.

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