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No clear mandate for anything
post September 20 election

TORONTO – There are no objective experts to interpret, and more importantly apply, the results of this latest election in Canada. Some observers are more informed about precedent than others. But, this being a political act and not an enforceable decision of a Court, everything is negotiable, within generally accepted boundaries.

Unless a Party achieved a result of 50% plus one (or more) seat in the House of Commons no one has a clear mandate to govern. The only advantage generally conceded to a Party with the greatest number of MPs is the opportunity to approach the Governor General (in a Congressional system like Italy’s, the President) with a proposal to form a government before any other Party.

That Party’s leader must convince the GG s/he has the votes to secure approval of a budget. If the GG accords any Party that privilege, the government party must secure passage of that “Money Bill”, or the GG can ask a different Party to demonstrate it can secure the majority in the House.

Today, no party on its own can do that. Mr. Trudeau, for example, despite having the greatest number of MPs, can only keep his position if he can convince another twelve or more MPs from (an)other party to support him on “Money Bills”. These are legislative proposals to tax and spend the public’s money.

Nothing prevents any other Party Leader from cobbling together a Cabinet and trying to convince the GG that their proposed government has more staying power. It has happened before.

In 2008, following an election that produced a result like the other day, three parties – Liberals, NDP and Bloc – signed a power-sharing agreement designed to prevent the Conservatives from taking control of the government. The three did not wait to defeat the Conservatives in the House. The GG decided against the initiative. The Agreement collapsed when the business of the House resumed, and the Conservative government survived for another two and a half years.

In 1985, after a provincial election produced a similar circumstance in Ontario, the Lieutenant Governor gave the reigns of power to a Liberal-NDP coalition the day the newly elected [minority] Conservative government lost a vote in the Legislature.

Today, nothing prevents O’Toole and his Conservatives from striking a deal, a pact, with the other parties to vote the Liberals out of government and form a Cabinet without going to another election. The NDP have already said their support is contingent on taxing the multi-billionaires. The Bloc want more money – without strings attached – for Quebec.

Leaders who are unwilling to negotiate may find their political careers may be short-lived. Canadians do not elected dictators. They prefer negotiators and practitioners of the art of politics. The only mandate they cede to politicians is opportunity to execute the practice of politics.

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