If the governor-general agrees to dissolve Parliament, what would the election look like?

By Harold Jansen on Dec 2, 2008

Running through all the what-if scenarios that could unfold over the next few weeks has become a favorite activity for Canadian junkies. Here's one that just occurred to me. What happens in the (unlikely, according to constitutional experts) event that Michaelle Jean granted a request by Stephen Harper for a dissolution of Parliament? We'd have an election. And here's where things would get even more interesting.

The Conservatives would run the full slate of candidates (with the possible exception of not running against Andre Arthur) and I'd expect the Bloc to run its 75 candidates as well. But what would the Liberals and NDP do? Would they run against each other? The danger in doing so is that they would risk splitting non-Conservative votes and possibly help facilitate a Conservative majority. It would be hard to run against each other since they now apparently have so much common ground. I could see them not running against each other's incumbents, but how would you divide up the other districts?

Even if the coalition government goes through, the question of how this would affect electoral competition is one the two parties would have to confront at some point. Most countries with coalition governments have proportional representation electoral systems, where the parties can safely run against each other because there isn't much fear of vote-splitting being an issue. But in a single-member plurality system, this is a big issue and could presumably lead to some kind of non-competition agreement. Ironically, though, this would reduce the absolute number of votes for both the Liberals and the NDP which, as we all know, are worth $1.95 per year.

The more you think about this, the more you realize it really is uncharted territory.

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Sliding Doors...

It feels like we are in that older movie sliding doors. Any slight twist and we could go to any number of alternate futures. One great thing about this crisis is the flood on information about coalition governments and our parliament system. For non-political science people like me it's a real education and eye-opener.

On second thought maybe this is a bit more like the movie Twelve Monkeys...

Keep up the great blogs - interesting read.

Lots of twists and turns

Personally, I think it's more like Run, Lola Run, which is the same idea.

You just never know which way this is going to turn out. A newspaper reporter asked me the other day where I saw Stephen Harper in six months. I told him that it could be any where from Harper being PM of a majority government to him being completely out of politics or to some point in between. At this point, I have no idea which way it's going to go.

The silver lining in this crisis and in the deplorable conduct of our political leaders is that Canadians are waking up and paying attention to what's happening in Ottawa and they're going to learn a lot about our system of government. I'm learning a lot about our system of government by watching this.

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