By Bob Groeneveld
If you voted, you’ve got what you deserve… whether you like it or not.
If you didn’t vote, you’ve got more than you deserve. You have a perfectly good, working government, without having earned it.
Okay, maybe it’s not “perfectly good.”
Politicians tend not to like minority governments, like the one Canadians elected on Monday, because they have to work at developing compromises between parties to get enough votes to pass legislation.
Politicians like majorities better, because most MPs don’t mind letting their party leaders make all the big decisions. Their job becomes representing their party to the people who elected them, and they have managed to hoodwink their constituents into believing that’s better than representing the people of their communities to the government.
When they work, minority governments can be exceptionally effective for the country and for the people served. But that depends on the attitude that the minority prime minister brings to the table.
Lester Pearson led successive Liberal minorities through the 1960s which have been assessed everything from a “squabbling mess” to a “picture of achievements”, depending on who’s doing the assessing.
Despite wrangling and disagreement in every direction – and the occasional scandal – Pearson was able to deal with Conservatives, New Democrats, and Social Credit to create the Canada Pension Plan, provide Canadians with universal healthcare, unify the armed forces, and give Canada a new flag that is easily – and affectionately – recognized around the word today as our own.
Pierre Trudeau immediately signed on NDP leader David Lewis to bolster his 1972 Liberal minority and created a government that broke records in the amount of progressive legislation passed.
Joe Clark announced on his election night in 1979 that, although Canadians had given his Conservative party a minority mandate to replace Trudeau’s Liberal, he felt it would be best for the country if he governed as if he had a majority.
How did that work out? The government accomplished next to nothing, and Trudeau was returned with a majority nine months later.
So how will Justin Trudeau manage with the minority government Canadians gave him this week?
If election night rhetoric is an indication, not nearly as well as his daddy did.
He started by not allowing opposition leader Andrew Scheer time to make his concession speech before starting his own victory lap, as is the custom. And his tone was that of a victor who had just accomplished the biggest majority in Canadian history.
Scheer, for his part, immediately announced that his Conservatives were ready to step in “as soon as the government falls – and it will fall!”
Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet signalled his cooperative spirit by helpfully clarifying, “It is not our job to make parliament work.”
Jagmeet Singh’s “concession” speech sounded like he was stepping into the prime minister’s office with a majority, explaining all that his little rump of two dozen New Democrats were planning to accomplish in the coming session… with barely an acknowledgement of the other parties.
Justin Trudeau may not be a Prime Minister Joe Clark. But he’s not a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Lester Pearson, either.
And he’s certainly not his daddy, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Indeed, after Monday night’s antics, it remains to be seen how long he will be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.