Canadians growing weary of minority governments

OTTAWA — Minority-government fatigue seems to be setting in with voters.

OTTAWA — Minority-government fatigue seems to be setting in with voters.

A new poll shows a spike in the number of Canadians who are pining for the days of federal majorities, and who might vote strategically in order to avoid the fourth straight minority in the next election.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey showed 64 per cent of respondents prefer a majority over a minority government, up from 52 per cent two years ago.

Only 24 per cent said they preferred a minority, as compared to 36 per cent in 2007.

“What people went in with the hopes of was that it would help facilitate more coalition-building and more consensus-building within the parties, but in practice what it has yielded is more conflict with the parties and less getting done,” said Jeff Walker, senior vice-president at Harris-Decima.

In another question, the pollsters gave respondents four different scenarios to ponder: A Liberal majority or minority, or a Conservative majority or minority.

The Liberals came out on top in both respects — with 30 per cent preferring a Liberal majority, and 14 per cent a Liberal minority, as compared to the 24 per cent who backed a Conservative majority and nine per cent who wanted a Conservative minority.

Walker said the results are an indication that the Liberals are the second choice for a majority of Canadian voters, and that could be a significant factor in the next election.

“There has the potential to be more strategic voting in this next election than maybe we’ve seen in the last couple of elections, with more pressure for there to be a majority government and more of a sense that maybe the minority concept doesn’t quite work as well as people had hoped,” said Walker.

Despite the apparent weariness with minority governments, the poll suggested that slightly more Canadians — 45 per cent versus 42 per cent — would support the idea of a coalition government after the next election.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois formed a short-lived coalition late last year as they threatened to bring down Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Harper successfully prorogued Parliament before a vote of non-confidence was possible.

Helen Forsey, daughter of the late Canadian constitutional historian and senator Eugene Forsey, says Canadians are badly misinformed about minorities, coalitions and the benefits they can present to Canadians.

She points to the two consecutive minorities of Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, which with the co-operation of the NDP produced universal health care, the Canada Pension Plan and the Canadian flag.

“There’s this myth out there that if you defeat the government it will definitely automatically mean another election,” said Forsey, who ran for the NDP in 2006.

“No, it doesn’t have to mean another election. Let’s see what this Parliament can do with somebody who respects it, somebody that behaves better, somebody who has the … interests of the people in mind.”

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