Liberal leader Justin Trudeau returns as Prime Minister with a minority government 13 seats short of a majority. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

New Liberal minority government neither the strongest nor the weakest minority

The ‘weakest’ minority government was 31 seats short, the ‘strongest’ two seats short of a majority

While all minority governments fall short of a parliamentary majority by definition, not all are created equal and Canada’s 10th minority government since 1945 falls in the middle when measured by the number of seats short of a majority.

Pending any changes, Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals will be short 13 seats of a majority. By comparison, the two minority governments headed by Liberal Lester B. Pearson in the mid-1960s were short by five and two seats respectively.

The ‘weakest’ minority government of the post-war period was the first minority government (2006-2008) of Conservative Stephen Harper, who fell 31 seats short of a majority. The second-weakest minority government was the minority government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who fell 23 seats short of a majority, followed by Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker, whose first minority government (1957-58) was short 22 seats of a majority.

But the perceived weakness of a minority government does not necessarily preview its eventual fate one way or another, as the following examples show.

RELATED: Analysis: B.C. shined bright for major parties in 2019 federal election

While Harper failed to convert his first minority government into a majority, it lasted for almost three years to become the second-longest lasting minority government in Canadian history, behind Pearson’s second minority (1965-1968). Harper, for the record, eventually turned his second minority (2008-2011) into a majority the following election before losing the 2015 election to the current office holder.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau — whose Liberals won just two seats more than the Tories in 1972 — converted his minority into a majority less than two years later. Finally, Diefenbaker turned his ‘weak’ first minority government into the largest majority government in Canadian history in 1958 in less than a year’s time.

Pearson, not surprisingly, used his two ‘strong’ minorities to govern for some five years. While Pearson never achieved a majority government, Policy Options deemed him Canada’s Best Prime Minister in 2003.

Progressive Conservative Joe Clark, meanwhile, badly bungled his minority government. Six seats short of a majority, Clark’s government lasted less than 300 days, accomplished little of substance, and lost a vote of non-confidence over its budget. Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who had stepped away from politics after losing to Clark in 1979, returned to power with a majority in 1980.

What followed were perhaps the most influential years of the Trudeau period. They included the first referendum on Quebec sovereignty won by federalists and constitutional reforms that led to the patriation of the Canadian constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also Quebecois and western alienation, leading to the failed Meech Lake and Charlottetown accords of the late 1980s, early 1990s under Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney, who sought to revise, if not reverse the Trudeau agenda.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria writer releases first novel inspired by U.S. school shootings

Dear Mr. President tells thought provoking story of victims left behind

Saanich mayor joins fight to protect local wildlife from rat poisoning after second owl dies

Mayor Fred Haynes to meet with provincial, federal pest control industry representatives

Sidney fire responds to fewer but more severe calls during pandemic

Rise in severity linked to changes in routine during COVID-19 pandemic

Saanich police see spike in excessive speeding compared to previous years

Nearly 100 excessive speeders caught since January 2020

Colwood branch drop-off to continue throughout summer

COVID-19 safety measures remain in place

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Most Read