Monday, November 07, 2005

Minorities - History Lesson

Well, Democratic Space's Election Prediction pretty much agrees with my estimation of the seat count, only they're a bit less generous to the Liberals than I am.

Of course, the exact number of seats is pretty irrelevant, what matters is how the math works out. And the results would be pretty much the same - the Conservatives could form a minority, but only with the help of either the Liberals or the Bloc. What an odd situation that would be...

Conservative minority governments have typically not worked out well in Canadian history, because they don't really have any natural partners. The Liberals can go left for a while to get the NDP on side, but the Conservatives? Not really feasible. It's for that reason that the minority governments of Conservative prime ministers Arthur Meighen (1926), John Diefenbaker (1957-8, 1962-3), and Joe Clark (1979) all fell much faster than the Liberal minorities of Mackenzie King (1921-5, 1925-6, 1926-30), Lester Pearson (1963-5, 1965-8), Pierre Trudeau (1972-4) have tended to last for a lot longer. In each of those cases, the Liberals were willing to work with a third party (Progressives for King, NDP for Pearson and Trudeau) in order to stay in power. The Conservatives never had allies like that, except for Meighen, who could have easily appealed to the conservative-minded Progressives, but was too... well... proud and foolish to do so.

I've observed in the past (maybe not on this blog) the striking similarities between Arthur Meighen and Stephen Harper. Ideologically conservative, background in numeric theory (Harper economics, Meighen mathematics), cold and uncharismatic, sharply intelligent though not really a master of politics, and up against an opponent who is a bit wishy-washy on issues - which infuriated Meighen to no end and probably bugs Harper too - who is at least more charismatic and likable than them, and not as intelligent but certainly a better player of the political game. Given their similarities, it's interesting to speculate how Harper would act during a minority government, and my guess is, given the lessons of history, it wouldn't last long.


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