By Jason Menard
One key to any successful venture is to know your audience. With that in mind, the opposition parties who are frothing at the mouth to take a bite out of the minority Liberals may find that voters prefer the security and safety that comes from numbers.
And, with no viable governing alternative on the horizon, those swing voters may decide that a majority Liberal government that is capable of working is better than no government at all.
A generation of voters has grown up not knowing what life in a minority government is like. With the last minority formed in 1979 and disbanded in 1980, anyone under the age of 40 can reasonably be expected to have fuzzy memories of the process. That being said, our first taste of minority governance has not been sweet.
As voters, we’ve been forced to swallow the bitter rhetoric of parties waiting for the most politically opportune time to press the issue. We’ve watched as the country has essentially been stuck in neutral, rendered impotent and ineffective by its minority status. All the benefits of a minority government – greater accountability, coalition building which ensures the needs of a wider variety of Canadians are met, and the opportunity for negotiation – have flown out the window.
So a generation of voters is left thinking, is this all there is? Do we want to go through this again? Do we want to waste another year waiting for the inevitable downfall of another minority government? Or do we go back to the ol’ tried-and-true majority format?
And that’s a question that the opposition parties don’t want to have asked.
For many, a Liberal majority would be simply the lesser of all evils. A minority government, no matter who’s at the helm, has been rendered ineffective by our culture of political opportunism and infighting. The NDP is looked upon as an acceptable opposition party, or social conscience, working best in a secondary role but not ready for Prime Time.
So that leaves two choices (sorry Bloc voters, but even the Bloc admits they have no interest in forming a government that has to work FOR Canada – their mandate is Quebec. And Greens? Well, you really didn’t do much for that four per cent of the nation that voted for you and gave you funding rights, now, did you?) Do we go Liberal or Conservative?
Do we choose between a Liberal party that still receives support across the nation, has recently been in power, and is running on a campaign of renewed integrity and honesty? Do we believe those statements or are the wounds from the sponsorship scandal still festering? By re-electing them to a majority are we tacitly approving their pattern of patronage, or will we accept their promises of accountability at face value?
Or do we make a jump to the Conservatives? A party that’s rife with internal turmoil and appears to be uncertain of the abilities and capabilities of its leader – and, as we know in politics, appearances are everything. Are Canadians ready to make that leap of faith and put their future in the hands of a party that can’t even show faith in its own leadership?
Most importantly, are we ready to take a chance again on the unknown, now that we’ve been burned so badly by our experiment with a minority?
How deep is the conviction of those voters who voted New Democrat instead of Liberal in the last election? Are they willing to continue to support this party at the expense of the security that comes from a majority rule? And how about those small-c conservatives who threw their support behind Steven Harper last time around? Has there been anything over the past year to reinforce their decision?
Or will we eschew the unknown in favour of security? As they say, the Devil you know is better than the Devil you don’t – and Canadian voters much prefer an active demon to one whose hands are tied by its minority status.
The opposition parties should remember that 1979 was a long time ago and much has happened since then – including the birth of an overwhelming number of voters, for whom a minority government has meant nothing but headaches.
So as they band together to bring down the Liberal minority, they should remember the old caveat of being careful for what they wish – they may just get it.
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