To everyone’s great surprise, the Canadian federal election of October 19 returned a majority Liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau. The immediate consequence of that majority was to render theoretical the speculation that took place in the last few weeks of the campaign about the consequences of a “hung Parliament,” i.e. a situation where no party obtains a majority in the House of Commons.
Canada’s political system is based on the Westminster model. Contrary to the United Kingdom, Canada has a written constitution, but that constitution says nothing about the formation of government. Rather, this is a subject governed by unwritten constitutional conventions. Most scholars agree that in a hung Parliament, the cardinal rule is that the government must always have the confidence of the House of Commons, which means the support of a majority of members. The party that obtains that confidence may or may not be the party with the largest number of members. Canadian history offers examples of situations where the party with the second largest number of seats succeeded in forming the government.Read More »