April 08, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

'Coalition is not a dirty word' 

Political science professor Paddy Kaye on whether we really need another federal election

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On May 2, Canadians will head to the polls for the fifth time since 2000, with below-average turnouts for every new election.

Before the early '90s, voter turnout in Canada rarely dropped below 70 per cent. In the last four elections the average has dropped to 62.1 per cent, and in 2008 just 58.8 per cent of eligible voters returned to the polls to give Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada a second minority government.

On Mar. 25, the Liberal Party of Canada tabled a motion of no confidence in the House of Commons, with the support of the NDP and Bloc parties. That triggered another election, with a five-week gap between the drop of the writ and election day.

The Conservative Party was just halfway through its term, but the battle lines were already drawn. Most political commentators expected an election to occur this year, potentially surrounding the budget.

With a good chance of yet another minority government - and only a slight chance that the country will gain a stable majority for four or five years in a row - the question of whether Canada is broken politically is a valid one.

Pique spoke to Patrick "Paddy" Smith, the director of the Institute of Governance Studies and a political science professor at Simon Fraser University about the coming election and the state of Canadian politics.

 

Pique: Canada seems deadlocked with a divided left and a united right. Do you expect this election to change the equation?

 

Patrick Smith: My short answer is no. I think the equation will stay more or less as it is, but there is a possibility of a breakthrough with a Conservative majority. Right now they're 11 seats shorts of it, and in B.C. there are probably 11 seats in play - and three of them are Conservative. If they can pick up four or five here, another four or five around Toronto and four or five in Newfoundland, which is leaning conservative - and hold on to everything else - they would be at majority status.

 

There doesn't seem to be anything in Quebec to suggest that the Bloc won't do as well as they did last time, which basically means taking 50 seats out of the equation for the other parties. The short answer is that... in the foreseeable future we need to think about what the implications are - and not to make our leaders promise not to cooperate and go to an election every two months. We have to think of other ways to organize politics.

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