minority government canada

Canada just elected a minority government so here's what you need to know

Political experts expected this election to be close, and it was. Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party, which won a majority government in 2015, has been reduced to a minority of seats in parliament.

That means there are a lot of potential scenarios for what our next federal government will look like. Here are some answers to questions confused voters may have tonight.

How many seats does a party need to win a majority?

170. If any party wins this many seats in the House of Commons, they get to form government, and the party leader becomes Prime Minister as long as they win their seat. 

What is a minority government?

If no party wins 170 seats, we end up with a hung parliament. 

Now that the Liberals have a minority government, they will need the votes of other parties to pass legislation. That makes it tough for the party to maintain the confidence of the House. Minority governments tend to last between 18 and 24 months.

But the party with the most seats doesn’t necessarily have an advantage either. In our Westminster system, Justin Trudeau, the sitting Prime Minister, would have had the first crack at forming government even if the Conservatives won a minority.

For the Liberals to form a majority government, they will have to build a coalition with at least one other party.

What is a coalition government?

A coalition is a formal agreement between two or more parties to govern together. If the Liberals were to make a coalition, for example, with the NDP,  Jagmeet Singh could become a cabinet minister. Singh did say he would be willing to form a coalition with the Liberals 

There is a more informal option, however: A confidence and supply agreement.

What is a confidence and supply agreement?

This is a less formal agreement between the minority government and other parties. The smaller parties agree to support the minority government in exchange for a deal to focus on some of their priorities.

Minority governments can also operate in a less stable fashion, working to gain the support of other parties and MPs on a case-by-case basis.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example, governed during two minority parliaments without having a formal arrangement with any opposition parties.

Lead photo by

Adam Scotti


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