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With the Liberals winning only 20 of the 40 seats in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature, it means that three of the four governments in Atlantic Canada are now minority governments.
It also means that in the seven provincial elections held in the past two years, four of them resulted in minority governments (British Columbia, New Brunswick, P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador) and three majority governments (Quebec, Ontario and Alberta).
Could it be in this the age of multi-party politics that this is the new norm; that people aren’t as concerned about the need for majority governments as we were led to believe by the ‘No’ side during the recent referendum campaign.
It is also interesting that even though the Newfoundland electorate wasn’t happy with the Liberal government of Dwight Ball, they weren’t ready to turn the reins of power over to the Tories. This might be because for the past two years Newfoundlanders have been hearing more and more about the $12 billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project that is costing them dearly.
In light of the “No’ campaign’s insistence on the wonders of majority government, it should be noted that the Muskrat Falls project was initiated by the Conservatives under Danny Williams, when he held 44 of the 48 seats in the legislature. It’s doubtful such an expensive project would have been considered by a minority government.
Another knock the “No’ side kept hammering on is how uncertain and short-lived minority governments are. They argued we’d be facing an election every couple of years if proportional representation be adopted. And yet, here we are with four dreaded minority governments. This may not be as terrible as advertised. It will depend on the politicians, and the circumstances they’re facing.
In B.C., in spite of having differences of opinion on some major issues, the Green party continues to support the NDP government. While they don’t have a formal coalition, they do have an agreement where the Greens will support the government on matters of supply and confidence but may disagree with the government on other issues.
In B.C. they have a committee where the government keeps the Greens informed of what they are contemplating, and the Greens indicate any concerns the may have. There have been some rough patches, but to date, the system has been working.
In New Brunswick, the People’s Alliance party has agreed to prop up the Conservative government for at least 18 months. The Conservatives have 21 seats and the People’s Alliance have three seats in the 49-seat legislature. Again, there don’t appear to have be any serious disagreements.
On the Island, where the Conservatives are governing with only 12 of the 27 seats in the legislature, there is no apparent formal agreement with either the Liberals, with six seats, or the Greens, who hold eight seats.
The Conservatives feel confident they will have the support of most, if not all the Liberals who were elected. Their confidence is based on the assumption that the defeat of the MacLauchlan government has left the Liberals in debt and disarray.
The Liberals were in power for 12 years and after that period of time the party infrastructure breaks down. The same thing happened to the Conservatives when the they were defeated in 2007. So, based on precedence, the Tories feel it will be a number of years before the Liberals will want to face another election.
In a year or so, it will be Peter Bevan-Baker, and the Green herd, that will be pawing the ground, anxious for an election. But, unless the Conservative government does something incredibly stupid, that’s not going to happen.
As premier, Dennis King may not prove to be as collaborative as Mr. Bevan-Baker, and others, hope he will be. But, he’s an amiable man, and confrontation isn’t part of his nature. He may not be the dramatic leader that some would wish, but he’ll be hard to pick a fight with. And that, more than anything else, could be the key to his success.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.