Programming Note: Minority Politics 2008

14 Jan

Two years ago this month, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won a federal election with the narrowest minority government in Canadian history.

In that vote, the party took 124 out of 308 ridings, or 40.3 per cent of all ridings up for grab. Never before had a Canadian political party won power with such a small percentage of seats in the House of Commons.

In fact, the Official Opposition Liberals won only 21 fewer seats in the same election (with retirements, defections and by-election results, that gap has now grown to 30 seats).

Whatever you think of the Conservatives’ governing abilities, it is hard to deny their government’s surprising stability and longevity.

Compare it to Paul Martin’s minority reign, which immediately preceded Harper’s. That one lasted a year and a half by the skin of its teeth, lurching from one existential crisis to another.

Although the Conservatives have faced no shortage of threats to bring down their government, opposition barks have so far proven worse than their bites.

Why? Probably because public opinion polls offer very little motivation for any party – including the Conservatives – to risk going to the voters anytime soon.

It seems unlikely that the current Parliament will last until Oct. 19, 2009, now enshrined in law as Canada’s first fixed election date. But… two years back, no one thought it likely that the current Parliament would last as long as it has.

I am producing a televised discussion airing tonight (and available online sometime this week), which will look at the lay of the land in federal politics and try to spot some potential minefields for the government and opposition parties as the year goes forward.

Will an election be triggered by an economic downturn? By the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, soon coming to a public inquiry near you? By the Afghanistan mission? By something else?

Or not at all?

Don’t ask me. I’m just a TV producer.

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