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Polls indicate likelihood of a minority government in October 2015

A new Forum Research public opinion poll shows that the Liberals have the support of 37 per cent of Canadian voters, the Conservatives have the support of 33 percent, the NDP has 20 per cent, the Green Party has 5 per cent, and the Bloc Quebecois has 4 per cent.

The analysis for the poll notes, “If these results are projected up to represent seats won in the new 338 seat House of Commons, the Conservatives have a slight advantage and, despite not leading in the popular vote, will take [a minority of seats].”

Forum Research speculates the outcome in seat numbers would be:

  • Conservatives – 137 (33 short of a majority)

  • Liberals – 126

  • NDP – 70

  • Greens – 1

  • Independent – 1

If Canada had a system of proportional representation (which the Council of Canadians supports), the seat distribution might be closer to:

  • Liberals – 125 (45 short of a majority)

  • Conservatives – 112

  • NDP – 68

  • Greens – 17 seats

  • Independent/ Other – 16 seats

Yesterday, Maclean’s magazine highlighted the improbability of a majority government as an outcome of the October election. They reported, “A simple aggregate of recent polls gives no federal party enough support to win a majority of our 338 seats. Indeed, if you imagine that 38 per cent of the popular vote is something like a magic number for winning a majority of seats—no one has ever formed a majority with less than 37.7 per cent of the national vote—the leading party (Conservative, Liberal or NDP) has been short of a majority for most of the last three years.”

Given this, they review a number of possible outcomes – a minority government, a coalition government, a minority government supported by an accord and so on – but also note a scenario in which, “the Liberals win 130 seats, the Conservatives 120 and the NDP 80, but the Liberals opt to not pursue a coalition or accord with the NDP. Perhaps they don’t have to because the Conservatives, in the midst of a leadership change, are unwilling to defeat the government in the House and trigger an election.”

Toronto Star national affairs writer Tim Harper’s analysis this week of likely election outcomes, he adds a caution and the spectre of another election perhaps in 2016. He notes, “For this prime minister, anything short of another majority is a defeat. A minority win for Harper can really lead to only one of four outcomes — defeat at the hands of a Liberal-NDP coalition, quick defeat followed by another election, discontent within caucus and would-be successors emerging from their bunkers, or, most likely, Harper declaring victory then stepping aside of his own accord.”

The election is still nine months away, but it’s worth noting at this point Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson’s comment that, “The most powerful anti-government sentiment in any democracy is the oldest adage in politics: ‘Time for a change’. The economy can be reasonably sound, the political alternative untried, even shaky, the government experienced and able, but when the largest parts of the public settle on the ill-defined but powerful notion that the time has come to change, there isn’t much the incumbents can do.”

Voting day is expected to be on October 19, with the election campaign formally starting (with the ‘dropping of the writ’) on or around September 11.

For more on the Council of Canadians democracy campaign and election work, please click here.