Can we learn from history, just this once?
Perry Foster writes that “coalitions make ineffective government” based on his personal dislike of the Trudeau government. While I share his disappointment with the current prime minister, I cannot agree with his blanket condemnation of minority government on the whole. Frankly, Perry, the best Canadian government of the last century was a minority.
Lester Pearson never enjoyed a majority, yet managed to create the national health care system, give us our own flag and pass most of the legislation that constitutes the social safety net that makes Canada a great country for all citizens. Certainly this was done because Tommy Douglas and his New Democrats held the balance of power, but to quote Tommy himself, “Who cares who gets the credit as long as the work gets done?”
Do so called “majority governments” represent the citizen any better? Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper all had parliamentary majorities they used to pass legislation a majority of Canadians opposed because the sad flaw in our system is that in our first past the post system one party can achieve overall dominance with one third of the votes. For example, Canada has endured the economic disaster of free trade despite more than 60 per cent of the voters supporting parties that opposed it. Mulroney may have had an effective majority, but history shows it served us badly.
Further, using the European system as an example of ineffectiveness is just plain wrong. Proportional representation has served many European nations as well (if not better) than our own flawed system. Their public systems work as well, provide more benefits to most citizens and their economies are viable, some even vibrant, yet few if any have “enjoyed” single party rule in our lifetime. Italy, for example, manages to provide a prosperous lifestyle and healthy economy for the average citizen, and their last single party government ended with Benito Mussolini.
Parliamentary majorities allow for arbitrary effectiveness without the consent of the majority of the governed. You might prefer that, Perry, but most of us prefer actual democracy. Given the example set by the great Lester Pearson this writer suggests that the European model you condemn without experience would serve us all better. Efficient dictators suck.