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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effectiveness and legitimacy of federal minority governments in Canada since 1945 Depner, Wolfgang


Despite popular expectations and theoretical predictions, Canada’s first-past-the- post electoral system continues to produce minority governments, defined by Forsey “as government by a cabinet with less than half of the seats in the House of Commons.” Since 1945, almost half of all federal elections have produced this form of government. Drawing instruction from the most recent run of minority governments between 2004 and 2011, the dissertation scrutinizes the effectiveness and legitimacy of the nine federal minority governments that have governed Canada since 1945. Methodologically, it treats them as probationary majorities and retroactively judges their effectiveness by whether they shed this status. Effectiveness, so understood, can in turn be explained by a number of different factors best seen through the prism of the prevailing Canadian party system. Turning to the question of legitimacy, the dissertation adopts a dualistic view of legitimacy in judging the surveyed minority governments by their (i) constitutional legitimacy and (ii) input legitimacy. Concerning the former, it argues that federal minority governments have historically played fast and loose with the constitutional conventions that sustain them. Concerning the latter, it argues further that minority governments have generally failed to improve the input legitimacy of parliamentary government, contrary to the position of Russell and others scholars who claim that minority government has the capacity to improve the ‘deliberative’ nature of the Commons. The present study challenges the claim of Russell and others in finding that minority government actually increases partisanship in discouraging genuine deliberation, as defined by theorists of deliberative democracy. It finds minority government nonetheless to be legitimate, according to Canada’s constitutional conventions.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada