What happens if we end up with a hung Parliament?

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With the polls still showing no party poised to form a majority government, it could take longer than five days to know who, going forward, will be in charge of our country.

At least one professor of constitutional law thinks ending up with a hung Parliament after the ballots are tallied is all but certain. But what is not clear is who will end up with the most seats.

If it is the Conservatives, Stephen Harper would stay the prime minister but will need to get a vote of confidence from the House.

Bruce Ryder with York University explains if the opposition parties collectively have more seats than the Conservatives, they could defeat the government — and Harper would either have to resign or ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament for a new election.

“And in either course, the Governor General will have to decide — first of all, if the prime minister resigns, which would be likely in that scenario — to call on the leader of the party with the second most seats to try to form a government. And if the prime minister were to lose a vote in the House of Commons and ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament for a new election, the Governor General wouldn’t automatically follow that advice because the prime minister in that case would no longer have the support of the House.

“And the Governor General might decide — and I think would decide — that it’s in the country’s best interests to not have another election right away, in which case the Governor General would invite the leader of the party — probably Mr. Trudeau — with the second most number of seats to try to form a government that would have the support of the House of Commons. And then we would probably see the Liberals try to reach some sort of an agreement with the NDP to govern with the confidence of the House.”

A hung Parliament is any parliament where no party has a majority of seats, which is 170.

“Let’s say one party gets very close to 170 — around 165 or something like that,” suggests Ryder. “Then it’s less likely that they would be brought down right away because they have such strong support.”

“But if the current polling is relatively accurate — and of course, we don’t know if it is — no one’s getting close to that number. We’re seeing predictions of something more like in the range of 120-130 seats, and it looks very close between the Conservatives and the Liberals that they might both get close to that number of seats. And in that situation, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Conservative government would survive — given how strongly committed the NDP and the Liberals both are to bringing down the Harper government — if they have only that level of support.”

Another possible scenario is the Conservatives winning the most seats, but the Liberals and the NDP having more seats combined.

Ryder says in that situation, it’s likely the Conservatives would have a hard time continuing to govern because they would need to gain the confidence of the House and get the support of either the Liberals or the NDP, which would involve the Conservatives making compromises with the opposition parties.

“Usually on election night, we know who the new government is going to be. I think on October 19th, we may be facing a more uncertain scenario that may take a few months to work out,” he adds.

Ryder points out Stephen Harper has said he’d resign if the Liberals end up with the most seats, which would enable to the Governor General to summon the second place leader to try to form a government that could gain the confidence of the House.

In that case, if the new government got a vote of non-confidence, there would either be another election or the Governor General may call on another party to try to form a government that could gain confidence.

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