A political science professor from the University of British Columbia has penned a paper in "anticipation of the fog and confusion" that could hit the country if no party wins a majority on Oct. 19.
Maxwell Cameron, who leads the UBC's Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, says the main goal of his work, released Thursday, is to show that minority governments can be productive and accomplish important things.
Cameron said it seems unlikely at this point that any federal party will win enough seats to form a majority government.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have been lodged in a tight three-way battle throughout this marathon election campaign – the longest in modern history.
"Broadly speaking, this leaves two possibilities: a minority or coalition government," his paper says. "Both options demand co-operation and compromise among our parliamentarians."
Cameron's paper outlines how minority and coalition governments can be legitimate and desirable alternatives to majorities.
"Minority or coalition governments can better represent the interests of the majority of Canadians by emphasizing co-operation between parties instead of polarization," it says. "Increased representation of Canadian interests in government yields policies that benefit Canadians broadly."
Cameron says some minority governments in Canada have been highly productive even if they tend to have a short lifespan.
"I'd point to the two back-to-back minority governments of Lester B. Pearson in the 1960s which brought us our pension plan, medicare, bilingualism and the new Canadian flag," he said. "So, minority Parliaments can actually get things done, they can be brief, on average they're a little bit under two years, in the Canadian context, but they can work very well."
He also said political scientists widely agree Canada has seen an extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of the prime minister and his office, particularly over the last decade.
"One of the effects that this has had on our political system is to weaken the role of Parliament," Cameron said.
"We have ... one of the most underperforming Parliaments among Western democracies in the sense that it is increasingly controlled by the political parties. Most votes are whipped, the parties vote almost exclusively along party lines."
Cameron said coalitions or minority governments, on the other hand, can help leaders act in a spirit of co-operation for the common good.
"If we were in a minority government situation, what this would do would be to bring out one of, I think, the most appealing features of our parliamentary democracy which ... actually requires the parties to co-operate," he said. "It requires them to work together to achieve consensus."
Cameron said the advantage of this system stems from the confidence convention, which requires a prime minister to command the confidence of the Commons in order to govern.