FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2012
Given the minority government in Ontario, provincial party leaders should immediately begin negotiating clear, written rules about key situations in the formation and operation of the government and legislature.
If they don’t write down the rules, the provincial lieutenant-governor, as the unelected representative of the monarchy, will effectively decide which party governs, how it governs and for how long, and when the next provincial election will be, with a premier of questionable legal legitimacy trying to direct these decisions.
In constitutional monarchies like Canada, these rules are known as “constitutional conventions.” When they are not written down, they are of course unclear, and as a result cause ongoing problems and conflicts — as has happened with Canada’s federal government in the past seven years.
Politicians from all parties in New Zealand, Australia and Britain agreed to clearly written conventions for essentially every area of government operations when they faced minority governments in recent years. The written constitutions of most countries in the world contain these rules.
“Canadian politicians, including Ontario provincial politicians, could avoid major conflicts over key democracy issues by following the lead of most countries in the world and writing down key rules about the timing and results of elections and the operation of governments,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Your Canada, Your Constitution.
As politicians in most countries in the world have done, the Ontario provincial leaders should agree on written rules to clarify:
- Which party will be given the opportunity to try to govern first after an election?
- What form of an agreement is specifically needed to establish a coalition government made up of two or more parties?
- How many weeks after an election must the legislature be opened and the inaugural address (speech from the throne) introduced?
- What decisions can the initial premier and cabinet make before the legislature opens and the inaugural address is voted on?
- What votes other than the inaugural address will be votes of confidence?
- What is the required form for a resolution of non-confidence in the government?
- Under what circumstances a second party would be given the right to try to govern if there is a vote of non-confidence in the first ruling party (instead of an election happening after that vote)?
- What decisions the cabinet can make after a vote of non-confidence occurs until a new cabinet is formed, or, if another election occurs, through that election period until a new cabinet is formed?
If these rules are not agreed to as soon as possible, everyone should expect a very messy and destructive fight for power in Ontario that will last for years, as happened from 2004 to 2011 at the federal level (a fight that is still not fully resolved).
Politicians in all provinces could also prevent future divisive fights over these issues by writing down clear rules in these areas.