Dear Governor General and federal party leaders:
A possible result in the 2015 election is that no party will win a majority of seats. There were several crises caused by the lack of clear rules (known as the “unwritten constitutional conventions”) concerning the relationship between the Governor General and the Prime Minister and governing Cabinet, and Parliament, during the minority governments from 2004-2011.
Most specifically the lack of clear, public rules caused a constitutional crisis less than two months after the 2008 election when the Governor General allowed Prime Minister Harper to shut down Parliament to avoid a vote challenging the government.
Unfortunately, unlike Parliaments in England, Australia and New Zealand years ago, Canadian political parties have still not worked together and written down the unwritten constitutional conventions to guide the action of all party leaders and MP, and the Governor General.
Despite this, there is general agreement on a few key fairness rules, and if no party wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons on election day, ensuring these rules are upheld will be essential to prevent yet another constitutional crisis.
Therefore, I call on the Governor General and all federal party leaders to publicly state before election day that they agree the following rules are constitutional conventions that must be upheld (conventions that politicians in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to in writing and all uphold), and I call on the Governor General to uphold the following rules fairly and impartially after election day, especially if no party wins a majority of seats:
- The Governor General will not make a decision concerning which party or parties will be given the opportunity to govern first (ie. to appoint a Cabinet and introduce a Speech from the Throne in Parliament) until communicating directly with all the party leaders;
- The party that wins the most seats in the election will be given the first opportunity to govern unless the leaders of other parties representing a majority of members of the House of Commons indicate clearly to the Governor General that they will not support that party and that they have agreed to form a coalition government or have agreed on a common legislative agenda;
- Within 30 days after the Governor General decides which party or parties will be given the first opportunity to govern, the Governor General and the governing party/parties will open Parliament with a Speech from the Throne;
- That even if the leaders of parties that represent a majority of members of the House of Commons do not indicate lack of support for the party that wins the most seats before that party’s Speech from the Throne, if they subsequently indicate lack of support for the Speech, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister-designate to prorogue Parliament before the Speech from the Throne is voted on by members of the House of Commons;
- That if a majority of members in the House of Commons vote against the Speech from the Throne, the Governor General will give the opposition parties (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) an opportunity to govern before calling an election;
- That if opposition parties introduce a motion of non-confidence in the governing party at any time after election day, the Governor General will not allow the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament before the motion is voted on by the House of Commons, and;
- That if a majority in the House of Commons vote to approve a motion of non-confidence in the governing party during the six-month period after that party introduces its Speech from the Throne, or vote against the governing party’s 2016-2017 budget, the Governor General will give the opposition parties (through either a formal coalition or legislative agenda agreement) an opportunity to govern before calling an election.
I urge all of you to make clear public statements approving these rules before the October 19th election day – please follow the example of politicians in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and prevent further crises that harm our democracy.
I will be deciding which political party to vote for in this election based on the responses I receive from each political party. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.