CALGARY – With recent polls in the federal election indicating a tight race between the Liberals and Conservatives, a minority government is a very real possibility and, according to experts, would be less than ideal for Alberta’s oil and gas industry.
In order to win a majority government, a party needs 170 or more of parliament’s 338 seats. In the event no party wins the majority of seats, there are a few possible scenarios that could play out including a minority government or coalition.
There are no set rules but historical convention and precedent suggest the incumbent party would have the first right to attempt to continue governing, even if the party doesn’t win the most seats. In this case, Justin Trudeau would still be prime minister and would need to secure votes on key issues or bills to move policy by relying on cross-party support.
Experts suggest the Conservatives would likely be given the chance to form government if the Liberals' attempt failed or if the outcome of the election was a clear Conservative victory and Trudeau conceded.
A coalition is also a possibility but is extremely rare in Canadian politics where there have been three minority governments in Canada since 2000.
What would this mean for Alberta?
Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, believes a Conservative majority or Liberal majority would likely be the most beneficial for Alberta’s energy sector but is less optimistic over a potential minority government.
A Liberal minority doesn’t need cross-party support for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project but would need to rely on cross party support for new projects.
"In a minority situation, the Trudeau government already has the pipeline construction sort of on the way and has done work on that, and because they don’t need new legislation on Trans Mountain," said Williams.
New pipeline and oil and gas projects would require votes and support from other parties under a minority which may not jive well with the NDP and Green Party’s agendas.
Williams is skeptical that a Conservative minority would be a boon for Alberta's energy sector. "There are arguments on both sides whether that’ll be good for Alberta or not," she says. "In a minority government situation, it’s difficult to know how Andrew Scheer would get his policies accomplished since they are so at odds with the other parties and those other parties have pledged at least at this stage not to work with him."
If the situation remains unstable and no party manages to hold together a government then Canadians could be faced with another election campaign. Minority governments, with a few exceptions, typically last less than two years.