Is there ANY way to challenge a majority government
April 23, 2019 6:07 PM   Subscribe

In a parliamentary democracy with a first-past-the-post system? (Specifically, Ontario, Canada)

Waiting until the next election to kick the bastards out is the obvious and probably only option the system allows for. I know. However.

WHAT IF there were weekly protests, and MPPs’ inboxes were flooded with mail, and polls were consistently floor-level? Could this sway party loyalists and encourage a vote of non-confidence? Has this happened in a system like ours? What are the odds of it happening with the current “government” (using the term loosely)?

Is there any contemporary precedent for turfing a psychotic majority government?
posted by cotton dress sock to Law & Government (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Um, I imagine lots of Albertan Mefites will be watching this question closely as well.

IANAPoliticalScientist, I'll say that up-front. But to answer your question directly, this sort of happened in Manitoba in 1988 due to a vote of non-confidence that toppled the then-majority NDP government, but keep in mind that it was a very slim majority - they had exactly half the seats in the legislature at dissolution, and one NDP MLA decided to not note with his caucus.

Confidence conventions in Canadian parliament are more complicated than just straight-up votes of no confidence. In Ontario, they're even more complicated due to how some of the legislature's Standing Orders work (see this and this and also sections 43 and 44 of this if you like legalese). Long story short, you'd need some combination of a contentious bill, public outrage, PC floor-crossing, and the premier allowing free votes. The current legislature has already dealt with a situation involving three of those factors, and we all know how that ended, so...
posted by blerghamot at 6:51 PM on April 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Widespread popular opposition would certainly help moderate the extent of insane policies and funding cuts that can feasibly be adopted, politically speaking, even if it doesn't trigger a no confidence vote. When government is comprised of the business class, protest actions that target politicians' individual income and assets can have a more direct effect, as well as more general disruptions or strikes, and less economically-focused opposition. Do you know folks locally who are organizing opposition to the Ford government, or are you in need of recommendations for groups you can get involved with?
posted by eviemath at 6:54 PM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Every bit helps. Non violent protests, continual speaking the truth, email campaigns, social media campaigns, throw it all in, bit by bit. All of this plants the seeds for the next phase in the future.

(But to be honest, turning the MPPs in ON against the Premier is probably not gonna happen).

We've lived thru the Mike Harris years. And it's been a long slog. The next phase will start sooner or later.
posted by ovvl at 7:11 PM on April 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

@eviemath - I’m attending some of the bigger protests that are announced on Facebook (e.g. the April 30th and May 1st protests) - that and writing letters to MPPs are as far as I’ve gone. I would *love* recommendations for groups I could help (in any way)!
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:31 PM on April 23, 2019

There is dissent within ranks of Conservative MPPs who are dismayed at the crazies who have seized control. Let them know that they always have the option to split. A little push to their sense of dignity (or at least vanity) can potentially go far.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 5:45 AM on April 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

When my mother & I were discussing Doug Ford's election to the office of Ontario Premier just after it happened, she said, "Oh, he won't last long!" Alas, there is no real grounds for such optimism. I researched this matter the morning after DoFo was elected. There is no precedent/mechanism for removing an Ontario premier from office, and given that he has a majority government (minority governments can be forced to call an election by a majority coalition non-confidence vote), we're almost certainly stuck with DoFo for the full four years.

I *can* think of a few scenarios that might get Doug Ford out of office before 2022. Unfortunately they are a very long shot in practical terms.

In the first scenario, if Doug Ford gets convicted for a crime serious enough that he has to serve prison time he might resign. I can't imagine that Doug Ford will resign his office for any conviction that doesn't involve jail time, because he's shameless, but even he will have to concede that he can't run the province from jail. But... this would require both his having committed a crime serious enough to require prison and a lengthy prosecution process.

In the second scenario, the PCs lose their majority government because enough PC MPPs get fed up enough with Doug Ford to resign from the PCs & either join the NDPs or the Libs or sit as independents. A coalition of NDP, Libs, Green Party and independents could then force another election with a non-confidence vote. But again, this is extremely unlikely as it would take 14 PCs to tip the balance, and then the PCs might just win the election again with new candidates. There's only been one defection so far, and while there could easily be a few more (no one likes Doug, he doesn't know what he's doing, and there's major infighting and raised hackles in the PC party), it's probably not going to get to 14.

The third "getting Doug Ford out of office" scenario is caucus revolt. This actually happened to Liberal Premier Gordon Daniel Conant in 1943. Originally appointed leader by his predecessor, he called a leadership convention after a caucus revolt and subsequently lost the leadership convention to his successor. (Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien had to resign both as prime minister and as Liberal party leader due to the threat of a caucus revolt in 2003.) However, the caucus revolt scenario ultimately requires Doug Ford to step down voluntarily and I can't see him doing that. Again, the man is shameless. And belligerent. He will never heed "honour system"-type rules. He doesn't even follow the law, for heaven's sake. He certainly violated several election laws during his campaign.

So I would say though it's technically possible that DoFo might leave office in a very gratifying state of disgrace and shame before 2022, it's almost certainly not going to happen.
posted by orange swan at 5:50 AM on April 24, 2019 [7 favorites]

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