Winning enough seats in the House of Commons to form a majority government is often seen as the only ârealâ victory in a federal election.
It is the award or mandate that Canadians give to a party to advance a particular program or initiative that has captured their imagination. More often than not, this is something uniquely federal that requires a law, a program, money, or all three.
However, a majority government gives the victor an equally important mandate to get the provinces to adhere to a four-year national program.
The Canadian Constitution provides for two sovereign orders of government operating under a single governance framework called federalism. Since Confederation, the dividing line between the federal and provincial roles has become increasingly blurred. Provinces have opened trade offices in other countries, and the federal government has become more involved in health care and post-secondary education, which fall under provincial jurisdiction. Due to globalization and free trade, collaboration between Ottawa and the provinces – also known as cooperative federalism – is more necessary than ever.
The management of COVID-19 is one example. A global pandemic requires a national response. Aside from their vaccine deployments, states and national governments in Australia and New Zealand have joined forces to tackle the virus, while Canada and the United States have taken a more dispersed approach: while the N Australia and New Zealand have adopted the philosophy that “we are only as strong as our weakest link”, Canada and the United States appear to have succumbed to partisanship and jurisdictional battles.
The decisive question of 44e the election remains elusive. No party has argued for a majority mandate that takes into account the concerns of Canadians, and none has shown how that will lead them through another likely period of uncertainty caused by successive waves of infections in the world. COVID and a higher cost of living.
To paraphrase James Carville, a Democratic strategist who helped Bill Clinton win the 1992 US presidential election, “It’s the federation, stupid.” Canada’s future prosperity, security and general well-being are under siege in a world of increasingly frequent natural disasters (now euphemistically called “significant weather events”), threats from foreign aggressors who use disinformation to attack democracy and freedom of expression, and economic uncertainty due to outdated regulatory instruments and unsuitable for today’s digital economy.
Image consultants, image specialists, and focus group tested platforms all have their place in a national campaign. But it is essential to present a compelling vision of how your party will deal with the threats and opportunities that affect all Canadians. It is also essential to educate provinces, territories, Aboriginal governments and municipalities on how you plan to use a federal majority to âbuild back betterâ.
Canadians are used to the natural back and forth of the federation and understand that it requires a healthy debate among Premiers. The Fathers of Confederation knew that large corporations must apply checks and balances to their governments to ensure the best for their fellow citizens. A federal model does this by providing a forum in which to constructively manage the inherent conflicts that sometimes arise between patriots.
The question is, which party leader, backed by his team of qualified cabinet candidates, is willing to do the heavy lifting of forging consensus, making tough choices, and skillfully using the carrots and sticks offered to him? a majority government, to run the federation in a time of global uncertainty and disruption?
Stephen Van Dine is Senior Vice President of the Institute on Governance.
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