Canadian Politics/Defeating Harper


Hello: I am being pestered by email for donations to the NDP and Liberals,with the former being the most persistent lately.
I am a "small c" conservative,and find the NDP philosophy repugnant.
However,I would be willing to support one or both of the opposition parties if it helped defeat Harper in the next federal election.Among other things,I am incensed by Harper's attempt to sign Canada up to  trade agreements (in secret,no less) such as TPP and FIPA,with the latter apparently having been ratified.
My question to you is: does it make sense to support both the NDP and Liberals,in the hopes of them forming a coalition if they win enough seats,or should I throw my support behind one or the other? Thanks!

Hi Michael,

That's a great question!

The answer, however, is rather complex, due to the way our system operates. Let's see if I can help, though.

My own belief about voting is that we should vote for the local candidates we want to see representing us in Ottawa. From a purely technical perspective, that's exactly what we do: we vote for John Smith, not Stephen Harper (unless we live in Mr. Harper's riding). That's one of the reasons the question you're asking has a complex answer.

There are two ways ensure Mr. Harper is not returned as Prime Minister: the first is that he could resign as leader of the Conservative Party, thus removing him from the equation and leaving you free to vote for whichever candidate in your riding most closely shares your beliefs.  The second way is for another party to win enough seats to command the confidence of the House. This is where your question comes in.

I should note that, in the event of a minority government, Mr. Harper still gets the first chance to form a government. Even in a scenario where he wins 115 seats, the NDP wins 115, and the Liberals win 78, Mr. Harper would still have first kick at the can. So a minority government is unlikely to produce the result you want.

Even if Mr. Harper chose to resign as Prime Minister, it is increasingly unlikely that Canadians would accept a coalition government. You may recall the 2008 attempt failed spectacularly and made "coalition" a dirty word for many Canadians. While it remains a viable parliamentary option, I don't think we'll see a formal coalition for some considerable time.

That brings us to a majority government run by either the Liberals or NDP, which is the most likely way to deliver the outcome you seek. That's where both donations, votes, and "boots on the ground" are important. Some people are proponents of strategic voting, in which the voter supports the candidate they believe is most likely to defeat an incumbent. I am not a supporter of this option, believing as I do that we should vote for the person we want and let democracy work as it is supposed to. In addition, the data we use to determine strategic voting choices can be faulty and it may turn out that the OTHER opposition candidate would have won without so-called "strategy."

In the end, I would advise supporting those candidates and parties that you believe are best suited to run the Canadian government and to represent you locally.

Hope this helps.


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Adam McDonald


I can answer any questions about Canadian politics. More specifically, I have expertise in parliamentary procedure, the Constitution, and Ontario politics.


I have a B.A.(Hons) and an M.A. in Political Science, as well as practical work experience in academia, professional politics, government relations, and work at a provincial legislature.

Canadian Parliamentary Review Federal Governance Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 2005.

B.A. (Hons): History and Political Science. M.A.: Political Science

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