Monday, November 19, 2007

Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper has now passed 1 year and 186 days in office. In the new year he will he will pass John Thompson and Paul Martin for length of time in office. He will become Canada's 13th longest serving Prime Minister. This is actually quite an accomplishment given that he has a minority government and started his term with only a 21 seat advantage over the Liberals.

Also interesting is how long his government is managing to survive in office with a minority

  • Prime Minister Days in office Seats short Seats Ahead
  • of majority of #2 party
  • Pearson 1963 931 4 34
  • Pearson 1965 894 2 33
  • Harper 651 31 21
  • Trudeau 1972 616 24 1
  • Martin 592 20 36
  • Diefenbaker 1962 308 17 17
  • Diefenbaker 1957 283 22 7
  • King 242 22 -15
  • Clark 272 6 22
  • Meighen 88 7 15
  • Trudeau 1968 66 2 34
By the end of the summer of 2008 Stephen Harper will have lead the longest minority government in Canadian history. If Harper manages to continue to the date set in legislation, his minority government will have survived 1366 days.

In many respects, Harper has one of the weaker minority governments. He is further from majority than any government before in absolute terms. Interesting to note as well is that Harper is the only minority PM that has seen a significant change in the party standings in the parliament. He now is only 27 seats short of a majority and 31 ahead of the Liberals. Once the by-elections occur, this is likely to change to 28 short of a majority and 29 ahead of the Liberals.

Harper's ability to effectively govern with a minority is much like Trudeau in the 1972-1974 era. He certainly is not like Clark in 1979-80. All Clark needed to do was either get some Liberals to cross the floor or to bring the Credistes into government to have been safely in power, but he could not manage this.

Harper has managed to get three Liberals to cross the floor. He did lose Garth Turner, but that is not much of a loss as he is one gadfly one can not count on. His loss of Bill Casey is problematic, but it is hard to see what else could have been done.

I believe the fixed election date is an important reason why Harper is governing as if will be in power till the fall of 2009. He is not jockeying for short term political gain. He is not letting himself be driven by the polls.
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