With consolidation having gone as far as it can on the right, and with continuing weakness within the Liberal Party, Canada doesn’t seem likely to see an end to minority governments soon. In other states where majorities are rare, the most common governing dynamic seems to be that of coalitions, such as you see in Germany and elsewhere. As such, I find it a bit odd that Canadian political parties have been so vociferously opposed to them, with both Harper and Ignatieff renouncing and denouncing them. The alternatives before us seem to be independent minority governments constantly making ad hoc deals to avoid no confidence votes or more durable alliances between major and minor parties. The latter option seems rather more politically mature, even if it will involve changes in how governance in Canada is carried out.
On a separate but related note, the Canadian political process is an exceedingly blunt instrument. Our elections only make it possible to convey a tiny amount of data – which candidate in your riding you prefer – and extrapolate from that the composition of parliament, the selection of the prime minister, and all sorts of assumptions about what Canadians want and what they have rejected. Opinion polls do provide some guidance, though they are not always well designed or interpreted, and they can be easy to manipulate by crafting questions strategically.
While Stephane Dion had some good and genuinely progressive ideas – most notably, shifting taxation from income towards greenhouse gas emissions – there isn’t much inspiring stuff in the current platforms of any of the parties. Given that, perhaps even a coalition government would simply continue to muddle along with some changes in tone, but few in substance. Perhaps if the Liberals showed a bit of courage and took a position on a big issue such as the deficit, an election would be a more meaningful prospect. For instance, given that the deficit is largely the result of the stimulus that was supposedly required to correct for the explosion of the markets, it would seem sensible that corporations should carry most of the burden of paying it off.