With four days before Canadians go to the polls, the leaders of Canada’s three largest federal parties are arguing over how the country will be governed if there is no clear winner on election day.
Most polls continue to suggest the Liberals and Conservatives are deadlocked, raising talk about potential minority or coalition governments.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has said if he wins the most seats in Monday’s election, that would give him a mandate to govern.
He repeated that view during a question-and-answer session with reporters in the Toronto suburb of Brampton on Thursday, dismissing reminders that as a former Speaker of the House of Commons, he has familiarity with the rules that govern Parliament and say otherwise.
“We are asking Canadians for a strong Conservative majority mandate,” Scheer said. “It is the case that the party that wins the most seats in modern Canadian history has been the party that forms the government.”
Paul Martin did step down as prime minister after the Conservatives won more seats in 2006, allowing Stephen Harper to form his first minority government.
But Canada’s parliamentary system allows for coalition governments, which means that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau could continue on as prime minister if there is a minority government and he can secure support from enough other MPs to win key votes.
Scheer on Thursday reiterated his past warnings that a Liberal-NDP coalition would prove too expensive for Canadians.
Trudeau, meanwhile, repeatedly dismissed questions about a potential coalition or other arrangement in the House of Commons.
“We are focused on electing a strong Liberal government that is going to be able to continue the hard work of fighting against climate change and investing in families. The choice is very, very clear for Canadians,” he said during a campaign stop in Trois-Rivieres, Que.
“We are going to elect a government with Liberal MPs from right across the country. We will continue the hard work of investing in Canadians.”
“Coalition” is not a dirty word, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said during his own campaign event as he railed against Canada’s electoral system, which gives the candidate with the most votes in each riding the victory.
Singh also criticized Trudeau for breaking his 2015 campaign promise that that election would be the last under the first-past-the-post system.
He said the system means that fewer than half of voters can choose a certain party, “and they get all the power, and that’s wrong.” Singh said Canadians often feel their vote doesn’t matter, adding 60 per cent of Canadians “regularly” vote against the Conservatives.
“So it’s wrong for the Conservatives to think that with less than 40 per of the power — or vote — they deserve all the majority of power. That’s wrong,” Singh said in Welland, Ont.
Singh said he is committed to a “mixed-member proportional representation to make sure everyone’s vote counts.”
Trudeau is focusing on Quebec. After appearing in hotly contested Trois-Rivieres, the Liberal leader is making several stops in the province as he heads west, back to Montreal.
Scheer is headed to the Maritimes for a rally in Pictou County, N.S.
Green Leader Elizabeth May is on Vancouver Island, making numerous stops along the highway from Campbell River to Ladysmith, where the Greens see their best chances to add to their two seats.
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press