Parliamentary government is rooted in a series of conventions. The problem, Andrew Coyne writes, is that our political parties are no longer paying attention to those conventions. And if -- as seems likely -- we elect a minority government the next time around, what, he wonders, will happen in the wake of no political consensus:
We are notably lacking in consensus in this country on even the most basic rules of the game. We flirted with an all-out constitutional crisis on more than one occasion then. The next time we might not be so lucky.
Suppose, for starters, the Conservatives win a plurality of the seats in the election, and suppose, as seems likely, they are defeated in the Commons shortly thereafter on a matter of confidence: the Throne Speech, for example. What then? Would the prime minister go to the governor general and demand that he dissolve the House, triggering another election so soon after the last?
Would the governor general be obliged to do as he was told, or could he call upon some other party, perhaps even a coalition, to try to form a government? Mr. Harper has been adept at presenting this as dirty pool, an attempt by “the losers” to steal the election. Traditionalists like me insist that’s precisely how our system is supposed to work. We do not elect governments in this country: we elect Parliaments. The prime minister is whoever commands the confidence of the House, full stop.
All three parties now operate on the principle that we elect leaders, not parliaments. And it appears that most Canadians think that's the new convention. What happens when the conventional wisdom no longer applies?