The outcome of this election is uncertain. But regardless of who wins, Andrew Coyne writes, what happens after October 19th is also uncertain:
So it’s an unusually unpredictable election. But that doesn’t begin to describe how uncertain the outcome is. Because it isn’t just the results on election night that are impossible to predict: it’s what happens after. Even if the polls as they now stand turn out to be an exact reflection of each party’s share of the vote on Oct. 19, that still doesn’t give us the first clue who will be governing us.
For one thing, it is always difficult to know how precisely the polls will translate into seats. But suppose the current projections are right: that the NDP wins about 125 seats, to the Conservatives’ 120 and the Liberals’ 95. What then?
In a properly functioning democracy, the Conservatives could try to form a government:
Among the imponderables: who does the governor general call upon to form a government? The answer is not, as popularly believed, the party with the most seats. Rather, by convention it is supposed to be the incumbent who gets first crack. Probably that is what would happen, and probably Stephen Harper would accept. But what if the gap in seats between the NDP and the Conservatives were larger? Would he try to form a government with, say, 110 seats? 105?
And, what if Harper -- like Joe Clark -- refused to call back the House for five months? Or what if the Governor General called on someone else to form a government and -- like Mackenzie King -- Harper refused to accept Donald Johnston's decision? This is a man who believes that all decisions rest with him and him alone.
My bet is that a prime minister who has kept two dozen orders in council secret would not go quietly or easily. However, if the Conservatives were reduced to third party status, much of the uncertainty would be cast in the dustbin.