Confidence Vote

To govern you first have to win elections, as they say. But it doesn’t stop there. In Canada’s parliamentary system, governing also means the party in power has to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons by winning key votes along the way. Easy enough to do if you have a majority. It’s a very different calculus, though, in minority situations where the governing party relies on votes of other parties to prop it up. 

Those deemed to be “confidence” votes can be hugely consequential for all involved. However, there’s no written convention or definition of what constitutes a “confidence” vote, and definitions vary with circumstances. Nor, can the Speaker of the House be asked to rule on what is and what isn’t a confidence vote. The government itself can explicitly declare matters it puts to a vote to be “questions of confidence”. They might do so in conjunction with their new Throne Speech, for example, which they may be given following Prorogation.

In that situation, the governing party is taunting the opposition parties to vote against the confidence motion and trigger an election they may not want. This is also a good way for the PM to keep party backbenchers in line: if they vote against the government they could be voting themselves out of a job. Political careers are made and lost in this sort of high-stakes gamble. As for regular Canadians, they are the ones stuck with the bill of paying for another election.

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