minority government

A minority government, is a kind of government in which the governing party does not control a majority of the seats in the parliament. To deal with situations where no clear majorities appear, parties either form coalition governments, ad-hoc alliances or loose agreements with other parties to stay in office. The governing party may negotiate majority support on an issue by issue basis, or from bill to bill.


Many provincial governments are minority governments, and this situation is much more common than federally since there are ten times more governments in which the situation can arise. The current Nova Scotia legislature is in a minority situation under Premier John Hamm, for instance.


Minority governments ruled Canada from 1921 to 1930, 1957 to 1958, 1962 to 1968, 1972 to 1974, 1979 to 1980, 2004 to 2006, and currently from 2006, when the Conservative Party of Canada was elected into a minority government situation.

In Canada, in minority situations, the incumbent government has the first opportunity to attempt to win the confidence of the House even if it has fewer seats. Usually, in this situation the incumbent government simply resigns if the main opposition party is only a few seats short of having a majority or if it feels it has no chance of winning the support of enough members of smaller parties or independent MPs to win an initial confidence vote. Thus in 1957, 1963 and 1979 the incumbent governments resigned rather than attempt to stay in power.