Monday, January 22, 2007

Harper's longevity

This was a cute gem in today's The Hill Times:

A message from ‘Canada’s Really, Really, New Government’?

At what point does the government cease to be “new”? The Conservative government turns a year old on Jan. 23, but it’s still using the moniker “Canada’s New Government.” The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines “new” as “of recent origin or arrival; made, invented, discovered, acquired or experienced recently, or, now for the first time; different from a previous one.” That’s fitting for the Conservatives who had been out of office since 1993.

Happy first birthday to the Conservatives in government. That’s about two thirds into an average term of a Canadian minority Parliament. By that measure, the slogan could be Canada’s “old” government, no? As in, “advanced in age; far on in the natural period of existence; not young or near its beginning.” If the Conservatives win the next election, will it be Canada’s New, New Government? Or just Canada’s Government? — The Hill Times
This obsession with calling it the "new" government is getting a bit old, and the steps they've taken to ensure that this is the moniker by which the government is indeed known is over the top.

However, there was something else in this piece that caught my eye. First, I feel I should correct the writer in that the government will not be a year old until February 6, which is when they took office, but that is neither here nor there. Notwithstanding that though this is a very old minority government, particularly seeing as it is a conservative one.

Though the average length of a minority government is 1.5 years, give or take, this is because Liberal governments in minority tend to last a fair while, this is not the case for their conservative counterparts.

Let's take a look (swearing in of the government* to the dissolution of the minority parliament):

Conservative government of Arthur Meighen (1926): 1926.06.29 - 1926.07.02 (4 days)
Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker (1957-1958): 1957.06.21 - 1958.02.01 (7 months, 11 days)
Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker (1962-1963): 1962.06.18* - 1963.02.06 (7 months, 19 days)
Progressive Conservaitve government of Joe Clark (1979): 1979.06.04 - 1979.12.14 (5 months, 19 days)

* - Diefenbaker's ministry continued from an earlier parliament so the date of the general election used in this case

The Rt. Hon. Stephen J. Harper has been prime minister since February 6, 2006... 11 months, 16 days and counting. He is, by far, the longest serving conservative minority prime minister in Canadian history. Congrats to him, but enough of calling it a "new" government.

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