Selection and Role of Canada's Official Opposition

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In Canada, the "official opposition" is the political party with the second-highest number of seats in the House of Commons or a legislative assembly. Also known as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, representatives from the second-place political party serve the public by critiquing the majority party's proposals and actions.

How a Party Becomes the Official Opposition

Canada has numerous political parties. After an election, the leader of the political party with the most seats in the federal House of Commons is invited by the governor-general to form the government. After being appointed by the governor-general, the leader of this party becomes the prime minister. The prime minister chooses the ministers and forms the Cabinet

The other parties that are not in power are known as opposition parties. The opposition party with the most members of the House of Commons is the official opposition.

For example, under this system, if the majority party in the most recent election was the Liberal Party, then the prime minister and the majority of representatives in the House of Commons would be members of the Liberal Party. If the Conservative Party received the second-highest number of votes in the most recent election, then the Conservatives would constitute the official opposition. Other parties receiving lesser percentages of the votes, such as the New Democratic Party, would comprise the rest of the opposition.

The Official Opposition's Role in the Government

Under Canada’s parliamentary system, the basic function of the opposition is to oppose the government on a day-to-day basis. In this context, the opposition takes on an adversarial role, criticizing government legislation and actions, as well as providing the public with alternative policies and proposals. In some cases, the opposition may even try to bring down the government by voting against government proposals, such as the annual budget. 

The official opposition also maintains a "shadow Cabinet" to critique the actions of the Cabinet ministers. 

Value of the Official Opposition to Canada's Democracy

The existence of the opposition is critical to the functioning of a parliamentary political system, such as Canada's. In theory, the official opposition serves as a "check" on the majority government's power and control. This system of political opposition supports a healthy, vibrant democracy and creates trust in the ability of citizens to resolve differences by peaceful means. The presence of the opposition is based on the idea that the minority accepts the right of the majority to make decisions, as long as there is also respect for the minority's right to disagree with the majority and propose its own solutions.

Benefits of Being the Official Opposition

The official opposition party usually receives better financial benefits, such as research funds, and procedural advantages over other opposition parties. The government provides the leader of the official opposition party with a residence, which is called Stornoway and is located in Ottawa.

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Munroe, Susan. "Selection and Role of Canada's Official Opposition." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Munroe, Susan. (2020, August 27). Selection and Role of Canada's Official Opposition. Retrieved from Munroe, Susan. "Selection and Role of Canada's Official Opposition." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).