In the answers to my question about CBC's poll tracker (In CBC's poll tracker, why do the probabilities of winning not add up to 100%?), it was mentioned that there could be a possibility of a tie in an election.

What would happen if, for example, the Conservatives and Liberals each finished tied for first in an election with the exact same number of seats?

Would the two parties form a joint government? Would there be another election?

I know this has an incredibly slim chance of happening, but it aroused my curiosity.

  • In a multi-party democracy such as Canada (Conservatives, Liberals, NDP, Québec, Greens), the chance of this happening is very real. It's currently the case in several countries with comparable electoral systems (UK is one).
    – gerrit
    Oct 16, 2019 at 13:40

1 Answer 1


Contrary to popular belief, the rule in Canada is not that the party with the most seats in the House of Commons forms the government. The actual rule is that the leader who can get a majority of MPs (170) on their side will become Prime Minister.

In the event of a minority parliament, the incumbent Prime Minister (currently Justin Trudeau) will have the first chance to seek to form a government. Even if the Liberals finish in second behind the Conservatives, if Mr. Trudeau believes that he can get the support of enough smaller parties, then he can present a Throne Speech to Parliament.

If the House of Commons votes to approve of the contents of the Speech, then Mr. Trudeau can continue as Prime Minister. If the House of Commons votes against approving the contents of the Speech, or if it becomes clear ahead of time that such a speech cannot pass, then Mr. Trudeau must resign as Prime Minister and allow the Leader of the Opposition (Andrew Scheer) to seek to form a government by presenting his own throne speech.

If neither party is able to get a Throne Speech approved by the House of Commons, then the Governor General may convene the party leaders to see if an agreement can be made. If it cannot, then Parliament will be dissolved and a new general election will be called, likely early in the new year.

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    So in the case of a tie (hypothetically between the Liberals and the Conservatives in my example), Mr. Trudeau would first be able to attempt to get other parties to side with him (to get enough seats to form a government) and if he fails, then Mr. Scheer would get the chance? Then if both fail, another election would be called? Oct 15, 2019 at 19:48
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    @JimmyVailer In a nutshell, yes.
    – Joe C
    Oct 15, 2019 at 20:02
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    It is important to remember that MPs sit and vote as Members of Parliament, not Members of a Party... The Crown expects Parliament to form a government, and will give member's the opportunity to do so. Party lines are normally followed, but nothing prevents sitting MPs from ignoring said lines and having a majority stand together for a functioning Government till the next regular election. [Rick Mercer has some good videos on the subject matter floating around online.] Oct 15, 2019 at 20:09
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    @TheLuckless While you're technically correct, on something as important as the formation of a government, an MP that goes against the directions of their leader is almost certain to get kicked out of the party, so the amount of political courage required to go down that route would be huge.
    – Joe C
    Oct 15, 2019 at 20:24

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