Is the Harper government a legitimate government?

In response to Justin Trudeau's musings, last week, about Stephen Harper's Canada and Quebec separation, CBC's At Issue panelist Andrew Coyne had this to say:

"There's all too much of a temptation, for Liberals in particular, to view the Harper government as fundamentally illegitimate. Not just somebody they disagree with but an abhorrent that has somehow got itself in power."

Coyne is right on this point.

The very vocal 'illegitimate government theorists' consistently reference the fact that Stephen Harper's government only received 39 per cent of the popular vote in the last federal election and, therefore, doesn't have a true mandate.

But the anti-Conservatives conveniently forget that Jean Chretien's three governments didn't fair much better at the polls.

His party's popular vote percentages in back-to-back-to-back majorities were 41.2 per cent, 39.5 per cent and 40.8 per cent respectively.

Brian Mulroney introduced the G.S.T. and signed on to NAFTA with a mandate from only 43 per cent of Canadians during his second term.

And Pierre Trudeau didn't let the fact his party only earned 44 per cent of the popular vote in the 1980 election stop him from passing the Constitution Act of 1982 and, thereby, entrenching the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So, why shouldn't the Harper government be able to move forward on its agenda?

The common refrain from the opposition parties is that 60 per cent of Canadians don't agree with the government.

But using that logic, 69 per cent 'don't agree' with the New Democrats, 81 per cent 'don't agree' with the Liberals, and 96 per cent 'don't agree' with Elizabeth May and the Greens.

Is the Harper government a legitimate government?

It's no less legitimate than any other majority government in the history of Canada.