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In Canada, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition (French: L'Opposition Loyale de Sa Majesté), commonly known as the Official Opposition, is usually the largest parliamentary opposition party in the House of Commons or a provincial legislative assembly that is not in government either on its own or as part of a governing coalition. This is usually the second-largest party in a legislative house, although in certain unusual circumstances, it may be a third or fourth party or even the largest party.
The Official Opposition is viewed as the caucus tasked with keeping the government in check. It is also generally viewed as the alternative government or "government in waiting". The Official Opposition maintains a shadow cabinet of Members of Parliament (MPs) that often have the same portfolios as actual ministers. They are known as opposition "critics", or "spokespersons".
It is styled as "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition" to show that, although the group may be against the sitting government, it remains loyal to the Crown (the embodiment of the Canadian state), and thus to Canada.
The leader of the Opposition party is called the "Leader of the Opposition." This position comes with an official residence in Ottawa known as Stornoway, and the salary and perks of a cabinet minister.
The Official Opposition party has advantages over other opposition parties in the House. They are assigned to speak first after the government, and receives more time in question period than other opposition parties. It also gets more funding for research and staff than other parties.
After the 1921 election, the Progressive Party, a looseknit largely-agrarian "protest" party, won the second largest amount of seats to William Lyon Makenzie King's Liberals, but declined to be the Official Opposition because of their lack of national organization. The third-place Conservative Party, led by Arthur Meighen, thus became the Official Opposition.
As a result of the 1925 election, the Official Opposition was actually the largest party in the House of Commons, the Conservatives. The Liberals, led by Mackenzie King, were able to form a minority government despite the fact that they had a dozen fewer seats than the Conservatives because King's Liberals were able to win the support of the Progressives to remain in government. Similarly, in Ontario, the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party had the largest caucus but were relegated to official opposition not long after the 1985 election, as their minority government was defeated on a motion of non-confidence. The Ontario Liberal Party, the second largest party, governed from 1985 to 1987 with supply provided by the Ontario New Democratic Party.
In 1993, the Reform Party challenged whether the Quebec sovereigntist Bloc Québécois could hold the position of official opposition. The Speaker ruled in favour of the Bloc, as they held two more seats than Reform. During the Bloc's time as the official opposition, Quebec issues on national unity dominated Question Period, often to the irritation of the other opposition parties (indeed, Reform was the only other caucus that met official party status, with the NDP and PC parties falling short of that threshold). However, Reform was considered to be main opposition to the Liberals on all other issues that were not specific to Quebec. In 1995, when Bloc leader Lucien Bouchard's position as Opposition Leader granted him a meeting with visiting US President Bill Clinton, Reform leader Preston Manning was also given a meeting with Clinton in order to diffuse Bouchard's separatist leverage.
The current Official Opposition is the Liberal Party of Canada.
There is also an Official Opposition in the Canadian Senate. This is the largest party in the Senate that is not in government. As the governing party is determined in the House of Commons, the Official Opposition in the Senate may actually be larger than the government party in the Senate. It is customary, however, for the Senate to pass legislation approved in the House of Commons even if the government has a minority in the Senate. Although the Senate nominally has the power to block most legislation (excepting bills which would trigger a non-confidence motion if defeated in the House, such as money bills), this power is rarely exercised in practice.
The party that forms Official Opposition in the Senate is not necessarily the same party as in the House of Commons, however. From 1993 to 2003, the Official Opposition in the Senate was the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, even though the Bloc Québécois from the Official Opposition in the House from 1993 to 1997, followed by the Reform Party of Canada, and then the Canadian Alliance from 1997 to 2003. This is because the BQ, and Reform Party had no Senators. However, when Senator Gerry St. Germain crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives to the Canadian Alliance in 2000, he argued that he should be recognized as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate as the Canadian Alliance formed the Official Opposition in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the Canadian Senate ruled against him, however, as the Progressive Conservatives were the larger opposition party.
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1867-1874|
|Conservative Party0||Conservative Party0||1874-1878|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1878-1896|
|Conservative Party||Conservative Party||1896-1911|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1911-1921|
|Conservative Party1||Conservative Party||1921-1926|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1926|
|Conservative Party||Conservative Party||1926-1930|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1930-1935|
|Conservative Party2||Conservative Party||1935-1945|
|Progressive Conservative Party2||Progressive Conservative Party2||1945-1957|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1957-1963|
|Progressive Conservative Party||Progressive Conservative Party||1963-1979|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1979-1980|
|Progressive Conservative Party||Progressive Conservative Party||1980-1984|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||1984-1993|
|Bloc Québécois3||Progressive Conservative Party3||1993-1997|
|Conservative Party5||Conservative Party5||2004-2006|
|Liberal Party||Liberal Party||2006-|
0 The Liberal-Conservative Party became the Conservative Party in 1873, however some members still sat and were elected as Liberal-Conservatives after the change.
2 The Conservative Party became the Progressive Conservative Party in 1945.
3 House of Commons only. The Progressive Conservative Party formed the Official Opposition in the Senate during this period.
4 The Reform Party became the Canadian Alliance in 2000.
5 The Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party merged to form the Conservative Party in 2004.