What happens if the Liberals lose official party status

By Amanda Ferguson

It could be a new dawn for the Liberal Party on June 8. And eight is the magic number.

If recent polls hold true, the Liberals look poised to go from governing party to losing their official party status. Any less than eight seats, and everything could change. Veteran political observer Bob Richardson says it would be like cutting off the party’s political oxygen.

“You don’t get to have a regular question period or be on legislative committees automatically,” says Richardson. “The media at Queen’s Park don’t necessarily follow what you’re saying. If you have eight members or above, you get money for research, you get stakeholder outreach and you have a caucus service bureau. If you don’t get eight members, you don’t get that.”

As Richardson suggests, losing official party status could mean major financial troubles for the Liberals. They are the ones that introduced a new annual subsidy to the parties in 2016, worth $2.71 per vote they received in the last election. The annual amount each party receives will change in 2019 based on the results of Thursday’s vote.

If they receive 20 per cent of the vote as pollsters predict, their funding would be cut in half to $2.5 million from about $5 million annually. It’s a loss that Richardson says would put them in precarious financial situation.

“That may be something if it’s a minority parliament,” he says. “You can bet that will be on the agenda for discussion because it’s important for the Liberals’ survival that they get that money.”

The Ontario Liberals wouldn’t be the first to go from governing party to having no official party status. In the 1993 federal election, the governing Progressive Conservatives dropped to just two seats from 154 with Kim Campbell.

They, of course, took 13 years to rebuild with Stephen Harper at the helm.

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