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Governor General could play pivotal role in federal election

Last Updated Oct 21, 2019 at 6:01 am EST

Governor General Julie Payette stands next to a shelf featuring memorabilia from her career as an astronaut, in her office at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — With Canada facing a potential minority government after votes are cast today, Governor General Julie Payette could have a critical role to play in what follows.

Constitutional experts have widely rebutted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s assertion that the party that wins the most seats gets the first shot at forming government.

Philippe Lagasse, an expert on Westminister governments at Carleton University, says it could fall to Payette to decide whether to stick with constitutional convention, or recent historical practice.

Constitutional convention dictates the incumbent prime minister — in this case Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau — can make the first attempt to form a government that can command majority support in the House of Commons.

A report prepared by the Library of Parliament in 2015 and provided to The Canadian Press by Rideau Hall indicates that where the Governor General becomes involved is if and when the incumbent prime minister is unable to win a vote of confidence.

University of Waterloo constitutional law expert Emmett Macfarlane says Payette will also have to walk a careful line to ensure she is not dragged into a political trap.