So, who exactly is running the country right now?

Fear not, Canadians: We may be between governments at the moment, but we have not been plunged into a temporary but terrifyingly anarchic executive limbo.

According to University of Ottawa public affairs professor Philippe Lagassé, who also serves as unpaid on-demand constitutional advisor to Twitter at large, will continue to serve as prime minister until his successor — prime minister-designate — and his cabinet are formally sworn in by the governor-general, which will likely take place within the next week or two.

“This ensures that there is no gap and that there is always a prime minister and ministers in place to exercise their constitutional and statutory responsibilities [and] ensures that the doctrine of ministerial responsibility remains paramount,” Lagassé explains.

Even so, he stresses that the caretaker convention that has been in effect since the writ dropped remains “in full force” during the changeover.

That means the outgoing prime minister will be limited to routine, non-controversial activities — no last-minute Senate appointment spree, for example — while in the event of an emergency — a natural disaster, or national emergency, he would be obliged to consult with Trudeau. If, for instance, Russia were to launch a hostile incursion into the Northwest Territories, Harper “would be constitutionally responsible” for ’s response.

“He would have the authority to act and call the shots,” he notes.

“But he would keep Trudeau fully informed and would not do anything major — such as allowing the military to engage — without doing his utmost to secure Trudeau’s approval first.”

About Kady O'Malley, Ottawa Citizen