Wednesday, December 03, 2008

As Exciting as all this is...

...here's my bottom line. Looking at this one objectively, Harper should compromise on the FU, the opposition should back him, and he should therefore stay in power until the next election (when, hopefully, he deservingly gets his ass handed to him). But since the man has shown himself incapable of compromise, the coalition has every right to exercise their combined majority in the House of Commons and take control. I know Stephen Harper would agree with me on that one.

So, yes, I'm definitely looking forward to the possibility of Prime Minister Dion being sworn in next week, and of seeing Harper undone by the partisan mean-spirited nature that has defined his time as Prime Minister. But I have to admit that the whole thing does leave me feeling a little uneasy. Like all good Liberals, there's no place I'd rather be than in power, but I do think we should all think the long term implications of this move through completely. Among the things that have me a little concerned:

1. Western Allienation: As other Alberta Liberals have pointed out, the backlash in Alberta and across Western Canada is going to be huge. You thought the "No! No! No!" headlines were over the top today? Well you ain't seen nothing yet.

2. The NDP is Legitimized: The one thing which has always kept the Liberals ahead of the NDP, even when the LPC sinks to it's lowest of lows, is the widely held perception that the NDP is not up for the job of being in government. By placing the NDP in Cabinet, you're implicitly admitting that they can handle the job. Plus, I have this rule of thumb that any move that makes Jack Layton grin from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat is a bad move.

3. The Coalition Precedence: Similarly, the NDP is going to expect Cabinet posts in any future minority government. So if we wind up with a Liberal plurality in the future, the NDP is going to be demanding seats at the Cabinet table as a condition of support.

4. The Coalition Precedence II: As Stephen Harper's 2004 letter shows, what's good for you one day, is not so good the next. And I have strong doubts that Liberals in love with the idea of a coalition government now would have welcomed one back in 2004. It's highly possible that a future Liberal leader who wins a plurality of the seats might find himself or herself in Stornoway.

5. The End of Strategic Voting: Since I've been following politics, the final week of every campaign has featured a Liberal leader appealing to other progressive voters to vote Liberal in a bid to stop the scary Conservative bogeyman of the day. Once voters have seen a progressive coalition take power, they're going to laugh at any Grit who tries to make the case that a vote for Layton is a vote for Harper. While it might be good for democracy to see this argument disappear, it's a potent argument to surrender.

6. Coalition Times are Tough Times: If we do hit a recession, do you really want to be in power when it happens?

7. The Race for 24 Sussex: With 30 month and 18 month deals signed, Dion has given his successor the keys to 24 Sussex as a parting gift. But Dion has also handcuffed whoever wins the Liberal leadership race to this contract. Sure, they can break it, but that would be a political hit in and of itself.

8. The Black Swan Effect: Sure, these parties can probably find common ground on the economy. But what happens when the unexpected happens? Will the Liberals and NDP be able to find ground on foreign policy? And, taking point number 7 to one of its three possible outcomes, could the NDP and Michael Ignatieff find common ground on foreign policy?

9. No Bloc Party: Yes, I know they've worked with other parties before. And I know nothing has been promised to them. And I trust Stephane Dion more than anyone else to stand up for Canada and to not cave in to Bloc demands. But I hate the Bloc Quebecois with a fiery passion. So this just feels wrong. Especially when the first letter from the trio talks about "a majority of Canadians and Quebecers".

10. Voter Reaction: Maybe voters will grow to love the coalition. Maybe it will lead to a Liberal majority - a common result of past Liberal/NDP cooperation. But you have to at least recognize that it could backfire. You also have to recognize that after seeing the craziness of the past week, the stability of a Conservative majority will sound appealing to some voters (then again, so could a Liberal majority).

11. Mandate: Yes, I know the leader with the fewest seats can govern. Yes, I know we elect parliaments, not Prime Ministers. But at the end of the day, Stephen Harper got 38% of the vote and Stephane Dion got 26%. The Conservatives got 143 seats and the Liberals got 77. Heck, even the Liberal-NDP coalition only got 114. So, from a purely conceptual point of view, this doesn't feel completely right.


Now, I could easily write counter-arguments to each of those 11 points of uneasiness (and I just might...). And in the end, the coalition is likely necessary because of Harper's unwillingness to compromise and the need for a government willing to deal with the economy. We've likely passed the point of no return, so the goal now is to make the best of it. But everyone involved should be aware of what's in the waters we're sailing into.

Labels:

103 Comments:

  • Your comments are so sane they made me laugh -- the hysteria and hyperbole of the last couple of days has been making my head spin.

    I'm troubled too. As a life long Liberal I think we've made a very serious blunder here.

    We might get back into government next week, but my gut says that we're not going to stay there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 AM  

  • What happens if the PQ and ADQ team up in a coalition to toss Charest after the Quebec election?

    Would Liberals then agree that a deal like this is good?

    By Anonymous Quebec Grit, at 8:32 AM  

  • Thank you for this - it's wonderful to read a thoughtful analysis of the real situation rather than the incredible hyperbole.

    And I agree with anon above - I'm not at all sure this is a good thing. As much as I would prefer a progressive government, going this route seems to be risky indeed.

    By Blogger David Harrison, at 8:47 AM  

  • The worst part of this entire mess is the political pressure being put onto the Governor-General from all sides. I don't think rallies outside her home, calls, faxes, or e-mails are appropriate whatsoever. It's one thing to lobby an MP. It's quite another to tell the Crown how to act.

    The Crown should be an impartial protector of the Constitution. Any attempt to push the Crown in a given direction is an attempt to politicize the Head of State, which shakes the foundations of our nation.

    I also think there is a threat of the "losing" side of this argument to turn displeasure with the G-Gs decision into an entirely new anti-monarchist discussion. Our constitutional monarchy is based on 800 or so years of parliamentary tradition. We shouldn't throw it away for short-term gain.

    By Blogger Rob, at 8:49 AM  

  • I think the best outcome might be to actually force Harper to save his government at ANY cost.

    So far we have him spying on opposition parties and recklessly attacking Quebec. By the end of the week we're likely going to have him for shutting down parliament.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 8:54 AM  

  • Like your blog says "But since the man has shown himself incapable of compromise, the coalition has every right to exercise their combined majority in the House of Commons and take control"

    And many other blogs say the same thing about Harper(hard to work with), but when a liberal dominated senate sits on conservative bills and makes everything they do so much more difficult, we get no comment from the left complaining they are hard to work with. When Harper is hard to work with, its time to bring down the government.

    By Blogger FredM, at 9:15 AM  

  • CG, you've captured my thoughts nicely. Further to point 11, while I would have preferred to see a Liberal government in the last election, that's simply not what happened. If the coalition forms a gov't, we will be going from a gov't which received less than half the vote to a gov't which received no popular vote whatsoever.

    As you say, the western alienation issue is huge as well. Well, huge if one assumes the Liberals care about western Canada. From their actions with respect to this coalition, I can only assume they don't. I'm in BC and voted Liberal in a riding the Liberals have won the last few elections, but I don't think I will be voting Liberal next election.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 9:17 AM  

  • Robert:

    I think the best outcome might be to actually force Harper to save his government at ANY cost.

    So far we have him spying on opposition parties and recklessly attacking Quebec. By the end of the week we're likely going to have him for shutting down parliament.


    Maybe the best political result for the opposition, but I can't see how shutting down Parliament is a particularly good result for the country.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 9:19 AM  

  • So that I can understand - Bob Rae is behind Stefan Sh&^ 4 Brains entering a coalition government where he will sit as PM until May 2nd? And Bob Rae is the former NDP premier of Ontario? And Bob Rae is a Liberal leadership candidate? So if Bob Rae becomes Liberal leader effectively the NDP will be running the country? How comforting. And you're afraid of Harper being a meanie? And I haven't mentioned that none of this could happen without the "SEPERATISTS" from Quebec helping out... This is what you call "progressive"? I'm sorry, if I was a Liberal I'd give myself a swift kick in the ass...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:34 AM  

  • It's definitely time for Harper to go, but I'm terribly uneasy with this method. I agree with you on every single point you make, and I'd add in that surely some federalist Quebec support for the LPC will fall off.

    I'm stunned how many Liberals, NDPers, and progressives in general have flocked to cheerlead this idea - it's loaded with opportunities, but also very serious dangers and possible consequences. Fools rush in where the wiser fear to tread. But of course, risk carries reward, too, so who knows.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 9:50 AM  

  • That's the point, Ian. The country needs to see the truth; that Harper will, without hesitation, put his own ambitions ahead of the welfare of the nation.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 10:00 AM  

  • Dan, an excellent excellent post.

    Underneath it all, the problem is that leaders of both sides have taken politics very personally. Personal attacks have been made, certainly, but as a rule a politician needs to avoid taking matters personally. It is about serving the country and not about you.

    Obviously, as the Prime Minister, Harper takes the lions share of the blame for creating this mess. If he had once shown a tidbit of caring about our Constitutional democracy and Parliament, we would have long since moved on to taking care of the country's business.

    But we have not done ourselves any favours at all. While the coalition would most certainly be constitutional and democratic, despite Harper's lies and attacks on our Constitution, it would as you say not have a clear mandate. It would lack a sense of legitimacy and would certainly not have the moral authority that one prefers in a government. Plus, there is a far greater political risk to each of the opposition parties, most especially the Liberals, while governing. All the more so since, in opposition, the Cons can be organizing, fundraising, plotting and milking the anger that is out there (which is bringing Conservatives together much more quickly, in bigger numbers than the other side - they are showing much more passion and anger for their position than we are).

    But you play with the cards you are dealt.

    Personally, if the coalition were to ask me, I would not be aiming for two and a half years (the NDP deal) or even 18 months (the Bloc deal), but promise Canadians two simple things:

    1) they would take immediate action on the economy in a manner consistent with the needs and demands of Canadians and the actions of all other market-driven economies; and

    2) they would go to the public for a mandate at the most practical time after some stability has been gained in the economy and in Parliament, but not to exceed 1 year.

    That would highlight the raison d'etre of the coalition - the economy and the Conservatives' inability to govern democratically in a Parliamentary system and to respond responsibly to an economic and now a political crisis - and provide an answer to the legitimate concerns about mandate and legitimacy and democracy.

    And if I was asked by a Liberal leadership candidate, if the coalition takes over government, I would announce that I would move as quickly as possible to an election before the end of 2009.

    But so far, no one is asking me.

    By Blogger Ted, at 10:01 AM  

  • I think your comments are well taken. But your Point 11 just doesn't hold any water for me. Three main reasons:

    1) Perspectives on democracy: the vote v. the result.

    We all know when seats are arrived at using the first-past-the-post, interesting results can occur. Yes, Harper did receive 38% and 143seats. But the Liberals and NDP received 43% of the vote.

    This is not an argument for rep-by-pop, it just shows that the coalition has an equal claim to democratic legitimacy. Particularly when taken with...

    2) Minority governments are not majorities.

    Harper, as minority PM, must earn the confidence of the House. He chose to take the House to the brink. Steve, meet Joe Clark.

    3) Coalition is more stable than Harper

    What guarantee that Harper will not try another stunt again (in a couple months? A week? A day? 4 hours? 35 seconds?) should he survive this one? An arrangement such as this would go further to ensure stable government for Canada for 2.5 years than Stephen Harper has.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:07 AM  

  • Want to know why I voted for you in the blog awards? How you've handled these events is a great example ...

    1. Your interest/passion for politics is obvious, and contagious.

    2. Your understanding of politics is impressive.

    3. You don't put your personal leanings on the fence, and yet ...

    4. You are not blindly partisan.

    Still, let me give you some perspective. You saying you're looking forward to seeing Dion sworn in as PM gives most of Canada the same feeling as if some right-winger had said they're looking forward to seeing Stockwell Day sworn in as PM, had a situation like that arose years ago. Dion was defined by the opposition/media, got his ass kicked, struggles in one of the languages, is greatly misunderstood everywhere but a few select regions of the country, and never really enjoyed the support of his party. If he had a hot daughter-in-law, he's be Stockwell II. And you want him to be PM?

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:25 AM  

  • I think Harper is going to hammer away on the Bloc link until the coalition actually takes power, and then he is going to hammer away on the deficit. Deficits do NOT sell. Not anymore, anyway. Yes, the public could be "educated" about their short term merits. But Harper already floated that trial balloon and evidently ended up decided the public couldn't be educated in this way. Presumably his polling on the point has some validity.

    There needs to be an exit strategy with respect to the deficit, and the public is not going to be forgiving if the economy is growing. The IMF is currently projecting Canadian GDP will grow in 2009. The only G7 country for which that is true.

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 10:26 AM  

  • "Yes, Harper did receive 38% and 143seats. But the Liberals and NDP received 43% of the vote."

    What, pray tell, were the percentages of previous Liberal majorities?

    Only 2 majority gov'ts in Canada's history garnered 50% or better, so that's a dumb argument.

    We do NOT elect parliament by popular vote but by seats held. That's the deal, always has been.

    By Blogger Candace, at 10:29 AM  

  • I find your lack of faith disturbing. I might have known we could never trust a closet Tory like you.

    By Anonymous jason townsend's clone, at 10:35 AM  

  • You don't think that in future the NDP can still support the Liberals on a vote-by-vote basis, just like they're now supporting (occasionally) the Cons?

    By Blogger Jesse, at 10:40 AM  

  • Robert:

    That's the point, Ian. The country needs to see the truth; that Harper will, without hesitation, put his own ambitions ahead of the welfare of the nation.

    Right now, I'd say that would be a fair conclusion with respect to all of the party leaders.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 10:48 AM  

  • FredM - without the Senate, who would spellcheck Vic Toews' and Stockwell Day's legislation?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 AM  

  • If the coalition doesn't fix the electoral system so that strategic voting is pointless, then they will suffer next election. But at least Stephen Harper won't still be Prime Minister at that point either.

    By Blogger Saskboy, at 10:50 AM  

  • "...in the end, the coalition is likely necessary because of Harper's unwillingness to compromise and the need for a government willing to deal with the economy."

    And there you have it.

    Like most of the country, I am apprehensive too, but at the moment I do not see that we have any choice in the matter.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 10:59 AM  

  • Despite my misgivings, I think the coalition now has the moral right to govern.

    Harper was given a mandate, yes, but he was told by the voters to work with the opposition party. He chose to go against them, thus ignoring the will of the Canadian electorate. And now he is suffering.

    It is alarming to see Harper willing to break the country in order to hold on to power.

    By Blogger mezba, at 11:01 AM  

  • Right now, I'd say that would be a fair conclusion with respect to all of the party leaders.
    Agreed -- there's no more good guys left in this fight.


    Harper was given a mandate, yes, but he was told by the voters to work with the opposition party.
    That's a very strong, resonant point to me.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 11:05 AM  

  • And in the end, the coalition is likely necessary because of Harper's unwillingness to compromise

    Harper has backed down on the $1.95, backed down on the right to strike issue, and promised a stimulus package in January after Obama has played his cards. What more compromise do you want?

    By Blogger The Rat, at 11:06 AM  

  • Its interesting that just a few weeks ago Liberals were telling us that we had to "Stop Harper" at ALL cost. Now some people are not so sure if they REALLY want to get rid of Harper if it might give the NDP a teeny bit of legitimacy.

    If you really think that Harper is a danger to Canada than supporters of all the progressive opposition parties - Liberal, NDP, BQ and Green must ENTHUSIASTICALLY back this "coalition for sane government"

    If the coalition were to fall apart because of Liberals backing out - progressive Canadians will NEVER forgive the Liberal party - ever!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:08 AM  

  • "What more compromise do you want?"

    I can think of a few more things Harper could offer. Firing Flaherty, reversing all cuts to arts and culture and making a signed declaration that for the rest of the current parliament ONLY budgets and Throne Speeches are to be considered confidence measures - all other bills can be freely voted down by the opposition parties without any risk of forcing a new election.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:10 AM  

  • Dan,
    Great post. You are cementing your reputation as a level-headed Liberal (far too few these days, at least those that get any ink).

    I'm certainly not looking forward to Dion as PM, but the rest of the post rings true.

    The fact that some doofus earlier called you a "closet Tory" also brought a welcome smile to my face this morning.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:30 AM  

  • Slightly off topic, but important regardless, I think: Rogers just laid off its most popular blogger at Macleans, Megapundit. I was enjoying his extremely entertaining review of the "Big Mess".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:34 AM  

  • What more would I like as far as compromise goes?

    1. Harper to go on TV tonight and appologize for his mistakes in all of this. This should be followed with an open offer to sit down with the opposition parties and find a compromise.

    2. Commitement for a major stimulus package in January (he's been very vague on this point so far).

    I think if Harper did that, he would come across as very reasonable and public opinion would swing his way. The combative approach he's using might also get some public support, but it's not going to get us out of this mess - and it makes the coalition more likely, not less likely.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:44 AM  

  • Right now, I'd say that would be a fair conclusion with respect to all of the party leaders.

    Why do you say that, Ian? The opposition parties haven't actually done anything yet beyond politiking and making advance plans in the event certain scenarios unfold. Harper is the only one who has so far actually done anything by postponing a vote on the legislation he introduced.

    By Blogger Robert McClelland, at 11:48 AM  

  • Here's a question: why has no one called for Harper's - and only Harper's - head, rather than the entire Tory governments'?

    As a Tory, I wouldn't go for it. But I'm surprised no one on the other side has asked for this.

    By Blogger ALW, at 12:04 PM  

  • Calgary Grit,

    As a lost Calgary Liberal in the GTA like you, I understand your fear of all the shenanigans. However, I have a greater fear, and that fear goes by the name of Harper.

    Two months ago, the guy looked straight in the eyes of all Canadians, and told them that there was no recession - when that was the reason the election was called the first possible moment after the summer.

    The guy is a lying, arrogant twit. I want an honest, decent leader as PM. If it can occur within our democratic parliament, I WANT IT NOW. I do not want to wait as long as the Americans had to to get rid of Bush!

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 12:26 PM  

  • This is quibbling, but:

    You write of "coalition precedence", but you mean "a coalition precedent" or "coalition precedents".

    A precedence is an ordering of things; a precedent is an item in this ordering. AFAIK in the legal or political sense one always speaks of "precedent" or "precedents".

    I'm guessing all the confusion comes ultimately from the fact that "precedents" and "precedence" are homonyms.

    Sorry to nitpick but I'm allergic to these kind of mistakes.

    By Blogger saphorr, at 12:28 PM  

  • Thanks for the post. I think I feel somewhat the same way. While part of me enjoys the thought of Dion being Prime Minister, I still have an uneasy feeling about all of this.

    By Blogger Bailey, at 12:44 PM  

  • Outstanding overview.

    By Blogger Matt, at 12:53 PM  

  • "Harper should compromise..."

    1. Harper is compromising. Public sector strike ban - gone. Public financing, here to say (despite favourable polling numbers). Fiscal stimulus? Coming in the next budget.

    2. If Harper should compromise, perhaps the opposition should OFFER A GOD DAMN COMPROMISE. Their position isn't even "do everything we say or we will form a coalition." It is "we will form a coalition."

    3. As I understand it the only quibble is about the size and speed of an eventual stimulus. If the coalition's raison d'etre is that the stimulus should be immediate I fail to see how forming an alternate government that doesn't have a budget planned, and that will need to take months to put one together (too many cooks spoil the broth) is the logical solution to that problem.

    The opposition has no credibility on the issue of compromise. They are relying on the media stereotype of Harper as a bully (he is), and media deference to Dion, who is a pustule devoid of principle.

    PS: dear Harper, please don't prorogue.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 12:53 PM  

  • MississaugaPete,

    The Americans haven't yet declared an official recession yet and we are doing much better financially than they are. Can you please show us all some valid proof from the government and not some left wing university study that we are in an official recession. Then i would like to see the proof that Harper called the election because of a recession. And lastly maybe you can let us know who the "decent" leader is that you so desperately want, because as of now no party leader seems to have full backing even from their own parties, yeah sorry to break your heart but i don't think Iggy is happy with this idea. Lets see some depth or proof and meaning to your drive by rhetoric.

    By Blogger FredM, at 1:04 PM  

  • ". Commitement for a major stimulus package in January (he's been very vague on this point so far)."

    Tell us, CG, what should we stimulate?

    Who gets the booty?

    By Anonymous The exorcist, at 1:14 PM  

  • And as a voter I dont give a damn about the number of seats in the coalition being more than the conservatives or the legalities of the matter if its legal or not. My problem is this. Canada whole heatedly did not want the policies of the liberals even less the NDP policies. You all say we didnt vote for the PM we voted for the MP and this may be true but we also voted for the policies of the (conservative) party. Did most Canadians want higher taxes through a green plan? No. So we voted against it by picking another policy. Are the majority of people going to get that policy, nope. Since the other 3 parties had different policies and none of them won, than us as Canadians shouldn't have those policies put on us.

    By Blogger FredM, at 1:19 PM  

  • Robert:

    "Right now, I'd say that would be a fair conclusion with respect to all of the party leaders."

    Why do you say that, Ian? The opposition parties haven't actually done anything yet beyond politiking and making advance plans in the event certain scenarios unfold. Harper is the only one who has so far actually done anything by postponing a vote on the legislation he introduced.


    In my view, the opposition was entitled (and right) to make it clear that they would vote down the fiscal "update". One might argue that their position was motivated more by self-preservation than by any desire to do right by Canada, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

    However, when they went beyond that and took steps to form a coalition to replace the government, they were acting in their own interests (or their own perceived interests, as the likely backlash, particularly as against the Liberals, is huge), not the interests of the country.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 1:33 PM  

  • FredM,

    The U.S. has been in a recession for close to a year (since December 2007) says:

    http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/01/news/economy/recession/index.htm?postversion=2008120112

    "It's official: Recession since Dec. '07
    The National Bureau of Economic Research declares what most Americans already knew: the downturn has been going on for some time."

    How am I to prove that Harper called the election because of the recession? Can I extrapolate that part of his manipulative brain and hand it over to you on a platter? No, I can't.

    However, I do know that a PM does not call by-elections if one expects to call a national election:

    July 5, 2008:

    http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=1&id=2201

    "Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that by-elections will be held on Monday, September 8, 2008 in the ridings of Guelph (Ontario), Westmount-Ville Marie (Quebec) and Saint Lambert (Quebec)."

    and August 7, 2008:

    http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=1&id=2227

    "Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that a by-election will be held on Monday, September 22, 2008 in the riding of Don Valley West (Ontario)."

    AND THEN, ALL OF A SUDDEN, 3 WEEKS LATER (WHAT HAPPENED?), WE HAVE A NATIONAL ELECTION

    Definition 1. of Decent on Dictionary.com: "conforming to the recognized standard of propriety, good taste, modesty, etc., as in behavior or speech" like decent Dion.

    By Blogger MississaugaPeter, at 1:42 PM  

  • IanS said

    "not the interests of the country."

    You are correct if they want to act in the countries best interests then they will have to implement all the conservatives policies(the ones we voted for) and not there's. I think people are getting to wrapped up in names and numbers, we do vote for policies also. Yeah the coalition has more numbers but that is 3 different policies. I may not like harper but i like conservative policies and that's what I want, the policies i voted for where the most popular. I don't want the green shaft or more social programs and gutting the army or higher taxes.

    By Blogger FredM, at 1:44 PM  

  • "Plus, I have this rule of thumb that any move that makes Jack Layton grin from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat is a bad move." I couldn't agree more, and with your comments in general - fantastic post Dan.

    By Blogger Duncan, at 1:48 PM  

  • MississaugaPete,

    You said Harper called it because we are in a recession, yet you cant prove Canada is in one and you cant prove Harper called it for that reason. Decent Dion, this may be true but decent doesn't always make a good PM and that is why his own party is replacing him.

    By Blogger FredM, at 1:52 PM  

  • "Harper should compromise on the FU, the opposition should back him."

    Rescind elimination of public funding. Check.

    Rescind strike ban. Check.

    Limit equalization to economic growth. Gilles loses on this one.

    Move up stimulus. Check.

    Still to come:

    Sign premiers up for the budget stimulus items.

    Humble Pie

    Sheer Fantasy:

    Sackcloth and ashes
    Tories to call leper whenever they approach the enlightened opposition.
    Dion as PM

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:54 PM  

  • The Globe is suggesting Harper will try to prorogue parliament:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081203.wPOLcoalition1203/BNStory/politics/home

    I think that would be a serious error and would completely play into the hands of the Liberals. If he tries this he should fall on his sword and resign ASAP.

    To FredM: on the recession issue, the saying goes, if the USA catches a cold, Canada gets the flu. Canada may not be in trouble yet, but locales like Vancouver have big real-estate bubbles of their own and we will follow the states in time. This credit bubble has been obvious for an eternity to anyone who's had even a cursory knowledge of the situation. Blogs like Calculated Risk have been following the story for years.

    By Blogger Robert McLeod, at 2:12 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 2:19 PM  

  • Hard to say how proroguing would play in all of this.

    It's certainly not something Harper SHOULD do at a time when he lacks the confidence of the house.

    But, politically, it's probably his only way to save power and turn it all around.

    Interesting times...very reminiscent of PMPM's televised address back in spring '05.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:21 PM  

  • There is an embedded new National Energy Program in the Coalition Policy Statement on the cap-and-trade by taking the IDEOLOGICAL by using 1990 standard. After a decade of inaction, the 1990 standard is an ideological standard, NOT a practical or reasonable standard.

    This represents a huge transfer of wealth from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Southern Ontario and Quebec.

    The Coalition is severely underrepresented in Western Canada.

    The Coalition has offered no words of assurance to Western Canadians.

    Both Harper and the Coalition have taken ideological stands which are jeopardizing national unity and the country.

    Note: I think Harper should fall on his sword, and I don't question the constitutional legitimacy of what the Coalition is doing.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 2:21 PM  

  • ``As you say, the western alienation issue is huge as well. Well, huge if one assumes the Liberals care about western Canada. From their actions with respect to this coalition, I can only assume they don't``

    IanS,

    You don't seem to appreciation the gravity of the situation. It's not about western alienation. It's about survival.

    The price of oil is $47. Can we afford to do nothing for the west and the rest of Canada if the price of oil falls to $30?

    The Americans have gone from a growth rate of +5% (3rd Qtr 2007) to a contraction in 3rd Qtr 2008. In the next six months, I guestimate that the contraction will be 2% to 5%.

    Why? There were severe structural imbalances and bad loans. But, the major problem was the Bush Administration. Fed Chairman Bernacke bought six months of time with rate cuts, but the Bush/Paulson conservatives messed it up badly.

    Canada cannot afford to have a contraction on that scale. That is, unemployment of 7% to 10%. Therefore, we can't afford a conservative government that does nothing until it's too late.

    In British Columbia, the rate of home ownership has risen by 15% points in 10 years to 65%. We cannot afford a major contraction. That is, mass foreclosures, plunging property values and despair. The most likely outcome is a big swing to the left.

    That said, what does the coalition badly need to do? The coalition must address the disquiet about the new political animal. What Faustian bargain has the LPC struck with the NDP? What deal has the members of the new government done with the separatists?

    We are on the verge of a new political era. We will have minority governments. It is a structural issue. Will it be a coalition of the centre right or centre left?

    In the end, it's in the hands of the conservatives in the CPC. It's their choice! Will their leader be a guy who can only accept a majority, or a guy who can work with others?

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:28 PM  

  • If the coalition IS sworn in, I do hope they'll make efforts to reach out to the West - not just in terms of Cabinet influence, but also in terms of policy decisions.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:54 PM  

  • If the coalition IS sworn in, I do hope they'll make efforts to reach out to the West - not just in terms of Cabinet influence, but also in terms of policy decisions.

    Me too. My fear, though, is that the emergency "stimulus" package will turn out to be no more than billions of dollars funneled to industries located in Ontario / Quebec. I hope I'm wrong on that, but I don't think so.

    And, even if they do, I still think the backlash against the Liberals will be enormous.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 2:59 PM  

  • The bizarre thing about this whole travesty is how badly Harper played his cards. Here he was, a kingdom with three neighbours each half his size or less. Rather than playing divide and conquer, he announced his intention to burn their crop-fields and hence unified them against them. Terrible, terrible strategy.

    The situation the Liberal party finds itself in is very similar to that of the Republicans in the USA. They have found their fund-raising abilities hampered by new campaign financing legislation and increasingly a regional party with a solid core but no strength on the periphery. They would be best left largely to their own circular firing squad.

    Why Harper felt he should take his weakened enemies and utterly destroy them is beyond me. It's strategically much more devious to keep weak opponents you understand around to act as your punching bags. By going for the kill he's almost ensuring that there will be significant reform of the left political spectrum. A unified centre-left party would thump the conservatives almost all the time (as long as the NDP was kept away from Finance).

    By Blogger Robert McLeod, at 3:01 PM  

  • The economy is sinking and the Conservatives have shown, once again, that they are unfit to rule.

    The only option for the CURRENTLY EXISTING elected MPs who oppose the Cons is to form a coalition, which they have every legal right to do.

    The Cons lack the confidence of the House.

    They should be defeated and a more democratic government should be established.

    IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT "THE WEST" THINKs. (In any case, the 'west' isn't monolithic).

    It doesn't matter what Campbell or Stelmach think.

    It doesn't matter what your Conservative friends think.

    ALL THAT MATTERS is upholding the principle of Responsible Government.

    Furthermore, if you actually care about the good initiatives which are included in the signed Economic and Political Accords, then you have no choice but to support the coalition.

    Do you want endless years of Conservative bullying, bigotry and inaction -- or do you want a responsible government that achieves what the majority of Canadians want?

    Drop your lame ass opportunistic attacks on Jack Layton. Drop your pathetic concern for the end of strategic voting (what a shallow fucking argument).

    Get with it. Get out of your Calgary bubble.

    The majority of MPs -- elected by the Majority of the public -- is doing something incredibly positive.

    You are falling right into Harpers new trap.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:04 PM  

  • "If the coalition IS sworn in, I do hope they'll make efforts to reach out to the West - not just in terms of Cabinet influence, but also in terms of policy decisions."

    If its any comfort, CG, Townsend assures as this is priority number 1 for the Bloc Quebecois.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 3:43 PM  

  • the Conservatives have shown, once again, that they are unfit to rule

    How so? Harper's behaved like a very bad PM recently, but I don't see any need to paint the entire CPC or their supporters with the same brush.

    IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT "THE WEST" THINKs. (In any case, the 'west' isn't monolithic).

    Ummmmm.... okay. Well, if it makes you feel better, I think the West got the "Fuck you, I don't give beaver's ass what you hicks think" memo, oh, about 30 years ago now.

    And I think the West is about as monolothic as any other region of Canada. In a global perspective, pretty minor, but in Canada, the West is vital and in my eyes, beloved.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 4:13 PM  

  • Once again Dan, you prove why you're one of the smartest Liberal bloggers around. I agree with you on every point you raised on why this deal is bad for the Liberal Party... which is why I'm thrilled to see some Liberals would rather stick their fingers in their ears and hum, instead of listening to you. ;-)

    By Blogger Christian Conservative, at 5:09 PM  

  • We do NOT elect parliament by popular vote but by seats held. That's the deal, always has been.

    Well, if you recount the ridings won in October with a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition, they take a majority of the seats. You could argue that the election would have played out differently had that been prearranged, but I expect that there would have been only a marginal shift to Conservative from previously Liberal voters.

    By Anonymous Shawn, at 5:11 PM  

  • Well, if you recount the ridings won in October with a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition

    Which seats are those that this L/NDP/G coalition won?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 PM  

  • You say twice that Harper is unwilling to compromise.

    The facts prove the opposite. Harper immediately removed the item which the Opposition first claimed was the problem - the elimination of the Party electoral subsidy. If you abandon your position and adopt that of your opponents, that's a pretty massive compromise.

    Then Harper further removed the suggestion of deferring the right to strike of federal civil servants for two years. That's a big compromise as well.

    But as far as precedents go, this coalition says that no future minority election result will be respected without the losers immediately crying for a "do-over".

    The economy was the central question of the last election campaign. Stephen Harper campaigned on steady, studied response to the economic crisis while Layton suggested billions of dollars of reckless spending, and Dion couldn't decide if the Liberal Carbon Tax was or wasn't key to his own campaign.

    Now we have the losing parties saying that their campaign promises are irrelevant and that they can create whatever policy they want to in order to undo the results of the election.

    It wasn't long ago that McGuinty's abandonment of campaign planks (in writing) was a huge issue for voters - and that was after he actually won the election!

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 6:50 PM  

  • "If the coalition IS sworn in, I do hope they'll make efforts to reach out to the West - not just in terms of Cabinet influence, but also in terms of policy decisions."

    Frankly they have no incentive to do so. They already need each bill they pass to benefit Quebec, Southern Ontario swing voters and unions. When those three things are prerequisites for a bill passing - and they are with these three coalition members - you don't have a room to do much for the west.

    "Gouge the west" is a viable economic platform for the coalition. A large transfer of wealth through energy policy from Alberta and Saskatchewan (and Newfoundland) risks 9 coalition seats, while making it possible to blunt the recession in more politically critical parts of the country.

    Alberta separatism is at worst a bluff, and one made by a small minority of Albertans anyway. It is not enough to prevent this coalition from doing the only thing it can to pay off the base and win swing ridings.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 6:59 PM  

  • Your concerns point exactly to why I believe that Mr. Dion has completed the work of Quebec scandals and Mr. Chretien and Mr. Martin. He has driven the near to last nail in the coffin of the Liberal party.

    Dion moved way off the center, hard to the left. He has validated the NDP, He has forfeited the Liberals historic claim to be the party of national unity in Quebec. he has set in motion a huge wave of anger and resentment in the West. I know there are only a few Liberal and NDP seats in the West but most if not all will become blue in the next election.

    The historic values and position of the Liberal party have been abandoned with nothing execpt the potentila of a short term hold on power in a rexession to gain.

    The Liberal party is being killed by its leader.

    By Anonymous Gary, at 7:44 PM  

  • And how do you KNOW that nothing has been promised to the Bloc?

    And after so many points, you still are going to toe the freakin' party line? Harper has compromised. Tell us, specifically, what more do you want him to do in terms of compromise?

    By Anonymous Peter Jay, at 7:49 PM  

  • And in the end, the coalition is likely necessary because of Harper's unwillingness to compromise

    Yet again, why the flying #&%#^@%&#$ do liberals only think "compromise" is an important principle when they are out of power? Your Reid/Pelosi fellow screamers down south have been crying over the lack of compromise since 1994, and we started hearing it here the precise minute that Stephen Harper (and not, curiously, Paul Martin) took power.

    Harper shouldn't have to compromise with you, or play nice with you, or any of these disgusting concessions the man has already made over 23 months. You are wrong about how to fix the economy, you are wrong about the changes that are needed to society, you are wrong about philosophy and metaphysics and the nature of the human soul. That the country is about to be re-handed to these liars and deceivers and pieces of flotsam against the majestic prow of human civilization is unconscionable.

    The Liberal/NDP antics are not necessary because the Conservatives "don't want to compromise". The reason that no conservative should ever give anybody left of Fred Thompson an ounce of compromise is precisely because of these antics.

    By Blogger Feynman and Coulter's Love Child, at 7:58 PM  

  • CG, I'd agree with you completely, but Harper is about to shoot himself in the foot with this proroguing nonsense.

    If he was smart, he'd let the opposition take him out. Look like the underdog, unfairly hurt by those evil, evil separatists. Canadians will love him.

    But then again, Conservatives may axe him the second he loses his job. I guess he needs to ask himself what is more important, him being PM, or a Tory being PM?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:13 PM  

  • "CG, I'd agree with you completely, but Harper is about to shoot himself in the foot with this proroguing nonsense."

    It depends. First-off he didn't announce anything publicly (though it looks like Dion attacked him for it - I can't find a video of Dion, just read the text).

    Secondly, a conditional prorogation where he gave up most of his prime ministerial powers might be more acceptable (polling data, incidentally suggests Canadians oppose prorogation and a coalition in the same numbers... and oppose an election to boot).

    Thirdly, the budget provides a good opportunity to compromise without having to back down necessarily. While it also gives him time to run a large campaign.

    Fourthly, and let me say there should be compromise (I cringed while reading Coulter's love child's comments... so lovechild, does that mean Obama shouldn't compromise with the GOP minority), but that the coalition has not offered a bargaining position.

    I say that last point without wanting to get into a blame game. If we devolve this into a blame game we will never have compromise (PS: want to take bets on the time before somebody says "we should have compromise... from the other guys... its all their fault")

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 8:36 PM  

  • QuébecGrit wonders: What happens if the PQ and ADQ team up in a coalition to toss Charest after the Quebec election? Would Liberals then agree that a deal like this is good?

    The answer to that would be: the Liberals would doubtless resort to actual murder. Hey, they have already broken all other sections of the Criminal Code. The only criminal offence they have not tried yet (to the best of our knowledge) is murder.

    By Anonymous Werner Patels, at 9:25 PM  

  • If its any comfort, CG, Townsend assures as this is priority number 1 for the Bloc Quebecois.

    Heh. Good one, centurion!

    By Blogger Möbius, at 9:28 PM  

  • Harper should be given more time to show that he can reach a compromise with the other parties: New throne speech, and budget on Jan 27th. Therefore, proroguing is smart.

    As already mentioned, the Tories compromised on the FU. They'll likely compromise on the budget as well. Michaelle Jean should give the Tories a chance to deliver (Propose? Table? Whatever the word is) a budget. If the opposition chooses to defeat the Tories based on that budget, then so be it. The coalition is allowed to take over.

    I think this is the smartest option.

    Besides, the coalition is already cracking. Ignatieff won't do more than watch from the sidelines, Manley and McKenna denied any involvement as consultants, and Liberal MP Valeriote is openly denouncing the coalition.

    To add a 12th point: Imagine (although not likely) the PQ winning the election on Monday. Pauline Marois has already publicly stated this is a golden opportunity for Quebec, if the Bloc wields power in Ottawa. Imagine further (also highly unlikely) a referendum in Quebec... who would lead the No forces? Gilles Duceppe?...

    By Blogger Mike514, at 9:45 PM  

  • There's no mandate to "compromise" here. On details, yes, like campaign finance. But's that's been removed from this confidence bill. At issue is whether to engage in a massive auto sector bailout, and to ram it in virtually overnight without waiting for Obama's plan. If that's NOT the root issue, then why doesn't this wait until the Jan 27 Budget? Bring the govt down then. It is the timing that is creating the optics issues here. By forcing this so soon after the last election, it ties the GG's hands so that another election request can't be granted.

    A bailout of forestry, which would help BC, is extremely difficult because the Americans would have a golden excuse to rip up the last agreement and hike protectionist tariffs.

    Harper is far more likely to get forced out if he DOES bring in Prentice at Finance (Mr Govt Intervention when he ran Industry) and agree to an instant spending spree. The Reform people simply won't tolerate a massive auto industry bailout, and they would likely rebel against a punitive cap-and-trade emissions regime as well. Fact is, it is difficult to read a mandate for urgent spending in the October election.

    Canada's economy has done comparatively well in 2008. You'd think the govt would be rewarded. Instead the govt is overthrown? Legal or not, it makes no intuitive sense.

    By Blogger Brian Dell, at 10:06 PM  

  • Mike514

    "Harper should be given more time to show that he can reach a compromise with the other parties: New throne speech, and budget on Jan 27th. Therefore, proroguing is smart."

    Agreed except I would change Harper to someone else. Prorogue then resign.

    I have this feeling though that the GG won't let Harper prorogue. Why should she let a PM prorogue just because he's scared and there is a coalition ready.

    By Blogger Degenerasian, at 10:53 PM  

  • Very Sane and Rational thinking.

    I think if Harper was sane and rational for the interests of his party he would walk to the Sussex Drive and give over power. Take the statesman role. Announce his resignation as Conservative leader and a leadership race and give the reigns to a pretty weak coalition.

    Let them govern for a few month maybe a year or 2 possibly through a global recession. See how happy Canadians are with this coalition as th economy gets weaker, a new PM is installed without a general election.... Then Prentice or McKay or someone else can fight an election and actually win a majority.

    Instead he will fight tooth and nail and lose any politcal capital he or his party has to keep power while Layton, Dion and even May and the Green's lose any political capital they have as well.

    What is a given is that ALL the leaders of ALL the national parties are hungry for power and are sacrificing the future for short term power. The only winner here is Ducepe ad the Bloc.

    It is truly sad.

    I actually hope for a coalition so that all these faces can disappear and we can have new leadership for all these parties. An election in 45 days is just going to be the same old idiots and a sub 50% voter turnout.

    Recently I have voted Green and Conservative. I don't think I can vote for the Green Party with May as the leader who is out to get Harper not lead the environmental movement.... nor Harper who I picked as by far the most competent leader of the fools we can choose from.

    I, like many wanted a Conservative minority... keeping them in check and letting the other parties do so.

    Anyway this whole thing is disgusting.

    The NDP, Liberals and Cons said in the recent election campiagn they would DEFINATELY not run a deficiet and now this coalition wants to literally throw tens of billions of dollars on a fire like the US did. We don't need to do this.

    Hsrper after mentioning NOTHING about it in a recent election campaign wants to rejig the entire party financing method in the names of frugallity... saving relatively little amounts of money to taxpayers but uteerly decimating everyone of it's opponents. Harper who had BEATEN his opponents into submission and who could govern as if he had a majority for the most part was not satisified with merely have beaten the dog(s) into almost utter submission he wnated to douse them with gasoline and light them on fire.

    By Anonymous Rob, at 1:10 AM  

  • Which seats are those that this L/NDP/G coalition won?

    Here is the data (OpenOffice spreadsheet). The first case is the Elections Canada validated results, where the number of votes listed in the Independent/Other column is the largest number received by a single candidate (e.g. Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley shows the votes for Bill Casey (IND) rather than Rick Simpson (IND)). The subsequent cases combine: Liberal and NDP; Liberal and Green; and Liberal, NDP, and Green.

    Liberal-NDP alone gets very close to a majority with 153 seats, and Liberal-NDP-Green does reach one with 176. Interestingly, the two Independent seats are unaffected.

    By Anonymous Shawn, at 8:26 AM  

  • Shawn, that would be relevant if the L/NDP/G ran as a coalition.

    But they made clear to voters before the votes were cast that there was never going to be any such coalition.

    You cannot change the question after the people have had their say. At best, I would suggest that you're talking a maximum likely support for such a coalition, not a likely level of support.

    Most would presume that a significant fraction of those voters would have changed their vote had a coalition been in the cards. Even a 10% reduction leaves your argument with a lower seat total than that won by the Conservatives outright.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 10:29 PM  

  • I don't disagree that those numbers would be different had there been a coalition advertised. But a "significant fraction?" Given the Conservative pickups in rural Ontario, are there really that many Lib-Con swingers that didn't already decide it was okay to vote Conservative this time? I'd argue that with the carbon tax proposal playing such a prominent role in the campaign, it's unlikely that anyone who still voted Liberal would have switched to the CPC had a majority been possible via some concessions to NDP priorities (anyone remember the 2005 budget?).

    And anyway, the entire point of the demonstration was that outside AB and SK, a majority voted for the Liberals, NDP, or BQ. Calling a constitutionally-acceptable coalition "illegitimate" on the grounds that none of its members alone won a plurality is absurd.

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