Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Past the point of no return?

I'll admit I was always of the opinion that this coalition would never come to pass but, after watching the trio's press conference yesterday, it certainly seems like a very real possibility.

So the question now becomes - is it inevitable?

The internal problems appear to have been resolved and the major principles for power sharing have been agreed to. Yes, I suspect there will be power struggles, dissension in the ranks, and policy differences, but those problems will manifest themselves down the road, not within the next six days.

The leaders have already signed a pact so it seems unlikely that any amount of public pressure will cause a strategic retreat. With a signed letter declaring their lack of confidence, Harper proroguing simply doesn't seem like a constitutionally-valid or politically-sensible option. The only way to turn this train around would be for Harper to admit he made a mistake and accept most of the opposition's policy proposals (ie. a 30 billion dollar stimulus package).

So let's say for a second that the man who loathes compromise decides to suck it up and makes a gesture of reconciliation. Would the opposition accept? It would be the responsible thing to do, but there are still two large obstacles. First of all, Harper may have poisoned the well to the point where they simply refuse to work with him. Secondly, this deal offers the promise of more power than any of the three leaders involved will ever see during their political careers. It would certainly take a lot for them to willingly surrender that.

In other words, the accidental leadership candidate may very well soon become the accidental Prime Minister.

Labels:

81 Comments:

  • And if a new Conservative Leader approaches the Governor-General, asking for prorogation?

    By Blogger Rob, at 8:20 AM  

  • There is nothing Harper can do to save himself. The opposition parties repeatedly stated that Harper has irretrievably poisioned the relations between government and Parliament.

    The Conservative government's only chance to survive is to dump Harper and appoint a new leader now. I doubt they will do it. Who would take charge? A new Conservative leader would have no guarantee that the opposition would rescind their deal. If the new leader failed to save the government, he would find himself replaced quickly. It is unlikely that any of the few Conservatives who could command enough respect to unite the Conservative caucus and regain Parliament's trust would risk their political career to clean up Harper's mess.

    By Anonymous KOL, at 8:29 AM  

  • You say "First of all, Harper may have poisoned the well to the point where they simply refuse to work with him. "

    You are sounding like the liberals where always there to vote and help when needed, when actually the opposite is true. I'm not saying conservatives are easy to work with but don't write like the liberals where perfect and easy to deal with also.

    then you say "Secondly, this deal offers the promise of more power than any of the three leaders involved will ever see during their political careers."

    Power none of them deserve.

    What makes anybody think the liberals have the power here, its the bloc(a separatist party) that will control everything. I would give a little credit to the libs and NDP if they did this alone, but lets face it the libs and NDP f'd up because they cant do anything with out the bloc. All you liberal supporters can sugar coat it any way you want but there will be a heavy price to pay when the bloc starts making ridicules demands and people start to catch on as to why the bloc can do what ever they want with no opposition. Because the libs and NDP put them in that position. All the liberal blogs are so proud of what they accomplished yet nobody wants to admit it the bloc actually running things now, or the coalition will not exist. Good luck with that.

    By Blogger FredM, at 8:59 AM  

  • And just as a side note the liberal and NDP constituents dont even have a say in future policies anymore, because now everything has to be agreed upon by the bloc, no matter what the constituents want. If the constituents don't want a stimulus package but the bloc does, to bad. Real nice democratic deal. Thanks

    By Blogger FredM, at 9:05 AM  

  • Actually, turn the page around, and look at this from a Quebec sovereignist's point of view:

    The Bloc Quebecois will be supporting a coalition government headed by the author of the Clarity Act. This Government will be installed at the blessing of the representative of the Queen of England.

    In one fell swoop, the Bloc has sold out everything they stand for. If the government does well for Quebec, it proves that working within the federation can work well for soft nationalists. English Canada now has a chance to prove to francophone Quebec that Canada can work for them.

    By Blogger Rob, at 9:10 AM  

  • I'm not keen on working with the Bloc either, but Harper has used their support pass budgets and legislation before.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:12 AM  

  • Read the deal, FredM. The Bloc has agreed to support the government in all matters of confidence for 18 months. Duceppe publicly announced yesterday what he expected from the coalition's economic update and budget. The government will write the budget and the Bloc will support it. Only a monumentally stupid and provocative measure could jeopardize Bloc support. After witnessing the past week's events, I doubt the coalition would be so foolish as to repeat Harper's fatal mistake.

    Besides, if by some miracle the Conservative government survives, it will have to compromise with the opposition. If the NDP and Liberal constituents lose their say in policy because they must rely on a third party, as you claim, surely the same holds true for the Conservatives. Isn't that the whole point of minority government?

    By Anonymous KOL, at 9:12 AM  

  • The only way for the Conservative government to survive is for Harper to fall on his sword, and let another Conservative MP seek the confidence of the Commons as PM.

    Harper is the reason the Opposition is defeating the government. The Conservative Party has to offer up a new leader willing to work with the Opposition. This is the only possilbe way for the Conservative minority to survive.

    Harper's only hope is the GG calls an election, but the Conservative Party should NOT take that risk, since the coalition is a fully legitimate option for the GG to consider.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 9:25 AM  

  • Hebert was saying on the CBC last night that one of the things that really interested her was that the Bloc has now committed to voting with the Liberal-Democrats on budget issues; which would seem to undermine the traditional party line that only they can represent Quebec in Ottawa. Duceppe is now going to wear the actions of the Canadian government.

    Interesting times.

    By Blogger IslandLiberal, at 9:38 AM  

  • CG, there is a world of difference between getting support on a budget and this. If everyone always voted against the bloc then we'd never have a confidence issue.

    This is Quebec holding Canada hostage, and their chief negotiator has just been given a veto on every bill to come out of this new Parliament.

    We've also got a good chance to see the BQ run the table in Quebec whenever the next election is, since they've now demonstrated that in fact electing BQ members can get Quebec the keys to the Treasury, with the right lapdog in charge of the Liberals.

    What an awful day for federalism.

    By Anonymous john g, at 9:43 AM  

  • Kol says
    "The government will write the budget and the Bloc will support it."

    Kol lets get real here, do you think Duceppe is doing this for nothing, or just to be nice, if half that budget isn't geared towards Quebec duceppe wont be signing it. How is that good for the rest of Canada? I thought Harper catered to Quebec but they want more and why do they deserve more than anybody else? Like i said, it was a great idea and i would tip my hat to the NDP and libs if it was just them two parties. Unfortunately the libs and NDP aren't in control as much as you all think.

    By Blogger FredM, at 9:45 AM  

  • Of course Duceppe isn't doing this for nothing. He already set his terms, I hear, which include support for Quebec's ailing lumber industry -- support which I think would also play well in northern Ontario and the interior of B.C.

    As for the Conservative response, I agree that Harper has poisoned the well, and the only way to reset these events is for him to resign -- possibly prorogue to January and hand over power to a new leader -- possibly Prentice.

    That changes the reality. And while I don't think the Liberals and the NDP would back out of their coalition proposal, the Bloc would be within their rights to consider whether or not to support the new leader of the Conservatives instead.

    By Blogger James Bow, at 10:16 AM  

  • So, for the Conservatives out there, my advice would be to tone down the attacks on the Bloc. The only way to break this new coalition and maintain the confidence of a Conservative government is with Bloc support.

    By Blogger James Bow, at 10:17 AM  

  • As for the Bloc causing a problem for Canada...

    If the Bloc were to cause a problem and threaten to take down the coalition over a matter not in Canada's interests, the Conservatives could always vote to support the coalition on that issue.

    Not that the Conservatives would. They'd see it as an opportunity to put their interests first.

    Back to CGrit's post:

    "So let's say for a second that the man who loathes compromise decides to suck it up and makes a gesture of reconciliation. Would the opposition accept?"

    You have to know that even if Harper conceded every point, if left in power, he would erode it every chance he got, and would wage ("rage") a dishonest, defamatory PR war to convince the public otherwise.

    Don't trust him.

    Harper is who he is. He sees opposition to himself as disloyal and wrongful.

    By Blogger Mark Francis, at 10:17 AM  

  • My God - Dion? Are they mad? This is surely the most cynical move ever in Canadian politics. What kind of jack ass would ever support this unholy alliance - oh yeah, a pinhead lefty who is desperate for power. I'd like to see the polling numbers when they ever come out. Election, prorogue or have Curly, Larry and Mo run the show - what a holy f%$# up - thanks you Grit a$#*&^%.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:35 AM  

  • Anybody's guess what'll happen. Harper's resignation seems the best option.

    I'm disappointed - he's a smart and very, very capable man, but he's let angry passion get the best of him and cloud his judgment. From what I know of Prentice, he sounds like a good choice, but heck, maybe they'll offer up Jason Kenney.


    BTW I agree with Rob, this is more a case of the Bloc being sucked into federalism, in my view. Which is not to say I like them being part of the coalition in any informal or formal way. But I think Rob's take on it is the right one.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 10:38 AM  

  • For all those commenting against the BQ having a say, do you think for an instant that MPs from Toronto do not hold the party hostage from time to time? Gun control issues? Also, if anyone shoved Quebec Nationalism down our throats, it was Harper. By introducing the Quebec nation motion in the middle of Liberal Leadership, when candidates were trying to build support in Quebec, he forced most of the normally federalist Liberals to buy-in. He also forced his normally “Canadian nationalist” conservatives to follow party line. Of all our current MPs, Harper did more to fuel the fires of nationalist sentiment in Quebec than anyone. Moreover, he did not do it for sound policy reasons, he did it to suck up and win more seats. We all know how that worked out for him!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:39 AM  

  • The Tories will hype the Bloc angle because outside of the chattering classes there isn't that familiarity and modus vivendi that's grown up between the federalist parties - Tories emphatically included - and the Bloc since the minorities started in '04. To us, well, they want to wreck our country and that's a big deal, but most of the time we aren't voting on "Bill C-12, Be It Resolved That We Wreck the Country. "
    I'm sure the Tories - looking to the future when they'll want to topple the government with the Bloc - will hope there are no hard feelings. But that won't stop them and their allies from hitting talk radio and the letters to the editor page with every 'traitor' punchline they can think of.

    That, and their years long and basically very successful hit-job on Dion's character are their two primary weapons in this week's PR campaign. Both approaches have their element of farce. The Tories have never worked hand in glove with the Bloc? The guy in the process of harpooning arguably our most intimidating PM ever is a weakling?

    But they are counting on the post-election autopsy mood continuing to weaken Dion. It's up to us to be smart about stopping them.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 10:50 AM  

  • Jason Townsend is more or less right, but would have more credibility if he'd ever been annoyed with the old Liberal PR campaign against Harper. But then, Jason Townsend never had any credibility. Besides being right in his previous post, that is.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 10:53 AM  

  • "The only way to break this new coalition and maintain the confidence of a Conservative government is with Bloc support."

    Or find a dozen coalition MPs (probably Liberal) who are uneasy about being in a coalition with the NDP and the Bloc and convince them not to either vote confidence or not show up to confidence votes. Or are all Liberals united behind Dion for once?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 AM  

  • CG,

    The Liberals have betrayed anglo Quebeckers.

    Today, enjoy your victory.

    Tomorrow, accept the inevitable consequences.

    My bet says you, not Liberals, but YOU recognize how reckless this coalition is. Some Liberal MPs should switch to the Tories. If Harper has to go to make that happen, so be it. But the Bloc cannot hold the federal government ransom.

    Please think seriously about this.

    (Other Liberals on this site can laugh me off and slap each other on the back.)

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 11:24 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 11:34 AM  

  • "but would have more credibility if he'd ever been annoyed with the old Liberal PR campaign against Harper."

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure I participated in that, actually, so, fair cop. Live and learn; since then there've been years of minority deals and we've gotten used to the country not blowing up every time someone needed Bloc votes.

    Chucker: Overheated rhetoric much? I must have missed your reaction to Harper's 2004 letter to Clarkeson.

    Everybody knows this coalition isn't going to make anyone very popular, but unless and until Harper resigns there is literally no alternative for a sane opposition.

    It's all well and good to suggest that Harper's resignation is on our list of options and we're evil, evil people for not taking it, but it hasn't been offered.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 11:41 AM  

  • From my perspective its not if the government will fall, but when. Harper has lost all credibility and confidence in a majority of the elected members of the House. Period. He should not continue as Prime Minister. Period.

    Harper hasn't come to terms with this yet and frankly is the one playing a dangerous political game. How dare he jeopardize Canada's stability by holding onto power desperately.

    And while I'm glad there is a coalition government led by a Liberal Prime Minister ready in the wings to create a competent government, it will honestly be one of the weakest governments in Canadian History and thats not anything to cheer about especially as we head into economic hard times.

    I also have to admit that I'm not sure this coalition is the best thing for the LPC in the long run. The saying be "careful what you wish for" comes to mind.

    Harper will be gone, a Liberal Prime Minister back in power. But I'm concerned that the dynamics and the political landscape or favoured heavily against Dion having much success. Ultimately the instability is bad for Canada and I can't see it getting resolved without a new election.

    By Anonymous Rob C, at 11:41 AM  

  • Townsend,

    read that letter. No formal coalition.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 11:51 AM  

  • Chucker,

    So he was going to informally betray his country? It's treason if Liberals do it, it's politics if Tories do.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 12:08 PM  

  • The thought of Stephane Dion's portrait hanging in parliament alongisde Pearson, Trudeau, Diefenbaker, Mulroney, etc. is enough to make me want to wretch.

    This is a national disgrace.

    By Blogger Brock, at 12:09 PM  

  • "I'm not keen on working with the Bloc either, but Harper has used their support pass budgets and legislation before."

    Grit, two wrongs don't make a right.

    Your from Calgary so give us an honest opinion on how this is playing west of Winnipeg's perimeter highway.

    By Anonymous D. Mitchell, at 12:18 PM  

  • I can't imagine there's a Conservative riding in Canada where there isn't great irritation.

    But all of the people yelling about how 37.6% of the country cannot be undemocratically overruled haven't explained to me why 61.3 should be.

    It's very strange to work around 144 seats in a 308 seat parliament, that's for sure. But how wierd is it for 61.3% to work around 37.6?

    The 61% has had a bellyful of Stephen for almost 3 years. If the CPC machine manages to produce 'public outrage' it will be a triumph of stage management. You guys are better at freeping and outrage, so I don't rule it out.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 12:37 PM  

  • Townsend,

    I am not saying this is treason.

    What I am saying is that if you think the separatists are doing this "for the best interest of Canada" or even "the best interest of Quebec as a whole", well, we'll soon see the wisdom of this stance.

    I am simply making an appeal to Calgary Grit to consider that, until this coalition is installed, Gilles will make nicey-nice.

    Are you suggesting Gilles Duceppe is suddenly not a separatist? If you were a separatist, how would you play this situation?

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 12:48 PM  

  • Chucker - There are certainly risks in this, not just in going with the Bloc, but the NDP too.

    As I've said, the best result from all of this is that Harper compromises and stays as PM. I'd rather see that than a coalition.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 12:55 PM  

  • Respectfully, it's the cognitive dissonance of a political crisis that's colouring your view here.

    The Bloc, like the other opposition parties, primarily wants Harper out. He's been able to wage war on all the other parties far better than would have been expected after he first took office. The attempt to bankrupt the federal parties (There's no question this was the intent) signaled that that was going to intensify dramatically, not stop.

    The next step would be, what, redistricting? Other changes in electoral procedures? Harper became an intolerable threat. Stimulus and book-cooking were major issues, but it was the bankruptcy ploy that started the war, and if the coalition blinked, they would never get another chance to stop it short of a disastrous unpopular election.

    Noone is going to get what they want, policy wise, out of this government, except for the removal of Harper. Dion won't get his environmental policies, the leadership candidates won't get a normal chance at a mandate, the NDP won't get the portfolios they want, the Bloc won't get what their base expects as a good enough quid pro quo.

    They will, however, all get some of what they want. A return to the fiscal probity of the Liberal years, when a surplus meant a surplus. Moderate for Ontario and Quebec - and easily later Alberta, considering the dislocations in commodities.

    But above all they'll be rid of a man who showed himself determined to not merely beat the opposition parties, but destroy them.

    Interestingly, I think Harper's resignation is the most interesting idea floating around today - the Globe having called for it. If he did resign, might he not continue to wage his war from the cabinet benches in some Putin-esque musical chairs?

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:01 PM  

  • (Needless to say I was talking to Chucker, not CG)

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:02 PM  

  • Yes, my views are coloured. Thanks for clarity.

    I wasn't aware that the Bloc primarily wants Harper out. I'm not "in" with the Bloc as you clearly are.

    Phew. I'm glad they are shelving their life's mission for the sake of Canada.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 1:08 PM  

  • "But all of the people yelling about how 37.6% of the country cannot be undemocratically overruled haven't explained to me why 61.3 should be."

    I don't know if I'm "yelling", but I am one of those people who question the legitimacy of this coalition from a democratic standpoint.

    The key point is that the 61.3% didn't all vote for the same party of the same policies. Excluding the BQ for a moment, the Liberals obtained 26.24% of the vote and the NDP 18.2% of the vote. The Liberals and NDP did not run on identical platforms. Hence, the CPC platform received the highest percentage of the votes.

    So, what we end up with in the proposed coalition gov't is a party who's position garnered 26.2% of the vote joining up with a party who's (different) position garnered 18.2% of the vote, supported by a party who's (different) position garnered 0% of the vote outside Quebec.

    And, as PM, we have an individual who was clearly rejected for that position by Canadians in an election a short while ago.

    That doesn't seem right.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 1:13 PM  

  • Harper was removing, as the Tories repeatedly said in defending the move, 88% of their funding.

    Precisely what more do you need to know? If he attempts to blackmail the coalition he's only going to trigger an election which is very dangerous for him from a self-interested point of view.

    When have we seen this soul searching on Bloc-Tory coordination? Again, it's not the circumstances, it's that it is us instead of you doing it, and you feel cheated. I get that, anybody would. But 38% and a minority is 38% and a minority, so "feel" is the operative verb.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:15 PM  

  • The Bloc primarily wants the separation of Quebec from Canada.

    I'm with CG, it's best if Harper can compromise and stay on. But I don't know if he can do that.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:17 PM  

  • "So, what we end up with in the proposed coalition gov't is a party who's position garnered 26.2% of the vote joining up with a party who's (different) position garnered 18.2% of the vote, supported by a party who's (different) position garnered 0% of the vote outside Quebec."

    Votes inside of Quebec don't count as votes? Votes for the Greens didn't count? 61 is 61, 37 is 37. The parties which voted against you had a lot in common, and they were a sizable majority; 60-40 being the classic definition of a supermajority of 100.

    If they didn't have enough in common to be legitimate, they wouldn't have enough in common to form a coalition. If their supporters felt disenfranchised, it would be them, and not conservatives, raising a ruckus.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:19 PM  

  • I'm also not yelling, and I really like Bob Rae, but I have to question the legitimacy of the coalition -- the election was six weeks ago, and they were very, very clear about not working together.

    If it was next summer or next fall and they decided to work together, that would be different in my view. But this is a power grab.

    And Harper was still totally in the wrong.

    There are no good guys in this fight.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:20 PM  

  • Townsend,

    You're missing the point. If Liberals were saying, "we'll coordinate with the Bloc on measures we can agree with", you'd have a point. But, once Liberals are back in power, they will soon realize that they are not in power. The Bloc is.

    Bloc was sufficient for Tory confidence.

    Bloc is necessary for Liberal confidence.

    And Liberals are saying, "golly, that's just great. We're all on the same side, afterall."

    Well, if you are, its time that anglo Quebeckers, at least, know that.

    By Blogger Chuckercanuck, at 1:21 PM  

  • (And, had there been a Lib/NDP/Green coalition six weeks ago, I may well have voted for it then, depending on their platform)

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:21 PM  

  • If Harper has to go to make that happen, so be it. But the Bloc cannot hold the federal government ransom.

    I know that Chucker thinks the world of him - I'd bet Harper's the most inspirational politician Chucker's seen in his life, and I remember the story of the first time Chucker ever saw Harper speak and decided to sign up on his team immediately.

    That's quite a sacrifice you're willing to offer up in the name of national unity, mister. You're a big person to say so, my friend.

    As I've said, the best result from all of this is that Harper compromises and stays as PM. I'd rather see that than a coalition.

    Likewise, it's very few Liberals/NPDers who can see the bad, bad news in this coalition idea. CG's one of the very small minority who'd rather see Harper bend and stay on in the name of mature, turmoil-less governance.

    That's why I read these two blogs. If we had Chucker and CG in Ottawa, we'd all be much, much better off, and I think we all have a lot to learn from their attitudes.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:28 PM  

  • You're simply imagining parliamentary alignments to suit your argument.

    (Throughout all of these discussions it's taken for granted that the Tories have decided to vote against all bills. This assumption is, in and of itself, laughable.)

    The Tory government prior to the election was a sad hostage to fortune if one chose to look at the parliamentary fractions and compare the ideological divisions of the parties. Comparatively speaking, this coalition, being entirely centre-left, is stabler than that. I hesitate to say it's stabler than the large Harper majority would have been had Harper governed responsibly, but he certainly didn't.

    Duceppe and his lot want two things out of any government; quid pro quo, and keeping the lights on. The worst case scenario is if the Conservatives attempt to boycott parliament in situ in order to make Bloc support permanently and ubiquitously necessary; the result of this will be not the breakup or sellout of the country but merely governmental dysfunction and an election.

    I don't think the government will last 30 months, but I'm also not haunted by these partisan visions.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:29 PM  

  • Pardon me, "than the large Harper minority would have been."

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:30 PM  

  • Jason:

    "Votes inside of Quebec don't count as votes? Votes for the Greens didn't count? 61 is 61, 37 is 37. The parties which voted against you had a lot in common, and they were a sizable majority; 60-40 being the classic definition of a supermajority of 100."

    Of course that's not what I'm saying. Read what I wrote. My point is that the people who did not vote for the CPC (including myself) did not all vote for the same thing.

    And, as for "you", I have always voted Liberal, so your attempt to discredit my point on that assertion fails as well.


    "If they didn't have enough in common to be legitimate, they wouldn't have enough in common to form a coalition."

    If by "enough in common" you mean a desire to have more power, you are clearly correct. However, as set out above, I question the democratic legitimacy of such a motive for "combining" percentages as you suggest.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 1:32 PM  

  • JT is no CG.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:33 PM  

  • What's the betting money on the number of MPs from each of the coalition parties desperately trying to get the flu before Monday???? I mean they can't all be raving idiots..., can they????

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:35 PM  

  • And, as for "you", I have always voted Liberal, so your attempt to discredit my point on that assertion fails as well.

    Sorry Ian, you just don't follow Jason's logic -- if you dissent, you're obviously from an "enemy" party.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:35 PM  

  • The endgame is simple:

    Whoever delivers Harper's head on a platter first gets to govern.

    The Conservative minority will survive if the Conservative Caucus does it before the Coalition has a chance to.

    By Blogger whyshouldIsellyourwheat, at 1:37 PM  

  • I think WSISYW may be onto something here.

    If it's gotta be that way, I hope it's Prentice - a moderate, respected Westerner is the way to go here, in my personal view.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:40 PM  

  • Ian: I didn't mean to insult you, I thought you were a Tory.

    I don't agree that the NDP, Liberals and Bloc are all that different in terms of domestic policy; there are obvious, sometimes glaring cases in which that's true, but they all have more in common in terms of their understanding of the social contract when compared with the CPC. You're the most disconcerted member of a coalition party I've met, and I've been talking to people about this since Thursday.

    I think that 26.26%, 18.18%, 9.98% and 6.78% of Canadians voted for parties which Harper tried to put out of business on Wednesday, and that they'll be reasonably content to see their representatives see that he isn't allowed to continue along those lines.

    They can also probably at least as well as Harper did in meeting the policy demands of Canadians, given the greater congruence of their views with more of the population.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:41 PM  

  • Ian: I didn't mean to insult you, I thought you were a Tory.

    ie. "Oops, had I only known you were a Liberal, I would have offered up a response based on totally different emotions. But please everybody, keep listening to my totally and wholly objective opinions!"

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:44 PM  

  • I agree the Libs/NDP/Bloc(and Greens) have more in common than not.

    However, Ian is hardly the most disconcerted member of one that I'm aware of. CG seems disconcerted - I certainly am.

    I guess we're all secretly Tories!

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 1:47 PM  

  • I think you could make your points without the psychodrama. If the coalition parties' membership prefer Harper to a coalition I'm confident they'll make it known.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 1:55 PM  

  • I think you could make your points without the psychodrama.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 2:01 PM  

  • "Ian: I didn't mean to insult you, I thought you were a Tory."

    No offense taken. In fact, I don't think being called a tory is an insult.


    "I don't agree that the NDP, Liberals and Bloc are all that different in terms of domestic policy; there are obvious, sometimes glaring cases in which that's true, but they all have more in common in terms of their understanding of the social contract when compared with the CPC."

    Of course there are overlaps, but there are also significant differences, the most obvious being the agenda of the BQ. I just can't help but think that the only real similarity between them in this situation is the desire for power.


    "You're the most disconcerted member of a coalition party I've met, and I've been talking to people about this since Thursday."

    To be clear, I'm not a member of the Liberal party. I just vote for them. Or, at least, I used to vote for them.

    It's possible my views are affected by the fact that I live in western Canada. I don't vote CPC and don't care for Harper at all, but I can't help but note that the CPC received pretty overwhelming support in western Canada. Their replacement in such a fashion gives me a pretty queasy feeling.

    "I think that 26.26%, 18.18%, 9.98% and 6.78% of Canadians voted for parties which Harper tried to put out of business on Wednesday, and that they'll be reasonably content to see their representatives see that he isn't allowed to continue along those lines."

    With respect, you are confusing two issues.

    The opposition parties were more than entitled to object to Harper's attempt to cut their funding and, in my view, he deserved a pretty big slap down for doing what he did. Mission accomplished.

    However, when the opposition go beyond that and try to replace the CPC as they are doing now, I object, for the reasons set out in my earlier posts.

    "They can also probably at least as well as Harper did in meeting the policy demands of Canadians, given the greater congruence of their views with more of the population."

    The electorate disagreed with that assertion. And I see little congruence between my views and the views of the BQ, to be honest.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 2:10 PM  

  • "If the coalition parties' membership prefer Harper to a coalition I'm confident they'll make it known."

    I prefer Harper to a coalition.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 2:12 PM  

  • Good blog today Calgary Grit, its nice to be a conservative supporter and share comments on a liberal blog with out being sworn at, yelled at or insulted. This is one of the few.

    By Blogger FredM, at 2:15 PM  

  • Bo: 5 of your last 6 posts have included personalizing remarks directed at me. My posts have been substantive and forthright in what they said, what they assumed, and in their respect for other people's legitimate opinions. Get serious.

    "I just can't help but think that the only real similarity between them in this situation is the desire for power."

    Even if one thought of it exclusively in party political terms, can the opposition really risk Harper continuing tricks like Wednesday's party funding cut? There won't be another chance to stop him without the conventional game of election chicken.

    "However, when the opposition go beyond that and try to replace the CPC as they are doing now, I object, for the reasons set out in my earlier posts."

    That's fair; but in my view, when Norman Bates puts down the knife, you don't go for a shower. If we take a "symbolic victory" in forcing legislative changes, there won't be another opportunity to poleaxe Harper like this if he once again tried to take a hardline approach to the rules of the game. This is only possible because of the recency of the election.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 2:24 PM  

  • If this goes through, I'll be interested to see what happens for western separatism. Not the localized, ineffective angry farmer separatism that we've seen up to now but a full-on formalized movement. Kind of like the Bloc is but for Western Canada. You can't legitmize one regional separatism movement, reward it with national powers and then be surprised when other regions start thinking the same way.

    By Anonymous Darren, at 2:29 PM  

  • I have to imagine Alberta will be up in arms over this - they weren't happy after 2004 when the adscam Libs got re-elected, this will play even worse.

    By Anonymous Another Calgary Grit, at 2:38 PM  

  • I didn't mean to insult you, I thought you were a Tory.

    Best comment ever!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:39 PM  

  • Jason said:

    Even if one thought of it exclusively in party political terms, can the opposition really risk Harper continuing tricks like Wednesday's party funding cut? There won't be another chance to stop him without the conventional game of election chicken.

    Two points in reply:

    1. The other parties all raised issues concerning Harper's hidden agenda etc. during the election and were unable to convince Canadians that this was a legitimate reason to get rid of the CPC gov't.

    2. Yes, in a minority gov't, the opposition has the ability to vote down legislation and, where that legislation represents a confidence issue, to trigger a new election. That's how the system is supposed to work and, up until the point where the opposition decided to try and replace the CPC, that was the way it was working.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 2:39 PM  

  • IanS:

    The first point is a judgment call, I guess. On the second, I'd disagree that it's "how the system is supposed to work."

    The system doesn't have a way to work for prolonged minorities; they weren't built into the system, which is why it's unclear when a government can be replaced. The Lascelles Principles, which were the British constitutional convention arrived at from study of King-Byng, suggested that it could happen whenever there was a viable alternative government and no need for an election. This, however, was a British, not Canadian, precedent and in the absence of minorities, was never tried.

    The Canadian precedent is in Ontario provincial politics, in which a similar scenario to the current one was played out, with the government ultimately being replaced. I think more than anything that's why constitutional opinion has been coalition-friendly - moreso than I expected - in this crisis.

    It doesn't really make sense to have an election every time a minority falls unless the parliament is deadlocked; deadlock, not change of ministry, is how governments with permanent minorities change. The alternatives are continuous elections or continuous (increasingly unworkable) blackmail.

    With that said, there is no consensus that that will become the practice in Canada. If it were, the Tories could, for example, take government back, with the election occurring when parliament outlived its term, rather than whenever a government lost confidence.

    Both our electoral system and our system of treating confidence are unsuited for a 5 party system, with 4 of those parties holding real parliamentary blocs.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 3:00 PM  

  • Jason:

    The first point is a judgment call, I guess.

    We will have to disagree on that point. The election results represent hard figures and Harper and his hidden, right wing agenda formed a big part of the other parties' pitch to the electorate.


    On the second, I'd disagree that it's "how the system is supposed to work."

    I agree that our system doesn't necessarily handle minority governments well for extended periods of time, but it does function in minority situations, as we saw in the previous Harper government.

    Further, in my view, it makes more sense to have an election when a minority falls than it does to change the government. By way of example, what if the current coalition proposal succeeds, but the CPC subsequently make a better offer to the BQ? I don't know what the Liberals / NDP have promised to the BQ to get its support, but what if the CPC offer more and the Liberal / NDP / BQ coalition is replaced by the CPC / BQ coalition? Do we get a new government?

    In my opinion, political manoeuvers like that should be put to the electorate.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 3:43 PM  

  • The problem is that without the possibility for governments to shift, the choice of government is arbitrary relevant to the actual makeup of parliamentary factions as a whole.

    That is to say, each election, we only give one party a kick at the can - not necessarily the party best equipped to govern given the makeup of parliament.

    For example it's my understanding that if we had an election after a week of chaos and, as it happened, we had a similar parliament returned, we would still have another Tory government formed, because that is their right, even though the Liberals and the NDP still had a more viable governing coalition.

    In a complicated minority government, the first person to get a kick at the cat isn't the person with the best chance of governing; it's the person who either was PM before or won the largest plurality. Those two qualifications are not the same as having the best governing majority.

    I don't even know, incidentally, if a deadlocked election after this crisis -would- automatically lead to a Tory PM; perhaps in such a situation the GG is again asked to figure out who to call upon.

    A fixed-term parliament which only dissolved if hopelessly deadlocked would work. The Bloc couldn't threaten an election, and couldn't get anything which our political parties knew not to offer them. However much I might disapprove of Harper's sense of democracy I don't think he or his party would sell out the country; neither would the Liberals and NDP.

    "The first point is a judgment call, I guess.

    We will have to disagree on that point"

    Well, I suppose that was my polite way of saying the same thing. The hidden agenda was not a major campaign theme, simply because it's a dead horse that once and for all lost its juice in 2006. And even if it were - which it wasn't - that doesn't mean that the Canadian public gave advanced approvals of all hidden agendas. There's a certain comic appeal to the idea, but no.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 4:01 PM  

  • Jason:

    I'll respond without the quotes.

    In my view, each election should result in one government, absent extraordinary circumstances. The solution to the problem you identify - the succession of deadlocked parliaments - is for the Liberals / NDP / BQ coalition (or even just the Liberals / NDP) to run as a coalition in the next election, with a common platform. If they do that, and get a majority of the votes, they are good to go.



    On the second point, to the extent you are arguing that the "Harper hidden agenda" was a major election theme, I will have to disagree again. Based on what I saw and heard, it was.

    By Anonymous IanS, at 4:10 PM  

  • Oops... my penultimate sentence should have read "... was NOT a major election theme".

    By Anonymous IanS, at 4:18 PM  

  • Well, I campaigned for the Liberal Party this fall, and I didn't encounter it at all.

    On the one hand I think among Liberals it's universally accepted that Harper would prefer to govern more as a Reform Prime Minister, and would if he had a majority. But because it was the theme of both of Paul Martin's election campaigns - the second time becoming something of a national punchline - it's junk as an election them, except in preaching to the choir.

    By Blogger Jason Townsend, at 4:19 PM  

  • True Jason, but on the bright side, my remarks are only personalized towards you when yours are personalized towards others. Goose, meet gander!

    Don't worry, I'm entirely serious -- I seriously realize that you'd be spinning in an entirely different direction if the old Reform and PC parties tried to form a coalition with the Bloc and unseat the Liberals less than two months after an election.

    In the end, it's all just politics, and none of it is governance. And if we can't quarrel over politics, what, may I ask, can we quarrel over?

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 4:33 PM  

  • There's a world of difference between accepting votes from BQ MPs, and putting them into Government (even if not into Cabinet), as the Liberals under Dion, Ignatieff, and Rae are plotting. Really, Dion seems to be the Bloc's only hope of having ever formed Government in Canada.

    Never mind the unification of the Liberal and NDP parties under the leadership of Jack Layton. Has he yet announced his intention to replace Dion in May?

    The GG must also consider that voters had the opportunity just a few weeks ago to vote in favour of the disastrous spending plans now being proposed, and rejected them in favour of a more studied approach.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 5:50 PM  

  • In answer to the question about Albertans' view on the subject:

    There is probably no "good time" for this to happen, but now is just about the worst time I can think of. Westerners were finally just feeling that they had some measure of representation. We Albertans had benevolent indifference from the CPC - there were no handouts here, and GHG emissions differences were going to come to a head, but could be worked out.

    Now, we are confronted by the spectacle of losing essentially all of our elected support in cabinet, to be replaced by people who think we have money sitting around to "re-allocate" by various means to the rest of Canada. We don't. The combination of severe commodity price declines, and inflation from the significant population growth we have seen for the past several years are taking a big toll on both the public treasury and business' balance sheets.

    Many companies in the oil and gas sector - not two-bit juniors but large companies like Husky, EnCana, etc. are laying people off. Coming as it has from a period of aggressive hiring and labour shortages this is very worrisome.

    In this environment, Westerners are not going to roll over and play nice. Without exaggeration, I think you have a real prospect of separatist parties (or at least separatist tendencies forming within existing parties) before the next provincial elections in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:51 PM  

  • My apologies... that last bit should have ended with the separatism bit being contingent on the Lib/NDP/Bloc Coalition taking power.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:54 PM  

  • I'm not keen on working with the Bloc either, but Harper has used their support pass budgets and legislation before.

    He never used their support to topple a standing government, elected with an increased number of seats.

    The centre-right voters the LPC lost with Dion, and were beginning to win back? Where will they go?

    By Blogger Möbius, at 6:59 PM  

  • Alberta and Sask will have representation in cabinet in the form of Linda Duncan and Ralph Goodale. Less than now, of course, but that's more than Trudeau had from 1980-84. That was *during* the NEP, and while the Western Canada Concept did indeed appear, it was never much more than a marginal and transitory player.

    Paul,
    A coalition is most emphatically not any kind of merger. Period.

    Ian,
    Cooperation - and compromise - among parties in a minority parliament is a given (or should be, whatever Harper may think). Discussion of a coalition during an election is perhaps desirable, but certainly not necessary. Otherwise, this is simply not how parliamentary democracy works anywhere - we do not directly elect a PM.

    Jason,
    If I may offer a suggestion, we would do well to consider a simple constitutional amendment defining the office of prime minister. Immediately after an election, the largest "winning" party (or, indeed, group of parties) would offer its leader as a candidate for PM, who would take office only following a successful constructive vote of confidence. If the PM resigns, another vote must be held, and the same should apply for each subsequent election.

    This could be made a formal constitutional change unilaterally by Parliament (I expect), and would add a simple but powerful clarification to the accountability of the PM and government to Parliament.

    By Blogger Josh, at 7:00 PM  

  • The only way to break this new coalition and maintain the confidence of a Conservative government is with Bloc support.

    If that's what it took to stay in power, then thanks, but no thanks. It's not worth it.

    By Blogger Möbius, at 7:01 PM  

  • Don't have time to read all the comments, and I know you are DYING to hear my thoughts, so I think the CPC has to dump Harper and come forward with an appropriate stimulus package - and if they do that the opposition coalition should back down.

    There is no room here for egos to trump good management of the country.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:22 PM  

  • mobius: He did use their support to bring down Paul Martin's government in December 2005.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 8:05 PM  

  • Josh, you seem to naively believe that this coalition won't change things structurally within the NDP and Liberal Parties.

    Between now and May, many of their supporters will come to realize that the best time to discuss policy is at policy conventions, and the best way to bring everyone together is to have one policy convention, not two.

    But that will take time. In the interim, Jack! will take the reins of the Coalition from Carbon Tax Dion, and the Liberals will simply accept that they no longer have any need for a leader of their own - the leader of the combined party is their leader.

    And Rae will be seen as the next compromise as the leader of the New Liberal-Democratic Party.

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 8:43 PM  

  • I agree, Gayle.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 10:32 PM  

  • Pretty worthwhile info, thank you for the article.

    By Anonymous escorts palma, at 4:21 AM  

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