Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 2: Return to the Coalition Crisis

We've known it was coming for two years. As expected, Stephen Harper jumped out of the gate trying to make this election all about the coalition.

Initially, the opposition parties played along. Jack Layton made it perfectly clear the NDP was for sale or rent. Gilles Duceppe prattled on about his 2004 deal with Stephen Harper - yes, it makes Harper look like a hypocrite, but it keeps people talking about coalitions, so I don't think Steve minds too much.

For his part, Michael Ignatieff dodged the question, talking about red doors and blue doors. One reporter shouted out "if you don't answer this now, we'll ask you every day this campaign!". Stephen Harper must have been grinning from ear to ear.

Left with no option, Ignatieff issued a statement yesterday categorically ruling a coalition out. So the real question is whether this lances the boil, or if Iggy will have to carry the coalition gorilla on his back for the entire campaign?

Not surprisingly, Harper refuses to take no for an answer, so we're going to keep hearing about the coalition boogeyman in stump speeches and Tory attack ads. I suspect some people will believe what they hear - the coalition is still fresh in the public's mind and, as Tom Flanagan says, it doesn't have to be true, it just has to sound plausible. Still, the media can't very well ask Ignatieff about it every day and, if they do, he has an easy answer. The issues of the first few days rarely become the issues of the campaign when they're dealt with properly. How many times was Harper asked about same sex marriage in the 2005 election after he gave a clear answer on day 1?

Like Harper in 2005, Ignatieff now needs to take control of the narrative - talking about coalitions doesn't do him any good, even if it's about Harper experimenting in a hotel room with the socialists and separatists with it in his youth.

Hopefully, Ignatieff's clear answer to the coalition question will let him move on.



  • There is a modestly tough follow-up question, though: if you oppose a coalition, why did you sign off on one, and later say as leader "coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition!"

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 8:53 p.m.  

  • Oh! the 'C' word
    The really interesting one is the CBC's Compass
    Is the Mother Corp (sorry another 'c') trying to influence voting?
    Note the 4 quadrants.
    Interesting that the NDP, Libs and Greens are in the SAME quadrant.
    How absurd!!!!
    Both on social and economic measures the Greens belong in the same or close to the CPC.
    Well that's what you get when a the CBC hires students to create a analysis.
    I urge everyone to ignore the Compass and the implore the CBC to shut it down and stop flogging it at every opportunity.
    Its flawed and I expect the astute CG will agree

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:04 p.m.  

  • @hoosier Sure but there are alot more interesting questions to be asked, like about healthcare, daycare, defense spending, or government transparency on budget costs


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:06 p.m.  

  • I don't think he categorically ruled out a coalition. He left himself enough wiggle room that I think it will still happen, and Ignatieff is probably planning scenarios dealing with this. Just watch!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:20 p.m.  

  • I was thinking the same - that coalition talk of any kind is to Harper's advantage. But the backlash has been pretty big and if the media turn on Harper and start asking persistent questions about what he was up to in 2004 (Duceppe and Layton have both made devastating comments about Harper's actions in those days) then the whole coalition nonsense could be a major blow to Harper's credibility.

    By Anonymous Jeff, at 10:26 p.m.  

  • "@hoosier Sure but there are alot more interesting questions to be asked, like about healthcare, daycare, defense spending, or government transparency on budget costs"

    Interesting? Or important? I think just the latter - which is unfortunate (but hey, I'm a cynic). Ignatieff needs to talk about a bigger issue than the coalition, namely the economy. The issues or ethics aren't going to turn the page sufficiently.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 11:25 p.m.  

  • I really think that a positive coalition narrative needs to be started. Since when were cooperation and playing nice together bad things? Harper's kids play on hockey teams, and a coalition is just that, a team where the individuals work together for the common good. By ruling it out, Ignatieff distances the Liberals from the ideal cooperative situation and puts himself in limbo. It may just cost him the election (since the electorate may buy into the fear tactics).

    By Blogger Ian, at 11:55 p.m.  

  • Seems that even though Ignatieff has ruled out a coalition, the public don't believe him at his word...

    By Anonymous Savant, at 12:42 a.m.  

  • Ignatieff made clear enough in his statement that he intends to topple a Minority Conservative Government at the earliest opportunity, and replace it with a Minority Liberal Government without the benefit of any "formal" written coalition agreements. What he may promise informally and not in writing is anyone's guess: he has backroom troops just as anyone does.

    His statement starts off with the implausible premise that the Liberals start off with a Minority Government and are immediately toppled by the second-place Conservatives, with the expectation that the Conservatives would form Government in that case.

    But this is transparent enough that (reading the polls as Ignatieff does) he is recognizing the Conservatives will win the election, perhaps with a Minority. "If" they are toppled, his logic follows, then no matter how badly the Liberals perform in the election, Ignatieff says that he gets to form Government and run the country even if that Government doesn't survive two days - and remains in power during yet another election.

    Canadians need to recognize Ignatieff's statement for what it is: a claim that no matter who Canadians elect, he will seek power.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:14 a.m.  

  • Left with no option, Ignatieff issued a statement yesterday categorically ruling a coalition out.

    That statement only covers what he'll do if the Liberals win the most seats. It says nothing about what might happen if there's another Conservative minority.

    Andrew Coyne reports that David McGuinty called him to say that still it applied if the CPC wins the most seats. But if that's really the official Liberal position, shouldn't it revealed in an official manner, like in a news release or a statement from their Leader?

    One of their candidates saying it to a reporter in a private phone conversation doesn't really cut it, IMHO.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 2:39 a.m.  

  • Maybe someone can give me a straight answer to this: the LPC presser, as written, excludes the possibility of a coalition *or* a formal arrangement with the BQ.

    But, the presser *only* excludes the possibility of a coalition with "other federalist parties" (ie, the NDP). In other words, a formal arrangement is still possible with the NDP.

    I have to believe the press release was carefully written, so the distinction wasn't accidental. So my question is, what does it mean? What sort of formal arrangements with the NDP does Ignatieff & Co. have in mind?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:18 a.m.  

  • Why won't Iggy cancel the existing Liberal NDP coalition agreement, the one that calls for a Joint Cabinet & Management Team, the one that Iggy signed and is valid until June 30th ??

    why won't Iggy just tear up the document?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:55 a.m.  

  • IH - I thought that loophole might exist too when I read the document, but I think the bullet points are in reference to the Liberals "forming government", not just winning the most seats.

    Either way, there will be a dozen video clips of Ignatieff categorically ruling it out under any circumstances, so I think he's basically laid down his position.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:48 a.m.  

  • H2H - It's a fair follow up question.

    I think the honest answer would be, he signed the deal because his party leader signed it so he had to go along. And the "coalition if neccesary" line was to put pressure on Harper.

    But yes, those would likely be fair questions. And, since Ignatieff WILL be getting them, he better have a good answer.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 10:49 a.m.  

  • Will the media go after Harper about his hypocrisy with respect to his two coalition positions (2004 and 2011)? If not, why not?

    By Anonymous Jeff, at 1:37 p.m.  

  • Jeff, it was front page news on the Globe and Star yesterday (at least on their web editions). However, while it certainly exposes some hypocrisy by Harper, I don't think it helps the Liberals. Regardless of the fact that Harper was willing to form an alliance with the Bloc in 2004 (something featured in Liberal attack ads), I don't think anybody expects him to do so now.

    The same is not true of Ignatieff. Leger just conducted a poll ( )which found that only 17% of Canadians thought Ignatieff had no intention of forming a coalition with the Bloc and NDP.

    Moreover, the numbers resemble a perfect wedge issue:
    95% of Tories are dead-set against a coalition, along with 1/3rd of Liberals and Dippers. The coalition issue emboldens Harper's base, while softening Ignatieff's. The saving grace for Ignatieff is that it is a low-profile issue. That is why it is essential to turn the page - even if it means losing that particular argument.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 2:00 p.m.  

  • Yeah, I don't think it helps the Liberals to attack Harper on the coalition, if only because it gets people talking about coalitions.

    Better to let the entire issue fade away quietly.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:18 p.m.  

  • I agree with CG 100%. Don't talk about coalitions, and hope it fades away.

    Even if they say they won't form a coalition under any circumstances, people still won't believe them because that's what Dion said in the 2008 campaign.

    But there are bigger rocks and bigger hard places.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 3:11 p.m.  

  • Talk MORE about coalitions.

    It's a coalition of the Reform and PC Parties that put Harper in power.

    Cooperation and working together is a GOOD thing and something government should reflect more often, not less.

    By Blogger Jacques Beau Vert, at 4:06 p.m.  

  • I found this very interesting, please tell me where it shows that the three want to overthrow the government of the day.

    Clown Party

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:12 p.m.  

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