Harper’s election plan, in plain view

WELLS: Harper relishes the thought that the coalition crisis of 2008 will be repeated

by Paul Wells

Sean Kilpatrick/CP

In April 2007, the Harper government, 15 months into its first mandate, opened a 17,000-sq.-foot campaign headquarters far outside downtown Ottawa. They invited TV crews in and gave reporters a tour.

Of course Liberals took the move as evidence of a plan for an election. “They fully intend to defeat themselves at the first opportune moment,” Liberal MP David McGuinty said. “It’s clear they don’t want to do the job.” There was a lot of that talk going around. I collected money bets from senior colleagues and veteran Liberal strategists who were sure an election was weeks away.

But Stephen Harper often talks about an election to delay an election, not to hurry one along. Whatever his strengths, the Conservative leader is no mind-reader. So when he’s not entirely sure the opposition intends to leave him alone to govern, he assumes they need to be scared away from election plans.

The same sort of thing is happening this month. Michael Ignatieff took a summer-long bus tour and shook a lot of hands. The reviews were good. Perhaps the Liberal is feeling giddy. So the Conservatives are showing their teeth.

“Canadians don’t want an election,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told a lunchtime crowd in Ottawa on Monday. “Our government isn’t seeking one. But the opposition coalition—the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition—has been consistent in one thing, if only one thing: from the beginning of the global economic crisis, they have put their own self-interest above Canadians.”

In British Columbia, meanwhile, election-style campaign signs sporting the photos of smiling Conservatives have begun to spring up. These Conservatives, they like to err on the side of readiness.

When a vote does come, the Conservatives will have their lines ready. “Canadians will face a stark choice,” Flaherty told the Ottawa lunch crowd. “A majority government, one way or another. A stable, national majority under Stephen Harper’s leadership. Or the reckless coalition of Michael Ignatieff, the NDP, and the Bloc Québécois.”

Wait a minute. The opposition isn’t talking about a coalition. Flaherty had an answer for that. “Of course they deny they’ll officially join forces. But they did it before. They’ll do it again.”

Since he gave this magazine an interview for New Year’s 2009, Harper has insisted consistently that the coalition crisis of 2008 will be repeated. Actually, he seems to relish the thought. There was a buzz around town after Flaherty’s speech. Inhabitants of the capital colony had spent September telling one another decorum was the order of the day, and this talk of confrontation set off a flurry of tut-tutting. But the Prime Minister has been using almost the same rhetoric in recent campaign-style speeches delivered, on purpose, well away from most cameras and reporters.

On Sept. 14 in a wedding hall in Edwards, Ont., Harper said, “Friends, next time the choice will be either a Parliament where we Conservatives have the majority of seats, or one where the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois have the majority of seats.”

Pay no attention to the opposition’s current silence on the matter, he said. “Regardless of what they tell you during an election, they will form a coalition the day after that election is over. Last time they waited—and they found out that that meant they couldn’t get away with it without having another election.” He said the opposition could never campaign on an explicit promise to form a coalition. “They would have been slaughtered.”

I’ve noticed this line of argument repeatedly from Harper over nearly two years, and written about it often on my blog. The response from non-Conservative readers is consistent. First someone laughs at the spectacle of Harper raising this silly business of a coalition. Then someone else says, “Besides, what’s wrong with a coalition? It’d just be reflecting the will of Canadians and the rules of Parliament.”

Just so. The Liberals will dismiss talk of a coalition until the late days of an election campaign. If at that point they are within a few points of the Conservatives, either ahead or behind, they’ll face questions about how they might keep Harper from his third term. The answer is easy to predict: cacophony, as Liberals and other opposition politicians respond in different and contradictory ways under high stakes.

Harper is doing everything he can to make it obvious this is his election strategy. Of course nobody in Ottawa is paying any attention. But two conclusions are easy to draw from the line Harper has taken. First, he won’t run on elaborate policy proposals. He’s offering stability against the deluge; he’d complicate his message, and provide a target, if he offered adventure too.

Second, Harper is obviously setting himself up for trouble if he wins another minority. He’s said the only conceivable Conservative government is a majority. He’s sent his finance minister out to say the same. Why say he couldn’t govern next time with the same number of seats he governs with today?

Partly, I suspect, because he believes it. The 2008 coalition crisis was harrowing for him. He saw that pre-election denials of a coalition plan meant nothing. He really believes his only protection against a repeat lies in a majority. Does saying it out loud save him? Only the election will answer that.




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Harper’s election plan, in plain view

  1. Not a lot new here Wells. You've made most if not all of these arguments before. At least you are consistent.

    Second, Harper is obviously setting himself up for trouble if he wins another minority. He's said the only conceivable Conservative government is a majority. He's sent his finance minister out to say the same. Why say he couldn't govern next time with the same number of seats he governs with today?

    Partly, I suspect, because he believes it.

    I believe it too. Because I suspect that the threat of removing public party financing is also still out there. If an election returned a similar Parliament to what we have today, I have no problem believing that the opposition will join forces in whatever way is necessary to defeat a Throne Speech and turf Harper. Both because they hate his guts more than they hate each other, and in the interests of self preservation.

    • They could have done so at any time in the past.

      I suspect you're lying.

      • Mike T……..another progressive with nothing meaningful to say. So instead calls people names.

        • hollinm who contributes nothing to the discussion.

      • If there was going to be a coalition, we would have had it by now.

      • john g just got " miked. "

    • "threat of removing public party financing" don't you mean the 'threat of removing some public party financing while maintaining other public party financing'? I've never heard the CPC say anything about scrapping the extremely generous public matching of personal donations to parties. The tax refund on political donations is just as much a mechanism of public party financing as the per-vote subsidy is. This isn't a left-vs-right thing, all of our parties regularly engage in this kind of disingenuousness, and it rarely gets corrected in the reporting. And in this case, all of our parties are in favour of public financing.

      • Sorry, should have been more clear. Obviously I was referring to killing the per-vote subsidy, which bankrolled the other parties to the tune of 60-80% of their budgets, and the Conservatives only about 30% if I recall correctly.

        • Those numbers certainly look plausible; and that would mean that the public matching of personal donations to the CPC would account for another 40-50% of their budget

          • (although the CPC always likes to say that they raise the majority of their funding from invidividual donations, it should be common knowledge where 75% of each dollar "individually donated" actually comes from)

          • That's individual donations up to $200 only. I believe. The tax deduction then decreases in increments. Admittedly, I haven't donated in a couple of years so thresholds may have changed but the general rule is that larger donations get a lesser tax deduction on a percentage basis…

          • * for contributions between 0 and $400, you will get back 75%;
            * for contributions between $400 and $750, you will get back $300 plus 50% of the amount over $400;
            * for contributions over $750, you will get back $475 plus 33 1/3% of the amount over $750 up to a maximum of $650 annually.
            Right from the conservative website…of course they want you to know. Did they mention the LGR in the last 10 minutes?

          • So in other words, the CPC take more public money than other parties.

          • Bingo – and there's no cap on it. The more they raise, the more we pay regardless of whether there is even an election on. They have been all-out this week going for $200 donations to defeat the Long Gun Registry so I'm told. Cha-ching.

            Rather than abolish the subsidy, I would like to see it go the opposite way – abolish all other forms of fundraising. Why do they need to spend millions? We have a public broadcaster after all – they should be able to run ads free during election time and — even better — participate in meaningful debates and be subjected to in-depth interviews.

          • total agreement
            best steve

          • You're right, overall it's not exactly 75% taxpayer financed, but I think that the majority of the donations are in the $1-400 range, which all qualify for the full 75% refund from each of our taxes.

          • Typically, isn't it just a reduction in your taxable income as opposed to a full refund?

          • nope, it's not like an RRSP contribution, see Thorin's comment above.

    • It would be nice if OUR gov't could work together instead of acting like small children. the slightest wobble and all levels of gov't stop working. hey that's not right or what anybody voted for. are they stupid or just stupid. any employee of mine would be instantly fired for the type of failures and behaviour that seems to be standard. I personally cannot afford a bad gov't , how about you.
      steve

    • Public Party financing is crucial in a democracy. It is also a smoke screen. If any gov't were serious about reform…then why do political contributions warrant a 75% tax credit and charitable donations warrant 25%. If you wish to contribute to a political party…then do so…it is your right. But you should get ZERO in terms of tax credits or write downs of your taxable income.

      This is especially true since the west is booming and given the fact that they believe in a one party state…it kinda stacks the odds against everyone else.

      • Public party financing IS NOT crucial in a democracy. Political Parties are not even crucial in a democracy, let alone publicly funding them. Political Parties are quite arguably detrimental to democracy, we shouldn't be encouraging them by publicly funding them.

  2. And the really scary part about this? The hardcore supporters among the two opposition parties outside Quebec have so much rancor against Harper and his ministers that they could very well stampede their leadership into coalition talks — including an arrangement with the poison-pen Bloc.

    This would provide the Tories with all the ammunition they need, not just to energize their core, but to persuade the undecideds that a stable Tory majority is preferable to an unstable coalition. ("Unstable" because of the presence of the Bloc.)

    What's more, simple messages are easier to sell than complex ones, and Liberals are still too wedded to the complexities of public administration to create a simple, coherent messages. Right now, the only message they can agree on is "Harper's a b*st*rd, pick us instead" — and to voters disinclined to listen to politicians in the first place, that's just not good enough anymore.

    • That's your idea of scary? A coalition government representing a majority of constituencies? Perish the thought.

  3. Although Wells has taken on the mantle of soothsayer here and appears to know what Harper is thinking he is probably not far wrong.
    When Harper talks about a coalition he is not inventing a straw man. The opposition did it in 08 and then talked about coalition/merger last Spring with none other than Jean Chretien sayings let's do it. Canadians outside of Quebec reacted badly last time and unless the Libs are able to gain more seats than the Conservatives in the next election the majority of citizens will not accept the idea of a coalition.
    Canadians are sick of minority governments and so it will be up to the ROC to vote en masse for a Conservative majority government or we will continue to see the political gridlock our country is currently in with four parties trying to run the country.

    • Peter McKay was willing to sell out the Progressive Conservative Party for nothing more than a ministerial limo once, he'll do it again to the Harper Conservatives when the Opposition forms a coalition with moderate Conservatives.

      • Tell us more about this new coalition you`ve dreamed up which includes the Opposition Parties and moderate Conservatives.

        • I don't recall anybody objecting to Brian Mulroney having separatists in his Cabinet. Lucien Bouchard even went on to lead the separatist campaign to break up Canada, and almost succeeded in secession.

    • Cont.

      He's replacing "Vote for us because I would be better then the Liberals", "Vote for us because I would be better then the NDP", "Vote for us because I would be better then the Bloc" with "Vote for us because I would be better then the Coalition". That is a straw-man argument. Doubly so when you factor Harper's grandiose "There will be a majority after the next election" language.

      It's all very disingenious… I mean if an election comes and we get a parlement of similer composition to the current parlement does anyone really believe Harper is going to go to the GG and invite someone else to form government? I doubt it.

    • A Liberal majority government is an alternate to a coalition and just as likely as the 33% Conservatives getting a majority.

  4. Canadians know from experience that the Liberal party is a tax and spend party; not on what's good for the country but will keep them in power and reward their cronies. We have adscam to prove the case.
    A broad spectrum of society would have difficulty accepting Ignatieff as PM and his leadership polls are evidence of that. Although they like Layton they don't want him or his party anywhere close to the federal treasury. So the idea of a citizen of convenience, Ignatieff, and a socialitst, Layton, running the country will cause the Conservative message to ring true to the majority of the electorate during the next campaign.

    • "Canadians know from experience that the Liberal party is a tax and spend party"

      Better "tax and spend" than "cut taxes and spend even more"

      • And it's not even true! The Conservative government of Harper has spent money like they've won a time-limited shopping spree. Contrast with the Chretien/Martin Liberals who actually were fiscally conservative. To claim that the Liberals are fiscally reckless and the Conservatives fiscally prudent is the kinda mirrored reality crap that the Mad Hatter used to come up with. Is this opposite day, hollinm?

    • After 'Diamond Jim' Flaherty's increase in payroll taxes and his partisan spending orgy dressed up as 'stimulus', it is clear which party is the 'tax and spend' party : the Conservatives of Stephen Harper.

      • as I recall…. The opposition wanted to defeat the economic update…. The "stimulus" was a requirement for the government to survive. Not to mention that Layton's take on it was it was barely enough. Layton would have offered that same amount of stimulus up "immediately to get the economy rolling, as a start to fixing the economy."

        • Nobody held a gun, long or otherwise, to Harper's head and forced him to spend as much money as the Harper government did, or on the projects that they chose. 'Stimulus' was not necessary required for the Harper Conservatives to survive as a government : what was required was that they give up their plans to introduce a suicidal and insane deflationary budget, as they had originally done at the same time they cut public funding of parties. If Harper would have proceeded with this, there would almost certainly have been a very deep economic recession with much higher unemployment, not to speak of a depression.

        • So you're saying Harper sold out his values to stay in power? Yup, just one more reason not to vote for him.

        • The Conservatives were increasing govt spending 6% a year before any stimulus.

          Also Harper committed himself to stimulus spending at the G20 and G8 meetings in the fall of 2008.

          And the Conservatives continue to defend and promote their stimulus spending to this day.

          "we brought in the economic action plan and thank goodness we did" Jim Flatherty, CTV Question Period Sept. 26/10

          "we needed the stimulus and it's helping our economy" Jim Flatherty, CTV Question Period Sept. 26/10

          See and hear it for yourself at http://watch.ctv.ca/news/ctvs-question-period/sep

    • Layton and the federal treasury? Are you on crack?

      Brian Mulroney's Conservative majority added $380 billion to our national debt. Stephen Harper is following in his footsteps. Mr. Mulroney and the Conservative Party invited the "separatists" into our Parliament.

      The NDP and Liberals are the antichrist?…do get a life sir…

  5. Let's review:

    After the 2008 election, Harper/Flaherty proposed, in an economic update headed for a confidence vote, to abolish the per-vote subsidy. Regardless of why, all opposition parties were adamantly against this move. So, they would therefore vote against it.

    BUT, it's a confidence vote: voting against it means the government falls, followed by an election or a coalition government.

    Nobody wanted another election within the month of the last one. So that option was no-go.

    So, the only way was to form a coalition. Because of seat numbers, that coalition, by necessity, had to involve all three opposition parties in some way.

    Now, the question: forgetting how poorly planned and executed the coalition effort was, what other choice did the opposition parties have? Simply forfeit their democratic right to oppose policies they disagree with and watch the subsidy die? In retrospect, I think they showed significant consideration of the electorate by simply asking for UNCONDITIONAL Bloc support, rather that making them a coalition member.

    I reiterate: what other choice did opposition parties have at that time? It's an honest question. Please enlighten me.

    • It was about the per-vote subsidy?

      • Come on, you can't be serious. You of all people are not that naive. Of course it was. Harper threatened to bankrupt the opposition within months.

      • Ok, I detect some sarcasm there, but I really thought that was the main catalyst.

        • They worked hard at the time to deny that it had anything to do with the per-vote subsidy.

          • I think you're right (as if you need to be told). I had forgotten that.

            However, it doesn't affect my argument: they opposed the economic update, for whatever reason, and had the right to vote against it. So, the question remains the same: what choice did they have?

          • You are correct, they sure did; the messaging was that they were doing so because there was no stimulus in the FU. But I suspect that was only because to do otherwise would be perceived as being "entitled to their entitlements" so to speak. As I recall the idea of cutting the subsidy polled well so it might have been a tough sell to use that as the public reason for taking power, justified as it may have been.

          • Too bad Harper also went after equal pay for publicy employed women, or the argument would be stronger.

          • Yeah, that`s it…..it was an attack on women……let`s stick with that story.

          • I'm not going to comment on (and certainly not defend) the opposition messaging at the time, but the EFU was galling to me for the following reasons:
            - it projected budget surplus when it was already obvious that the Treasury had slipped into deficit over the summer
            - it projected economic growth when it was already obvious that the economy would contract along with the global downturn
            - despite projecting growth in the economy and balanced budgets, it threatened to take away public sector unions' right to strike to no apparent gain (all had been working without a contract and negotiating for over a year, and many unions for over two years)
            - despite projecting growth in the economy and balanced budgets, it threatened to scrap the pay equity within the public service to no apparent gain

          • Agreed… while the per-vote subsidy grabbed most of the attention, the ec. update was (particularly in hindsight) SO far off — laughably so.

          • I think this was the crowning (damning?) example of Stephane Dion (who I once admired)'s utter inability to define the terms of any debate, or really to communicate much of anything to the public during his time as leader of the LPC. (and I don't believe it was question of language)

          • I hasten to add, that while it was perfectly reasonable for the CPC to argue during 'the madness' that the legitimacy of the coalition was undermined because the two parties involved had just finished campaigning explicitly against such a coalition to the electorate, the legitmiacy of the EFU was also undermined because not only did the CPC say nothing about the per-vote subsidy, public sector labour rights and pay equity in the election campaign, they said nothing about these subjects in the Speech from the Throne just a short time beforehand. On the basis of the the House's approval of the Throne Speech, the CPC had the confidence of the House to govern according to the lines set out in the Throne Speech. From my cheap seats, everything went pear shaped when they veered way off from the course that they themselves had just set out in the Throne Speech with their EFU and yet continued to claim that the approval of the Throne Speech gave them a mandate to govern as they saw fit (which is not how our system is supposed to work, especially in a minority Parliament).

    • Option 1 – Step back from the brink after Harper agreed to leave the subsidy alone.

      Option 2 – Defeat the economic update and go back to the polls. You say nobody wanted another election, but nobody wanted Stephane Dion to become PM by usurping power through the back door either. Given the choice of those two options, most people would have chosen election.

      • Option 2 – They wouldn't have known that before attempting the coalition. By then, wheels were in motion.

        Option 1 – I agree they should have done that. But do you think that would have satisfied Harper? Don't you believe that his rhetoric today would be the same regardless? If so, does it make a difference whether they backed off at that point? Was the attempt to form a coalition, up to that point, legitimate?

        No one's criticizing the coalition for not backing down; they're criticizing its very existence and purported purpose.

        • In fact, they, er, did eventually do number 1. That's why the coalition isn't governing Canada right now.

    • EaA Coas……..the degree to which the opposition parties were against the elimination of the per-vote subsidy shows their financial desperation. The Libs desperately need the money as does the NDP. However, elimination of the per-vote subsidy would have reduced the influence of the Bloc in Canadian politics because they receive a significant amount of their funding from the per-vote subsidy. So Quebecers are not asked to financially support the Bloc and instead give their political donations to the PQ. The elimination of the subsidy would have hurt the Bloc more than any other party.
      Remember the oppostion did not blame the per-vote subsidy for the attempt to vote no confidence. It was because the government did not introduce a stimulus plan that the opposition wanted. Remember the per vote subsidy was withdrawn on the weekend it was announced. However, that did not stop the opposition.
      We can revisit history here but the fact remains they did a very poor job of presenting the coalition to the public. The press conference with Dion, Layton and particularly with Duceppe was an affront to the majority of the country.

      • Eas Cos…..hollinm continued:

        The press conference held by Ignatieff, Rae and LeBlanc saying they believe in the need for a coalition with Dion as PM added to annoyance of Canadians living outside of Quebec. The Conservative poll numbers and the rallies supporting the Conservative party around the country will not be forgotten in the next election. What were they to do? Nothing they were not the government. They could have waited until the budget and then defeat the government but they got greedy and did not understand what Canadians were thinking.

        • You've successfully ignored two conditions of my question:

          1) Ignore whatever reasons the opposition had for opposing the EFU.

          2) Ignore the flawed planning and execution of the coalition attempt.

          I'm asking you to ignore these two things because neither are cited by Harper or the Conservatives as reasons why the coalition is BAD. They appear to oppose the coalition in principle. My question: given the unique conditions, what else could the opposition parties have been justified to do?

          • Eas Coas……ok I will play your game and forget history.
            I don't know what Harper/Conservatives think. Unlike some on this board I am not clairvoyant.
            However, like Britain, any attempted coalition would have to include the party that won the most seats in the election. If the Conservatives get more seats than the Libs most Canadians would not like the concept of a coalition run by the losers of the election.
            However, if the Libs did win more seats than the Conservatives and they could form a coalition without the support, formal or otherwise of the Bloc, there would be an argument in favour of a coalition.
            However, any attempt by the losing parties to band together to oust the party that won the most seats in the election I suspect would not be accepted by the electorate.
            Right now the Libs would have trouble winning more seats than the Conservatives.

          • not true, a coalition can rule if it can win the support of parliament. this could be by having two or three parties with majority of votes or even two parties with less votes and soft support from another. Harper has ruled for 5 years without majority support in parliament, there is nothing to say that one of the parties ruling must have the most seats, only that the party with the most seats get first shot at forming government

          • Are you referring to "the coalition of losers" or the fact in Britain it was public knowledge for weeks during the campaign a coalition would be an option?

            I remember in 2008 both the Liberals and NDP denying any pact or possibility.

          • all parties in our system are "losers" since no one gets the majority of votes in the country. I actually disagree with the squeemishness of the NDP and Liberals have about talking about coalitions. Obviously its a possibility under our system, that doesn't mean they are stealing an election or tricking voters, but they should be upfront about it.

            Keep in mind, not everyone on discussion boards is actually defending a party position.

      • Check your history hollinm: in what year was the BQ created? In what year were the party financing rules overhauled? How many elections did the BQ fight without the per-vote subsidy? The answers may surprise you. You say "The elimination of the subsidy would have hurt the Bloc more than any other party" I would argue the opposite. The BQ continues to defy the predictions from the ROC of its eventual withering-away, and to adapt and survive. No doubt it's budget would have taken a hit, but there should be little doubt that the BQ would have one a majority of QC seats in the next election in such a hypothetical universe.

        • I agree with you, McC. However, keep in mind that, because of the funding resource overlap between the BQ and the PQ, the federal vote subsidy perversely makes it easier for the PQ to raise funds as the BQ doesn't need them. So you're right that the BQ may be able to raise fund just fine, but it will affect the collective resources of the BQ/PQ. That, in my opinion, is a good thing and worth removing the federal vote subsidy.

          Political parties will still have the tax-break advantage that other charities would kill for!

          • Quebec has an even more robust public financing regime for political parties than Canada does federally.

          • That's true and it is also my point. The BQ and PQ have to approach the same pool of individuals to raise funds. They cannot ask corporations or labor unions. Hence, the commitment of donors will be more thoroughly tested by have to fund 2 parties and not one, as is currently case.

          • Why is it a good thing? I don't like the BQ anymore than most of you seem to, but do they not have the right to free assembly? And if they have enough votes to become a federal opposition party, are they not entitled to do so?

          • Providing money to a separatist party and supporting their right to exist are two different things. I have not problem with the BQ to be elected and sit as opposition members. They have behaved responsibly, most of the time, but not all. So my comment had nothing to do with their right to exist or freedom of assembly.

            However, my point above is that providing funding to the BQ relieves them of having to raise funds at all . Therefore, the provincial separatist party, PQ, has no competitor for fund raising from individuals. Do away with the vote subsidy, and the PQ and BQ have to compete for funds.

            I am, therefore, opposed to providing an indirect benefit to the PQ.

        • Good grief, two errors in that last sentence! should look more like:
          "No doubt its budget would have taken a hit, but there should be little doubt that the BQ would have won a majority of QC seats in the next election in such a hypothetical universe."

        • Check your math since the inception of the Bloc in popular support and number of contributors to the party. Like the Liberals in 2000 the last majority was through Ontario. Since than one direction.

          The Bloc have been trending downward as well.

  6. I've got no problem with Harper asking for a majority. HOWEVER, he also has an obligation to tell Canadians what he'd do with a majority. I don't want to get all 'secret agenda' here, but there are enough questions about where he might take Canada that he'd better be very clear what his intentions are. So far, he has been anything but clear. As a voter, I'd like to be able to vote FOR something, rather than AGAINST something else.

    • Shouldn't he also be required to say what he would do with a minority parliament if he doesn't slip up and give them a good reason to band together to take him out in the opening weeks after an election.

      After all, it's the most likely thing to happen.

      • Sure… but if he's going to play the 'all-or-nothing' game, he should be very clear about what his government will do if he wins it all. Harper has pulled enough surprise policies out of his hat — like ending per-vote subsidies, or ending the long -form census — that it would be interesting to know what he'd do with unfettered power. What surprises are in store?

        • Part of saying what he would do, to my mind, would be saying what he would do if the voters returned him with a minority government. Would he give up and move to the US?

          I think it is very reasonable to ask where this talked of stability he's offering would take us, and where we would be if we said no to that, and also said no to a coalition. Like, what are our collective choices? Or are we playing poker?

          • Jenn….silly, silly, silly comments. You are better than that.

          • What was silly? A bit snarky I'll cop to, but I've been REALLY TRYING. This time I just couldn't help myself. However, I'm not going to apologize to you for that (since I'm trying and you aren't).

            But I really want to know. What would Stephen Harper do if the electorate returned him with yet another minority government. Do you know?

          • My guess, he'll shrug his shoulders, and keep on keepin'on like he has for lo these many years in the same position already.

            He'll sell majority-vs-coalition until the vote. He (and all of Canada) knows the Liberals will not get the plurality, so that's off the table anyways. After the vote, he's got a majority or a minority government — but it's one he'll be leading.

          • Well, he's just said it hasn't he. Harper would become the opposition bacause the coalition would have a majority. How can he do anything else after saying what he has.

          • I get where you're coming from and it's a legitimate question.

            He's claiming that returning him another minority isn't good enough because he can't make it work, so what happens if that's what he gets for the third time?

            I still find it weird though that their main line so far is: Give a majority because taking different perspectives into account is just killing us.

            Yeah, that'll sell. No wonder they're trying to scare everyone.

          • He'll make it work, proving once and for all, that he is Canada's greatest Parliamentarian. He will then give himself a prize and take all of Canada to Tim's for a treat after the game.

          • woohoo!

    • gottabesaid…….his agenda is lower taxes, less government and the economy. Its no secret. There is no diabolical scheme to eliminate the federal government. However, I am sure the anti Harper crowd will use the secret agenda and he is mean and a bully meme. If it hasn't worked after four years it is sure not going to work in a 38 day campaign.
      The one thing Harper has in his favour and people tend to ignore and that is all the leadership polls clearly show that Canadians do not believe that Ignatieff has the stuff to be PM i.e. trustworthiness, vision and competence. If Ignatieff brings out the old policies i.e. national daycare, free university tuition, cap and trade etc. etc. he will suffer a humiliating defeat. That may be in the cards already given he has been ineffective in really pulling the Liberal numbers up significantly to overtake the Conservatives even with the bad economy etc. etc.

      • I hold the Liberals to the same standard… they need to deliver a clear plan too. But, you can't deny that the Conservatives have introduced policies that came completely out of left (or right, I should say) field. NO INDICATION AT ALL they were coming. What surprises are in store? It's a legitimate question.

        • gottabesaid, perhaps I'm cynical, but do you mean to say the LIbs actually followed through on their Red Book promises?

          • No, I certainly didn't mean to say that. I hope the Conservatives and the Liberals are forthcoming about what they'll do if they're elected… naive as that hope might be.

          • No, it's not entirely naive to expect them to do what they said (the Cons will use that line with respect to the gun registry vote), but it is naive to expect them to do it in the face of changing situations (ie GST cancellation for the Libs or never taxing Income Trusts for the Cons).

            Sometimes forgoing an election promise is the right choice.

      • Five years as PM and some are still looking for the elusive "secret agenda". Well guess what, there never was one. Harper is the first Prime Minister that I can recall (and I can recall many) that has consistantly put Canada first. Many otherwise decent folks refuse to consider an action by Harper could be simply for the good of the country. Many indecent folks know Harper is good for Canada but refuse to admit it (MSM).

    • This is an excellent point. Harper has never really flat out said WHY he 'needs' a majority has he? I mean, has he ever really articulated what he needs a majority to accomplish that he can't with a minority? You'll forgive me if I don't think the LGR is enough to make additional swing voters yearn for an expanded mandate.

      • He has only given two answers: a) so the coalition doesn't gain power, and b) 'stability'. OK… but if you want my vote you're going to have to give me more than that. And, truth be told, I don't think what he would do is something he would like to talk about on the campaign trail. I suspect if he gets a majority, the policy changes that will come won't have been discussed at all during a campaign.

      • You're right JamesF…no other Canadian political leader has ever desired a majority government. It's a totally novel concept.

      • "The longer I am prime minister, the longer I am prime minister." S. Harper, as quoted by P. Wells, as recollected by MYL.

        Canada appears to have settled in with Harper as a PM of a minority government. So I doubt the "stability" of a Harper majority will gather much strength with the electorate: no advantage to Harper. The LGR, all the right people tell us, is far more likely to galvanize anti-LGR people into supporting CPC than pro-LGR to LPC: advantage Harper. The "not-Martin" and "not-Dion" strategies have appeared to work well, better than any actual detailed platform. "Not-Ignatieff" may just do the trick, but "not-Coalition" helps a ton: advantage Harper.

        Will all that shake out to a CPC majority? I have my doubts. But they are the ONLY party with any reasonable hope to even consider it.

  7. "Opposition parties banded together to save the long-gun registry, now they're trying to rescue the mandatory long-form census. The Liberals submitted details to the House of Commons on Thursday …. " Globe/Mail, Sept 24, 2010

    Coalition/banded together, tomato/tomahto.

    Harper's coalition message will sell itself if Oppo parties decide to band themselves together regularly to overrule the government's policies.

    • Boy, the Globe caught you hook, line, and sinker with a simple choice of words. I've got a bridge to sell you.

      I didn't see any serious negotiating between parties that resulted in explicit agreement to save the registry – at least none significant enough to compare to a coalition effort. Let's introduce some distinction, shall we?

      • Eas Cos….

        The fact is it has been established precedence that private members bills are free votes. The fact that the Libs and the Bloc whipped the caucus is a change of that precedence. Layton tried to have it both ways but he in effect made his position clear and used "moral suasion" to convince the majority of his caucus including those in rural ridings who had for years campaigned against the registry and got elected because of their opposition. Read the Chronicle Herald today. Stoffer will be lucky to win his next campaign. Whether there is a formal coalition in place is irrelevant. It is how the public perceives it. If the opposition parties begin introducing private members' bills in an effort to govern the country through the back door there will be a significant reaction. The opposition are playing with fire here.

        • "…The fact is it has been established precedence that private members bills are free votes. The fact that the Libs and the Bloc whipped the caucus is a change of that precedence…"

          And so did the CPC. What's your freaking point?

          • Did the CPC whip the vote? Are you sure? Because eliminating the LGR has long been a plank in the CPC platform, ergo one would expect most, if not all, CPC MPs to vote to… eliminate the LGR. That's not a whipped vote, that's party policy. Big difference. And a reason the CPC MPs in cities won't pay as high a price at the polls as the Liberal & NDP MPs from rural ridings – anyone paying attention knows the CPC is against the LGR. It's not rocket science.

          • And the Gun Registry is manifest Liberal policy, and everyone knows it, but there's always a few people who will differ on specific policies. Unlike the NDP they're stance has been 100% pro registry from the outset.

            So are we honestly suggesting that not a single CPC MP would've preffered to vote to keep it? Really?

            I don't buy that for a second. The only reason the issue of the CPC vote being whipped didn't come up, is because everyone knows that unless Harper calls a "free vote" ALL votes for the CPC are whipped.

            We know this because Harper has booted out anyone who voted otherwise.

    • bergkamp……you are absolutely right. This actions will be perceived by the Canadian people as a tyranny of the majority (opposition parties). After four years of political gridlock and threats of an election (or speculation about one) Canadians probably want to elect a majority government who can govern the country for four years. It is complicated enough for one party to govern let alone four particularly in these rough economic times.
      It is hard to see where the Libs can pick up seats. They are going nowhere in the West, they may hold their seats in the major urban areas but Quebec is a dead man zone outside of Montreal and the Martimes will be a crap shoot. So it is hard to see where they will pick up enough seats to win more votes than the Conservatives.

    • So, by that reasoning, on any issue where the opposition parties' interests happen to intersect and that coincidence of interest is reflected in their voting pattern in the house, that is prime facie evidence of collusion, even a dreaded coalition? They'd have to avoid voting similarly just to disprove your belief, which is a patently ridiculous approach to legislation.

      Anyway, the Libs and NDP were spitting at each in public other during the entire gun registry debate. That's evidence of a "coalition' to you? More like tomato/rutabaga than tomato/tomahto, IMO.

      • brooster….no….it proves they are left wingers including the Libs and they are trying to run the country via the back door. When will the opposition realize that the Conservatives are the government and while the opposition can criticize as they should they were never meant to run the country. The Canadian people will decide in the next election who they want to govern the country.
        Spitting at each other..Might I remind you that the NDP and the Libs fight each other in election campaigns because they are looking for the same voter. However, when Layton and Dion thought they could oust Harper they were more than happy to join forces. Nothing has changed in that respect.

        • The majority of MPs voting based on their priorities is not running anything "via the backdoor".

          That's so disingenuous you should be embarassed.

          Again, this is a democracy. We elect representatives. Those representatives vote based what they believe is right. If the majority agree, then THAT'S the direction that should be taken.

          You're trying to justify the minority over ruling the majority. That's not democracy.

      • "MPs voted 153-151 in favour of a Liberal motion that kills Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner's private member's bill … " Macleans, Sept 24

        As always, the devil is in details.

        Coalition of losers passed their own motion to defeat a Con private member's bill. I expect Harper to rev up his socialist and separatists mongering if Libs/NDP/BQ continue to pass their own motions.

        Your "tomato/rutabaga" argument would make more sense if oppo voted against Hoeppner's bill but that's not what happened yesterday.

        • It was a committee motion, not a Liberal motion. But the CPC ability to claim it was a gang-up by the "Unofficial Coalition Opposition" still applies. What doesn't help that line of thinking is that some NDP MPs still voted against the motion to kill the bill that would kill the registry. Not that this will stop the CPC from trying out the message.

    • People will recognize that the opposition parties are banding together to overrule the government's poorly planned, ideological agenda. On the gun registry and the census, this is just the opposition listening to experts. These are the experts who the government doesn't seem to pay attention to anymore, except when they are firing them.

    • That's funny. You are saying that if the opposition parties oppose, they must be in a coalition. Maybe THAT's why Harper is playing the "coaliion" game – to stop the parties from opposing him.

      • That's all well and good but oppo parties didn't oppose anything yesterday, they voted for their own motion against the Government's plans. And if coalition of losers continues to pass their own motions, than I expect Harper to increase his 'scary coalition' argument.

        Harper and his coalition rhetoric is same thing as Liberals and their 'Cons have secret agenda' meme.

        • As I say above: it was a committee motion.

    • co-operating and working together in a productive fashion are other good ways to describe it

      • Co-operating and working together in a productive fashion are indeed good ways to describe it – if they do it few more times, they'll start to look like a pretty good bet for a stable minority.

        I saw no polling results for this week but the CPC numbers have been dropping all summer and are not even close to their last election – in fact they have been neck and neck with the Liberals. So I don't see where this talk of majority arises. Excepting dramatic change, the actual choice will be between a Harper minority and an Ignatieff one.

  8. “Canadians will face a stark choice,” Flaherty told the Ottawa lunch crowd. “A majority government, one way or another. A stable, national majority under Stephen Harper's leadership. Or the reckless coalition of Michael Ignatieff, the NDP, and the Bloc Québécois.”

    I wonder why he isn't offering this option? Or a stable, national majority under Michael Ignatieff's leadership.

    • canon70……..have you seen Ignatieff's leadership polling numbers?. Despite the recession, attempts to invent scandals, Ignatieff has not been able to bring the Lib numbers up sufficiently where he could be assured of winning even a minority government. Coupled with not seeing where they could pick up seats sufficient to outnumber the Conservatives there is not much likelihood that Ignatieff can win a minority let alone a majority government. I know it is tough news to accept but thats what in the cards today. Although I must say the media are doing their best to convince Canadians that because Ignatieff is prepared to wear western attire and lower himself to eat Tim Hortons and hot dogs he is fit to be PM.

      • Yawn. Leadership numbers again eh?

        Okay Hollin, find me an opposition leader that ever outpolled the PM of the day.

        Mulroney didn't. Chretien didn't. Martin didn't. Harper didn't.

        So I've started the list for ya. Happy hunting!

      • In the summer of 2005, Stephen Harper went on a cross-country tour to try and humanize himself because he was 10 to 12 points back of the Liberals in most polls.
        Speaking of wearing western attire, how can we forget this picture? http://abstractionreaction.files.wordpress.com/20

    • Because people might prefer that option?

  9. First, he won't run on elaborate policy proposals.

    That's a shocker. Weren't we something like half way through the last election before the Tories even bothered to slap together something vaguely resembling a platform?

    Hell, I'm still waiting for them to tackle about half of their fabled "Five Priorities" from their FIRST electoral win.

    • "Weren't we something like half way through the last election before the Tories even bothered to slap together something vaguely resembling a platform?" with more pictures and fewer words than a Curious George book.

    • I suppose they could run on the same platform election after election.

      The liberals didn't even bother to change the words… just xerox the promises and put on a new cover.

    • Actually it was five days before the election. I voted in advanced polls and never even saw a platform from the CPC.

    • Five priorities were all delivered on:

      - cutting the GST to 5%
      - $100 dollars per month childcare benefit
      - Federal Accountability Act
      - anti-crime legislation
      - wait times guarantee for selected health procedures

      All of these were done within about 18 months of the first Harper win. Admittedly, there hasn't been as clear a policy agenda since then, but credit where credit is due…

      • The govvernment says they were delivered, but ask any doctor… As for accountability, this government is the most unaccountable in Canadian hsitory, ignoring their own legislation, but their rap sheet is so long that most Canadians have lost track.

    • EXACTLY.

  10. “Friends, next time the choice will be either a Parliament where we Conservatives have the majority of seats, or one where the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois have the majority of seats.”

    We are expected to forget the election results of 2006 and 2008, where the Liberals, NDP and Bloc won the majority of the seats? Or the 2004 Conservative-NDP-Bloc pact to take over government, should Mr. Martin's government lose the confidence of the House?

    Playing the 'fear the bogeyman' card is adolescent at best.

    • Ottawa_Centrist……..just a little reminder. Votes are not fungible. They are distinct votes for each party and to suggest adding them up to get to your majority comment is disingenuous and you know it. Our system is based on voters voting for individual parties, not collectively but individually. By the way did you question Chretien's win in 1997/2000 (can't remember which) when he won a majority with only 38% of the vote. History has a way of coming back to bite you in the a$$ my friend.

      • More misleading nonsense. Parties do not appear on the ballot for pete's sake.

        Each riding votes for a representative. Party membership is simply one way of understanding where a candidate stands on certain issues, but it's obviously not a strict adherence, or there wouldn't have been 12 Liberals in favour of killing the gun registry for pete's sake.

        Our representatives in Ottawa have a right to choose to support or not any bill that comes their way. The party might kick them out for it, but they still have that right.

        Just as parties have the right to agree to a set of goals and proceed to work on those goals together.

        It's called building consensus, but I understand you have a political motivation to be obtuse on that matter.

      • I was commenting on the Prime Minister attempting to spin (undignified) that the same election result for the third time in a row will be the destruction of Canada.

        2006 and 2008 elections saw Conservative minority governance. In 2004, the Cons-NDP-Bloc were ready to govern should the Liberals lose the confidence of the House.

        Where was I disingenuous?

        And yes, I did question Chretien's win. Not in it's legality and legitimacy, but as a support for electoral reform.

        • "…I was commenting on the Prime Minister attempting to spin (undignified) that the same election result for the third time in a row will be the destruction of Canada…"

          And you've been entirely clear and succinct about it too.

          Never mind Hollin, he's a cheerleader minus the poms poms.

          BTW, completely agree about electoral reform. Our two party FPTP system with five competitive parties has entirely made a mess of things.

          I'm pro-"single transferable vote" personally.

  11. Technically… don't the Conservatives and Bloq have a majority of seats right now? Wait, doesn't that mean that the Conservatives are a coalition with Separatists?

    • that was the Throne Speech and Budgets in 2006 and 2007, do try and keep up please.

    • And the same is said of the NDP and the liberals….

      Ergo the Conservatives also have a coalition with both the socialists and the … Well the liberals will come up with a position and principles some day. How many times have they sat on their hands? Iggy's record of votes makes Dion look like an opposition leader.

    • exactly what I've been saying. There is no difference. The conservatives have survived because the other parties haven't defeated, NDP LIBs Bloc combined. If the Liberals rule with or without other parties in a coalition they will survive or fall on how their own opposition votes. The Bloc doesn't have to be in a coalition or any agreement in order for the Lib/NDP to form government, they just have to not vote them out just like they have with the conservatives.

      It would actually be more stable because it is more likely that the Bloc would agree with the policies that a Lib/NDP government would put forward whether there is a deal or not. They wouldn't be any more beholden to 'the separatists' than the current Conservatives are to them or to the other opposition parties.

  12. So when he gets another minority, will he resign?

    • What minority, 30 Liberals keep failing to show up for work. Since 2004 we have had minorities? The opposition voted non-confidence against Martin and the voters turfed the Liberals.

      Why do you suspect Liberal MPs can't find the courage to show up and vote against this government on confidence matters?

  13. Long heavy sigh.

    There is no such thing as an Ignatieff/NDP/Bloc coalition. There never has been. Even the ill-fated Dion coalition of 2008 was a coalition between the Liberals and NDP, which the Bloc agreed not to defeat. There was no Bloc representation in this coalition. (This coalition may have been unpopular and a bad idea, but that's a separate issue.)

    And, as someone else has regularly pointed out in this space: the Liberals, NDP and Bloc have, added together, more seats than the Conservatives. If a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition actually wanted to exist, it could take power today.

    Why is Harper allowed to regularly mislead the Canadian public? Why isn't he actually telling potential voters what he would do if he were to obtain the majority he so desperately covets? And why isn't the Canadian media loudly calling Harper out on this nonsense?

    • Keep sighing, Out There! It's not the Cons fault that the coalition signing photo-op included Duceppe. That's an image that will never disappear.

      Furthermore, the point of raising the coalition threat is not to scare voters as much as it is to disrupt Liberal messaging during an electoral campaign.

      • It doesn't matter whether the photo-op included Gilles Duceppe or Ronald MacDonald. The fact remains that the 2008 coalition did not include the Bloc.

        I have no problem with the Conservatives attepting to disrupt Liberal messaging. What I have a problem with is that they are attempting to disrupt their messaging by uttering blatant falsehoods.

        • I'm more concerned about what Harper would do with a majority, and you're right, more people have to be calling him out to be specific on what he'd do with a majority.

        • How is it a falsehood? I suppose you've heard the phrases "A coalition if necessary…", "If it can be done, let's do it". These comments by Ignatieff and Chretien are a matter of record. Interpret them any way you choose, but it will not affect how they will be USED in a campaign.

          First, the coalition doesn't even need to include the BQ to squeeze of center-right voters away from the Libs (a threat of Lib/NDP is enough), and second, the NDP will be able to argue that voting for them will allow them better negotiating strength in a potential coalition.

          It's up to the Libs to come up with a counter-strategy, because whether they accept or deny the coalition allegation, it's a win-win scenario for the Cons.

          • It's a falsehood because the Liberals, NDP and Bloc would never band together to form a coalition. That would be political suicide for the Liberals and the NDP. A Liberal/NDP coalition, without the Bloc, could be a possibility if the Liberals and the NDP, added together, obtain more seats than the Conservatives – but that is not the same thing<;/i> as an "Ignatieff/NDP/Bloc coalition". And pretending that it is is dishonest of the Conservatives.

            As for an effective counter-strategy: the only thing that the Liberals can do is ignoe the question – you can't answer a question that is the political equivalent of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" The Liberals are trying to present their own message as effectively as possible, but the plan will be to drown them out with endless repetitions of coalition coalition coalition coalition coalition.

          • (Now with 100% improved better italics – I hope)

            It's a falsehood because the Liberals, NDP and Bloc would never band together to form a coalition. That would be political suicide for the Liberals and the NDP. A Liberal/NDP coalition, without the Bloc, could be a possibility if the Liberals and the NDP, added together, obtain more seats than the Conservatives – but that is not the same thing as an "Ignatieff/NDP/Bloc coalition". And pretending that it is is dishonest of the Conservatives.

            As for an effective counter-strategy: the only thing that the Liberals can do is ignoe the question – you can't answer a question that is the political equivalent of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" The Liberals are trying to present their own message as effectively as possible, but the plan will be to drown them out with endless repetitions of coalition coalition coalition coalition coalition.

          • I'm not sure that ignoring it will work, but I could be wrong.

            Let me give you an example: How did the "Hidden Agenda" thing work out for the Cons in their first campaign after the merger? Were they constantly thrown off message? On the basis of what evidence?

          • There's a very easy, albeit cynical counter-strategy: put Harper on the spot about what he'd do with a majority. Will he tackle the abortion issue? I'm sure there are some true-blue Conservative supporters who are expecting him to. Make him be clear. Will he take another run at same-sex marriage? Again, there are Con supporters who are expecting him to do that. Will he look at introducing more private health care? Will he privatize prisons? The list is exhaustive. How far right is a Conservative government going to be? It's typical secret-agenda stuff, but it's stuff that can trip up the Tories as much as coalition talk trips up Liberals.

            This all said, I hope the next election will be about voting FOR somebody and what they're going to do, rather than voting AGAINST somebody else out of fear.

          • It might work again, but it's been used for 3 elections already with diminishing results.

          • I think Harper's recent flirtations with the far right, coupled with his surprise policy decisions, might make the strategy more effective this time around. And, it kinda DID work in the first P. Martin v. S. Harper contest. I think Harper will be reluctant to wade into any of those issues for fear of scaring off centrist voters or alienate the far-right supporters. The Liberals can fill in the blanks for him.

          • Harper hasn't had a policy platform since he rolled out an idea every day during the 2006 election(he didn't implement much of it that was good for canadians, just tax cuts we shouldn't have had or needed)

          • Fair enough… though you will note that after the same-sex marriage defeat, he said there were 'no plans' to re-open the debate. A majority government for the Tories might have him changing his tune. I'm sure there are lots of social conservatives who are counting on him to do that. Same goes with abortion. He hasn't done anything with these issues because a) he hasn't had a majority of MPs under his sway, and b) they're toxic election issues. With an election over and a majority secure…

            To be honest, I always thought this kind of talk was fear mongering until the last two years. He's come up with too many policy surprises and played to his far-right base too many times for me to discount such policy shifts.

          • The "if it can be done let's do it" was in reference to an NDP/LPC merger, not a coalition with the separatists.

            And again, the "coalition if necessary" comment was Ignatief voicing his DISTASTE for the idea, ie if I have to I will, but I'd prefer not to, and that coalition was with the NDP.

            It continues to amaze me that the CPC will accept support from the BLOC, but when the same support is offered in support of someone else, suddenly it's treason.

          • Fair enough, Chretien was going further than just a ad hoc coalition. With respect to Ignatieff though, it must be convenient to be able to hear peoples minds rather than what they say or do. I should note that Ignatieff's signature on the letter to the GG regarding that coalition thingy. That unlikely to be ignored in a future campaign.

            In any case, what Ignatieff meant is besides the point. The ads during the next campaign will focus on what he has said and done regarding the coalition. This will disrupt their campaign, their policy roll-out etc unless he can put a rest to the coalition talk or find some way of changing the channel.

    • "Why is Harper allowed to regularly mislead the Canadian public? Why isn't he actually telling potential voters what he would do if he were to obtain the majority he so desperately covets?"

      Oh, what, and stick his neck square on the chopping block? He's not stupid.

  14. “A coalition is legitimate, but my intention, my plan is to form a Liberal government,” Mr. Ignatieff said during a news conference after a meeting with Quebec party members. “I will play the cards the Canadian voters deal. I'm not going to deal with those cards until they are dealt, until they are on the table.”

    He said he'll go into an election seeking a win for the Liberals. If the voters don't hand him a win, he'll see if a coalition is possible. That's how Parliament works … and has always worked.

    • Perhaps it's truthful, but the problem is that Ignatieff will be asked time and again to comment upon hypothetical post-election scenarios. What if you have just a handful of seats less that the Cons? What priorites would you be willing to modify according to NDP wishes? Etc…

      The Libs had better come up with a good strategy to counter being thrown off message.

      • the problem is that Ignatieff will be asked time and again to comment upon hypothetical post-election scenarios

        Ignatieff is at a disadvantage here because he actually takes questions from the media. Harper never talks to journalists, except occasionally to friendly "journalists" from the Sun Media group, so he never gets asked equivalent questions, such as "What will you do if the next election results in yet another Conservative minority?"

        • Actually, Ignatieff is at a disadvantage because he signed on to the coalition agreement (even if belatedly), and also uttered "A coalition if necessary…", on camera no less!

          Moreover, intellectual discipline is actually a useful quality in a politician if they don't want it be tripped up. And it would be naive, in the extreme, to think that political opponents would hesitate use his own words against him. Do you recall ads featuring Ignatieff debating with Dion saying "we didn't get the job done" with regard to CO2 emission targets?

          All I'm saying is that Ignatieff is already poor at containing the message and, therefore, he'd better come up with strategy to prevent this from continuing throughout a campaign. It's not as if the Cons just introduced this line. As Wells demonstrates in his column, the Con strategy has been projected for months now.

    • That may be technically how parliament works but it's not very democratic. Here's why:

      The bulk of center-left Canadians probably couldn't decide what is worse: a Conservative Majority or the NDP actually having their radical hands on the levers of our economic engine.

      The tie-breaker is the unofficial (back room) Coalition deal with the Bloc to push Liberal legislature through the commons. This is so abhorrent to the rest of Canada it will cause many center-lefties to hold their collective noses and vote Conservative on election day.

      The Libs are fully aware of this. That is why they have to walk the tight-wire and enshroud the debate in an ambiguous cloud of "cacophony" and "contradictory" statements. The Coalition is, after all, Iggy's only chance to be P.M..

      My opinion is that good democracy demands clear choices. The Libs should be up front about this and definitely state that if the Conservatives win another minority, the Libs will form a Coalition. It's only fair to Canadians.

      • I can't really envision a scenario in which many "hold their collective noses and vote Conservative". The situation is too polarized for that. If collaboration with the Bloc is so abhorrent, they'll probably just abstain.

        If there is leakage in support, I think it can flow in other directions as well. The CPC has, I suspect, offended many "Red" Tories who would be equally inclined to stay home on election day, or even defect to the Liberals.

        I think the best strategy for the Liberals to fend off the coalition bogeyman, is to point out that, realistically, any party hoping to form a government is probably going to need to need Bloc support, at least on an ad hoc basis. The legislative record record has already demonstrated this during the current government's mandate.

        The Cons are totally disingenuous on this issue. They are framing the Bloc's support, real or imagined, with any other party as collusion, while in their case it's merely unsolicited collaboration.

        • I neglected to state this is in reference to voting behaviour of "left-center Canadians".

        • It's one thing to compromise with opposing parties on an issue-by-issue basis; it's another to sign an accord on stage with Gilles Duceppe leering over your shoulders. The photo-op of the three amigos shaking hands gave the Cons a temporary 43% polling. (good for a majority)

          Harper's record on the economy is what is keeping the red Tories from bolting. Obama has discovered that nobody actually really believes that you can spend your way out of a recession. Not even progressives. (I'm not so sure Keynes actually believed it, he just made a lot of money writing fantasy)

  15. If harper was worried about subsidies to parties he would abolish the tax credit part as it costs more to taxpayers and is less democratic than the 1.75. Harper knows he out fundraises all the parties so he would never do that. The cons base also has much deeper pockets than the generally poor and middle class of say the NDP or the small fundraising base of middle and upper income libs. It is a lot harder to fork 400 over and wait till april for 300 back if you can hardly pay the rent.

    More games and political bull from the reformers. Cut the tax credit if they are serious. Then only the true diehards will donate to the cause if they think its worth it. And they will probably still out fund raise the opposition, just won't be the same edge they currently or would have under the proposition to scrap the per vote subsidy. Or do away with both.

    • "donate to the cause if they think its worth it."

      That's the rub isn't it. It's easier to donate your 1.75 (which is 1.95 now) when someone else has put it into the pot for you.

      It must be really hard to donate time and a voice if you don't have the money to had out too. Talking to neighbors…. It's much easier to just wash your hands of actually doing something and just force someone else to pay for you to have your views spread.

      • You mean like the 300 you can get back from the pot for donating 400. I canvas so you don't have to tell me to go talk to my neighbours, Why don't you cons try to stay on topic for once instead of ad hominans and strawmen and or changing the channel when your in hot soup.? I know cons hate democracy(you know fair money across the board for the people who vote for your party ) but as of late its just stunning.

        I know lets talk fiscally conservative G20 spedning shall we.

      • Are you purposefully misunderstanding the point?

        The per vote subsidy is equal and fair.

        The tax rebate on donations allows the more affluent to have more influence, while getting back most of the money come tax time.

        It's pretty simple really.

    • I consider the $1.75 subsidy to come out of the tax dollars that I paid in, and I know that it goes to the party that I voted for, so I don't have any problem with it. When you stop and think about it, its a donation to the party that you vote for, so should be entirely uncontroversial. Even the $1.75 that goes to the Bloc doesn't bother me. It only comes from the tax dollars paid by those Bloc voters, and only in proportion to the support that party receives. If you don't want the Bloc to get your $1.75, then don't vote for them!

  16. "But Stephen Harper often talks about an election to delay an election, not to hurry one along. Whatever his strengths, the Conservative leader is no mind-reader. So when he's not entirely sure the opposition intends to leave him alone to govern, he assumes they need to be scared away from election plans."

    The Opposition is not going to let Chairman Stevie alone to govern. Quite the opposite. His attempt to kill the long gun registry failed. Next, he will be forced by the Opposition to keep the long form census. He is going to have a lot more reason to kick chairs very soon. And in the meantime, the Liberals will be talking about the things that matter to Canadians : jobs, the economy and medical care.

    There are now coalition governments in the United Kingdom and Australia. Who is afraid of a coalition ? The Opposition parties will compete as hard as ever during an election campaign. When the campaign is over, Canadians expect good government, and if that means coalition government, so be it. There is no reason why moderate Conservatives could not be included in a coalition. The Liberals should start reaching out to them now.

    • I wish the libs would do something of substance than the fake stand on the LGR or abortion. How about not agreeing with harper on all fiscal matters? I don't se much policy difference between the two. Sure the libs would spend less on the military but it would wind up in some pork barrle somewhere else. Though to be fair, I don't know how even the libs could botch the economy as bad as harper while steve-o still says nothing is wrong.

    • Mulletaur, one key aspect of the coalition as a bogeyman is the regional dimension. A large number of voters in the West were livid during the days leading to our collective Rideau-Hall-front-door-watching session because they perceived the coalition as an attempt by Central Canada to stop a Western-based PM and government from staying in power. I don't agree with that perception but it was quite well-spread over here.

      • All the more reason for the Liberals to reach out to the moderate elements of the Conservative Party who are talented but overlooked because the Conservatives already have too many ministers from the West, and who are fed up with Harper's dictatorial management style.

    • Altering the census requires altering money.

      Is this going to be a confidence motion where Iggy lays down (Again) or will we go to an election? The 3rd option I guess is that they try to make it a motion without the confidence of the house being attached. Which will just be ignored. Then they can stand up again and tell us that Harper is being mean and not listening to them.

      Its too bad that the opposition parties just want to complain rather than do something that lets face it….. they do have the power to do. The opposition is just cheap suits…. not a backbone in the lot of em

      • It's not a money matter, so it doesn't have to be a confidence motion. And as it's an opposition initiative, I don't think that the government could declare it a confidence motion. They would just have to suck it up.

        • The government can call anything they like a "confidence" motion, except private members bills.

          • Can the Opposition introduce a government bill ? QED.

          • They can introduce legislation. I don't know if it gets called a "government" bill or not.

          • It does not.

    • You are midguided in comparing Canada's poor excuse for parliamentary democracy with the highly equitable and evolved systems in UK and USA. Sad, but a fact of life in Canada.

      • Do you mean those evolved systems where MPs legislate, then try to hide, the public building of private MP houses; or do mean the evolved systems where million dollar line items to build highways get added to health care bills as a result of lobbying/private interest/ and general pork-barrel politics? Please. Its all the same; good and bad it their own ways.

      • I have no idea what you are talking about. But then, apparently, neither do you. I didn't refer to the US system. I did, however, refer to the fact that both the UK and Australia now have coalition governments.

  17. ….. They didn't "get us out of deficit" so much as they gave the deficit to the provinces. Its easy to get your finances in order when you just let someone else pay for all the stuff you have been paying for.

    • And how has Harper got us out of deficit? All he has done is spend.

  18. Anon Liberal…….Your guys must like all the tax and spend policies because they keep supporting the government. Oh, I forgot the poll say the country agrees with the direction of the government and the Libs could not win. However, don't let reality get in the way of your talking points.
    It helped Chretien/Martin to download $25 billion in costs on the provinces and municipalities virtually destroying healthcare and education. Of course lets not talk about stealing the EI surplus of $50 billion which the Supreme Court admonished.
    Harper agreed with the rest of the world to stimulate our economy by 2% a year. Do you think the funding was going to come out of thin air.

  19. yup.

    Maybe Iggy doesn't really want to lead….

  20. The problem is that the Liberals win too many seats for this coalition thing to work properly in Canada. If they were the third place party, like in the UK, we could credibly believe that the Liberals would negotiate coalition with the other major parties, but give some preference to the party with the most seats. Anyone who seriously supports a Liberal coalition government needs to vote for another party to help this happen…

    • Then the coalition may very well happen. The Liberals are on their to being the third place party after the next election.

  21. hollinm: "…like Britain, any attempted coalition would have to include the party that won the most seats in the election…"

    I don't buy that for a second. All that should be required of a coalition is that the MPs involved form a plurality. That's what gives the CPC government after all.

    And I'll note that in Britain all three scenarios were in play. Any two of the parties could've formed government, because any two would've represented the plurality if not an outright majority.

    This is a democracy we have here, and what matters is that the people's representatives find ways to build consensus and move on matter important to their constituents.

    That's it, that's all.

  22. I'm rather stunned that Wells' mention of Flaherty's speech – which contained lie upon lie upon lie designed to inflame and divide the electorate – got nothing more than a passing nod of attention in this piece.

  23. The Liberals, NDP, Bloq have the same basic philosophy… control people's lives. The Conservatives basic philosophy is get out of people's personal lives. Thus, trying to end the long-gun registry and the mandatory long census form. I think most Canadians would agree with the later.

    • Not so, apparently. Otherwise, the vote on the registry would have gone the other way. Maybe people trust the police and doctors more than Stephen Harper, with good reason. Canadians believe in good government, which means what produces a civil society, rather then American style gun toting citizens who crow about the right to bear arms. There is NO evidence that Canadians are upset with the census – that is PURE Conservative propaganda. But not for the first time.

    • "The Conservatives basic philosophy is get out of people's personal lives. Thus, trying to end the long-gun registry and the mandatory long census form. I think most Canadians would agree with the later."

      Not on the evidence of the two most recent elections and most current polls. About 33% agree.

      • You guys like Big Brother??

        • No, but I and approximately 66% of the electorate apparently prefer anything other than Harper's brand of politics.

  24. I really can't understand what all the Conservative fuss is about over 'coalition'. After all, the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney was a coalition of Western proto-Reformers, Quebec separatists and fiscal conservatives from Ontario and Eastern Canada. The Consevatives didn't seem to have any problem with the separatists when Mulroney made Lucien Bouchard a Minister of the Crown. They also didn't have any problem with being in bed with the separatists when Harper sent a letter to the GG offering to replace Martin.

    • Stephen Harper will do ANYTHING to keep the opposition in opposition, whether it be to prorogue parliament to avoid a vote or lie to Canadians. He did it last time in 2008. Harper uses simple messages his supporters can grasp, to convince those who do not understand that coalitions are legitimate.

      • There is nothing wrong with simple messages that one's supporters can grasp. I'm all for it. As long as those messages come from a Liberal leader and are in support of the Liberal Party of Canada.

        • How about a basic requirement that the simple message also be true regardless of which party?

  25. The Liberal party and the NDP are giving Harper a majority in a gold tray.

    Harper because of his position has the upper hand here, if well played, he will get a majority. He can play the coalition strategy because there is a possibility, maybe not at this time, but we don't know when it comes to the actual election, it doesn't matter that opposition will deny it, the first coalition was one of the biggest mistakes they have made, it does add to all the little mistakes that they are making right now, they aren't playing good politics they are palying getting even kind of politics and that's what people most voters get.

    • What's the difference with that coalition, and the one before it involving Harper, NDP, Bloc Quebecois?
      What about the Reform, alliance and PCs that are now "Conservatives?

      It would seem whatever Mr. Harper says is gospel, the rest are simply denied. The fact is you can't change history.

      Mr. Harper voted for the LGR not once but twice., then he ostracizes anyone else for doing the same in reverse. I can't speak for the rest of Canada, but I sure am fed up with all of these double standards!

      • This coalition NDP-Liberal-Bloc was a failure because it was about power, it didn't have any reason to be called other than to get Harper out and the way most canadians saw it was very undemocratic, it didn't have a legitimate reason at all.

        Now, the Reform, Alliance, Conservatives formed a new party, that's another story.

        The Liberals and NDP are welcome to form a new party, but they will never do that, it will never get them enough votes, so they can form a coalition right after the election to defeat Harper if he gets another minority, and the odds are pretty even with that right now because coalitions are seen as undemocratic, it's sole purpose is to achieve power at all costs.

  26. Campaigning on plausibility, deceit, and outright fabrications have been the theme for the Conservatives since 2006. This tells about how gullible "we" the electorate are. It absolutely amazes me that people governing and want to govern a democratic Country like Canada can push that pill and be successful. What have we become? What are we becoming?

    • Ummm…ever heard of the Hidden Agenda. I suppose that fairy is only told to bad children now to scare the bejeezus out of them.

  27. "Second, Harper is obviously setting himself up for trouble if he wins another minority. He's said the only conceivable Conservative government is a majority."

    If Stephen Harper delivers yet another minority government, the "men in smoke-filled rooms" will see that it is his last election and his dreams of "Conservatizing" Canada will vanish like a bad dream. Mr. Harper knows that. I think that's why he's in the process of setting up himself for his next career; as a representative for Canada at the United Nations when Canada gets membership in the Security Council.

    God help us, one and all.

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

    • Oops, that didn't happen………

  28. “Our government isn't seeking one. But the opposition coalition—the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition—has been consistent in one thing, if only one thing: from the beginning of the global economic crisis, they have put their own self-interest above Canadians.”

    Put down those stones and get out of that glass house of yours.

  29. Harper and the Conservatives are giving the voters a heads up as to what to expect from the opposition if the Conservatives do not get a majority next election. I notice that coalition Bob NDP Rae has been kept out of sight this past while, smart thinking.

    • Nonsense – he's been all over the latest Flaherty speech as one example. Try a google news search.

  30. Good post.
    ..However, the Conservatives have their own unique interpretations of Parliament, parliamentary procedures etc., and/or anything else that benefits or disadvantages them, facts be damned. They have their own bible and references for their actions based on their interpretations. The real references used by the rest of the world are cast aside. They're iterations plays to an ignorant electorate and they seem to be very successful at it. Question is , how does one counteract this?

  31. Right now the Conservatives are in power and the rest in opposition. Our parliamentary system gives the prerogative to the ruling party; there's definitely a huge advantage, even in a minority situation.

  32. "Harper used this manufactured threat to convince Canadians to turn against the coalition and then he used the same threat to bully Michaelle Jean, our GG, to grant him a questionable prorogation."

    That the Bloc would have access to too much political clout in a coalition government was apparent when Gilles Duceppe took centre stage with Layton and Dion at the signing. That wasn't a manufactured threat, it was a plain reality.

    Michaelle is her own woman. She was neither bullied or intimidated, or could be for that matter.

    Enough with the partisan revisionism. It's really just lame.

  33. You took the words out of my keyboard… You actually feel that you are hearing sensible people with something to say, and not a playground brawl.

  34. Like today in the UK, a Conservative-Liberal Coalition would be good for Canada. The Liberals will never go for it, because they seem to care about themselves, not Canada.

    A Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition, or a Liberal-NDP coalition dependent on Bloc support otherwise it would not be a majority, is bad for Canada. Why? Because for the Bloc to "win," Canada must fail. And Canadians by a huge majority want Canada to win.

    • "The Liberals will never go for it, because they seem to care about themselves, not Canada."

      I imagine them's fightin' words among Liberals, who would suggest (no less credibly) that the motives of the Cons are equally suspect.

      It's all in the eye of the beholder.

  35. The LPC and NDP could use non-competes in specific CPC held ridings to ensure Red/Orange coalition gets +154 seats. Offer the Greens 3 Senate seats and a pledge to create a PR elected Senate and they'll sit out #elxn41. I can't think of another viable plan that could defeat the CPC!

  36. Are Canadians really this shallow and superficial? A billion blown on the G8 G20. A 50 billion dollar deficit. But you will hand Harper, Toews and Baird a majority because of this boogeyman fear of a coalition?

    How old are you? Like five?

    • How old are YOU, like, 14?

  37. What Canadians want is a government that works in their favour and does what they consider important and does it well.

    If Canadians really want a majority of these Conservatives, they'll vote for it, but personally I don't think they do or they would've done it last time around with dippy Dion at the LPC helm.

    However, seems to me they don't trust any of these yahoos, and who could blame them?

    They do however want parliament to work, and since Harper has made it clear twice that he won't accept the mandate he's given, it's likely Canadians will be comfortable enough with a LPC/NDP coalition to give it a go.

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