Ignatieff on the coalition and the legitimacy of his leadership - Macleans.ca

Ignatieff on the coalition and the legitimacy of his leadership

‘I would not go into coalition agreements with the Bloc Québécois, period’


Ignatieff on the coalition and the legitimacy of his leadership

Q: You have defended the coalition and the association of the Liberal party with the Bloc by arguing that they’re legitimately elected parliamentarians and, while you might not like what they represent, you respect the fact that they represent a particular constituency in Quebec. Would you enter into a coalition or a similar agreement with the Bloc again?

A: My sense is I’m strongly disposed against it, but I don’t know what situations I’m going to face in the future. I thought it was legitimate to conclude an agreement because I said at the time—and have said since—I didn’t believe it would compromise the national unity of my country, and that was the bottom line for me and for every MP in my party. We’ve all learned a lesson about coalition. One of the things I took away from the experience is it awoke particularly strong feeling in the West. I’m in this country to unite Canadians, not divide them, and I took the messages from the West very seriously. There was a genuine feeling of anger on that issue, and we all have to learn from that.

Q: But the coalition wasn’t a mistake?

A: No, I’ve said that I think the coalition was not a mistake because it showed that if you messed with Parliament, Parliament would turn around and bite you and force you to take measures which this government should have taken in late November.

ALSO AT MACLEANS.CA: Ignatieff on the budget and Ignatieff on torture

Q: So a coalition with the Bloc again, if circumstances present, is a possibility?

A: I’ve made it very clear that I have deep difficulty with the very possibility. What I said is that in a future in which there is a possibility of minority governments, I would not exclude making arrangements or agreements, public, transparent agreements, with other parties that will allow me to govern. But notice I did not use the word “coalition.”

Q: I’m not clear what you’re ruling out.

A: I think it’s very difficult for me to do a deal with the Bloc. But let’s be clear why: it’s not because I doubt the good faith of Mr. Duceppe or his capacity to carry out his word. My issue is that they have different strategic objectives.

Q: But you won’t rule it out categorically.

A: I am telling you I would not go into coalition agreements with the Bloc Québécois, period. That rules it out. In a situation of minority Parliaments, Canadians have to get used to the idea that it is responsible for political leaders to envisage the possibility of creating agreements or accords or political arrangements to govern in order to secure stable government, but not with the Bloc.

Q: We’ve got a stable minority Parliament for the foreseeable future. Why not submit to a conventional leadership selection process to legitimize your position as leader of the Liberal party?

A: Well, the competitors for this job withdrew.

Q: So would you invite them to come back?

A: They’ve withdrawn, and so we are where we are. I’m not going to tell them what to do. They’ve rallied to my leadership in a very positive and helpful way, and so we’re working together every day.

Q: You haven’t come up through the ranks of the party in the conventional way. You were parachuted into a safe riding without a nomination fight. Do you not think it would help to establish you as leader if you paid your dues and went through a process like that?

A: I think I’ve paid a fair bit of dues. I’ve worked day and night for the party for three years. The question implies I kind of arranged this transition. It happened because Stephen Harper launched us into a constitutional crisis—not of my making—which required the leadership of our party to take some difficult and tough decisions, and for my rivals to make very difficult decisions—which I strongly admire—and I’ve said I welcome review and ratification of my leadership in May. I’m travelling the country constantly to sit in rooms with the rank and file to take their questions, to respond and react. This is a rank-and-file party and I can’t be a good leader unless I’m listening to them at every step of the way, and at the same time rebuilding this party as a mass-based party. I know I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Q: But were the government to fall and were you asked to form a government tomorrow, you would be coming into the office without having won a conventional leadership race, and effectively getting the leadership through a backroom deal, without having even been elected to the position.

A: Sorry, what backroom deal are we talking about?

Q: It wasn’t a conventional leadership conference.

A: It followed all the constitutional procedures for the party.

Q: I’m not arguing that. You don’t see an absence of democratic legitimacy to it?

A: Well, as I say, we’re going to have a convention in May, we’re going to have a great convention, the rank and file are going to get a chance to ratify my leadership. I have to prove my spurs to that leadership every day to the caucus, and I sit there in front of 250 people with my sleeves rolled up taking questions from anybody, and that’s the way I propose to lead. I’m aware that I have to win my spurs with my party, that I’m very aware of, and so we’re working hard on that.


Ignatieff on the coalition and the legitimacy of his leadership

  1. What’s with everyone ” Rolling Up Their Sleeves ” if I hear that or ” Shovel Ready ” one more time : it’s praise god and pass the ammunition.

    • He wants to be like a farmer raising cattle – lots of opportunity in the barn to roll up the sleeves and be shovel ready.

    • yeah I felt the same about Canada’s New Government, The North Star and all the other crap the Cons tried to shovel through their PR.

      • Yeah, what’s going on? What’s with all this “ready” stuff. I’m used to politics being “shovel-worthy”.

        Good point, Dot. We know what’s shovel-ready in a barn.

  2. I can’t see any difference in substance between Harper and Ignatieff on getting into a coalition with the Bloc. They’re both against it. Although I think if Iggy had been more forthright on this point earlier on, the left of the Liberal party would have squawked and we there might very well have been a leadership convention in May. The supposed reason the Liberals didn’t was because they needed to have a leader in place to possibly lead a coalition government at the end of January. Clearly however, Iggy had no intention of leading any such coalition. Nice job of finessing that Mr. Ignatieff. You out-smarted Mr. Rae.

    Under Michael Ignatieff, we will never see the Liberals hopping in the sack with the separatist Bloc.

    In his memoirs, because he will write some memoirs, Mr. Ignatieff will say what most sane observers of Canadian politics have said all along: The Coalition with the Bloc was a bone-headed political move by Stephane Dion and the Liberal Party. Nice job of extricating yourself from Mr. Dion’s mess Iggy.

    The upshot: Quebecers, if you want to have input in federal government policy, vote for a federal party. You want to stand on the sidelines and yelp and criticize and be on the outside looking in: keep electing that dolt Duceppe and his powerless caucus.

    • Yep, so powerless they largely prevented a Tory majority. If yr arguement is they can effect no positive change, quite probably. I didn’t reread the article, but i’m fairly sure that Iggy didn’t rule out a future arrangement with the bloq.

      • Read it kc, he did.

        • He said he wouldn’t enter into any *coalition* agreements with the Bloc. He’s not at all saying he won’t ‘hop in the sack’ with the Bloc, but he’s made it clear they’re not the marrying sort.

  3. Oh Mr Whyte you are such a tease. I would highly recommend that folks review his interview with the PM. That is if its still available. The comparison is rewarding. Not that i’m complaining about this particular interview. But that Harper interview; i’m not saying they were on first name basis, but you be the judge…

  4. hey who needs a coalition with the dippers and blocquistes when you have an Alliance with the CPC.

  5. jarrid – the Quebecois do not need your permission for anything.

    • As Chantal Hebert noted in her most recent column, many francophone federalists in Quebec are tired of Quebec’s pervasive negative role in the Canadian federation. Alain Dubuc, editor of La Presse recently came out with a book on it.

      And Nicolas Sarkozy may have overstated things a bit the other day, and the French are not always au courant of events in Quebec, but he had a point when he pointed out the Quebec separatist’s refusal to engage and be positive in contributing to the Canadian federal state.

      Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc are a prime example of what Sarkozy’s getting at: these people thrive on divisiveness.

      Quebec should wake up and smell the coffee. They should contribute to solving the nation’s problems instead of sitting on the sidelines whining all the time. Because what is Gilles Duceppe, other than I whiner. A professionally paid whiner. He’ll never stop whining until he get’s what he wants: a politically independent Quebec. As if that will resolve Quebec’s problems. It’s a pipe dream, that’s all it is. Just like his pipe maoist dream during his maoist phase during the 1980’s.

      • I think you give the Bloc too much credit. AFAIK they haven’t been objectively pro-separation for about 10 years.

        • Jack, you’re decidedly not on your game this evening. Here’s what the Bloc adopted at their congress in 2005:

          Le Bloc Québécois est un parti politique souverainiste, implanté exclusivement
          au Québec.Il sera présent sur la scène fédérale jusqu’à la réalisation de la
          souveraineté du Québec. (…) La souveraineté du Québec réalisée, il n’aura plus sa raison d’être.

          That’s from the opening paragraph of their statutes Jack, on their website.

          Federalists in Quebec would smile at your naivete. These separatists are a patient bunch, to be sure, but nothing if not single-minded. The Bloc’s raison d’etre is separation, and as the last line states, when it’s achieved, they’ll wind themselves up because ” is n’aura plus sa raison d’etre.

          Can it get any clearer than that Jack.

          • Jarrid, are you really taking what the Bloc Québécois says at face value? Tut tut.

            I said “objectively.” What has the BQ tried to do since, oh 1999 in terms of actively promoting Quebec’s separation? I can’t think of a single thing. They have to pretend to be separatists so as to keep their base happy, but in effect they dare not go anywhere near it for fear of scaring the soft nationalists. What they are is a regional party with highly chauvinist rhetoric; but separatists they are not.

          • Jack, I know you backed the Coalition, but there are better arguments out there than to say that the Bloc Quebecois are not separatists.

            Like I said they’re a patient bunch and they’re waiting for the so-called “winning conditions”. The crumbling of an active Coalition along Quebec-Canada lines may have provided such winning conditions. Everything to these guys is a means to their stated ends. The Coalition partners had a snake as a partner in Gilles Duceppe, because of “his different strategic objectives”, to use Iggy’s words.

          • I didn’t back the Coalition at all; I backed the legitimacy of a Coalition on constitutional grounds, which is something else entirely. Would have made just the same arguments in the event of a Tory-Reform coalition or what have you. To be honest, I just wanted more drama.

            I’m no fan of the Bloc at all, but I wonder if they’re as sincere as you think they are. They strike me as the first true batch of vendus we’ve seen in several generations. They get all the thrill of being radicals and none of the risk; also big pensions. Interesting thought about the crumbling of a Coalition being a casus belli (or casus referendi), that hadn’t occured to me. I do think, though, that that’s giving the Bloc too much credit for imagination. Look at the situation on the ground in Quebec: Charest wins a majority, Marois barely mentions separatism in the whole campaign, uncertainty . . . Quebec nationalism may be going strong but indépendentisme is nearly an anachronism. I’m more worried about Harper’s continuous bribing of Quebec, myself.

  6. As Iggy said in the interview regarding why he won’t enter into a deal with the Bloc: he said ‘the Bloc has different strategic objectives”, exactly, they want to break up the Canadian federation.

    No Canadian federal party should enter into a governing relationship with the separatist Bloc.

    The Conservatives get it, Iggy gets it, let’s hope the Liberals as a whole finally get it.

    By entering into that Coalition, the Liberals disgraced themselves and betrayed fundamental principles that the party has stood for over the years. If there was one thing you could count on over the years is the Liberals standing up to the separatists, two months ago they embraced them.

    • But, Jarrid, the Conservatives have been propped up by the Bloc on a number of occasions.

      • Come on Jack, you’re a smart guy. The Bloc had agreed, in writing, to support the Coalition for 18 months. Not voting with the government on a bill before Parliament, but actually agreeing to support the Coalition government itself. The quid pro quo was a permanent consulting mechanism between the government and the Bloc. Hence the handshake and photo op. That was for the GG’s benefit to show there was some stability for the recently hatched Coalition government. Without the Bloc signing on, no Coalition government. The separatist Bloc were a necessary component of the Coalition.

        The Bloc and the Liberals were joined at the hip as it were, and that revolting photo op was proof of that.

        • Was that the one with or without the flag? Revolting is a matter of perspective, as is spotting a flag that was there all along.

        • Well, you have a point, Jarrid. It’s just a very narrow point.

          So it’s OK for the Bloc to vote with the Tories: doesn’t taint legislation the Tories pass with their help. OK, got it.

          On the other hand, it would certainly be scandalous for federalist parties to be in Coalition with the Bloc — i.e. for the Bloc to have seats in Cabinet. (They don’t want them but that’s by the bye.)

          But was the Coalition agreement really closer to the second thing than to the first? The Bloc may have agreed to support the Coalition for 18 months, but that’s before any particular Coalition agenda were hammered out. The Bloc could have pulled the rug out from under the Coalition whenever it pleased, agreement or no agreement, because it would not have been in Government. Likewise, the Tories (bless their hearts) could have voted with the Coalition if they so wished, if, say, the Bloc were oppposed.

          I just don’t see how Bloc support for the Coalition differs from Bloc support for the Tories. One might as well say that the Bloc was a “necessary component” of the Tory government when they voted with Harper against the Libs and NDP.

          • Beh, more evidence it isn’t a good idea to sit down with Kenneth Whyte is more to the point. There was never a coalition with the Bloc Quebecois; a sight-unseen guarantee not to bring down a coalition is not a coalition. It simply -isn’t-, however hard one plays that semantic game.

            No party could get away with a coalition with the Bloc, nor try it, until after they dropped sovereigntism as we know it from the program.

            Whyte just hammered away at Ignatieff’s perfectly adequate and discrete statement of the obvious until he got a soundbyte suitable for AM radio.

          • The above note should have gone under john g’s “I like this guy more and more.” comment, sorry.

          • Jason,

            The GG would never have considered the Coalition without the Bloc’s support. The NDP-Liberals numbers weren’t sufficient to show that it has the confidence of the house. Without the Bloc’s signed agreement to support it, the Coalition couldn’t fly.

            Jason, never has a federal party proposed to govern in this country with the explicit assistance and co-operation from a separatist party such as this Coalition agreement. It’s in writing and for all to see. And never had a federalist party agreed to consult with the separatist enemy in governing. That’s what the Libs agreed to do.

            The Liberals had gone off the rails with this Coalition, don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen or attempt to rewrite history.

          • Jarrid
            It’s a moot pt since i never supported the coalition because as Iggy notes it might’ve split the country. [ i’m a westerner] But you’re in denial. An agreement to suspend the Bloq’s separatist agenda for 18mths is not hard to grasp in principle. And i suggest you read the article again. Ignatieff ruled out a formal coalition with the Bloq, but not an accord or arrangement. I see no difference myself. This is semantics and would not likely be different in practice. Smart of him, but not altogether honest. But who the hell is in politics.

          • An agreement to suspend the Blo[c]’s separatist agenda for 18mths is not hard to grasp in principle.

            OK, but it is impossible to grasp out here in reality. Nothing, absolutely nothing, would punish the Bloc for ripping up its commitment whenever it felt politically expedient. Quebec voters thinking ill of the Bloc for “standing up for Québec” whenever it was most advantageous to do so? Riiiiiiiiight.

          • It’d make it easier for everyone to keep straight faces if that particular weltanschaaung weren’t referred to as “reality.”

            The Bloc inked a deal, on paper, to support the NDP-Liberal coalition – those being the coalition partners – for 18 months. If they went back on their word, the coalition would be over; there isn’t wiggle room, there isn’t negotiating leverage, there’s a binary “adhering to the deal” “breaking the deal” choice.

            If they’d broken the deal the government would have collapsed and there would have been an election. If people out in 70% conservativeland want to pretend that the Liberals and NDP would have renegotiated with the the country at gunpoint, you’re entitled to your fantasy lives, but unfortunately the country is not riddled with traitors as you imagine.

          • MYL
            It’s entirely possible you see something idon’t but my unerstanding is that if the block broke the accord, there was nothng to prevent the other federal parties from voting them down, including the Tories. Of course this would be the death of any coaliton and probably the liberal party. I’m still mystified that SH did not let this transpire. A little patience and he could have had bth the end of the libs as a force in federal politics for a very long time, and of course his precious majority. The irony of his bungling finally causing the libs to abandon their sojourn in the boy scouts is mindboggling.

          • My, but there are more and more people trying to do my thinking for me. Folks, I am a small-c conservative with a pretty strong desire to do my own thinking, thank you very much. I point out there is no penalty clause of consequence for the Bloc reneging on this coalition deal whenever they wish, and you go and put a country full of traitors in my imagination?

          • kc, I agree with you. The Bloc bowing out would mean an election. All I’m saying is the promise of burying the Bloc hatchet was not a promise worth trusting, because there was no useful “or else” to hold against them.

          • “Or else” the deal is off, and the coalition, more ideologically proximate on social issues, is out and Harper quite possibly back in.

            To make it a “coalition with the Bloc” or “the Bloc wielding dangerous power” you have to have the assumptions I mentioned operating. And if you missed all the signs accusing me and mine of treason, I certainly didn’t.

            The Bloc supported the coalition because they, like everyone else, wanted Harper out, after the fiscal update. Proximate cause. They agree with the other left of centre parties on domestic policies. The “national blackmail scenario” was a crass and destructive political boogieman.

          • Jason, you’re out of step with your leader Iggy. He’s diplomatic with his language but it’s clear that he will never ever enter into a coalition government which is dependent on Bloc support for its survival.

            The reason for his position is the same as most right-thinking Canadians: the Bloc have ulterior motives in all that they do, that motive being the destruction of Canada. Get it Jason? It’s not that hard a concept is it?

            I’m releived that Ignatieff seems to get it although to his discredit, he did sign on to the deal with the Bloc. The fact that he was the last holdout tells you he had serious misgivings.

            In the book of basic political rules, one of them is: don’t sleep with the enemy.

            Instead the Liberals showed strange and utter naivety in agreeing to this.

            The Coalition agreement of December 1st, 2008 was the lowest point in the history of the Liberal Party.of Canada. That the party has stooped so low tells me Iggy, a good man, has his work cut out.

          • There was never a coalition with the Bloc Quebecois; a sight-unseen guarantee not to bring down a coalition is not a coalition.

            Jason, Duceppe himself considered the BQ part of the coalition. He said so on more than one occasion.

  7. Q: So a coalition with the Bloc again, if circumstances present, is a possibility?

    A: I’ve made it very clear that I have deep difficulty with the very possibility.

    Has he? Has anyone heard Ignatieff publically state this before this interview?

    But in any case, I like this guy more and more. Finally some common sense and adult leadership. About time.

  8. Jack and Gilles should form their own coalition and oust Iggy from Stornaway and the rest of the Liberals from being the official opposition.

    That would be fun to watch.

    • Jack had his chance and threw it away.

      • Jack and Gilles went to the Hill
        to see whom they could topple.
        Stephan fell down & broke his crown
        the surplus came tumbling after.

        Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

  9. Hey, I don’t favour a coalition…but if it creates the solution to dump Harper from the conservative leadership..I’m all for it.

    In this case, does the end justify the means or does the means justify the end?

  10. Canada? Atlantis?Lost civilizations? myth? fantasy?Could have been?A figment? A blip of history?If there is a future how will it be remembered, If at all? take solace old timers, It was a fine dream while it lasted. in spite of global turmoil we lived in the best of times. like the first strawberries of summer it succumbed to the rot of time. It had it’s moment. A nation that bastardizes its population cannot and does not deserve to . survive.we can take to our graves the grandeur of our countries finest times.

    • The first strawberries of summer did not succumb to the rot of time. I seen that you were writin’ yer poetry or whatever there, and I didn’t want ’em to go to waste, so I ATE ’em!

    • As lost Atlantis lies beneath the waves,
      A figment and a fantasy, yet real:
      So when a future generation craves
      Its myths of loss, we’ll still have some appeal.
      O Canada, the berries which were culled
      From summer bushes have succumbed to rot;
      Save those whose flavour cannot now be dulled
      Since cwe devoured them, as he ought.

      • Thanks, J@ck. Those were some pretty tasty berries.

  11. Good interview by Whyte. Sharp.

  12. As I have said quite some time ago there is not much difference between Iggy and Harper and I really don’t care which one is running the show.I Detested the coalition even if it was legal. The thought of the Nutty Professor as PM, who his own party had already thown under the bus(well they would have but Dion’s precious mass transit was on strike in Ottawa at the time), propped up by Sepratists and power hungry Jack, with Lizzie May in the cabinet and the Senate(God help us all). Neither one is going to demolish what’s left of the economy with goofy eco-tax schemes. On the upside this is one of the more pleasant and thoughtful conversation I have read on here for some time. What happened to Ti-Bore? He must have had a stroke since the “Evil Harper” is still in power. His ranting and name calling were becoming somewhat tiresome. Cheers all.