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No cheers for minority gov


 

I have a column in the other place today, in which I take issue with a couple of recent polls suggesting that Canadians are tired of minority government. I argue that the polls suggest no such thing: The number of people saying they want a majority has not changed since before the last election, and that number actually tracks quite closely the number of people willing to vote for a party that actually has a chance of forming a majority government.

The last graph is courtesy of colleague Kady O’Malley, whose blunt assessment of the latest EKOS poll stands as the definitive rebuttal.  Kady gets a month’s supply of Red Bull as payment.


 
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No cheers for minority gov

  1. That's alot of red bull. Guess you're going without groceries for a month.

    • I was going to reply that the column was as much "blue bull" as it is "red bull", probably more so, but now I see what you're saying. You're referencing the Red Bull for Kady. It's just there's so much bull in the column, it's hard to keep track! :-)

      (lol)

  2. First-rate analysis.

    • Really?

      Maybe I'm just way too sensitive, but Potter really lost me with the whole, "NDP and Green voters are thwarting the expressed desires of the majority, standing in the way of stable and accountable government, and causing political damage to the country by voting wrong" line of argument.

      • You expect Norm Spector to disagree with that statement?!?

      • I don't think he seriously meant the NDP, etc., voters standing in the way of progress. I read it as an absurd, but logical conclusion to the train of thought that said that Canadians desire a stable majority government over everything else.

        • I read it exactly the same way.

        • I read exactly the same way.

        • OK, so maybe I'm missing a nuance here. What part of the following paragraph is not to be taken seriously?

          "These voters [who don't vote Liberal or Conservative] are systematically thwarting the expressed desires of the large majority of the population who want to see stable and accountable government in Ottawa. At least Bloc supporters have an excuse — they couldn't care less whether the federal government sinks or swims. But NDP and Green supporters have some serious soul-searching to do, about whether the kick they get from supporting their marginal principles is worth the political damage they are doing to the country."

          Is Mr. Potter's tongue in his cheek and I missed it? 'Cause that paragraph seems pretty straight forward to me.

        • "I don't think he seriously meant the NDP, etc., voters standing in the way of progress. I read it as an absurd, but logical conclusion to the train of thought that said that Canadians desire a stable majority government over everything else."

          Charles, you must not have read Potter's previous columns. He most certainly meant every word.

  3. Andrew – I'm fundamentally in disagreement with your conclusions.
    The whole concept of minority government working by reaching across the aisle to achieve compromise has been deep sixed for ever – thanks the Stephen Harper's extreme in your face approach to minority rule. If he hasn't got it yet – the Canadian public do not trust him – and I don't think ever will! Only two things will change this standoff – either 1) Harper leaves the scene and a more pragmatic Tory replaces him or 2) Michael Ignatieff comes up with a bold vision to differentiate the Liberals from the CPC under his watch…

  4. There's a limit to the insight polls can give you, and this whole majority-minority thing is a case in point.

    It's far too easy to start engaging in armchair analyses, often treating the aggregate numbers as the response of a single person. We look for coherence, and try to reconcile seeminly contradictory trends, as though those numbers were the thoughts of one voter.

    .

  5. I would love to see a journalist go spend a day hanging out in coffee shops – or wherever – and talk with voters for an extended time about these issues. Such an excercise would obviously not speak to the nation, but might provide some valuable insight into the perspectives of "average" folks (as opposed to those who hang out in places like this!).

    I find the media tend to use "man on the street" clips a bit too much (CBC in particular – it drives me nuts), where I'd prefer to gain a more in depth understanding of a few individuals' take on this sort of thing.

    You may well find that many citizens simply don't think through these things much, and as such poring over the entrails of these polls is futile – beyond noting the general trends.

    • Can't find average Canadians in a coffee shop anywmore, now that Tim Horton's has lattes and cappucinno.

    • You may well find that many citizens simply don't think through these things much

      You "may" find that? I don't know. I'd be impressed if you could find many voters willing to spend their precious coffee time talking to a journalist. Any "average folks" willing to sit down with a reporter to discuss the political issue of the day, in depth, is not an average folk.

      • You'd be surprised how helpful people can be in terms of spending their time and offering their insights (I know this from various research projects I've been involved with). So long as the motive is genuine on the part of the interviewer/researcher, folks are generally quite accommodating.

        It may well be that average voters won't have much interest in discussing these things too deeply – but that's important to know if true (and something you can confirm or begin to doubt by getting out and talking to people).

  6. "These voters are systematically thwarting the expressed desires of the large majority of the population who want to see stable and accountable government in Ottawa. At least Bloc supporters have an excuse — they couldn't care less whether the federal government sinks or swims. But NDP and Green supporters have some serious soul-searching to do, about whether the kick they get from supporting their marginal principles is worth the political damage they are doing to the country."
    I could understand the above if the NDP/Green/Bloc supporters also wanted a majority, but if I understood the analysis, the 64% of Canadians that claim to want a majority government are already voting Lib/Con. So apparently NDP, Green and Bloc supporters do not want a majority government. Since when in a democracy should a citizen have to "soul search" to dissent from the majority?

    • It seems to me that there's really no reason why those voting for parties other than the Libs and Cons couldn't hope for a majority government. The past couple of decades have definitely shown us a time where voting for the Cons was only marginally better than voting for the Natural Law Party (think post-Mulroney/Campbell).

    • "These voters are systematically thwarting the expressed desires of the large majority of the population who want to see stable and accountable government in Ottawa".

      It's the new definition of "majority rules". It turns out NDP and Green voters aren't so much "participating" in the democratic process by voting for the party who's policies they believe in, they're perverting it. They're "systematically thwarting" the will of the majority. Those rabble rousers are the only thing standing between the rest of us and "stable and accountable government in Ottawa". Don't they realize the damage they're doing to the country by not voting for either the Liberals or the Conservatives???

      We're living under a tyranny of the minority people. NDP and Green voters have WAY to much power, and they're using it to keep our government unstable and unaccountable.

      Something needs to be done.

    • Like I said above, I read this section as rhetorical. Note the next sentence starting "But maybe…" Of course, I think this could have been framed a lot more clearly. And if I'm wrong on this one, I agree with others saying it's ridiculous to say people shouldn't be able to vote for the party of their choice (esp. when parties rise and fall, when the NDP has done pretty well at the provincial level, etc.).

  7. "in the other place"

    You got your column posted in the Senate? Congratulations! ;)

  8. Problem is Stewart – Michael Ignatieff cut off his options with any alliance / coalition with NDP and bloc wit his stance against Dion's deal…right now – he's making Dion seem the smarter politician..
    I'd encourage him to try some deal with the Greens – they can bring more than one million votes to the table – and a percentage hike that could take that alliance into majority territory…his only other optino is to come out with a bold vision with a progressive platform..yesterday!

    • Well, my point here is that NDP,Bloc,Green, Rhino etc all have a legitimate right to vote how they wish, screw the majority (same as LKO's comments below… but I was clearly less clear.)
      The alliance issue is interesting because it seems Harper will be flogging it in the next campaign. The previous assumption was that the only two possible governing scenarios in a minority parliament were the party with the most seats, or a coallition representing a majority. In this new, "eternal" minority configuration it might become acceptable for the GG to first ask the party with the most seats to form a government, then the one with the next most if the first falls quickly after an election.

    • I'd encourage him to try some deal with the Greens – they can bring more than one million votes to the table.

      They can?

      I'm not so sure that's true.

      • You doubt the ability of the Green Party to deliver more votes for the Liberals than they did for themselves last time? Bah!

        I suppose next you'll be saying that those of us who voted Green can't exactly be counted on to move our votes wherever the party leadership tells us to?

    • Left of Centre voters have more of a beef with their respective parties than the other way around. It's hard to believe that there aren't a few high profile "progressives" out there pushing to get the merger ball rolling. Is "merger" a dirty word to the Left or what ? I can understand the likes of Iggy, Rae and Layton not wanting to go there just yet, but surely someone like Broadbent could get general talks going.

      They could do something like what happened in 1996, when David Frum and Ezra Levant organized the "Winds of Change" conference in Calgary. Come on Lefty leaders, at least give us junkies something different and substantial to chew on, besides endless election speculation.

  9. NDP and Green supporters have some serious soul-searching to do, about whether the kick they get from supporting their marginal principles is worth the political damage they are doing to the country.

    Wow. Just, wow. So, NDP and Green supporters are doing "political damage" to the country by voting wrong? You can't be serious.

    That's pretty weak.

    And, "the kick they get from supporting their marginal principles"?!?!? I think I know what you're trying to say there, but again, wow. I mean, I don't think this is what you meant, but as written that whole paragraph has the sense that you're admonishing NDP and Green supporters for having the gall to actually base their votes on what they believe in rather than voting "properly" by deciding which of the two (dare I say "legitimate") parties should lead us. That because one third of Canadians want a Liberal majority, and another third of Canadians want a Conservative majority, the final third should stop messing around and causing such political damage to the nation and cast a "proper" vote already.

    Did I mention, WOW?

    I don't think this was your intent, but as written your column could be summed up like this: "Dear Canadians who don't vote Grit or Tory: Stop voting wrong".

    • I didn't know what to make of Potter's column either. I started to get wound up about the passage you have highlighted as well but the next paragraph he writes about how a better way to look at it … . I believe this Andrew Potter is also the same Andrew Potter that ran for the marijuana party in 2000 election so surely Potter has some sympathy for fringe parties or maybe his views have changed over the years.

    • I didn't know what to make of Potter's column either. I started to get wound up about the passage you have highlighted as well but the next paragraph he writes about how 'a better way to look at it' … . I believe this Andrew Potter is also the same Andrew Potter that ran for the marijuana party in 2000 election so surely Potter has some sympathy for fringe parties or maybe his views have changed over the years.

      When I read the column, I had this feeling that Potter was not exactly writing what he thinks and was trying to pander more to his Ottawa readers.

      • Yeah, I think this is a poorly worded argumentum ad absurdum.

      • the next paragraph he writes about how 'a better way to look at it

        Well, sure, in the next paragraph he acknowledges that a sufficient number of Tories or Liberals changing votes could upset the status quo too, but that doesn't get me over the previous paragraph. For supporters of the two main parties, he simply concedes that "most people who vote Liberal hope that lots of other people vote Liberal, and most people who vote Conservative hope that lots of other people vote Conservative". There's no need expressed for Tory or Grit supporters to do any soul searching about the damage their stubborn insistence on sticking to their marginal principles is doing to the country. There's no lamenting that said intransigence by Liberal and Tory supporters is thwarting the majority's desire for stable and accountable government. He doesn't wonder why Tories and Grits are playing in to the separatists' hands. Liberal and Conservative partisanship is shown to be unsurprising and self-evident (Liberals hope other people will vote Liberal, and Tories hope other people will vote Tory, I mean… duh!) whereas NDP and Green intransigence is baffling given it's national unity overtones, and is so damaging to the nation that said supporters really ought to sit down and think about what they're doing to their country.

        Again, call me sensitive, but I can't get over that.

        • The problem you're having is that you obviously think Potter is a decent writer.. one who can use words to make his point clear. The more of his articles you read, the more you'll realize this is only occasionally the case.

          • Now that's low.

            I think it's possible that he means what he's written, it's possible he means something other than precisely what he's written, or it possible that I'm missing some nuance that's a signpost for when he's being serious and when he's being tongue in cheek. I don't THINK he means to put the NDP and Greens (and Bloc) into a box of intransigence, pettiness, nation-harming, and stability and accountability thwarting; nor that he really thinks that the supporters of the NDP and the Greens need to look into their souls and come to grips with the error of their ways, while the Tory and Grit supporters are just voters being voters, but I'm almost certain that's what he wrote.

  10. Minority governments are not the problem. We are experiencing a leadership problem. No doubt in my mind that Dion is a smarter politician than Harper or Ignatieff will ever be. Like Dion, Pearson and Mackenzie-King were poor public speakers who could not never swim in today's political currents. We produce politicians that fit the needs of the mass media era; their ability and competence to lead a government has become irrelevant.

    • 100% agree!

  11. Quiz question for the day: In the days (not so long ago) when the political analysts said we would have never-ending Liberal government who was the first to predict the oncoming eternal minorities?

    • I give up. Who?

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