This is from Peter Loewen. He sent this last week while I was away, so it is a touch dated. I present this for interest and discussion, but Peter’s a friend so please make some effort to be polite. –ap
Ten thoughts on a coalition government in Canada
· First, coalition governments do not last as long as single-party minorities, on average. Controlling for electoral system, population, and degree of democracy, minority coalitions (which this would be as the Bloc would not be in the cabinet), last about 275 days less than single-party minorities. Blais and Ricard and I have a little chapter on this here.
· Second, there is no reason why Dion could not be Prime Minister until a Liberal leadership race concludes. It would be unconventional, but it is not much different then when a leader takes power after running in what is publicly acknowledged as their last election.
· Third, the Tories have survived on Bloc support enough times that they cannot legitimately criticize the Liberals for doing the same.
· Fourth, coalition governments are extremely rare in Canadian politics. They have never occurred at the national level outside of the wartime. There was a coalition between the Saskatchewan Liberals and NDP in the last ten years. Prior to that, it’s been at least 40 years since a coalition at the provincial level.
· Five, strictly speaking this is only a coalition if the NDP receives cabinet seats.
· Six, what is occurring now is roughly equivalent to the investiture votes that occur in many other countries. Indeed, of the 20 countries considered in Laver and Shepsle’s Multiparty Government, nearly half (9) have investiture votes. In other words, in many other countries it is thought strange to allow a government to propose policy before the house has decided to approve that government.
· Seven, coalitions and occasionally protracted negotiations over government formation are normal in many democracies. That it is abnormal in Canada does not make it undemocratic. It merely makes it exceptional. By my lights the combination of three, six and seven suggests that this is not actually undemocratic. We may not like it, but the government is the cabinet that commands the support of the House. It is not the cabinet made up of members who got the most votes in the last election.
· Eight, it will be very hard for the Tories to now back away from this. More importantly, it will be very tough for the opposition to back away now. They’ve taken one step over the cliff.
· Nine, the Tories have asked for this to a certain degree. You cannot threaten to bankrupt your opponents (however much they may deserve it) and propose economic policy that is out of step with other countries and arguably with what Canadians want/or expect and not expect a challenge. The opposition is merely doing their job. They are mandated with opposing the government and presenting a government in waiting. If the Governor-General decides that they are to have a crack at Government then it is their right. If you don’t like it you can punish them at the time of the next election.
· Ten, if the GG decides to call an election it is her prerogative. And it won’t be a waste of money!