Ten more on The Madness - Macleans.ca

Ten more on The Madness


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!

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Ten more on The Madness

  1. Bullies out! :-)

    The sun will shine again in Canada, after the dark days of Stephen Harper.

    Time to kick them out or they wont leave, like that awkward guest..

  2. Good riddance to ideological chauvinist parties.

  3. A very reasonable voice

  4. Great points. Worth circulating. We’re into the messy, but exhilarating side of democracy. Harper lost the confidence of the house — and the house is built of elected representatives.

    Bring him down. There will be an election before too long.


  5. There will be an election before too long- but to weather out this crises we need a firm government that is willing to co-operate. Harper has demonstrated he isn’t.

  6. I can’t fathom Harper being allowed to prorogue when he has so obviously lost the confidence of the House, unless his powers are severely curtailed. And if that is the case, what use is there is putting off the vote?

  7. From #6. “in many other countries it is thought strange to allow a government to propose policy before the house has decided to approve that government.”

    Yes, and the throne speech passed before the FU. So, #6 does not apply.

  8. No reason Dion couldn’t be PM? Is that a “can” or “should”? If its a “can” that is correct. He can physically walk into the parliament buildings, can speak, can think. We all “can”. But I think Loewen means “should”, and completely ignores the teeeny tiny little fact that Dion not only lost the election, but recieved the biggest trouncing any Liberal has gotten in 100 years.

    If Dion “should” he’s really saying any liberal “should”.

    As for the comparison of VOTING with the Bloc (which all parties have done on an issue by issue basis), and handing the Bloc a position of power and veto over the government,

    is remarkably intellectually dishonest.

    A dishonesty that the Liberals and their supporters appear all too eager to perpetuate.

    I guess that’s what a pure lust for (and an unquestioning belief that one is entitle to) power.

  9. I’m hearing serious rumours that Conservative MP Michael Chong will cross the floor and join the Liberals as early as Friday.

  10. CTV has a poll out by Angus Reid. Apparently most Canadians do not support the continuation of a Harper government, and slightly more support a coalition versus an election. I’ll post the link in a separate post.

  11. I’m hearing serious rumours that 15 Liberal MP’s will sit as independents.

  12. kody: the Bloc wouldn’t have a veto over a coalition any more than it has a veto over the CPC government.

  13. Oh, LKO. I have a post in moderation with the link. Argh! Are html tags the only way to sneak them through? If so, that’s rather strange. You’d think that after a while wordpress would give my ip a clear pass.

  14. See, kody wants us all to believe that the Bloc are going to put forward a motion separating Quebec from Canada and then threaten to vote non-confidence in the government unless the Liberals and NDP vote for it, and that Stephane freakin’ Dion is gonna say “Well gee, I guess we have to let Quebec separate then.”

    Kody thinks we’re all idiots.

    Or, possibly, kody doesn’t know the meaning of the word “veto”.

  15. I’m hearing serious rumours that 15 Liberal MP’s will sit as independents.

    Are you still in the locker room?

  16. Voices in your head don’t count as hearing rumours, kody.

  17. Andrew (wants everyone to be clear which Andrew he isn’t),

    Perhaps it’s not so much about moderation as formatting? Just guessing, but maybe the comments at Macleans aren’t so much filtering links, as ensuring that long urls don’t mess up the formatting of the page.

    Then again, on html, I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

    Sorry to jump on your fun though.

  18. Off topic a bit, but as this is the most recent Blog post at Macleans it’ll probably have the most eyes on it.

    Has everyone seen THIS???

    Nothing to do with the current excitement, I just find it hilarious is all. That whole Airbus thing just WILL NOT DIE!

  19. I think it is an anti-spam measure, which would make sense if I hadn’t made dozens of other posts that haven’t been flagged for moderation. Just inadequate software design…

    Oh, and the clarification on which Andrew was at Coyne’s request. He was concerned some people might think he were I, or I he.

  20. Ti-Guy
    These rumours that 15 Liberal MP’s will sit as independents are nothing but Harperite propaganda stuff I would never give any credibility to any of it. We are back on track; Governor General will be back tomorrow (she might already be back) and Three Stooges Government in Waiting will pay her a visit. We will have her decide what to do next.

  21. Third, the Tories have survived on Bloc support enough times that they cannot legitimately criticize the Liberals for doing the same.

    Maybe not legitimately. But otherwise they can, they will, and the Liberal brain trust will probably let the bastards get away with it, just as they let them get away with blaming Monday’s stock market blorp on the Coalition.

  22. Good stuff, now there’s a political scientist who understands democracy. Can we get him to take Potter’s place?

  23. “I think in the bubble which is Ottawa, where people are trying to see this in the context of hundreds of years of British parliamentary history, it all makes sense. You know, it’s about who can command the confidence of the House of Commons, and in that context the three opposition parties are not limited by what their motives might be; if they have a majority of the votes in the HOC and agree on who should be prime minister in, you know, constitutional history, that’s kind of it. But I think out in the real world people are not really going to follow that argument very well, and I think they are going to be stunned to see Stephane Dion become the prime minister after they pretty thoroughly rejected him in the election campaign. And I think this is potentially, in the longer term, a very serious problem for the Liberal party.

    The above was John Manley in the G&M round table. “Wise Man” indeed – who by the way, apparently along with Frank McKenna (according to Bourque…make of that what you will), deny any involvement in any kind of council for the coalition. So we’re now down to 2 “Wise Men”

    I’m so sorry John Manley isn’t running for the Liberal leadership. A voice of sanity is desperately needed here.

  24. Andrew, thanks for posting this. It seems to be a rational discussion of the situation.

    Real people in real societies can live with all this. So can we.

    Well …. apparently kody can’t …. but there is some question as to his connection with reality anyway.

  25. From the just-put-up National Post column by Don Martin:

    “Stephen Harper, despite all those standing ovations at his Christmas party on Monday night, has been mortally damaged as Prime Minister, will go down in history as the author of a tragically needless crisis and may well quit if the grassroots grumbling gets much louder.

    And it will take years for Parliament to be rehabilitated as a decent democratic institution under any fallout scenario. “

  26. john g, the problem with you , and Manley ( whose attraction I’ve never understood ) is that Dion is not there for ” the long term ” . Unless you think six months is long term.

  27. You probably should be happy, john. He’d eat Harper for breakfast.

  28. Progbots : )

    Hop on kody but you did notice he was making fun of the comment before about rumors of a conservative going to the libs.

    I don’t see it as a very good point to say that Dion would only be there 4-6 months because then you’re replacing him with someone who hasn’t faced the electorate to run for PM at all.

    Harper has survived on Bloc support, but with a significant plurality without them, and without obvious deals. It was the sharing of a more decentralized preference. Now that Harper’s pretty close to a majority the Bloc doesn’t want him anymore. Manley knows what he’s talking about. We’re pretty comfortable with a system where the decisions are made by the principles of the ruling party – not made in the backrooms. A few weeks ago a minority that ruled for longer than most got close to a majority. Now it looks like they’re out with a marginal party in government and an expressly marginal party at the table.

  29. I’m glad da wolfe brought up the rumour thing again, ’cause I missed that meme the first go ’round.

    I’m hearing rumours that we’ll never go back into deficit.

    That said, the guy who told me that has been TOTALLY discredited.

  30. Yeah – it would’ve been nice if the media had stopped covering puffin poo and taken a look at that thing over there called the economy. Sometimes I think the pp was just to throw the media off balance. Would be a nice time for stable government that didn’t include Jack! I’d like to see Iggy say he’ll support the cons if Harper resigns.

  31. Andrew, if this coalition travesty had never happened and Manley had won the leadership I’d likely have voted for him in the next election

  32. Good even headed analysis. We need more of this, not less.

  33. You know, what’s missing here is that the Bloc clearly doesn’t have an absolute veto on the coalition’s policies. The Conservatives are able to vote for any policy at any time if they feel that it is in the country’s best interest. So if the coalition government decides to put forward a policy that promotes Canadian unity and the Bloc opposes it, the Conservatives can vote for it and ensure it passes. In all their rants, they seem to assume that they will stubbornly oppose everything regardless of its importance to the country.

  34. Not to mention that the Bloc would be free to vote against it, as their deal on guarantees support for confidence motions. And, I’m supposing that the Coalition won’t continue to conservative tradition of declaring every vote a vote of confidence.

  35. That’s a good point. Although it’s extremely hard to wrap your head around the idea of the Libs/NDP ruling with the Bloc until they need the Conservatives – who outnumber them by a fair bit.

  36. The idea that the lib/ndp could actually co-opt the cons into supporting them in any serious unity showdown with the bloq is just to delicious to contemplate. How do you spell shadenfruede. Tell me it’s true. god help us i’m sure it hasn’t occured to Dion.

  37. I had to have a toke there! Back to reality. Manley is right, there is a world of difference between the rareified air of the HoC and the real one mr & mrs i’m too f***ing i’m too busy and stressed average voter livein. Perhaps i’m not giviing the Can public enough credit, i hope so. The way i see it if this goes through and the coalition gov reasonably well, the libs will get hosed in the next election but at least H will be gone and we might even get a con gov that i could vote for.

  38. If a coalition requires that all members have cabinet seats (point 5) then this is merely a Lib/NDP coalition (rather than a Lib/NDP/BQ coalition). While that may please the Lib/NDP supporters who are working themselves into knots trying to explain how they haven’t sold their souls to the BQ – it also undermines the position that the Libs/NDP have an alternative government in place. A coalition that only consists of the LIberals and the NDP cannot reasonably expect to govern.

    Yet another argument for an election. Speaking of which the growing unwillingness of the Left to submit this travesty to the public really undermines all this “democracy has triumphed” talk. I, for one, will gladly hold my peace if the public signs off on a LIb/NDP/BQ government. And don’t tell me they already have as I recall numerous direct statements from the Liberals in the last election that they would not consider a coalition with the NDP (much less the BQ). How many Liberal voters factored those statements into their decision to vote Liberal? Only one way to find out.

  39. I’m curious, Angry Guy, where have you heard that the Left is unwilling to submit to an election? Personally, I think having Canada in perpetual campaign mode (what happens with the *next* conservative minority? Do we have an election immediately after that one as well, because I can bet Mr. Harper won’t have regained the confidence of the house by then) is a bad idea, especially during these economic times, but if the GG calls an election, the parties of the Left will go forward that way.

    But, while an election goes on, while parliament is prorogued, Canada’s government does nothing to guide the economy. Something that an overwhelming majority of Canadians don’t want to happen.

  40. I think it outrageous that only 6 weeks after an election where Canadians clearly voiced their opinion that the Liberals and Stephan Dion should not govern and that the Conservatives should govern with a stronger minority can so easily be disregarded. If everyone is so certain that these parties should govern by coalition, let the Canadian people decide. I don’t care what the cost it can’t be anywhere near the cost of having the separatists holding the balance of power in a coalition. This coalition clearly subverts the will of the people which was just expressed.

  41. Ignore all of this hypothetical coalition debate for a moment and consider Don Martin’s words:

    “And it will take years for Parliament to be rehabilitated as a decent democratic institution under any fallout scenario.”

    Harper has poisoned the well. Until he goes, Parliament’s rehabilitation cannot begin. If Conservatives want to retain the mandate they claim to have earned, they ought to consider finding a new leader at once.

    Do it now and all this debate becomes unnecessary.

  42. I have lost respect for Mr. Dion. His main claim to fame was the Clarity Act..
    By giving the Bloc credibility while there is an election campaign in Quebec, God help
    Canada if Pauline Marois becomes Premier of Quebec.
    Like other separatists, she is NOT committed to holding a referendium.
    So if she unilaterally declares a Sovereign Quebec, the Bloc will be able to sit on the Federal side of the
    table. The Clarity Act is now toast and its author is now to lead a Quebec -Centric coalition that taticitly
    supports the Bloc.

    I personally think that a coalition that includes a silent partner that has never taken an oath of allegiance to Canada and the Monarchy undermines Canada.

    I guess the new bumper sticker out west will read ” My Canada does NOT include Quebec”
    Way to go Stephanne, power over principles will forever your legacy.

  43. Jack,

    The coalition does not include the Bloc.

  44. Jack,
    So what you are saying is, if for some incomprehensible reason Pauline Marois declared a sovereign Quebec, and the Canadian government had to deal with her illega declaration, the Tories would not join forces withe Libs and NDP to deal with it? They would say – well, you wanted your coalition, so have fun with that?

    If so, that would be sufficient reason to oust them. There is partisan and there is partisan. I think, however, that a sufficient number of them would recognise the urgency of the situation and join the coalition.

  45. There is no precedent for this type of coalition in countries with Westminster democracies but many people point to prop-rep systems and act like that’s the same thing. What’s happening is that Libs/NDP might be doing something technically legal but goes against everything that has happened previously. When oppo parties have to make the point that what they are doing is technically allowed, though its never been done before, they should think again about what they are doing.

  46. Getting rid of Harper won’t solve a damn thing.

    Since the days of the Reform Party, every leader that the supporters of western conservatism have chosen for themselves had been branded evil by supporters of the other three parties. I don’t see the supporters of the three parties admitting at all that a conservative from western Canada could ever have a mandate to govern.

    This is a cosmic struggle against demonic enemies. To the left, we conservatives aren’t people with legitimate views and interests that have to be protected against their entitlements of personal and corporate welfare. It isn’t because the left has made mistakes with how they prioritized interests of certain regions over others, or because they favor one set of economic interests who live on the largess of government funding over others which are small businesses and farms that have to struggle to make their own wealth.

    To the left we are nothing but evil, greedy, hateful, and intolerant people. We represent evil despite the fact that we haven’t used violence in the public sphere to accomplish our goals. We represent greed despite the fact that we are largely the party of the $10 – $100 donations. We represent hate and intolerance despite the fact that large swaths of the citizens of the rural west have aboriginal relatives or aboriginal blood ourselves, while the far left of the Liberal and NDP are whiter than a prairie snowstorm.

    The problem is that this attitude is widespread enough that there is nothing we can do to break into any form of legitimacy in eastern Canada. Maybe if we’re so evil that we should never be allowed to be a part of government, maybe that means that we should start thinking about other options of how to express ourselves politically. Western separation? Civil withdrawal and disobedience?

    I don’t know. But I certainly know I can’t simply go along with the agenda of the NDP and the Liberal parties. They are firmly representing the interests of urban and eastern Canada. They consider my faith to be an irrational hangover of the barbaric middle ages that should be suppressed in the public sphere. They want to take away my rights to have the final say in how I raise my child, possibly taking away custody if I feel that a spanking is required. They want to take the resources that the economy that my home province depends on, sell them at a discount rate to manufacturing corporate interests in central Canada and offer nothing in return.

    So what do we do?

  47. The chain of events of signing a FORMAL pact with the Bloc has been set in motion. That Layton and Dion have an inability to sense this would happen is a function of

    1) Dion and his party being creatures of Montreal Toronto and Ottawa….they and their parties have no feel or sense anymore for things outside those areas

    2) Layton ignoring, and his non Ot-To-Mon triangle members not pushing, what they would know to be true.

    How hard is it to predict you would be pasted by signing a formal pact, how hard is it to predict the firestorm in Western Canada, how hard is it to predict the extreme discomfort this causes in Ontario and down East, especially when you have Jack hinting at the problem on the conference call…well we cant call it a Canada party because of the Bloc. Finally, does the Tory reaction surprise anyone? Jaysus you paste Harper for stepping on the opposition windpipe and them fighting back, wasn’t there a reaction short of goign nuclear, heard of negotiation? So when the opposition does the same thing just what the heck do you expect the government, especially one run by Stephen Harper, to do?

    The opposition misread their constitutional textbooks, they misread the opponent but most importantly they misread significant parts of the country and how this would play and be played. They have allowed the discussion to become about the Bloc, the original reason about the Stimulus package now looking like the ruse it was. Irresponsible, and all of a sudden Dion and Layton are looking as out of depth as Toddler left alone at the beach.

    And the latest today….oops McKenna and Manley not signing on, questioning what it would do….isn’t it clear now that Layton and Dion don’t know what they are doing, don’t know what they have started and won’t know how to stop it.

    Children lighting a Barbeque.

  48. “Dion and his party being creatures of Montreal Toronto and Ottawa….they and their parties have no feel or sense anymore for things outside those areas”


    It is even more than that because there are plenty of NDP/Lib supporters in those cities that are furious about the idea of a coalition with the BQ and how the parties have usurped power.

    The Lib/NDP pols and eggheads have decided to what they are doing is technically allowed, which is debateable because there is no precedent for this type of coalition deal in Westminster democracy history, but it doesn’t pass the smell test with the electorate.

    Potter’s latest post is spot on. People are generally uninformed about the details of how Parliament works and so what they see happening now goes against what they think democracy is. The coalition, in order to grab power, has got people questioning Parliament and Canadian democracy.

    And they don’t like it that Dion the marionette is going to allow himself to be manipulated by Duceppe the puppeteer. Dion is about to become a great example for how power corrupts if some adults within the Lib party don’t do something very soon.

  49. >john g, the problem with you , and Manley ( whose attraction I’ve never understood ) is that Dion is not there for ” the long term ” .

    Manley wasn’t speaking about Dion’s future; he was speaking about the long-term prospects of Liberals who might like to govern after Dion resigns as party leader in a few months.

    The coalition (strict technical definition) does not include the Bloc. The coalition (common sense meaning) does include the Bloc. People should stop trying to pretend that absence from cabinet is a meaningful degree of separation. The proposed new government is a 3-way deal, not a 2-way deal.

    To most Canadians, Bloc = separatist. To most Canadians, negotiated deal = partners. To various constituencies, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc will have to explain themselves, and should not expect any more sympathy than the Conservatives for things that are technically permitted but reflect poorly.

  50. How partisan you are! Firstly the opposition passed the throne speech. Secondly the NDP (Socialists always drive the economy into the ground ,those are the words of Liberal MP Keith Martin) will be given 6 cabinet seats. The Conservatives NEVER governed with a Bloc coalition, there was never a signed agreement and there was never any formal agreement of any kind between the two parties. The Bloc is always about the Bloc and only supported the Conservatives because they saw it to be to their advantage. The separatist Bloc only care about their narrow ideology and don’t give a whiff about Canada! What about the evidence that the NDP and separatist Bloc were plotting to overthrow the government BEFORE the fical update! Maybe Andrew should show some journalistic fairness and integrity here and put the hyper-partizan Liberal spin on ice.