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How do coalition governments work?

Canada sails into ‘uncharted territory’


 

How do coalition governments work?

So the Liberals and NDP have ironed out the dirty details behind their Stéphane Dion-led coalition in waiting. Broadly, both believe in stimulus over belt-tightening. But how do coalition governments work, anyway?

For starters, they plan ahead. If—and that’s a big if—Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn’t pull the procedural fire alarm by proroguing Parliament, and the Conservative government is defeated in a confidence motion on Dec. 8, Harper will seek the dissolution of Parliament and ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean for another election. “She’ll say no,” says constitutional expert Paul Thomas, with the University of Manitoba. Given that the would-be coalition government has a 24-member cabinet, a legislative agenda that includes a multi-billion dollar stimulus package for Canada’s troubled economy and an agreement with the Bloc Québécois to support it for 18 months, Thomas predicts the Governor General would grant it the opportunity to lead; that way, Canada would also avoid the uncertainty—and $300-million expense—of an election. Constitutional expert Ned Franks agreed with Thomas in an interview with The Globe and Mail, citing British and Canadian and precedents, including the 1985 accord with the NDP that allowed Ontario Liberal leader David Peterson to take power after Frank Miller’s minority Progressive Conservative government went down in defeat.

We’d then be sailing into “uncharted territory,” says historian Desmond Morton, a professor emeritus at McGill University. With the exception of Sir Robert Borden’s Union Government of 1917-20 and the Liberal-Conservative coalition that governed B.C. from 1941 to 1952, Canada has “very little experience in this area,” he adds.

Coalitions are quite common, however, in Italy, Israel and the Nordic and Benelux countries, as well as Pakistan and India. Currently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is governing a “grand coalition” that includes her conservative Christian Democrats and the left-leaning Social Democratic Party. Since 1959, Switzerland has been run by a four-party coalition called the “Magic Formula.” And indeed, that’s one of the potential downsides of coalition governance: getting out can be tricky, both Thomas and Morton agree. “Coalition partners tend to stick together,” says Morton; splitting up often guarantees victory for the opposition. In other countries, however—like Italy and Israel, where 12 different political parties hold seats in the Knesset—coalitions can be unpredictable, unwieldy and chaotic. They can also give voice to ideological extremists—“people who should be kept from power,” says Morton. In Austria, for example, two extremist, anti-immigrant parties are part of the governing conservative coalition.

On the plus side, however, a coalition government is often seen as a more democratic outcome, says Morton. “Most Canadians did not vote Conservative,” he says; therefore, “more people will feel like, ‘I have my guy in government.’” But maintaining unity in a country as large and fragmented as Canada wouldn’t be easy, says Thomas; as in New Zealand, we’d have to learn as we go. Governed by coalition since 1996, the small, relatively homogeneous two-island country has had to develop an exhaustive set of new rules governing everything from cabinet solidarity, to caucus confidence, to who gets to speak for government and who works with the public sector. “It’s been painful,” he says. Unless egos are kept firmly in check, Morton suspects Canada’s new coalition might not last long.


 

How do coalition governments work?

  1. What about a grand coalition including conservative elements? Wouldn’t that be fun (and civilized in the House)?

  2. What a stomach turning picture.

  3. This is what Parliaments are supposed to do: represent the will of the people. We Canadians have been watching too much American TV. We don’ t have a President, we have a Member of Parliament that serves as Prime Minister, and this one has proved to be an extremely inefficient one managing the economy. Harper squandered a 12 B dollars surplus. Bring the Liberals in!.

  4. Just as long as everyone actually does their jobs, it should be fine.

  5. “Thomas predicts the Governor General would grant it the opportunity to lead; that way, Canada would also avoid the uncertainty—and $300-million expense—of an election.”

    Thank God. What a waste that would be. So we can now make it $30.3 billion we can throw at failing industries!

  6. It’s not just the money, Mike, it’s the fact that we wouldn’t have a government during the campaign. Thus we effectively wouldn’t have had a government since the writ dropped in October, i.e. 3 months! You can’t leave a country without a government for that long.

  7. While I’m supportive of the opposition’s move — let’s face it, Harper has proven himself to be ill-suited for a position of trust — I still think there is still plenty to be written before this does come to pass. The Conservatives under Harper have demonstrated a will to play any kind of pool to win, and I don’t doubt sowing seeds of discontent among the public is outside that jurisdiction. As explained in the above article, it isn’t such a foreign concept, but the Conservatives want it to appear as treasonous. His team has taped private conversations, refused to cooperate with Elections Canada, danced around rules and even their own laws, and has enough money to bury all three parties in paperwork. Somehow, I don’t think they will take a defeat in the house like a Joe Clark…

  8. Jack, I beg to differ. This country would be much better off without a government if the only options are the current lot in Ottawa.

  9. The business sector is beginning to respond negatively to the prospect of an unstable coalition, which contains a seditious party, an extreme left of center party, and an exhausted party marred by years of infighting, a lame duck leader and scandal.

    The coalition really amounts to a minority governing a majority, with the regrettable reality that the minority NDP and Liberals can call upon their Faustian deal with the separatist to extract necessary votes. In a sense it’s like hiring a goon squad to fatten some lips when necessary.

    It’s hard for me to imagine that Canadians would every support such lunacy and brazen thirst for power by three conspirators-all Quebecers I might add- who are out for themselves

  10. This Boat Won’t Float writes: The coalition really amounts to a minority governing a majority

    What majority would that be? The Conservatives aren’t a majority, either in seats in the House or in popular vote.

    This Boat Won’t Float writes: with the regrettable reality that the minority NDP and Liberals can call upon their Faustian deal with the separatist to extract necessary votes.

    Given that the Conservatives don’t have a majority, who would they be relying upon to get the votes they need? OH RIGHT, THE BLOC!

  11. What about King’s minoriity government (1925-1926) with the support of the Progressives? They withdrew their support when word of a customs ministry scandal was breaking. Arthur Meighen and the Conservatives had more seats than the Liberals and were given the chance to govern (By Byng).

    Was that not a coalition?

  12. Coyne,

    In the view of many the BLOC should not be given the opportunity to even exist in the House of Commons let alone blackmail the country.-just think what they’ll be getting now? Personally speaking, I’ve had it with their insults and constant search for any scandle or false bravado,”let me see you knock the chip of my shouder” which they can use to pump up Quebec emotions and then launch a referendum. I’m afraid that Jack has opened the lid of Pandora’s Box which has let out all sorts of hard feelings, and the sentiment which goes with these feelings may well prove provocative enough to get a national unity crisis going-one which he can’t control.

    The Bloc has turned Quebec into a “demandeur” society which is simply pathetic. So assuming we remove the seditious Block from the arithmetic, we’re left with three federalist parties who represent Canada. And on this score the conservatives have more seats than the liberal and NDP combined. Only could a hard-up, short sighted, morally bankrupt, ignoramous, give the Faustian coalition his/her blessing.

  13. Canadians DO NOT owe the benefit of the doubt to the FASCIST Bloc Quebecois or any party that would collaborate with them. They are enemies of Canada who have no interest in “making Canada a better place” as Jack Layton stupidly believes. They’re not even interested in making Quebec a better place, given all the economic problems they cause there with their stupid referenda and other generators of economic instability. We the Canadian people will not tolerate being governmed by enemy traitors.

    Everyone now knows that Jack Layton was scheming with them long before the Economic Statement.
    He is going to wear this for the rest of his miserable life. It’s not surprising, though, Socialists are usually the first to collaborate fascists, the 2 have a lot in common, they are not polar opposites as is widely thought.

  14. This is a complete hi-jacking of democracy, and relegates us into a third-world realm of government.

    In their letter, the comment was made that; ‘A majority of Canadians and Quebecers voted for our parties on October 14, 2008. Our Members of Parliament make up 55 percent of the House of Commons.’

    Really? I guess they were too blinded by their hunger for power to realize that if you add up the votes of ANY 3 parties, you would break the 50% mark. What makes their 55% any different?

    Canadians must realize that the Torys basically doubled the Liberals in seats, and this move will reverse that outcome of the voice of our nation.

    What a disgrace to democracy. NO party should be in power without the voice of Canadians putting them there… that is, unless we want to start a Venezuelan style of government.

  15. Oh my sweet Jesus… my first thoughts.

    This is CRAZY… its a big feat for I, an openly far lefter, To support the Harper government. The whole blowing the budget… umm I checked and before him our army was a joke! I mean like 1 bow between 3 soldiers. In a modern world we need to take a leading step and have a strong leader and a military that isnt a laughing point for the world. Harper is a strong man, and has the aura. And about the lost surplus… you just cant point at the leader and say “found the issue” if the former pilot(the PM) point the plane down, the next cant just heave back and up we go. And the economy is a rollercoster ride on top of that. If the liberals could get a good leader that isnt an idiot the the English majority cant understand, and some strong ideas I could lean more toward them. And the NDP… well if he isnt a steriotypical Left winger… well who is. RANT RANT RANT RANT UTOPIA RANT RANT BLAIM RANT BLAME BLAME BLAME.

    that’s my peace. if you dont like it The.Canadian.Mick {AT} Gmail {DOT} com. Dont flame, please.

  16. This is a message for the Coalition members: Mr. Stephane Dion, the Liberal Party of Canada, Mr. Jack Layton, the NDP and M. Gilles Duceppe, Le Bloc Québecois:

    Gentlemen; You have usurped the will of us the people expressed only six weeks ago. Your original reason for building this coalition has now been withdrawn but your desire for power has overcome all your scruples. You are entering on a course of action that may very well deepen the economic crisis in Canada through uncertainty. You seem to have no idea what sort of stimulus you can introduce bearing in mind that anything that takes more than six months to implement is totally useless and may turn out to be extremely dangerous. You seem determined to pile up long term debts for this country in order to satisfy your desire for power. That is how it looks to us who are part of the grassroots.

    Here are some questions for you:
    1. How will Canada look if you rush into financial help to the auto companies as quickly as you can and then when Mr. Obama comes to power in late January, should the car companies not present credible business recovery plans, he could well refuse them a bail out? Would you not do better to move more slowly rather than this urgent rush?

    2. Any new construction stimulus projects that you may devise will have to have environmental assessments which take a lot of time. How can you time the impact of your stimulus projects to have any effect when it is most needed? In fact you should have been talking about this DURING THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN!

    3. I wonder if you have considered how western Canada will feel at this coalition which appears to be very much in bed with Quebec: Mr. Duceppe (a separatist leader after money for Quebec), Mr. Dion from Quebec with Mr. Chretien working in the background. Did we elect any of these people to govern the country six weeks ago?

    4. I realize that Mr. Harper’s proposed abolition of funding for political parties based on numbers of votes has angered opposition parties and probably would have been better left alone AT THIS TIME…however I support doing away with this practice/policy. I think it is incredible that Canadian taxpayers support a separatist party when Quebec based donors do very little in the way of donations? Can you explain why the Bloc receives so few donations comparatively speaking? Can you assure us in public declarations in writing that no financial favours will be given to Quebec?

    5. I realize that this may be a political game for you but at this time of severe economic crisis to see the three leaders signing the opposition coalition agreement with self satisfied smiles on their faces – how do you think we feel about that? I guess I can tell you how I feel at least: appalled and betrayed.

  17. Absolutely dismayed at the idiocracy of our leaders blatant disregard for our country. And not even hiding this fact ‘A majority of Canadians and Quebecers” in the letter…are not Quebecers Canadian? To the three conspirators…thanks for prolonging our economic future and those of my kids!

  18. “I wonder if you have considered how western Canada will feel at this coalition which appears to be very much in bed with Quebec”

    How will Westerners manifest their outrage with separatists propping up a government? Threaten to separate themselves! Brilliant. Logical. Internally consistent!

  19. What’s really amazing is the fact had Harper’s deal gone down i 04/05 then westeners who rightly upset would now be singing a different tune. I believe it’s called cognitive dissonance – we all suffer from it.

  20. Moving to the Carib – maybe you were in the Carib at the time but under Harper the Canadian governement has recognized that the Quebecois form a nation within Canada. Get used to hearings Canadians and Quebecois !.

  21. If you can’t stomach this unholy allaince you do not need to sit on the sidelines. Voice your disapproval by sending emails to as many Quebec newspapers, journalist and politicians as you possible can. Be polite but be honest. Send emails to all Western politicians voicing your concern for what is a form of cuop. Be sure to cc your email’s to liberal and NDP politicians as well as the Toronto Star, a newspaer which seems to beleive this unholy allaince is a good idea. We cannot allow democracy to be railroaded by forming a pact with a party bent on our nations destruction, something, which may well come out of this Forest Gump coalition.

  22. Excellent letter, Margaret!

  23. Do any of these three leaders really believe that have all the support they had during election, supports joking together? Around 60% may not have voted Conservative but that doesn’t automatic mean 60% of Canadians (that voted) will support this. It’s just a vile backdoor power grab.

  24. A message for all of you who oppose a coalition — if blame is your game there is only one name — Stephen Harper, the man solely responsible for this mess we’re in.

    And you know it.

  25. Is there the possibility that this could be Canada’s “Magic Formula”?!

  26. Most of the contributors to this thread appear to be upset with the possibility of a coalition government but I think that we have overlooked the real culprit. Stephen Harper called an election of convenience in which he, arguably, could never have won a majority. He did so because he feared exactly this lack of confidence in his government. I am not charging Mr. Harper with presaging the impending economic crisis but he must have realized that the status quo of a Conservative minority government would not last much longer. Stephen Harper may leave us with the ridiculous choice of accepting a temporary coalition government (whose survival is antithetical to the principals of the Bloc) or immediately footing the bill for another 300 million dollar election. Either way, we will have an election on our hands in the near future. The impending election is not the problem but the political motivations behind the one we just had probably is. Mr. Harper should have governed until he was forced out or called an election when he could have won.

  27. Tim, why so convinced an election would be a bad thing right now? I would welcome it. I think the recordings showed the Opposition parties in their true light. The coalition was not an off-the-cuff reaction to a stimulus package that didn’t appear. It was a sour-grapes move long in the works, ready to be trotted out at the first opportunity. The stimulus package was only the excuse – and the “stimulus” is unnecessary to begin with, given the recent reports on the economy which is holding steady, certainly in comparison to the U.S.

    The NDP and Liberals are not the same party; if they were they wouldn’t have to run separate candidates, and their leaders wouldn’t roast each other on debate nights. Another election would clear the air nicely and would be far preferable to an usurpation of power. No one voted for Jack Layton to have a cabinet position. The NDP aren’t the Liberals; in most people’s minds, they aren’t even close.

  28. Does it really matter who forms the government. Its not government that is draging us down, but the belief that free world markets and profits are the answer to all problems. Along with over consumption, degradation of our environment and a me first mentality in our politicians we were bound sooner or later to collapse. No government will succeed with out first a change in moral courage.
    That courage will have to admit that, although better than most, the system is failing.
    To succeed by consuming is not self sustaining. To increase the GNP of a country year in year out is not self sustaining.
    A new system in which conservation of resources, sharing labour opportunities ( a 30 hour work week ?), strenghtening of family by striving for an economy that supports a one wage earner family allowing the second to stay at home to nurture a family must become once again the corner stone of our society before the drive for that almighty profit.
    I know. I live in dream land. More likely society will be satisfy with “same old-same old” untill we drive ourselves into extinction. Maybe for the better of the planet. ??????

  29. As for the comments about Mr. Harper squandering trust and surpluses – to my mind, he’s done neither. We keep hearing there is an economic “crisis” and then people turn around and ask where the money has gone. We’re at war, for one – which is the fault of terrorists in other countries, not any political party in Canada, so no finger-pointing here can change that, though if you really want to, the Liberals committed our soldiers to Afghanistan (and were right to do so).

    Panicking and throwing money at problems is deceptive; it gives the appearance of action. Calm wait-and-see gives the appearance of inaction. PM Martin was called Mr. Dithers, perhaps unfairly, for his desire to wait-and-see. It’s tough – I thought he was a great finance minister and a lousy Prime Minister. I see he’s been dredged up as an advisor to the new coalition, along with venerable superstars like Mr. Broadbent.

    But isn’t that a concern, too? Mr. Dion couldn’t win the big chair for his party and lost in the neighbourhood of 50 seats – the largest defeat since Confederation – and will be ousted come May. He does not have the confidence of his party, and yet he wants to claim Mr. Harper does not have the confidence of the house? If anyone has confidence in anyone, why parachute in all these advisors like Mr. Broadbent?

    It’s all very unseemly. Mr. Harper has my confidence, even if he does not have the confidence of the Opposition. Frankly, I don’t know who the Opposition has confidence in. Not the PM. Not Mr. Dion. They won’t trust each other for long. Mr. Duceppe won’t make much of a PM – perhaps of Quebec…

  30. This brazen power grab has all the makings on a new national unity crisis. Did the turkey’s ever consider this or were they so wrapped up in the sight of their own tail feathers that such thinking simply didn’t register?

    In the minds of so many, the separatists are an illegitimate federalist party formed in part because Lucian Bouchard wanted to sped up Quebec’s succession from Canada. For years the party was on the national payroll overreacting to anything which could be used to pump up Quebecers and ripen the secessionist fruit for easy harvesting. For years the Bloc stood with a chip on its shoulder begging anyone from English Canada to knock it off. And for years, we have capitulated and appeased the”demandeur” province.

    But now insult is being transformed into injury and no longer can we sit on our thumbs and allow our corrupt leaders to speak on our behalf. It’s time to turn up the heat and put the four lobsters straight into the boiling pot. Send emails to as many people as possoble inside Quebec and tell them you’ve had enough nonsense and you want the Bloc to banned from the nations’s parliament. CC them to Jack Layton, Stephan Dion, Bob Rae,the Western premiers and the Toronto Star.

  31. That’s right, Grass Roots.. nothing like denying 10% of the Canadian populace their choice of party because it doesn’t agree with your views. That’s democracy!

  32. Harper is a minority government, which meant he was a coalition with whoever would agree with him. This is no different.

    This is how our government works. Did you all not attend school? Please don’t vote and stay home if you do not understand the basic rules of our government. As Arturo said, we are not the US and our polical system does not work the same. There is no president of Canada. Whoever can form a government with the most seats regardless of party is our PM.

    Harper is playing the game the same as all the others. He is hoping for a messy dispute so he can call another election and try and get more seats. This is also his right. This is also how our government works.

  33. Michael has hit it on the head, and given how Mr. Harper’s strategies have worked in the past – quite well, really, if only incrementally – I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t something else up his sleeve. This may actually be going to plan for him. We shall see how it turns out. If he can keep his own party in check during another election and avoid any major gaffes, it will remain to be seen if the quest for power displayed – and the willingness to court the separatists – will have turned away NDP and Liberal voters, and towards the Conservatives.

    Realistically, I don’t see how anyone could predict that, however, and I doubt this was really the “plan” – but I think Mr. Harper’s biographer will have more interesting material to deal with someday than a few other Prime Ministers I can think of, at least as far as strategy goes.

    There won’t be a coalition government, despite what the three talking heads on the CBC news said last night. I would have to think Parliament will be prorogued until January, and then either the budget passes, or an election called in the event the government falls. I credit Mr. Layton for an earnest desire to do good for the country, but he has to realize he won’t live to see an NDP cabinet minister in his lifetime – unless the parties officially merge, which might be a logical outcome of the events of 2008.

  34. Michael Dorosh , I think I may have misrepresented myself. I firmly believe that there is an election that is needed but I think that the October election was an enormous waste of 300 million dollars given that this current crisis of confidence was probably foreseeable in September. Mr. Harper wanted to quickly legitimize his government before he thought it might hit unfavourable times. I realize that this is part of Canadian politics to a certain extent but during an economic crisis one would hope that our politicians would try to avoid such a colossal waste as two elections within 6 months.

  35. Voting for nothing is where it’s at. We should definitely follow the teachings of Israel, India and PAKISTAN! What am embarrassment. Even better that the guy that was just about kicked out of the Liberal Party be the leader of this Communist Coalition.

  36. What was it about the Conservatives before the election that led to the “non functioning” parliament that was cited as one of the main reasons for having an election in the first place?
    Was it the inability of the Conservatives to COMPROMISE on issues?
    Now they have a 2nd minority government and seem to have made NO effort to form their own coalition in order to pass legislation.
    What kind of consultation went into the issues brought forward in the Fiscal Update? Surely there would have been RED FLAGS raised by coalition partners if there had been ANY consultation.
    This should never have even reached the House, if there wasn’t some sort of tacit agreement that it would pass? Let alone become a confidence vote.
    DUMB & DUMBER

  37. Good points, Tim.

    I think Laurie is making good points, but we don’t know. As to who is consulting whom (if anyone), we obviously don’t know. If there was or not, it didn’t do much good. It may be that the problem is a diametrical opposition between small-c conservatives who want to husband the country’s resources, and the small-l liberals who want to make full use of the country’s resources in the ways that they feel will benefit. What the conservatives are reading into this, though, is that the issue of the economy was only the excuse to take power. It’s hard for me, as a conservative, not to believe that given the StatsCan statement about continued growth (albeit minor) of the GDP and the fact that this coalition was brokered (and with separatists) many weeks ago. The fact that the NDP would never have a chance otherwise to put their finger in a cabinet pie makes one even more suspicious.

    And the media has a vested interest in this; the Conservatives want to impose restraint on everyone – the arts, which includes the media, the opposition parties, themselves. CBC resorted to Rush Limbaugh’s old trick of showing 2 second news clips of facial expressions during question period, as if to suggest that PM Harper was upset by Mr. Prentice answering a question yesterday. I am sure CBC would love to see a coalition come to power and freely throw some money their way as well.

    Is Laurie right? Did the Conservatives bring about their own downfall? I think they represent the views of more Canadians than the mainstream media may be showing, at least as far as the economy is presenting. But there are more issues than the economy, and many people voted for issues such as the environment or other issues that they thought were better represented by other parties (the Greens come to mind). Maybe the real problem is that one government can’t be all things to all issues.

    I don’t disagree that the Conservatives, as a minority, need to work within Parliament, but forcing another election may be their only way to get their agenda moved forward, as they are very diametrically opposed to the left of centre parties in Opposition. I think Canadians need to make a stronger choice for either the NDP or the Liberals if they can’t vote for the Conservatives, or the parties need to conclude that it is time to merge, as the right of centre parties did. Or else, find a strong Liberal leader, because the ones they have in the running now are disasters in the making. Waiting for Mr. Harper to do himself in is probably an option the Liberals think they can enjoy, but he seems to have some life left. He still has my vote.

    Having said all that, it may be that this is all a calculated risk to get Canadians to the polls to return a Conservative majority at last. I’d be happiest with that option, personally, and at least we can see what kind of policies would be offered. Once the budget is tabled we’ll know for sure. The coalition has been mum on what they will offer. I’d like to see them campaign in an election and offer a platform – as a coalition – and let the people decide on whether they approve. If it is the will of the people, then so be it.

  38. The comment was made earlier in response to “Moving to the Carib” that:

    “under Harper the Canadian governement has recognized that the Quebecois form a nation within Canada.”

    There is a subtle distinction between recognizing the “Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada” (which I believe was the exact wording, particularly the latter) and recognizing Quebec itself as a nation. The wording was obviously deliberate on PM Harper’s part, and illustrates several things, but I suppose that too is open to interpretation. He was willing to make this major concession to Quebeckers, but it also illustrates that they always seem to want more – or perhaps anglophone Canada never really seems to know exactly what it is those seeking to represent the interests of Quebec ultimately want.

    Moreover, it was, I think, a way to take some wind out of the separatist sails – to say that the people of Quebec can be a distinct nation without having their own country or the need to have a separatist government. An option to move away from the BQ with dignity, in other words. Nicely played, if in the end fruitless. Especially if fellows like Mr. Layton are promising the moon – and let there be no doubt that promises have been made. Mr. Layton said as much on the tape. “I won’t go into details” he said. I think Canadians need to demand those details before the next election – how much Canadian sovereignty is Mr. Layton willing to surrender in order for a cabinet position he otherwise can only dream of attaining?

  39. Unlike American Presidential elections, a voter in a Canadian National Election is electing a Member of Parliament who either belongs to a given party or runs as an independent; Canadian voters do not directly vote to elect a leader for Prime Minister of Canada. If a party with a minority of Members of Parliament is defeated in a confidence vote and if the opposition parties have a majority of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons are not the wishes of the people of Canada being served democratically if this majority forms a new government?

    What is beautiful about the Canadian Democratic System is the healthy diversity of thought and belief. Would not our democracy be better served with a proportional representation in Parliament? If this were so the Green Party would presently have a number of Members of Parliament. One of Canada’s finest Members of Parliament ever, Flora MacDonald saw as tragic the demise of the old Progressive Conservative Party. Would not a multi-party system of diverse ideologies enhance our Democracy and lead to a greater exercise of freedom and tolerance in Canada? Likewise a coalition of Liberals & NDP with the support of the Bloc Québécois could issue in a new healthy era in Canadian Politics.

  40. The answer to all your questions, Helmut, is a resounding “no.”

    But then again, you never bothered to tell us why you think they are a “yes.”

  41. The beauty of Canada is the convergence of diversity. Now is the time for this to shine. We need clear, compassionate and courageuos leadership through these turbulent times. Ottawa we are waiting for your lead! To those who did not vote, thanks, your silent minority has us in this mess as well!

  42. I can’t see the advantage to having one-issue parties like the Greens or, God forbid, the Marijuana Party, or even the Bloc Quebecois, given increased access to representation in Parliament. The current crisis has been accelerated by the presence of non-mainstream party representation. If you want representation in Parliament, I think you need to show a willingness to get a haircut and a suit (these are changes that Mr. Layton had to be convinced of early in his political career – read his Wikipedia entry if you don’t believe me) and present a broad-based appeal, across issues, across the country.

    Is that fair? Yes, I think it is. Otherwise, you have shrill, unelectable bumpkins like Ms. May, whose claim to fame is the fact eight year olds are not enfranchised with the power to vote, slowing up the Parliamentary process with their special interests and making even more of a mess than we have already. As large a deadlock as it appears we have now, this will resolve itself one way or another. The worst case scenario is that the government falls and is sent into another election and returns a Conservative minority, in which the process may simply repeat. But at some point, the electorate will have to make a choice which left of centre party truly represents the views of those inclined to vote for smal-l liberal ideals – less choice, not more.

    If at some point there were to be smaller parties with politicans of greater character than that displayed by the current incumbents, perhaps I’d be more easily swayed to the idea that it might be a good idea. I stated earlier that there is merit to the notion that no party can be an adequate steward of all portfolios and issues, and perhaps that is true. But I wouldn’t trust the a coalition of the Greens, NDP, Marijuana, Communists and Bloc to be voting on national security issues, for example, just as I wouldn’t expect the Conservatives and Liberals to necessarily be the best caretakers of our environmental commitments.

  43. It is not “Westerners” who are upset at the coalition idea. It is those Conservative Albertans who are used to having a one party state in their own province, and who appropriate the word “west” to mean themselves and people who drive the same colour pickups. Manitoban, Saskatchewan, and B.C. all have representatives of the other parties (even Alberta has one NDP MP) and are used to living in a pluralistic society.

    By the way, if Conservative Albertans feel alienated by a Coalition of other parties, then that will help them to understand how NDP and LIberals from Alberta feel when the Alberta government ignores their input, views and votes for decades in a row.

    The rest of the west wants in too. We’re not all members of the Petroleum Club mumbling in our soup about the NEP 30 years later.

  44. What the brilliant part of all this is, from the Conservative perspective, is that if (when) it goes to the electorate in the next election – how do the Liberals and NDP run their campaigns? I mean, do they actively campaign against each other in their ridings? And how do they do so effectively? Do all the ridings in Canada adopt an ABC approach, and if so, how does that do anything but split the left-wing vote even more than it is now?

    This can’t do anything but help the Conservatives in an election, even if it turns people away from the Conservatives and towards the other parties, how do you decide which party to vote for, if all of a sudden both Red and Orange are saying their platforms are identical and it doesn’t matter which one you vote for?

    And if they all of a sudden dis-associate from each other, and it ends up a third straight Conservative minority, do they all of a sudden band together again and say “oops, sorry, only kidding – we really do have the same platform points” and create a second coalition in another attempt to grab power? How crass does that look?

  45. In other countries, this so called coalition is really called a coup, so much for democracy

  46. I voted NOT to have a coalition government, can it be so simple as to have a mojority government for 4 years, then let the people decide who is the best party to lead the country? I only hope that this will now lead apethetic Canadians to wake up and become a voice in our future. It’s still a coup no matter what color you paint it !!!

  47. This propaganda campaign that the coalition is “anti-democratic” is absurd. No one goes to the poles in their riding and thinks “I am going to vote for the Liberals as the opposition to a conservative government”. We vote for a party in the belief that they will be the best suited to govern the country. Thus, any collection of house members with the confidence of more that 50% of the house has a mandate to govern.

    The second campaign to suggest that the coalition is handing over the country to separatists is also ridiculous. The conservatives would gladly take the support of the Bloc if they could get it. Also, we cannot deny that the members of the Bloc have been elected by their constituents and have the right to be a part of our parliamentary democracy. Denying them this right is anti-democratic.

    The Liberal/ NDP coalition government is not my first choice. I would prefer that Harper had put his ego aside and reached across the floor and had chosen to work with the rest of the house. Instead, Harper chose to govern as though he had a majority government. I call for his resignation ( if not for being an egomaniac at least for the invasion of privacy on Mr.Layton) and for the conservatives to elect a new leader who understands parliamentary democracy and is able to form a conservative lead coalition. That would represent the greatest number of Canadians. Wouldn’t it?

  48. No treason, no coup, no handing the country over to the whims of the bloc. Just partisan sore heads refusing to acknowledge the lessons of poli sci 100.

  49. Almost forgot. For an example of a coalition that lasted a dozen years, look down, way down, down under, for a parliamentary tradition virtually identical to ours. The government of Australia was led by a coalition from 1996 until last year.

  50. It’s seems like all the Liberals and the NDP forget what their government did when in government. the billions of dollars that the Liberals stole. Back door agreements, NDP almost ruined the country. People should remember that we weren’t in debt until Trudeau, then all the taxing began and has never stopped. All this over Mr. Harper putting a hold on raises for the government. Well guess what 90% of canadians do not get 1.5 % raises per year we are lucky to get that over 5 years. Liberals have lead the country down the wrong path time and time again. put Dion with Quebec and we might as well forget Canada as we know it. Wake up people and smell the roses. Harper is not perfect by any means but is the lessor if 4 evils. Spoken from a Liberal supporter for the last 25 years.

  51. We Canadians elected 308 Members of Parliament to represent us.
    Each MP is in fact an independent although in practice, most are affiliated with a political party.
    We neither elect a president or a party.

    After the last election , the Prime Minister requested permission from the Governor General to form a government based upon the fact that he had the support of the House of Commons.
    Keep in mind that the last election had a horribly low voter turnout and that, of those votes, only 37% voted Conservative.
    He was granted that role.

    However, in his latest attempt to stifle opposition, he tried to negate funding for political parties (a $30 million handout to those political parties that actually receive votes in the election at the rate of $1.95 per vote) he lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

    We are here today because of Stephen Harper’s unfortunate ego and bad decisions.

    No matter how we Canadians feel or voted, the 308 MP’s that we elected have the legal right to have as their Prime Minister someone who has the support of the House majority.
    Stephen Harper does not enjoy that status and will only prolong the inevitable, whilst causing parliamentary disruption, if he does not immediately act to accept the coalition government.

    Stephen Harper has wasted over $600 million of Canadian dollars in two elections in a vain attempt to bolster his parliamentary majority.
    Proroguing or a new election are not options.

    We Canadians must also remember that Stephen Harper is the last “Bushie”; the last leader to have worshipped at the feet of George W.

  52. All I have to say is that this is a betrayal of public trust and completely exhausting the democratic process. The people had spoken and had elected the Conservative party and as such we ought to support the decision of the majority one way or the other. We are in an economic crisis, and going against the ruling party this way will not solve anything. This will create more unnecessary problems as opposed to tackling the most pressing ones. Working together is the key as opposed to savagely attacking the Conservatives, the whole idea is saving the economy, saving the country, unity, if these are what the Coalitions intentions are they are not doing a great job at it.

  53. Frank

    Just a curious question in regards to the Bush ??????????. If we are attacked by Terrorists or a country like Iraq or China. Would you than be grateful for someone like Bush. Or would you prefer to Dion defend your family. You people all seem to forget with your US bashing that if trouble comes to Canada one who do you think will help us out.

  54. I just want to address a couple of comments made already.
    Some have said that Canadians don’t vote for a PM or a party, but rather a local candidate. While that may be true of some Canadians, these comments totally discount the many Canadians who use their vote for those specific purposes. While it’s true that the actual name on the ballot is the name of the local candidate, you can’t deny that a great many of our votes are specifically cast with a particular party in mind or a particular person for PM.
    And, while it’s also true that the majority of Canadians didn’t vote for the Conservative party, the Conservative party won more of the votes than any other party.
    Maybe if this coalition of conspirators had made their intent to form a coup known during the campaign 8 weeks ago, the election results might have been very different. Perhaps, if Canadians knew that a vote for the Liberals or the NDP meant more power for the Bloc, a majority government may have been voted in.

    Another set of comments I want to address are the ones that deal with the need for calling the last election and the idea that it was unnecessary because Harper was looking at another minority government and he knew it. That is simply not true. At the beginning of the campaign and throughout the first part of it, many predictions were pointing to a Conservative majority government. So, it’s misleading to say that another minority was a given or that the election was unnecessary.

    We don’t get to voice our opinion in a way that really counts all too often. We only get to vote (until recently) approximately every four years or so. When we do get that vote and voice, I think it should be respected. To say that these are the rules of a parliamentary system and that this new coalition represents the will of the majority of Canadians doesn’t, in my opinion, tell the whole story and is a misrepresentation of reality. Reality is that most of us didn’t know this coalition was in the works when we went to the polls and we, the Canadian people, deserve to have another shot at the vote, with a much better understanding of the consequences of our vote in these uncertain times. Another vote will cost 300 million. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 30 billion about to be thrown away on pet projects and failing businesses. I think it’s a much better investment, the smart thing to do and the right thing to do to spend that 300 million, just to be sure. Let us vote again, knowing full well what the exact stakes are if we elect another minority. It will probably be the best 300 million our government has ever spent.

  55. Toronto: A plurality is not a majority. And our vote IS being respected because you know what Canadians really voted for? We voted for no single party having control of the government. Canada, as a whole, trusted *none* of the parties enough to give them government on their own. Not Harper, not Layton, not Duceppe, not Dion. None of them received the blessings of Canadians to govern on their own.

    Harper was unwilling to live by that mandate.

    He is therefore paying the price, and Canadians are getting what we voted for as a whole. Now, no single party shall form our government. Despite being delayed by the FPTP system, Canadians are now getting a multi-party government, which is exactly what they voted for, even though no individual Canadian did.

    One of the lovely things about society.. it’s about more than just the individual.

  56. Here are my biggest problems with all this Coalition stuff.

    Anyone can say that 55% didn’t vote for Mr. Harper. That is a true and fair statement. But if voters of the NDP and Bloc knew in advance that by voting for these parties would result in a Dion lead gov’t, would the outcome of our election be the same? You vote for your party to put the leader of that party into power. Seeing as almost everyone can agree that Dion is not the man we’d like to see in power, aside from Liberal voters, makes this an injustice. A man who stepped down as leader now gets to run the show?

    I know this happens in other countries, but should it be allowed to happen? The man that most Canadians agree on is Harper. The other 55% can’t figure out who they want. Now it is us, the 45% who got together to vote Harper in, that have pay the price in all this. These 3 men are basically telling that chunk of Canada, “Sorry, your vote doesn’t count”.

    Lastly, why does everyone keep bringing up, “55% of the people didn’t vote for Harper.” Last time I checked, when people went to the polls it was WHO you voted for not who you DIDN’T vote for. The liberals had one of the lowest vote total ever in their history. So how is it that this party’s leader, that Canada obviously doesn’t want in power, is put into power?

    One thing is for sure, we can all thank Quebec for trying to screw over Canada. If they aren’t trying to break away from Canada, they are breaking our gov’t. Someone needs to step in and eliminate the Bloc.

  57. Governments should be elected. I thought that was universally understood among democratic nations. Not so with our beloved British parliamentary system.

  58. Good points. The last three Liberal governments held power with less than 40% of the popular vote. That’s the way it works. Why does it all of a sudden change just because the Conservatives are the ones with less than 40% of the vote but the highest number of seats? It shouldn’t.

  59. @T. Thwim: You can say “Canadians are now getting a multi-party government, which is exactly what they voted for, even though no individual Canadian did.” but that’s misleading and doesn’t accurately reflect reality. Most Canadians and the media are shocked and surprised by these events as they unfold. This is NOT what Canadians voted for at all. I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of Canadians went to the polls and cast their votes with something completely different in mind. If you look around at many different sources, this blog included, the vast majority of those commenting are opposed to this coalition. This is clearly NOT what Canadians want.

    So, let’s put it to another vote. That’s democracy. The playing field has changed, so let’s change up the players. This “coalition” of egos goes against people who voted for the Conservatives and many who voted for the other parties as well, so it does NOT represent the will of the majority of Canadians at all. We need something that does. Let’s vote on it.

  60. Oh come on. Stop crying foul. Half of Europe successfully exists on coalition governments (who said it has to be “Venecuellan style” government, why not “Swiss style”? ) and Conservatives are making this into some sort of a treason? It’s just another form or rule, which if taken seriously can lead to much more progress and have much more work done than minority or majority government. What’s dangerous and undemocratic are 20-party coalitions, although those were exactly the kinds of governments that brought the biggest communist dictatorships down, so I can’t see anything wrong with them either if they are temporarily instrumental of change. Anyway, if the party and PM don’t have the support of the House any longer, and we are facing the biggest economic crisis since the 30’s, then what would you rather have – a new, expensive election, or a coalition that may just succeed in getting us trough this without bancrupting the country?

    Don’t be affraid of the coalitions just because they rarely happened in Canada in the past. And don’t call something undemocratic just because it’s foreign to you. The best European democracies are based on coalitions….I just can’t see anything wrong with that.

  61. >>>>>>Oh come on. Stop crying foul.

    A spade is a spade. The Conservatives made multiple concessions on the proposed economic statement, and the Opposition made it clear they’re not interested in anything but installing their leader, Mr. Dion, as Prime Minister despite the fact he does not have the confidence of the party, and Mr. Layton as a cabinet minister, despite the fact he would never in a million years otherwise ever get a cabinet post without changing parties, and all at the whim of Mr. Duceppe, who has openly stated he wants to advance Quebec sovereingty by his role in all this.

    What’s not to cry foul? Let the people vote on it.

  62. Stephen Harper forced an election because he claimed the minority parliament was not working. Canadian voters gave him a similar mandate. Harper has shown he cannot lead a minority government. Perhaps the only solution to the crisis is for Harper to resign and take Flaherty with him.

  63. —-” What’s not to cry foul? Let the people vote on it.”

    Right now, I’d be the first to VOTE AGAINST WHICHEVER PARTY BRINGS ON ANOTHER ELECTION. We just paid for one. We don’t have the money for another. We just don’t. It’s irresponsible. If other ouse members want to vote the government down it’s so much more responsible to make it work with what you have in the House than to go for another election spending spree.

  64. >>>>>Stephen Harper forced an election because he claimed the minority parliament was not working. Canadian voters gave him a similar mandate. Harper has shown he cannot lead a minority government. Perhaps the only solution to the crisis is for Harper to resign and take Flaherty with him.

    Your optics are slightly off. PM Harper made several proposals that the Opposition didn’t like, and he withdrew them. The Opposition then used it as an excuse to put their long-ago conceived power grab into action. Personally, I don’t know many Canadians who want to fund the BQ at the rate of 2 dollars a vote with our hard-earned money. If you can think of a single reason why federal dollars should flow into separatist coffers, please state your case now.

  65. >>>>>>We just paid for one. We don’t have the money for another.

    We have 30 billion dollars for ill-conceived incentive packages that no one really needs, but we don’t have money for an election that will clear the air and grant legitimacy to the coalition?

    Surely you jest.

  66. I agree with the administrator of the Toronto Forum in that if we are to have another election that will cost 300 million dollars, it would have been the best 300 million dollars spent. I think this is betrayal to the people, as the administrator of Toronto Forum has said when we headed out to vote we vote for 1 party in mind and not the Coalition.
    However 300 million is still a huge amount of funds, do we really want to spend this kind of money in another election with the chances of electing another mistake?
    I would like to ask Dion, Layton and Duceppe, is this some kind of a power struggle? Why are they doing this? Their reason could not be the good for the greater public, as obviously this situation had diverted us from focusing on how to economically save our country.

  67. “we have a Member of Parliament that serves as Prime Minister, and this one has proved to be an extremely inefficient one managing the economy. Harper squandered a 12 B dollars surplus. Bring the Liberals in!.”

    Maybe because he “squandered” a 12 B dollars Surplus our economy is or at least was, the best in the world, until the fear mongers made us think ours will be as bad as in the States.

    Hope the Governor General will allow the Government to TAKE A BREAK so that everyone will cool down, and the Government that was elected can continue to govern. Someone was saying that it might not be constitutional, but I don’t see how it can be constitutional to allow a coalition where one of the parties’ mandate is to break up our country …!!!

    I don’t like the idea of the Parliament being hijacked by the Liberal Leader on his way out, because not enough people voted for the Liberals, so he was forced to resign and request a Leadership Convention
    [ His only way to be able to become Prime Minister with all that this includes NOW and in the Future]
    In coalition with the leader of the party that really wants this so HE can look after our finances – NDP – [HELP!!!] AND the leader for a party that wants to break up our country !!!!! – BLOCK –

  68. ….”grant legitimacy to the coalition?”

    I may be looking at things from a different perspective, because I actually lived in two European countries which flourished under coalitions. But I continue to fail to see how something that is perfectly constitutional and legal can be called treason or undemocratic or abuse of votes. When you vote, you give various politicians a mandate to organize the government to the best of their ability. Which is exactly what they are doing now. Who do you think these other parties represent, if not other Canadians, the other 2/3 of the voting body, the ones that did not vote Conservative???? If coalitions are such an evil, then appropriate action should be taken to make them unconstitutional. I don’t see anyone rushing to do this, because they all know that politics can be a tricky game and that post-election coalitions are sometimes the only way to go forward instead of going back. I just can’t see how Harper holding on to power at any cost is noble, yet Liberal-NDP coalition is so wrong.

  69. >>>>>>> I just can’t see how ….Liberal-NDP coalition is so wrong.

    Because the parties campaigned on different platforms, and the leaders roundly attacked each other in the last election? They were elected on the merits of their individual platforms; no one voted on the notion they would be an amalgam.

    Why are you so scared of putting it to the electorate? Is it because you know that Canadians would see this for what it is?

  70. Further, regarding why this coalition is “so wrong” – this coalition is dependent on a separatist to whom Mr. Layton has made unspecified promises – sold out part of our soveriegnty in other words. Remember the tape where Mr. Layton said “I won’t go into details?”

    What were those details? Canadians want to know. What was promised to the BQ? Why is Mr. Duceppe still talking about this deal being good for Quebec sovereignty (his words)?

    Shouldn’t that be something of a warning?

    And if Mr. Parizeau is in favour of this, as was just reported on the radio, and is raising the spectre of separatism for real, how can this possibly be good?

  71. Actually, I’m not terribly worried about the results of putting it to the electorate. Liberals were the ones who stayed home last election. Harper’s actions have disgusted a large number of middling conservatives. And, to be honest, the only place available for Harper to make serious gains is in Quebec. After pissing all over the Bloc recently, it’s a pretty reasonable bet to assume that the conservatives would only see losses in an election called over this, because everybody who was going to vote conservative already did last time.

    However, I am worried about our government being essentially rudderless during a prorogation or an election while we are in the middle of this economic crisis.

    Harper’s lost the confidence of the house. He needs to be removed. If his own party hasn’t the stones to do it, then bring on the coalition. Canadians voted that none of the parties has the authority to govern us on their own. Harper attempted to ignore that, so now he’ll be replaced by parties that are not attempting to govern on their own.

  72. It’ll be interesting, T, I grant you that. You may want to check some of the online polls though as to Mr. Harper’s standing, and see who is pissed off at whom, as I think you may have a slightly skewed perception of what Canadians as a whole are feeling.

    Polls being what they are, we won’t really know until election night, but expect the left wing vote to be even more splintered. Seriously – now that the NDP and the Liberals have magically merged their platforms, how do candidates from either party go back to their ridings and tell them who to vote for?

  73. Oh, but this just in – Mr. Layton demands equal air time on television after the Prime Minister’s address tonight, because it turns out the coalition is “just an idea” some guys had, and the parties are still separate. So as they did in the debates, the opposition parties should have multiples of airtime in excess of what the Conservatives have. Fair is fair.

    That’s well and good, but Mr. Layton, either you’re united with the Liberals or you’re not – which is it? If you’re separate parties, then be separate parties. If you want a coalition, then pick a mouthpiece and let him speak. I thought Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Rae stood firm behind Mr. Dion as that man. So if you’re united and standing firm – – why do the Canadian people need to hear from you for 10 minutes tonight, too?

  74. wow, what a slap in the face to all us Canadians who took time out of our day to vote in belief we actually had a say. Tell you the truth I would prefer our country be run by monkeys then these people, Im disgusted in them. Our government speaks of Canada being a peaceful country, yet they are destroying it. Why not just put stars on our flag andcall us U.S.A.

  75. I believe that we should leave the government the way it is. Stephen Harper is doing a good job. Do we really want stephane dion running this country. He is a joke. I can’t understand a word he says. I think he needs to go to esl classess. If this happens Canada will be a laughing stock.

  76. Another point that is getting glossed over by the “let the coalition stand” set is the fact that the Liberals and the NDP were asked if they would form some sort of coalition during the last election campaign and both flatly denied it would happen. They lied to the voters in order to be in a position to make this manoeuvre.
    There’s a distinct difference between following the rules of a parliamentary system for the good of it’s citizens and what is currently taking place in Ottawa, a huge difference.
    Let the Canadian people decide what’s best for them. It’s worth the price tag!

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