Dream on - Macleans.ca

Dream on


In his interviews with CTV and the CBC yesterday, former prime minister Jean Chretien decidedly downplayed the significance of any discussions he and Ed Broadbent may have had about any future Liberal-NDP coalition. Mr. Chretien and Mr. Broadbent similarly shrugged to reporters after yesterday’s portrait unveiling. (For the record, their involvement in the events of December 2008 were documented by John Geddes and I at the time.)

When this speculation first surfaced last week, I asked an interested individual who would know what he knew. Though he did not answer the question directly, he did, by way of response, send along the following video clip.



Dream on

  1. Thanks for the chuckle, Wherry!

    The coalition strategy the Liberals should pursue is simple enough:

    1. Downplay a possible coalition as much as possible.

    2. Keep the doors open. Say that all options will be considered. Don't make the same mistake that Dion made when he categorically rejected the possibility of a coalition prior to the election.

    This way, if Harper wins a diminished minority next time, and the combined LPC/NDP seats exceed 155, a coalition option will be very much on the table.

    • They should also pre-empt the scare tactics of Harper which already re-started in earnest by using some better language to describe the what and why of any coalition, eg. "we are campaigning to form a Liberal government and are not in any kind of talk with the NDP. However, we will work with any party and consider all arrangements if it is in the best interests of Canadian national unity and economic stability".

      • That's exactly the kind of language they should use. Much better than: "a coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a coalition.”

        • {Groans}

        • Indeed. That was too cute by half.

      • Oh, and they should add: "… to take any other position would be contrary to the interests of Canadians."

    • Who will be Harper's coalition partner? If say, his diminished minority is lower than his 06 total and the Liberal's get over a hundred seats, granted, Ignatieff's campaign chops are questionable… but still hypothetically, I'm curious. Let me know my Conservative friends!

      • Ideologically, the only possible coalition partner would be the Liberals. That said, I think there's a snowball's chance in hell of a CPC-LPC coalition agreement.

        • I thought hell froze over when the Conservatives started spending like Liberals.

        • Seems to me there already is a CPC-LPC coalition!

          • thats what my NDP friends kept telling me….
            until Jack became Harpie's plaything last fall

          • Liberal Conservative Coalition is still alive, but it is the coalition that dares not speak its name.

    • I'm starting to think that maybe they should be more specific about the conditions under which they would form a coalition. The problem is, however, that such conditions probably shouldn't include what happened last time, which is a distant 2nd place party forming a coalition with an even more distant 3rd place party, which is at the mercy of a separatist party — after the Conservatives had already formed government.

      So, and I've said this before, that they tried the coalition the first time around in the way they did will ultimately dent their credibility the next time around, too. It was an unnecessary gamble that backfired, and will keep backfiring for the foreseeable future — even if Jane Taber doesn't like it.

      • Just to add, the reason I think they need to be somewhat specific about possible coalitions is because they're going to get hammered on this. So, if you establish a reasonable approach to coalitions, which didn't happen before, then you might regain some credibility. Problem is, the need for the kind of coalition they're talking about only arises because both the Liberals and NDP, relatively speaking, are so weak, and a change in fortunes doesn't seem very probable.

        • Dennis_F, I'm surprised that you neglect to mention what precipitated the GrittyDipper Coalition (if you have forgotten, here you go.

          • and Canadians clearly did not accept that justification, did they? Nor should it probably be on the list of conditions I suggested they should come up with.

            Look, I'm not here to engage in a blame game, but to suggest that a clear set of conditions be laid out by opposition parties not named Bloc.

            It'll probably do them some good. Fear of your agenda is what they want to get off the table. Publishing a fair-minded set of conditions for when they would consider coalition might be well accepted, and alleviate any potential for fear, or Conservative tactics involving fear-mongering.

            Just saying. Nobody has to take my advice. That's for sure.

            You now, I am a political junkie at heart. I like discussing party strategy from all sides. No hidden agenda – at least not for the moment!!

      • Why are some people clicking "thumbs down" on my posts? Is it simply because you disagree with my views? Are there arguments made without the support of facts and reasoning? Are you incapable of rebutting some of these arguments? Are you trolls? Cowards?

  2. It's a tricky situation. If they don't rule out a coalition, it hurts them in the next election since a number of undecideds will be scared into the CPC fold (I don't understand why people find a coalition scary when they might otherwise consider voting either LPC or NDP, but it seems that they do. Typical Canadian dislike for the unusual, I guess.) On the other hand if they rule it out, well then they've ruled it out and they'll probably get destroyed in the election following any coalition….and coalitions don't tend to last all that long anyway.

    Tough call. I'm not sure I'd look to Chretien for sage guidance were I an LPC strategist though: the word on the street was that he helped to broker the last attempt….which turned out to be a remarkable blunder.

  3. I asked an interested individual who would know what he knew

    Interesting sentence structure.

    But it is interesting to see that even successful Liberal and NDP leaders are backing away from the coalition monstrosity. Maybe they refuse to know what they knew??

  4. Actually – Chretien and Broadbent are playing the game perfectly – smart politicians that they are!
    Keeping Harper on the hop – knowing that unless he is kept jumping he will prorogue and drop the writ as soon as he has a glimmer of a majority.
    Also – pressuring Ignatieff (and no doubt Layton) into actually getting off the fence.
    Although – based upon his murmurings this morning – Brian Topp doesn't seem to think much to the chances – heck he can't even write the word Liberal!

    • Again, very different circumstances. Some people tend to be of the belief that because coalitions occur that they're good ideas each and every time they're tried. In fact, that wasn't even a coalition. Won't some people simply accept that the 2009 version was just a bad idea all around? Or are they intent on giving Harper endless amounts of ammunition on the topic?

      In fact, now that I think about it, Iggy has an out. He can say that he knows the coalition efforts the last time around were a bad idea, which is why he ultimately shunned doing it again. But that he's willing to do it under the right conditions, which can be laid out before an election occurs.

      But I doubt that the left would let him off. They seem to have a cult-like devotion to that monstrosity coalition of 2009. Hard to figure it out, actually. Ironically, it will probably kill any chance of forming coalitions in the foreseeable future. Go figure.

  5. Here's an interesting question: are there any conditions under which a coalition that doesn't include the first place party is acceptable in Canadian practice?

    According to the rules of Westminster parliamentary democracy (to the extent that such rules exist), any group of parties can form a government if they have the confidence of the House. By this measurement, the Liberal/NDP coalition was legitimate. However, it is equally true that such coalitions are virtually unprecedented, which makes it possible to argue that such coalitions are not part of Canadian political practice. Both sides, theoretically, are right.

    I'm not sure why anyone is bothering to ask the Liberals whether they would form a coalition if presented with the opportunity. It doesn't really matter what they respond, as the Conservatives are going to lob an attack bomb threatening the spectre of a coalition with The Evil Separatists and Socialists regardless.

    I guess the Conservatives don't have to think about coalitions, as no party would willingly form a coalition with them. Such a move would be like a victim offering up his throat to the vampire to provide easier access for biting purposes. The Conservatives aren't interested in working with anybody on anything.

    • First, there is virtually no precedent for coalition governments in Canada. Federally, we've had one, and that was during a world war. Provincially, at the very least there hasn't been one in my lifetime, including the Lib-NDP arrangement in Ontario.

      Second, and as I stated above, I think there is a way to address potential Conservative fear-mongering. Be open and honest about how you would do it, versus the way they went about it the last time. But that would involve admitting past mistakes on such matters, so it's probably unlikely.

      But I chuckle at the Jane Tabers of the press corps, who react to Conservative accusations about a coalition as though someone's been shot. Harper didn't create that monstrosity. The opposition did. Why in the world shouldn't they have to wear it, or at least defend themselves on the matter?

      I mean, it must be nice for the Liberals to not have to issue a press release when you've got Jane Taber on the prowl.