Harper's been pondering coalitions for longer than I thought - Macleans.ca
 

Harper’s been pondering coalitions for longer than I thought

Flashback to late in the 2004 election campaign


 

How far back can we trace Stephen Harper’s intense interest in the possibility of coalition government?

Most likely you would answer that Harper’s been preoccupied with the idea since the fall 2008 bid by the Liberals and the NDP to form a coalition, backed by the Bloc Québécois, to supplant his minority.

Or perhaps you would speculate that he must have been pondering the coalition permutations and combinations back in late 2004. That’s when he signed that much-debated letter to the governor-general with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe, suggesting that one or more of their three parties might somehow govern—without an intervening election—if the Liberal minority of the day fell.

Even though Harper, Layton and Duceppe evidently had in mind some looser form of Parliamentary cooperation (Harper denies even that much), their discussions must have at least touched on the notion of a full coalition—if only for long enough to reject it.

But I’ve come across an old campaign-trail quote that suggests both those answers for the advent of Harper’s concern about coalitions are wrong. Half a year before he drafted that letter with Layton and Duceppe, and four and half years before the 2008 parliamentary crisis, Harper publicly raised the specter of a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition.

It was late in 2004 federal election, Harper’s first as a federal leader. He had run well, putting Paul Martin’s Liberals on the ropes. Harper apparently heard in Martin’s late-campaign appeals to NDP voters a sort of allusion to the prospect of a future alliance.

“[Martin is] now flaying around looking for NDP votes and quietly trying to put together a deal that would even then have to be propped up by the Bloc,” Harper reportedly said in a campaign speech in Surrey, B.C., on June 26, 2004. “Isn’t that wonderful? A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc—corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration.”

To my ear, that sounds strikingly close to the rhetoric he’s used so frequently since his 2008 brush with parliamentary disaster. So, as with many aspects of Harper’s electoral strategy and policy bent, it turns out his way of looking at this, and talking about it, evolved more gradually out of his political experience than we might have suspected.

(The quote, by the way, comes from a story by Maria McClintock, published in the Calgary Sun, on June 27, 2004.)


 

Harper’s been pondering coalitions for longer than I thought

  1. Really, though, it is not too hard to think in those terms. The CPC does not (shouldn't?) have the sort of natural ally(ies) that each of the other three parties may find in one another.

  2. Really, though, it is not too hard to think in those terms. The CPC does not (shouldn't?) have the sort of natural ally(ies) that each of the other three parties may find in one another.

  3. “Isn't that wonderful? A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc—corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration.”

    His zingers were more clever back in 2004. This must be the old Stephen Harper that Jack Layton was pining for.

  4. “Isn%E2%80%99t that wonderful? A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc—corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration.”

    His zingers were more clever back in 2004. This must be the old Stephen Harper that Jack Layton was pining for.

  5. “Isn't that wonderful? A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc—corruption, taxation and separation all in one administration.”

    His zingers were more clever back in 2004. This must be the old Stephen Harper that Jack Layton was pining for.

  6. Oh heavens no! Coalitions are a brand new evil idea thought up by the current Opposition just to make Harper's life miserable ! LOL

  7. Harper's been quite candid about how he's like to dismantle canada to make it more palatable to the bloc.

  8. All in a day's work for our intrepid reporter. I might remind you that in 2004 the adscam story was fresh meat, the BQ was on the rise in Quebec because of the Liberal crimes and Jack was as delusional a socialist as he is today. It just blows my mind that a publication with any sense of editorial integrity continues to pay Wherry. It is kind of funny though that while Mr. Harper was fighting for his vision of Canada in 2004, that Iggy was commiserating with his "fellow Americans". I think Wherry was reviewing records. Usually when I read an attack piece like this it is appended with an acknowlegment that it is endorsed by "the official agent" of the party paying for it. Keep up the high standards Aaron, your "fans" aren't interested in news and something said off the cuff seven years ago, in the heat of the campign, just has to be newsworthy today.

  9. All in a day's work for our intrepid reporter. I might remind you that in 2004 the adscam story was fresh meat, the BQ was on the rise in Quebec because of the Liberal crimes and Jack was as delusional a socialist as he is today. It just blows my mind that a publication with any sense of editorial integrity continues to pay Wherry. It is kind of funny though that while Mr. Harper was fighting for his vision of Canada in 2004, that Iggy was commiserating with his "fellow Americans". I think Wherry was reviewing records. Usually when I read an attack piece like this it is appended with an acknowlegment that it is endorsed by "the official agent" of the party paying for it. Keep up the high standards Aaron, your "fans" aren't interested in news and something said off the cuff seven years ago, in the heat of the campign, just has to be newsworthy today.

    • Uh, this post is by Geddes.

      • Yeah, but peter's really really angry, and it's usually Wherry that makes him so angry, so even if it's a post by Geddes, it's by Wherry.

        • Isn't it lucky he didn't think it was by Feschuk.

          • I'M SPARTACUS!

        • My bad, but the point remains. Good grief I expect to read that in the PM's higschool yearbok he threatened to "gut healthcare" after he gaduated and packed his "hidden agenda" away, waiting to become PM. btw either of these two should work for the Star of CBC, no one expects professionalism from them.

          • Your comment amounted to one giant hissy fit about Wherry in a post he didn't write. The only point that remains is that you were completely out to lunch. Move along, peter. Nothing to salvage here.

        • You mean Wherry put him up to it? That scoundrel!

  10. Canadian politics and politicians are bipolar – Some good business sense from the conservatives – but senseless in foreign affairs – – Libs better at foreign affairs which has benefit to business but wishy washy on so much – NDP not so good business sense but great social policies that we can't afford without business and success – Who to vote for –-Depends on the news stories just prior to voting – emotion is everything and things can change fast . Too bad they can't work together and know their individual weaknesses and strengths – Canada would prosper. Look at Ontario each party has had a hand in destroying a power house province. Reform Parliament – Reform our Courts – Reform our Economy

  11. Canadian politics and politicians are bipolar – Some good business sense from the conservatives – but senseless in foreign affairs – – Libs better at foreign affairs which has benefit to business but wishy washy on so much – NDP not so good business sense but great social policies that we can%E2%80%99t afford without business and success – Who to vote for –-Depends on the news stories just prior to voting – emotion is everything and things can change fast . Too bad they can%E2%80%99t work together and know their individual weaknesses and strengths – Canada would prosper. Look at Ontario each party has had a hand in destroying a power house province. Reform Parliament – Reform our Courts – Reform our Economy

  12. Canadian politics and politicians are bipolar – Some good business sense from the conservatives – but senseless in foreign affairs – – Libs better at foreign affairs which has benefit to business but wishy washy on so much – NDP not so good business sense but great social policies that we can't afford without business and success – Who to vote for –-Depends on the news stories just prior to voting – emotion is everything and things can change fast . Too bad they can't work together and know their individual weaknesses and strengths – Canada would prosper. Look at Ontario each party has had a hand in destroying a power house province. Reform Parliament – Reform our Courts – Reform our Economy

  13. Uh, this post is by Geddes.

    • Prescient!

    • Good digging!

  14. Dictatorship with minority!

    Majority?! LOL! can you imagine the Harper regime with a majority government?! SCARY!.

    • How often has this individual(s?) been posting this exact same message on political threads?

  15. Yeah, but peter's really really angry, and it's usually Wherry that makes him so angry, so even if it's a post by Geddes, it's by Wherry.

  16. Prescient!

  17. Good digging!

  18. Isn't it lucky he didn't think it was by Feschuk.

  19. I wish both sides would budge a little on this debate. Constitutionally speaking, a coalition government is absolutely legitimate, and should be considered as an option in the upcoming parliament. However, just because a coalition would be legitimate, does not mean it is desirable. I have three practical caveats:

    1. Parties need to be open and honest about their coalition/accord-forming intentions. Just as we expect parties to present platforms during elections, we should be aware of the contingencies likely to alter those platforms, of which a coalition/accord would be very big.
    2. Canada would not be well-served by a government reliant (on a medium/long-term basis) upon a separatist party with no seats outside of Quebec.
    3. Large, diffuse coalitions are unwieldy.

    If Harper is defeated on a non-confidence motion, the governor-general is certainly within his rights to appoint Ignatieff as PM, especially if it is early in Harper's term. However, in doing so he should not be blind to public opinion, or the potential stability of the government. Process matters, but so do outcomes.

  20. you mean by not meddling in provincial jurisdictions that you know, are sort of, delineated in the constitution?

  21. you mean by not meddling in provincial jurisdictions that you know, are sort of, delineated in the constitution?

    • not in the least, no.

    • “The problem of debt is the problem of Canadian federalism, as the federal structure is a credit instrument”
      Harold Innis, 1938

    • No, I think he means by treating whether Canada ends up with one national government, or two, or ten as a "secondary consideration".

  22. I'M SPARTACUS!

  23. "Parties need to be open and honest about their coalition/accord-forming intentions."

    I know you're trying to be reasonable but that's just it, the Liberals want to campaign on the promise of no coalitions, but still govern with one. Ignatieff's coalition underwear was showing in his inteview with Mansbridge last night. Call it what you want he says "confidence of the house" dictates who forms the government, fair enough, that's entirely legitimate but your second point is what's going to choke the electoral horse, in so far as the legality of a coalition is unquestionable, the taste of one, particularly with the Bloc is the illigitimate stink in the corner.

  24. "Parties need to be open and honest about their coalition/accord-forming intentions."

    I know you're trying to be reasonable but that's just it, the Liberals want to campaign on the promise of no coalitions, but still govern with one. Ignatieff's coalition underwear was showing in his inteview with Mansbridge last night. Call it what you want he says "confidence of the house" dictates who forms the government, fair enough, that's entirely legitimate but your second point is what's going to choke the electoral horse, in so far as the legality of a coalition is unquestionable, the taste of one, particularly with the Bloc is the illigitimate stink in the corner.

    • The interview was this afternoon. Jack was interviewed yesterday.

      Harper? Well, maybe he'll submit to an interview at some point.

      • But only if it's limited to 5 questions.

        • One of which must be from a local.

    • You mean Ignatieff's honesty underwear was showing. He was asked a question which required either: a) the truth; or b) a lie. Hen handled it well, and it was not a friendly question (nor should it have been–just wondering whether Mr. Mansbridge will have similar latitude when interviewing Harper). I know it's difficult for many Harper supporters to understand, but sometimes an honest answer actually is honest. There I go using that word again! I'm sorry, I ought to realize that trying to describe "honesty" to a Harper supporter is like trying to describe the colour blue to a blind person.

  25. My bad, but the point remains. Good grief I expect to read that in the PM's higschool yearbok he threatened to "gut healthcare" after he gaduated and packed his "hidden agenda" away, waiting to become PM. btw either of these two should work for the Star of CBC, no one expects professionalism from them.

  26. The problem with a coalition or accord isn't whether it has constitutional or "output" legitimacy, or its cabinet-represented parties outnumber the CPC, or "separatists" are included. The problem is that all the participants like to spend money, all the participants will have a price for their support, and now is really not the time for spending more money.

  27. The problem with a coalition or accord isn't whether it has constitutional or "output" legitimacy, or its cabinet-represented parties outnumber the CPC, or "separatists" are included. The problem is that all the participants like to spend money, all the participants will have a price for their support, and now is really not the time for spending more money.

    • By "all participants" I would imagine you include the Cons as they have been the biggest spending government of all time. Right?

    • Exactly!!!!! The spending plans from the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc will all be implemented, and none of the cuts. The deficit will double within a year, and that deficit will grow for each budget they are in power for.

      None of those parties has any problem putting generations of Canadians into debt. The Liberals under Trudeau wracked up the largest debt this country has ever seen. The NDP are so reckless people wouldn't let them within a hundred kilometers of the treasury. And the Bloc actually benefits by driving Canada further into debt.

      I'm not a huge fan of Harper, but I don't see any other reasonable party to vote for.

      • The Liberals under Trudeau wracked up the largest debt this country has ever seen.

        Indeed, and then the Tories under Mulroney MORE THAN DOUBLED IT.

        The whole "don't elect the Liberals, they'll drown us in debt" thing would be a little more believable if one were completely ignorant of history. Under the Liberals (who eliminated the deficit and brought in an era of budget surpluses) the federal debt DECLINED in every year from 1997-2006. The Tories managed to keep it declining for a little while (thank you Liberal surpluses!) but the Canadian Taxpayer Federation had to turn the "debt clock" back on under the Harper Tories as it started climbing again. Even going by the Tories own numbers, by the time they get us back out of deficit the debt will have far exceeded it's previous all-time high from 1997. If you believe their own numbers, the Harper Tories will likely have increased the national debt more during their reign (in absolute dollar figures of course) than Trudeau did in his before we're out of deficit.

        Here's a chart of Canada's debt as a percentage of GDP from 1961-2010. You'll note that in these 49 years there were 22 years in which the debt increased as a percentage of GDP, 26 years in which it decreased, and one in which it didn't change all that much (on this chart anyway, I chalked it up to a neutral for the Tories). Of the 22 years in which the debt increased as a percentage of GDP, 12 were during Conservative governments and 10 were during Liberal governments. Of the 26 years between 1961 and 2010 in which the debt as a percentage of GDP decreased 4 of those years were during Tory governments and 22 were during Liberal governments.

        I've said it before and I'll say it again, the recent history of Canada is a history of Liberals campaigning on spending and then governing with fiscal restraint and Tories campaigning on fiscal restraint and then governing like drunken sailors.

        • If one were completely ignorant of history, one might not understand that the Tories in the 80's were still cleaning up the savage mess left behind by Trudeau. That same person may or may not recognize that the Liberals only balanced the budget in the 90's because of three things:
          1) The Tories brought in the GST, raising revenue
          2) The Tories introduced NAFTA, raising revenue (the best thing to ever happen to the Canadian economy)
          3) The Liberals ruthlessly axing healthcare transfers to the provinces

          Now, I'm all for cutting the size and cost of government. But I think (and I suspect most would agree with me) that healthcare funding is about the last place where funding should be cut. We need to balance the budget, of course, but I don't think it's right to do so on the backs of Canada's sick and elderly.

          And frankly, history not withstanding, Harper's plan to balance the budget by 2015 is vastly more credible than Ignatieff's.

          • the Tories in the 80's were still cleaning up the savage mess left behind by Trudeau

            That's an interesting definition of "cleaning up". See a dirty room and "clean up" by almost tripling the amount of dirt.

          • Okay, if you were Mulrooney, what would YOU have done to eliminate the deficit during his term? Cut spending by 50% in the first year? What the LPC fails to realize is that the deficits they wrack up while in government CAN'T just be eliminated overnight. The facts are pretty clear that Mulrooney put Canada on the path to a balanced the budget. The Liberals just try to take the credit.

          • Mulroney put Canada on the path to a balanced the budget.

            Budget deficit when Mulroney took office: $28 billion.
            Budget Deficit when Mulroney left office: $42 billion

            Federal Debt when Mulroney took office: $250 billion
            Federal Debt when Mulroney left office: over $500 billion

            That's quite the path to balanced budgets Mulroney had us on!!!

          • On a related note, during Trudeau's time in office there were 8 years in which Canada's debt declined as a percentage of the GDP, and even when he started spending more towards the end of his last term, Trudeau never managed to get Canada's debt (as a percentage of the GDP) back up as high as it had been when Diefenbaker was PM.

            Deficits and the debt under Mulroney did nothing but go up.

            Before Mulroney the debt's highest point was around 30% of GDP. It was up to 40% of GDP within 2 years of Mulroney being elected, and up to over 60% of GDP by the time he left office. The Liberals under Chretien had it back down below its Mulroney peak in their first term, and had it back down below 40% by the time they left office. The Harper Tories continued the downward trend for three years, but only managed to get the debt as a percentage of GDP down below it's HIGHEST level under Trudeau for one single year, and then they took it back up above Trudeau levels.

          • Thats some impressive spinning there M'Lord. But my question was "Okay, if you were Mulrooney, what would YOU have done to eliminate the deficit during his term?", and you didn't even touch the subject. Care to try again? What specific policies during BM's term increased the deficit? What policies would you have enacted to reduce Treadeau's deficit?

  28. The interview was this afternoon. Jack was interviewed yesterday.

    Harper? Well, maybe he'll submit to an interview at some point.

  29. not in the least, no.

  30. “The problem of debt is the problem of Canadian federalism, as the federal structure is a credit instrument”
    Harold Innis, 1938

  31. By "all participants" I would imagine you include the Cons as they have been the biggest spending government of all time. Right?

  32. You mean Wherry put him up to it? That scoundrel!

  33. But only if it's limited to 5 questions.

  34. Exactly!!!!! The spending plans from the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc will all be implemented, and none of the cuts. The deficit will double within a year, and that deficit will grow for each budget they are in power for.

    None of those parties has any problem putting generations of Canadians into debt. The Liberals under Trudeau wracked up the largest debt this country has ever seen. The NDP are so reckless people wouldn't let them within a hundred kilometers of the treasury. And the Bloc actually benefits by driving Canada further into debt.

    I'm not a huge fan of Harper, but I don't see any other reasonable party to vote for.

  35. Your comment amounted to one giant hissy fit about Wherry in a post he didn't write. The only point that remains is that you were completely out to lunch. Move along, peter. Nothing to salvage here.

  36. How often has this individual(s?) been posting this exact same message on political threads?

  37. Wow, how is it we have a PM of Canada who LIES to us all on how our Parliament works ?

    I MAKE THE RULES.

    TIME to EXIT the Harper FISH BOWL.

    Yea.

  38. Wow, how is it we have a PM of Canada who LIES to us all on how our Parliament works ?

    I MAKE THE RULES.

    TIME to EXIT the Harper FISH BOWL.

    Yea.

    • what amases me is how brain dead the Harper supporters are. They have no idea what is actually said and their ignorance shows. Try and use a little common sense would be my advice to them. Don't they realize that the more they spin and hate the more likely facts are, they are turning possible supporters off big time. How can one take the immature childish babbling liars serious is beyond me and why they continue doing this because se it merely works gainst them at every turn. These supporters are a joke and not likely to be taken seriously ever.

  39. You mean Ignatieff's honesty underwear was showing. He was asked a question which required either: a) the truth; or b) a lie. Hen handled it well, and it was not a friendly question (nor should it have been–just wondering whether Mr. Mansbridge will have similar latitude when interviewing Harper). I know it's difficult for many Harper supporters to understand, but sometimes an honest answer actually is honest. There I go using that word again! I'm sorry, I ought to realize that trying to describe "honesty" to a Harper supporter is like trying to describe the colour blue to a blind person.

  40. No, I think he means by treating whether Canada ends up with one national government, or two, or ten as a "secondary consideration".

  41. A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc.

    I'm surprised to see Harper describing it that way.

    Any idea at what point the Tories stopped using the honest and accurate description "Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc" and started using the dishonest and inaccurate "Liberal-NDP-Bloc Coalition"?

  42. A Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc.

    I'm surprised to see Harper describing it that way.

    Any idea at what point the Tories stopped using the honest and accurate description "Liberal-NDP coalition backed by the Bloc" and started using the dishonest and inaccurate "Liberal-NDP-Bloc Coalition"?

  43. The Liberals under Trudeau wracked up the largest debt this country has ever seen.

    Indeed, and then the Tories under Mulroney MORE THAN DOUBLED IT.

    The whole "don't elect the Liberals, they'll drown us in debt" thing would be a little more believable if one were completely ignorant of history. Under the Liberals (who eliminated the deficit and brought in an era of budget surpluses) the federal debt DECLINED in every year from 1997-2006. The Tories managed to keep it declining for a little while (thank you Liberal surpluses!) but the Canadian Taxpayer Federation had to turn the "debt clock" back on under the Harper Tories as it started climbing again. Even going by the Tories own numbers, by the time they get us back out of deficit the debt will have far exceeded it's previous all-time high from 1997. If you believe their own numbers, the Harper Tories will likely have increased the national debt more during their reign (in absolute dollar figures of course) than Trudeau did in his before we're out of deficit.

    Here's a chart of Canada's debt as a percentage of GDP from 1961-2010. You'll note that in these 49 years there were 22 years in which the debt increased as a percentage of GDP, 26 years in which it decreased, and one in which it didn't change all that much (on this chart anyway, I chalked it up to a neutral for the Tories). Of the 22 years in which the debt increased as a percentage of GDP, 12 were during Conservative governments and 10 were during Liberal governments. Of the 26 years between 1961 and 2010 in which the debt as a percentage of GDP decreased 4 of those years were during Tory governments and 22 were during Liberal governments.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, the recent history of Canada is a history of Liberals campaigning on spending and then governing with fiscal restraint and Tories campaigning on fiscal restraint and then governing like drunken sailors.

  44. If one were completely ignorant of history, one might not understand that the Tories in the 80's were still cleaning up the savage mess left behind by Trudeau. That same person may or may not recognize that the Liberals only balanced the budget in the 90's because of three things:
    1) The Tories brought in the GST, raising revenue
    2) The Tories introduced NAFTA, raising revenue (the best thing to ever happen to the Canadian economy)
    3) The Liberals ruthlessly axing healthcare transfers to the provinces

    Now, I'm all for cutting the size and cost of government. But I think (and I suspect most would agree with me) that healthcare funding is about the last place where funding should be cut. We need to balance the budget, of course, but I don't think it's right to do so on the backs of Canada's sick and elderly.

    And frankly, history not withstanding, Harper's plan to balance the budget by 2015 is vastly more credible than Ignatieff's.

  45. the Tories in the 80's were still cleaning up the savage mess left behind by Trudeau

    That's an interesting definition of "cleaning up". See a dirty room and "clean up" by almost tripling the amount of dirt.

  46. Seriously? regardless of stripes, have you ever seen someone so blatantly lie day in & day out straight to your face the way Stephen Harper does?.

    I helped vote this thing into power & am completely blown away ever time I see a clip of his fear mongering campaign each & every day of this campaign, its unbelievable, literally!.

    I've voted Conservative, PC, NDP & Liberal over my years so please don't assume I'm just an ABC person, I'm not. but this guy is by far the lowest of the low I've ever seen, straight out of the American playbook of say anything to scare people into following you, regardless of TRUTH & HONOR.

    I find it just sickening as a proud Canadian.

  47. LKO: Totally off-topic, but I know that you have an interest in the F-35 debate. If you have the occasion, you should check out this show on CPAC.

    • Thanks!

      I've been a fighter jet freak since I was a kid, so I've been watching the F-35 debate really closely. Thanks for the link!

    • Wow! At least one down thumb for posting a link, complete with admission that it was off topic? Tough crowd!! ;-)