Is Harper prepared to do a King-Byng?

Harper’s dogmatic opposition to coalitions raises a few questions


Up to now, I think most of us have assumed Stephen Harper’s unwillingness to concede the right of the opposition parties to form a government in the event his government were immediately defeated on a confidence vote, or fell before governing for very long (say, within six months), was just sort of messing with the electorate’s head.

By his repeated attempts to impugn this perfectly normal constitutional procedure as “illegitimate,” we assumed, he was simply trying to demonize the opposition as power-hungry conspirators, hoping to scare the electorate into giving him the majority he seeks. It was so clearly contrary to all established constitutional doctrine, not to mention his own public statements and private actions over the years, that he couldn’t possibly be serious. It was just cheap, dishonest demagoguery, playing upon the public’s ignorance of constitutional conventions.

At that, there was a small shred of truth in it. If, that is, the opposition parties had only a bare majority between them, and if the votes and seats were so divided between them that no one of them could claim even half the Tories’ numbers — if, say, the distribution of seats in the House were 153-65-50-40 — they might well themselves shrink from trying, for fear that the public would find they had over-reached. Or the Governor General might deem the contraption too unstable — to say nothing of the questions surrounding the Bloc’s role — and refuse to call upon it, sending the whole mess back to the people to sort out. But that’s a very different matter than the unconditional ex cathedra edicts we have been hearing from Harper.

Indeed, so unyielding and dogmatic have his statements become, against the views of every constitutional scholar, that I have to wonder whether there is something else going on. That is, I wonder whether he is preparing the ground, not just to prevent the opposition from electing enough members to be in a position to bring his government down, but to thwart them should they make the attempt.

What he may have in mind is this: that after losing a vote of non-confidence, he would advise the Governor General to dissolve the House and call new elections, rather than call upon someone else to form a government. He would then dare the Governor General to overrule his first minister’s advice, something that Governors General are quite properly extremely reluctant to do.

He would, in short, be doing another King-Byng, provoking a constitutional crisis rather than yield power, hoping to intimidate the Governor General and/or rally public opinion to his side. If so this would be extremely disturbing, though not alas unprecedented.

Indeed, there is some evidence the government was prepared to do something similar in December 2008, had the then Governor General not acceded to his demands she prorogue. But at least in that case he had not yet been defeated in the House, and could with greater justice insist that she yield. To do so after having lost a confidence vote is surely unthinkable. Even King, let us recall, had not yet been defeated on a formal confidence motion.

So I think someone — the opposition, the media — should call Harper to answer: If he were to be defeated on a confidence motion within six months of the House’s return, would he advise the Governor General to call new elections? And if the Governor General were to refuse his advice, what would he do then?


Is Harper prepared to do a King-Byng?

  1. Wasn't the point of advising the Queen to appoint Johnston that he would have the authority and gravitas — given his professional background — to deal with these sorts of situations?

    It'd be a funny sort of King-Byng preparation to appoint the strongest, most secure governor-general (wrt reserve powers) possible, in order to then run him over…

    • So…this is it?

      Or not?

    • If the 3 amigos have agreed on a coaltion, why dont they simply tell the voters?
      Why are they afraid to tell us what their hidden agenda is

      • Obviously they have not.

        • obviously, they will.

          • Good, I'd like to see some cooperation in the HoC, and we're never going to see it with harper at the healm. Go coalition, steve goes away, CPC gets new leader (dmitri?), and the nation moves forward.

          • Actually, it's quite obvious the won't. The Liberals may try to govern as a minority, and the NDP and Bloc may even formally agree to support that minority for a period of time (though I doubt it) but I'm almost certain that we won't see a coalition while the current three opposition leaders are opposition leaders.

      • Why are you posting about the opposition? Trying to take the heat off your man steve?

        Why don't you want to hear answers from the man you hope leads the country in majority? Do you so trust Big Daddy, or are you just a blind cheerleader?

        • …or just answered an ad on Craig's List?

    • Good point, B(TT). Mr Coyne, your report has flushed up a large flock of constitutional experts pronouncing on the totally irrelevant. Save the arguments for when and if they might be pertinent. One does get tired of, "what if", journalistm. Or perhaps there is no other kind?

      • Perhaps journalists will abandon "what if" scenarios the day after the main thrust of the Tory campaign stops being "What if there's a coalition!?!?!?!"

  2. I think he has entered dangerous ground: in his mind he can no longer imagine the country without him as prime minister or the conservative party governing it.

    Other thought: if the BQ lose half of their seats, and Duceppe resigns shortly thereafter, having been so publicly chastened by the electorate that they purport to represent, they will probably be on their best behavior in the new parliament with respect to playing nice with the federalists. I would hope..

    • The Block will neverbe on their best behavior

  3. Hmm. You are rarely this far off the mark Andrew.

    "perfectly normal constitutional procedure"? What the hell are you talking about? It's happened once in Canadian history!

    Of course Harper would advise the GG to dissolve Parliament and call an election. It's not up to Harper to invite another party to seek power if he is defeated. It's up to the GG. Harper offers his advice and resigns as PM. By this action, he yields power, whether the result is an election or an alternate government. What happens next is up to the GG.

    And what do you mean, ask him what would he do if the GG refuses his advice? There is nothing he can do. He resigned as PM. It's up to the GG to invite another party to form a government, or to call an election if he can't find any takers that can do the job.

    • "perfectly normal constitutional procedure"? What the hell are you talking about?

      Spot on. The perfectly norally constitutional procedure that has no precedent anywhere in Westminster history. I keep hearing that coalition is not against constitution but I think our forefathers did not think it was necessary – because it was blindingly obvious – to add clause to constitution on how coaltions of losers were not allowed to usurp power from winning party.

      "If he were to be defeated on a confidence motion within six months of the House's return, would he advise the Governor General to call new elections?"

      I think Libs/coalition are likely to bring down Cons right away or wait for a year or two. I think one of many problems faced by coalition last time was Cons had been governing for a month or two and then coalition tried to take over – seen as coup. Need to usurp power quickly or not at all. I think GG would call on oppo/coalition if government falls within 18 months and will call for more elections after 18 months.

      I think Cons should allow coaltion to take power for a time so electorate understand the full horror of coalition before they have to vote on whether they want to continue with it.

      • They probably also thought it was blindingly obvious that you not develop instruction manuals to disrupt committees, and not refuse to provide the house the information it requires to do its job.

        So why so concerened about what they might have thought to be blindingly obvious now?

        Oh wait… because you're a partisan hack.

      • No, there is precedent. In 1985, the Ontario PCs got a plurality of 52 seats. The Liberals were four short with 48, and the NDP trailed with 25. The Conervatives tried to introduce a throne speech, and were beaten by the combined vote of the Liberals and the NDP. The Lieutenant Governor and David Petersen then talked, and Petersen became premier of Ontario without an additional election.

        The Westminster system is also the same system where a sitting British prime minister quit his own party (Labour) and crossed the floor, forging a new coalition with Liberal and Conservative MPs, and remaining PM. This happened in the early 1930s.

        We don't elect a PM. We elect MPs who have basically campaigned to support their party's leader for the position of PM. However, in a minority parliament, the majority of MPs have been elected on the promise of selecting someone other than the leader of the plurality party as PM. Would you have these MPs break their promise to their constituents?

        • In 1929 the governing Liberal party was reduced to a minority in the Saskatchewan legislature (28 of 63 seats). The Conservatives had won 24 seats in that election, the Progressives 5, and 6 Independents got in, too. The Conservatives and Progressives formed a coalition government that sought and found the confidence of the legislature, and served for five years. So there's that, too.

        • Then tell us their plans for the coalition. What's the problem with their plan that they keep denying it?

          • Because of necessity a coalition can only be formed after the election. Before the election, all parties are fighting for a majority of their own, and don't want to govern in tandem. After the election, when seats are allocated and each party knows how strong or weak it is, then you can negotiate the details of a coalition. It's pretty simple, really.

          • Actually, I think it's because Ignatieff has formally disavowed forming a coalition, even after the Tories are defeated on a confidence vote, should that happen. He hasn't, it's true, ruled out forming a minority government in such a scenario, but as much as Harper would like you to believe otherwise, that's DIFFERENT from a coalition.

          • Precisely. If a minority government is the same as a coalition, then Harper has been governing with a coalition since 2006.

        • You skipped a step in the process James. After Miller's throne speech was defeated he spoke with the LG (JB Aird) and recommended that he invite Peterson to form a government.

          Miller didn't ask for a new election, for one rather obvious reason. He had just been pantsed by the voters, losing 18 seats and the popular vote. For Miller, another vote would have just meant an even worse result and, most likely, a clear Liberal majority.

          Only after Miller had resigned did Aird call Peterson.

      • "…to add clause to constitution on how coaltions of losers were not allowed to usurp power from winning party. "

        Well, that might take care of all the losing Conservative candidates Harper has appointed to the senate, who've then rejected legislation passed by duly elected MPs, but constitutionally requiring elected opposition MPs to support the Conservatives obviously gets a fail on the democracy score.

        • The Grits never appointed losers and party hacks to the Senate?

          • I don't remember a Liberal prime minister appointing to the Senate persons knowing that they are under suspicions of electoral fraud. If you do, let me know.

      • Maybe our forefathers were dealing with a two-party system, that's all they knew. And since the NDP has been around for decades, and there are shades of Liberalism in their policies, maybe it just makes sense that they could cooperate and keep us out of these elections that Canadians find so burdensome.

        The right united, and it was good for them. Maybe what we are seeing is the first baby steps of a united centre/left. But as long as there are more than two parties, I guess the game plays a little differently. Just learn the new rules, and play along.

    • One thing he can do, and was threatening to do to Michelle Jean, was call the Queen and ask for a new Governor General.

      Don't think it'd fly.. but it's an option.

      I suppose another option would be to take his unregistered long-gun into the House and refuse to leave.

      • Thank goodness that new temporary parliament is almost ready.

      • Of your meds again?

    • "perfectly normal constitutional procedure"? What the hell are you talking about? It's happened once in Canadian history!

      Unfortunately you are the one off the mark. For starters, you are reacting to the part of Mr. Coyne's piece in quotations as though he had said 'precedent' when in reality he said 'perfectly normal constitutional procedure.' What this means is, quite simply, forming a coalition and governing after the defeat of the governing party is allowed under the Canadian Constitution.

      As every political scientist in the country knows, the ability to govern in Canada is dependent on the confidence of the House, and nothing else.

      As others have mentioned here, there is also ample precedent within Canadian politics at the federal and state level, and indeed in other similar Western democracies that are based upon the same model (notably in Western Europe), where coalition governments have become an accepted norm of multiparty parliaments.

  4. You bring to mind the truly scary scenario of the tory thugs and bullies who picketed the road to rideau hall when harper went to seek prorogation. I honestly fear for this country, and the violence and terror that conservatives would incite if they feel power slipping away. With the police and military unsure of exactly who's orders to follow, Stephen Harper could well be on the way to destroying Canada as we know it, in a far more violent and dangerous way then the Bloc Quebecois could ever have…

    • Good to see the Conservatives are the ones doing the fear mongering…. Let me guess what happens next…
      After seeing he won't win his majority government Harper is going to role the military up the the hill for good old fashioned military coup? Surely you jest Sir.

      • Ok I'll bite.
        Don't call me surely!

    • Was G 20 a rehearsal?

      • I think so.

    • That's ridiculous, and it will continue to be ridiculous until you show one ounce of proof that any of our elected officials are likely to start a military takeover of this country. The possibility of the Tories fighting politically tooth and nail to stay in power is a scenario worth investigation, like Mr. Coyne is doing above, but only if it's confined within the realm of reason. Reason being realizing that this is Canada and not Iran. If you actually have any proof that PM Harper will become Dictator Harper then that's something that people should know about, a military coup being a military coup. But if you don't then you're just attempting to scare voters and doing it in a way that treats them like morons. And to the 32 plus people who have digitally given their support to this guy, c'mon, really? I see a lot of posts talking about how statements that agree more with the Tories must be placed by party hacks, yet people actually think this guy is talking sense? The majority of those ‘Craig's list hacks for hires' are trying to make some sort of reasoned arguments, which can be debated through your own reasoned arguments. This guy is just plain old fear mongering on the levels of 2006's ‘if you vote Conservative you are voting for "soldiers on every street corner."' Funnily enough last time I checked there isn't a soldier standing guard just down the street, excuse me while I check. Yup, no police state going on right now. At the very least show some respect for the sanity and integrity of our soldiers. Actually, the very least would be to not post such blatant scare tactics whatever party you support, how about we all try that.

      • When you get proof it will be too late.

        • You realize this is Canada right were you need proof before you can go around making acusations like that?

          • Wait, you need proof before making accusations? That would make for a strange legal system. What do you need before finding them guilty then? Or do you find them guilty based on reasonable suspicions, and then gather evidence until finally you've got what it takes to accuse them? Of course you put them in jail before it's even been reported that a crime was committed, which is why the Conservatives need all those jails to take care of the wave of unreported crimes.

      • My guess is that Harper woud involve the courts before he would willing relinquish control of the government.

    • Actually, it's clear whose orders to follow for the miltary, at least: the Governor General, as the queen's viceroy. To go against the orders of the queen or GG is an act of treason.

  5. Read what he said to Mansbridge carefully. He never denied the legality of a coalition (and while his comment that it was a matter of constitutional debate is untrue, the governor-general would be within his rights to call an election following a VONC). Harper answered Mansbridge's question like a good politician should: he changed the question to one of whether a coalition would be a good thing. By insisting that this is a primarily a legal debate, supporters of a coalition effectively concede the practical point.

    If we are going to have coalition/accord rule, the opposition needs to tell us why a coalition would be better for Canada.
    1. Why is Harper so terrible that he needs to be VONC'ed ASAP?
    2. What sort of plans would a coalition implement?
    3. How important of a role would the Bloc play in any coalition? To what extent are the NDP and Liberals prepared to give away the farm?

    If the opposition leaders fail to address these questions, then they will be deemed illegitimate by Canadians upon taking power. This is not because they are in violation of the law, but because:
    A. the platform of government they would implement would be concocted AFTER Canadians voted.
    B. no Liberal candidates campaigned on a mandate of "let us form a coalition/accord". Instead they said on "this is our platform, vote for us", pretending that they were trying to form a majority government.

    If coalitions are on the table, voters need to have expectations about what those coalitions will look like and what they will do. Otherwise, what exactly is it we are voting on?

    • And yet, you seem perfectly happy to have Harper completely dismiss the very same question you would demand a response on of other leaders.

      • Harper has answered the question: he said he wouldn't form a coalition with the other parties, and at another point that he would govern as if he had a majority. That may not be entirely true, but at least it is a statement to which we can hold Harper accountable.

    • #1: Contempt of the House.
      #2: There won't be a coalition, nice red herring. There'll be Liberals supported on a case by case basis by whoever.
      #3: Again, there won't be a coalition. Kindly stop lying.

      • 1. But contempt of the house is an entirely meaningless. Asking the opposition what they think of the government is like asking Steve Jobs what he things of PC's.
        2/3. And you call Harper evasive! Whether it is an accord or a coalition, there is going to be a program of government that was never pitched to the Canadian people during an election, and there is going to be an arrangement with the Bloc. How is this not relevant information to voters?

        • The arrangement with the Bloc is the real issue. Good Canadians wouldn't stand for it now and didn't stand for it in 2008.

        • Once again, unless you somehow think this is the first minority government ever, it's not meaningless at all, especially because this is the first time that it's happened.

          There may be an arrangement with the Bloc, there may not. Was there an arrangement with the Bloc every time they kept the CPC in power?

        • In the CBC interview Harper admitted that he made concessions to the opposition as a minority government leader. In a coalition government. the coalition partners make concessions with each other too. Fact is that when the voters do not give one party a majority, concessions need to be made to govern the country. Especially after mr Harper has been pitching ad nauseum that there will be a coalition unless he gets a majority, can someone explain why one kind of concession making is deceitful to the voters and the other kind is not?

      • And, if anybody can form a government, working with the other parties on a case-by-case basis, why is it necessarily Ignatieff who gets that kick at the can? Why not Layton? Why not Andre Arthur?

        The governor-general would only make Ignatieff PM if he could demonstrate that he had the confidence of the house. He is only going to get that by making a deal with Layton and Duceppe. Why would it be in the interest of either figure to let Ignatieff govern on a case-by-case basis (given that he could often get support from the Tories on issues like Afghanistan)? Both would benefit from getting long-term concessions from Ignatieff.

        • Because it is most likely Ignatieff who will have the second largest party in the House, and thus the most likely to be able to command the confidence of the house. I mean, the GG could ask anybody to do it. Andre Arthur, me, Paul Bernardo, anybody.. however, picking names out of the phonebook at random is probably not the most efficient way to go about it.. thus you pick the person who seems to have the backing of as many MPs as possible.

          So first the leader of the party with the largest plurality, then the next, then the next, and so on.

          Really, I didn't think this concept was so difficult it would escape someone like you. I can only assume you're being willfully stupid.

          • "So first the leader of the party with the largest plurality, then the next, then the next, and so on."

            Yes, so why can't the Bloc and the NDP simply agree not to make Ignatieff PM and force the Liberals to support an NDP government if they want the Conservatives out? Or are the Liberals only willing to work with the other parties if they are in charge? And how can they say that after trying to skewer Harper for refusing to cooperate with other parties right before they vote him out in non-confidence?

          • 1. The party with the second-most seats is not necessarily the most likely to command confidence of the house (incidentally, the party that gets first crack is not the party with the most seats, but the party that was in power last – it is just that every PM except King resigned after failing to win the most seats).

            Imagine Chretien had won a minority in 1993. The party with the second most seats would be the Bloc, which no other parties would be likely to support. A small party – even a single individual – may have the ability to command the confidence of the house. That is why the governor-general should ask for some sort of assurance.

            2. It isn't clear where this cycle ends. If the second biggest party can't command the confidence of the house, why not give the third a crack at it? Why not a fourth?

            The one thing that becomes clear at the end of the day is that any governor-general is going to have situations where he must use his judgment about whether to appoint a new government or go to the voters. Government by a party with 26% of the seats in the house, and no guarantees of support from the other parties doesn't sound like a very sure bet to me. That is why Ignatieff, if he wants to take power, is going to have to get a guarantee from two other parties, and it isn't going to be cheap.

          • 1. Neither the PM nor their cabinet need be MPs.

            2. The GG makes the call. That's why we put people with gravitas and wisdom in the position–they are being trusted as the trustee of our democracy.

          • I'd prefer you to Paul Bernardo, Thwim!

          • You haven't heard what I'd do. :)

      • Why should it be the Liberals who are supported on a case by case basis? If the NDP makes big gains in Quebec we could very well see Layton asking the Bloc to support the NDP as the government since an NDP government would better represent Quebec.

        • They all have to be careful of their relationship with BQ. I think in this case, Layton would turn to Liberals.

        • I don't see that as terribly likely. If they can secure confidence, then they can have a go at it.

    • The boys are afraid to campaign on this wonderful arrangement because most of the voters dont want any part of it

      • What exactly do voters want, then? Because, about 60% of them don't seem to want the Conservatives, either.

      • I think voters are warming to the idea. Certainly they were upset at the Dion pact, mostly because of harper's carping on it. That was years ago; Britain now has a coalition and if we're truly sick of elections and steve cannot compromise — what other alternative is there? JenAHlin?

      • Of course not knowing the final seat tally it would be problematic to lay out a possible scenario. I consider a minority mandate as the electorate saying "No one has it right and no one has it wrong. Make compromises!". So parties will need to modify their positions. I don't see a problem with this and would argue it actually results in better – in that it reflects the wishes of all Canadians more equitably – results

    • Since he was faced with loss of power in 2008 Harper has done everything he could to confuse the electorate about what a coalition is and the legitimacy a coalition has in the Westminster Parliamentary system of government. It is obvious that you are confused.

  6. On Johnson, can anyone think of an instance in his long history of [i]public service[/i] where he was seen to make a bold and courageous decision on anything? Or speak uncomfortable truth to power?

    His career seems to me to be more that of an [Eminence Grise Yes-Man.

    • When he was Principal at McGill his main theme was "collegiality."

      He's obviously a very intelligent, very accomplished individual with the knowledge in the appropriate areas but I think he prefers calm waters to doing what might make things uncomfortable (even if they were constitutionally permissable).

      However, we shall only know anything on May 3rd and beyond.

    • (Many years ago the rich went to work for the gov't as dollar-a-year-men)

      Johnson was well paid for his toady service … he's the million dollar man!

  7. I think the concern is justified. SH is clearly an able and extremely bright guy, but there is an almost pathological side to him that strikes me as dangerous (in a constitutional & political sense, of course).

    By all means pose Andrew's question, but why should we expect to get an answer based SH's practice these past few years? Indeed, if we did get an answer, why would one accept it at face value?

    We recently had a couple of constitutional types suggesting the GG should never deny a prorogation request. Do we really think this or any GG, faced with SH threatening holy constitutional war, would push him aside for an opposition alliance? I can't. To avoid turmoil, even a strong GG is apt to defer to a PM willing to create constitutional chaos if denied.

    As I wrote elsewhere, it appears to me our constitution and polite precedents are unprepared for a truly rogue PM.

    • All Iggy and the Grits have to do is win more seats then PM Harper and they will be in charge.
      Whats the problem here? Cant they do it without trying to gang up with the rest of the losers

      • By "losers" I assume you mean the people who would, in a minority scenario, control the majority of the seats in the house and the mass majority of the popular vote? Strange definition of "loser".

        We may elect MPs with the first-past-the-post system, but that is not how parliament works; there majority rules. The CPC may be forced to deal with that reality come May 2nd.

    • I think your last sentence is chillingly accurate.

    • Yesterday at the Globe and Mail, Tom Flanagan refused to even discuss "hypothetical" examples of what Harper might do and what the Governor General's response might be. He claimed that the Governor General could establish a new precedent after considering the probable unique circumstances presented by this election result. It's a scary thought that Harper is first purposely confusing the electorate and that untimately a Harper appointed Governor General, who previously bent over backwards to accomodate Harper in setting the rules for the Mulroney enquiry, will decide the fate of the next Parliament.

  8. I don't see it as a constitutional crisis, but a political crisis. Harper has been laying the ground not for the constitutional illegitimacy of the "coalition", but the political illegitimacy of the "coalition".

    Harper wants to make it as politically dangerous as possible for the second party to risk attempting to form a government…i.e. poison the chalice. Make what is constitutionally possible (i.e. the "coalition") political suicide for the second party.

    The rise of the NDP may give Harper other options though. The BQ may no longer be so willing to get into the same bed with the NDP. Sticking the HST deal in the Throne Speech and Budget might be enough to get the BQ to play along with another Conservative minority.

    Ditto with the Liberals, who instead of eing a minor partner in the "coalition", the NDP is now likely to be an equal partner, which would be bitter bitter gruel for the Liberals to swallow. For the Rosedale folks, this would probably be worse than Ford nation storming the Toronto suburbs. The Liberals might choose to rebuild and make a deal on the budget. i.e. Send out a young Trudeau against Jack next time.

    • Heaven hep us If the NDP have any say in running this great country.
      As far as the boy Trudeau going against Jumpin Jack, it will be only after Bobbie Rae has his turn as leader of the losers

      • Oh please- Canada, the nation, its people, its economy, its way of life can survive morons of all political stripes! Have you that little faith in your fellow citizens?

    • I think you're the first conservative I've read on these boards who's come close to nailing it spot on (you, um, ARE conservative right? :))

      My sincere hope for this election is another Conservative minority at which point the Bloc Albertois/neo-con contingent of the Conservative Party gets the message that they are just not trusted, and they resign. Mr Harper joins Fox to co-host a talk show with Sarah Palin, Wee Jimmy goes back to ambulance chasing, John Baird starts acting in public the way he acts in private, Tony goes to, um, well….er….I'm not sure where he'd go.

      On the opposition side, Iggy goes back to Harvard (he will, you know, deep down inside you just KNOW he will), Bob Rae is defeated by John Manley (!?), and, once the piggies fly, Jack steps down and is replaced by a leader who brings the NDP back to its smart, practical, small-business-CCF roots (people forget they were a party started by fiscally conservative hard working prairie farmers) with a strong social conscience.

      • That sounds ideal to me. But the NDP needs a Prairie boy to send the message home though. Doer? Romanow?

      • It appears to me that John Manley now is a better fit with the Conservatives than the Liberals.

    • I will NEVER vote Liberal if Justin is leader. NEVER. Period. MANY reasons. One is pretty obvious: this guy is naive, unprepared and surfing on his father's glory.

  9. What people are forgetting (especially the above poster), when they refer to King-Byng as a valuable lesson is what happened after the governor-general appointed Meighen as Prime Minister. King the governor-general for trying to impose the will of Britain on Canada, also attacking Meighen as the erstwhile pawn of the old empire. And you know what – Canadians bought it.

    Despite a customs scandal, here is the result of the 1926 election (1925 results in brackets):
    Liberal: 116 (100)
    Conservative: 91 (115)
    Progressive: 11 (22)

    The lesson is that two types of legitimacy are important – process legitimacy and output legitimacy. Broadly speaking, it is the latter that matters because people care about outcomes. And indeed, it is fair to say that people in 1926 didn't think governor-general Byng's actions were legitimate. In that sense, it is Harper who is the apt pupil of King-Byng affair, not his opponents.

    • I give your answer a strong "maybe". Since it's only a one-off incident it's hard to draw any conclusions. If that's what happens a second time it will have more weight. Let us hope we don't it doesn't come to pass.

      • Hopefully this election will see the return of Canada to a stable 2ish party system, the end of the Bloc, and a majority government.

    • After listening to all of you constitutional experts i.t's no wonder voters young and old are not voting anymore

  10. Well…see…this is what happens when prominent journalists forgive all the liberties Harper has ALREADY taken …with a thousand excuses. No matter the pretzel contortions you have to do to pass it off as piffle

    'Oh it's not soooo bad'….'no really, this is minor'…..'it could be said to be similar to a passing remark made by PM X in 1894 so it has precedent'….'well, what if he did, is that something to crucify him over'….'gosh, I dunno, an argument 'could' be made for….'

    And before you know it, you have a PM who's mistakes himself for God….'I make the rules'

    And then you wonder why he's so willing to stomp all over the constitution and thumb his nose at you media types BEHIND THE FENCE….and go his own merry way.

    Because you were his willing accomplices….every inch of that journey.

    • Couldn't agree wih you more.

    • Hey Em,__ What's your 20% spin on the Ipso poll released today?

    • Emily. please remind the uninformed voters why the Grits are so good, and maybe some of the great things they have done for us while they were in power
      You might start by mentioning the HRDC, Adscam and the long gun registry for starters

      • They got rid of the deficit and gave us a dozen years of surplus….a stark contrast to Harper.

    • Very well said.

    • Wow, you're going to lose your last marble when Harper gets his majority.

      I can't wait, it should be a riot reading your foaming at the mouth rants.

      • Another one of your many fantasies.

        I'm not a member of any party, so it doesn't matter to me who wins.

        Canada has to go through futureshock the same way everyone else does.

  11. Harper's interview with Mansbridge seems to indicate he is losing touch with reality. He now doesn't even acknowledge the opposition has the right to try and form a government if he loses the confidence of the house. Ignatieff made a very insightful comment during his interview with Mansbridge about Harper's need for absolute control. Sounded over the top at the time but in light of Harper's statements today is appears to be bang on. Damn scary


      • Who is the PM right now?

    • So why doesn't Iggy just tell us about his coalition of losers?
      Why does he refuse to tell us upfront if he is so concerned about Canada and democracy, and if it is so legitimate, why does he keep denying it?

      • Because there isn't one. Obviously.

    • I was thinking whether he wasn't as sharp as he used to be. The constant use of the teleprompter, and a kind of almost drugged, made up, blank look. He didn't seem to be able to reason through Mansbridges questions. But we all know if he came second, and Iggy lost a confidence vote Harper wouyld grab power when offered. Remember you can't believe what the guy says.

      • You are right. If you watch him speaking to a group of his supporters, it is as if he is talking to himself. Nobody else in the room matters.

  12. You know what I love about you Coyne. Is that you can write this..

    About a Prorogue Parliament. Which is pretty much par for the course in politics. But reaching back to Byng is cool with you.

    Different strokes for different folks I guess. Just wish you and your colleagues wanted a civic lesson when the PM Prorogued during the Olympics…

    But whatever…

    • Stop trying to introduce 'reality' into a Canadian political debate….lol.

  13. Everyone has forgotten that Mr. Johnson defined the parameters on the Airbus-Mulroney inquiry (he was in charge) so narrowly he could conclude nothing wrong had been done. The GG job is his reward. So he is going to do everything Harper wants. It is a simple as that.

    Do you think he was chosen ass GG by accident? There was no other candidate available?

    And I am willing to bet $50 Harper offered a Cabinet post to Layton, so now poor Layton is shooting Ignatieff in the back instead of attacking the real source of danger. All Layton wants is power. The public interest, he does not care about.

    I expect election fraud, closed polls in Liberal-leaning ridings, etc.

    • So that's a conspiracy of the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the leader of the New Democrats (and likely next Leader of the Official Opposition), and Elections Canada.


      • No need for a conspiracy. Simple laziness and greed is quite sufficient. This is why we have already had 2 prorogations: people are too cowardly or lazy to say anything.

        And I have never seen so many perfectly honest and competent senior civil servants being thrown out because the King is unhappy: Colvin was publicly attacked over torture (Geneva Convention, anyone? torture is a war crime, and Canada is accomplice); Linda Keen (remember what happened with the Chalk River reactor? she was right!) Pat Strogran (Harper uses our army as his toy soldiers and then treats dead or wounded soldiers like dirt; Strogran said so; he lost his job). Etc.! You seriously believe the flimsy excuses given for scrapping the long form? When you have no data about poverty, for instance, you have no reason for doing anything.

        I have ample reason to expect the worst, the cause the worst has hapenned many times already, and it keeps worsening. It is not my imagination.

    • Up until the $50 bet I was with you.

      I highly doubt Harper offered Layton a cabinet position or that Layton would accept it.

      However, you are correct that Layton is only interested in power (like the pure politician he is). And the one thing he and Harper have in common is that they both hate the Liberal Party and would like to see it destroyed.

    • i dislike Harper so much I consider him a threat to Canadian government and capable of the politically unthinkable. But I would take that bet and I think I would win.

      • Nah "breh", you should take a psych test.. Your dislike for Harper is a problem…..

        …For real. Just saying..

    • I agree with Line M as far as the first paragraph. And it gets scarier.

      Yesterday at the Globe and Mail, Tom Flanagan refused to even discuss "hypothetical" examples of what Harper might do and what the Governor General's response might be. He claimed that the Governor General could establish a new precedent after considering the probable unique circumstances presented by this election result. It's a scary thought that Harper is first purposely confusing the electorate and that untimately a Harper appointed Governor General, who previously bent over backwards to accomodate Harper in setting the rules for the Mulroney enquiry, will decide the fate of the next Parliament.

      • We have a conditioned response to respect and honour the Governor General. Comes from the old royalty, Queen, King, traditions i Guess.
        Would the opponents or even academics on the losing end of a very controversial decision have an option of appealing to the Queen herself?

        • The option is there, but the reply would likely be the same as the Aussies got back in 1975 with the Gough Whitlam affair.

    • To revive a Martinism I think it's beyond the pale to question the loyalty (to the constitution) and impartiality of the Governor General.

  14. I predict Mansbridge is going to have a seat in the Senate soon if Harper is reelected.

    • To be fair to Mansbridge he wasn't a total suck-up like Duffy (almost impossible for anyone).

      Mansbridge did push him a little bit but did not interupt Harper anything like he did with Ignatieff.

      • Iggy was just spouting fluff. He thought he was out stumping.

  15. Great read by Coyne when PM Harper was just doing what constitution allowed..

    Your a funny guy Coyne. Must be nice to be able to switch the outrage on over one constitutional aspect, then be so serene on another. It is almost like you have a agenda. Or your just a fake and get outraged/serene when it suits you.

    I am going to go with Andrew Coyne is fake. But Whatever…

    • er' "What the constitution allowed"

    • this post and the one you made above are the strangest I have seen … you cite two of Coyne's articles in where he criticizes prorogation of Parliament, in neither of which is he "serene", and then accuse him of being inconsistent in his outrage …

      Having now read all three, I'd say he is consistently concerned about constitutional conundrums with varying levels of outrage – for which, agree with him or not, he always provides reasons …

      Which leads me to my primary reaction to your posts (and others like it) … if you want to contribute to the debate, attack his argument, not him … personal attacks are the last resort of those with nothing useful to say …

  16. I am growing so tired of Harper and his mistruths and half-truths and unchallenged assertions that are completely incorrect.

    He is tiring me out but I will rouse myself to vote against him and for a positive future for my country on May 2nd. I will vote for a new government and not just to protest and change the Opposition.

    How about you?

    • Anon are you the same Anon who posted in this link

      "Look, the people of this country will figure it out. They typically get the government they want and deserve. "

      Hmm it's crazy, I did not read you defending the constitutional right of the PM to prorogue. But hey we are all partisan i guess..

      • That was definitely not me.

    • I dont think the visiting professor is the answer when he wont reveal the deal he has with the other two losers

  17. Australia 1975. PM wanted to call Senate election. GG kicked him out and asked No 2 party leader Fraser to form govt.
    Same thing could happen here. PM Harper goes to GG who refuses election and asks Iggy to form govt.
    Quite legal and with precedent.

    • Never heard that in Australia they had a separatist party running in their federal elections.

      • If you are honest you will admit that the Bloc has always respected the Constitution and the laws.

        There is a separatist party in Scotland. They even had seats in Westminster. But no one called them traitors and put them in prison. I suspect part of the aggressiveness towards the Bloc* is because they speak French or because they don't act like carpets even though the British (not Canada!) won in 1760. Far worse things happened in Europe (like WWII for instance) and yet these countries work together in the European Union. I wonder when people will start having a mature vision of politics in Canada?

        *Some of their demands are selfish and make no sense. But so do some of Alberta's.

        And speaking of Alberta, why is everyone ready to hang the Bloc, but never mention the separatist parties in Alberta, of which Harper was either a member or a fellow traveler? (Re the "firewall" declaration for instance, or the "Alberta values" one.) They also want to break up the country to keep their "precious" oil that soon will have no market at all, because the US are about to stop buying it.It's not just Quebec: they call the whole of Eastern Canada welfare bums. Alberta: the 2 million inhabitant province that is jealous of Ontario (10 million) and Quebec (7 million) and expect to get the same weight.

        Harper was born in Ontario and lived there till the age of 12. But he has suppressed almost all info about that. Read his bios. They are eloquent by the things that are NOT said.

        And look at Ulster. After 30 years of bombs, murders, innocent people shot by the British Army… after many false starts and difficulties, they now have a functioning Parliament and the violence has stopped. Why are Canadians so immature?

        • You say:"If you are honest you will admit that the Bloc has always respected the Constitution and the laws"

          Never have I stated that the Bloc has not respected the Constitution and the laws. I don't know why you would imply otherwise.

          You have no understanding at all of what I am talking about. I am not against separatist parties. I have said that I am against separatist parties being handed the balance of power over our Canadian federation.

          Now, if you can give me an example of which country in the world has given a separatist party the balance of power over any such named country, then you have some thing to talk about.

          Harper haters have empty drivel to put forth. Give us something of substance to talk about.

    • The way it's looking, it might be Jack the GG is asking to form a government. In this scenario, that is.

    • Australian GG appointed Fraser for the direct purposes of calling general elections, which Fraser did. Fraser won those elections, breaking the logjam.

      It wasn't to hand power over to Fraser w/o an intervening election.

  18. Ben: There's actually Westminster precedent for appointing a strong, judicious GG and then having him dismiss you!

    In 1975 in Australia, Sir John Kerr dismissed PM Gough Whitlam when he couldn't get supply bills through the (elected) Senate for months; also after tons of scandals, etc. From what I can tell though it was a huge, huge problem with many Australians and Whitlam's party (Australian Labor) was reelected with a huge majority.

    With King-Byng, too, King won a majority afterward.

    Times have changed, though, right? Coalitions are common throughout the world, and I feel like regardless of whatever constitutional hoops Harper jumps through, there will still be that solid 65% of the electorate that wants nothing to do with him.

    • Actually, Whitlam was defeated in the ensuing election, as the dismissal did not gain much traction with voters. However the Australian case is a bit different because Fraser was only appointed as a caretaker PM, with the understanding that he would call an election. In that sense, the 1975 dismissal is closer to the the GG appointing Alexander Mackenzie as a caretaker PM in 1873.

      However, the governor-general became persona non grata in Australia after the dismissal, and the government he put in power, never defended him from the brutal attacks of the opposition (some people claim he was a CIA spy). Any governor-general is going to consider what has happened to governors general in the past in making any decision – they would be wise to consider public opinion for that reason.

    • Whoa! Whitlam lost bad in the ensuing elections, that Fraser called right away as a condition of his being appointed PM. What the Australian crisis had was two competing Westminster traditions: that the government can continue in office as long as it maintains the support of the lower house (which it did), and that a government without supply cannot continue to govern (the Senate was blocking supply).

  19. What concerns me is that Harper appointed Governor General David Johnston, and Harper, self-serving strategist that he has always proven himself to be, would not have appointed Johnston unless he felt he could use him to his own ends. Sure Johnston has all the right credentials–but then so did retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, and Iacobucci was used by Harper to his own ends, that of stalling and keeping the Afghan detainee documents away from the scrutiny of Parliament and public opinion. The Iacobucci gambit worked so well a year later, we still haven't seen one unredacted page of those documents. And it is all the more diabolical that choosing someone with the right credentials on the surface makes it much harder for anyone to protest. So Harper has some plan for using Johnston up his sleeve, I know it.

    • Harper also eats kittens, true story…


  20. You pose an interesting and absolutely vital question.

    For that reason, Harper will reject this question.

  21. rally public opinion to his side"

    Coyne, I think you've got that backwards; it will be the spontaneous uprising by a vast majority of the Canadian people if Ignatieff were to take government after defeating a CPC budget (or Speech of the Throne), if the seat numbers don't warrant it.

    You may try and pin it all on Harper,but I think such pinning down has you out of touch with the Canadian people. The Canadian people understand that if the Lib and NDP seat numbers combined are higher than the CPC seat numbers, and the CPC minority government is defeated, than the Canadian people will not be upset if the NDP/Lib combined seats were to form a coalition.

    But you wait and see what happens when the BQ is needed to prop up the coalition agreement. This country will not stand for it, and neither will our constitution stand for it.

    Try and listen what Harper is really trying to say. He cannot spell it out any clearer in these Canadian sort of circumstances.

    • The bloc has propped up Harpers government for several years. How do you think he passed his first two budgets?

      • I'm sorry, elnino, but it's over.

        This morning, at the Globe and Mail commenting pages, the Harper haters are in hiding. Even Jeffrey Simpson can't save the Liberals from themselves any longer.

        Canadians have always understood that Harper wasn't gonna form a coalition of any sort with the BQ.

        The NDP and the Liberals should have known better too. Alas, some day they will understand.

    • Thank you again for your latest repeat of CPC Talking Point #67. If the CPC isn't paying you, they should be.

      • katie, you might find this an interesting read:

        "Yet Harper, who showed leadership in the crisis, is sinking fast in the polls. And Ignatieff, who showed none, is atop. Such are the wages of hypocrisy."

        I sure found it an interesting read.

  22. Oh, yes, Harper is coming after our constitution, and hoping that the ignorant masses will support him.

    • I do hope you're being sarcastic. You'd really look like an emotionally charged ninny if you weren't.

  23. I thought I read some time back, that Johnson and Trudeau were very good friends.

  24. Harper is the constitution. He makes the rules. He is Canada's autocrat!

    • That you have a +24 rating at the time of writing for a glib and risible comment makes me question the seriousness of Maclean's readership.

      "Harper is the constitution? Yeah, sounds about right to me. Click!" (groan)

  25. I gather since this ghastly little man has been in politics since the age of 21 and never had 'real' work, he considers himself to be above all of Canada. Politics is a game of chess and all Canadians the pawns. This freak of nature is, without a single doubt, is the most vile speciman we have ever had pollute our Parliament. In my estimation, he is a traitor to Canadian values and a test to our tolerance. It is time to let sunlight and fresh air into the PMO. It has been polluted beynd imagination with some very questionable types.

    • I think the only "Pompus" ass we have here is the one trying to take over Mr. Harpers job….the same thing he has been doing since he came back into this country after a 35 year absence. I don't want an ass hole for a Prime Minister thanks anyhow.

      • You already have one. Joshua. On big fat mean dirty-playing ass hole. I usually make that one word, as in harphole.

        • Quite the eloquent come back, Patchouli, if you are in grade 3.

      • Er, you've already got an a- hole for a PM…

    • I think it's amazing that you don't consider running the country a 'real' job.
      I guess this explains how far left candidates get votes.

      • Harper is ruining, not running, our country. His inability to compromise, to listen to the opposition leaders ever, is his own downfall.

        He's trying to frighen Canada into voting him into majority; I hope it turns out like the sun and wind fable.

        • have you ever looked at what they wanted him to agree to? they might as well pass a law saying tories must walk around in bras and panties. when the senate defeats it, they'll say "they don't respect democracy"!!!

  26. "Normal constitutional procedure " WTF!

    Why don't you educate us in a 1000 less lousy words about that Mr.Coyne.

    Prorogation is a valid ,but at times unpopular action legal under the constitution. While, the infringement on the division of power within our federal system by the federal government (i.e healthcare and natural resource management) is a popular (with some) ,but highly questionable practice under the constitution.

    Overall, I would encourage individuals(in the West) to shape your democracy, because it is whatever you decide. Ignore the lethargic and biased Central Canadian media who claim you just don't understand the rules and regulations that they regularly dismiss or ignore.

  27. In a nation as diverse and large as Canada, the federal government must be guarded against ( whether they are buying jet planes, promising higher education, or giving free f***ing cars away). They rob/pillage power and money from the most responsive government a citizen has (municipal and provincial). They feed their own ego and the media that surrounds them.

    • Tea party manifesto

      • Call it what you want

  28. I appreciate that this is a crayy notion:

    but does any other party face any sort of scrutiny, or is it just the CPC that is expected to be accountable?

  29. It defies understanding that Harper’s CPC party has been able to alter some of the public’s perception of what are right and what are wrong parliamentary procedures and democratic processes. He’s not exactly been a champion for those things in his five years he’s been in power.

    A coalition can represent a majority of voters – and can result in legislation that represents those ideologies. With so many parties to choose from, this type of governing will most likely become the norm in the near future.

    Representation and legislation that works for a wide and diverse array that is the Canadian people should be a desirable thing, not a despicable thing, Mr. Harper.

  30. Harper is in a strong position even if he only gets another minority, as the CPC is likely the only party that can fight two elections within a few months of each other and spend the maximum limit, including helping out the ridings financially. I think the other parties would be quite constrained financially.

    • Which could offer a strong argument that Harper is promoting "the big lie" when he drones on ad nauseum about coalitions and his "opinions" of his opponents. The man seems deceitful to the extreme.

  31. Mr. Harper is "telling it like it is". If I voted for an individual, that is the person I want running my country. Not a bunch of renegades who are power trippers. Iggy will do anything to get Mr. Harpers job.
    There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that that Iggy shut our country down (like he tried to do less than a year ago) so he could put jhimself in a position to take over Mr. Harpers job. I don't want a SNAKE like this running my country. I want an honest person who knows what it is to show up for work and participates in our Parliamentary system.

    • Oh come on, that's not the way it works, is it? You, and I, and all of us, vote for an MP to represent us. Unless that candidate is also a leader, you aren't voting for him or her to lead the country — you're voting for a local representative.

      Joshua, your posts are all over this blog and, like your glorious leader, you sound like you don't actually understand how our Parliamentary system works. Go read something that's longer than a paragraph.

    • I gather you live in Mr. Harper's riding.

      All Canadians who don't live in Mr. Harper's riding don't vote for him 'running' the country. Canada is not a dictatorship – until further notice.

  32. Hasn't Harper always danced on that taught thin wire of meaning?

    • 'We're looking for the proof, and the proof is the proof of the proof' Johnny Cretin….or something like that….

  33. Amazing we are at the start of Week 5 and we are still talking about Coalition, which was what Mr Harper was talking about in the first 5 seconds. Win for Mr Harper.

    Prorogation is a normal parliamentary procedure but when Mr Harper uses it, he denounced as "shutting down Parliament" blah blah blah. So there is definitely a double-standard.

    The 2008 Coalition was such a blunder that of course Mr Harper will take advantage of it for political purposes. And this is the nub of the issue – it is political, not constitutional. If 2008 had never happened, then what Mr Ignatieff told Mansbridge would be perfectly normal, a "civics lesson." But 2008 did happen, and that colours everything.

    If Mr Harper were to be close to a majority after the election, I would expect that there might be a few David Emersons crossing the floor from the Liberals to the Conservatives, making it a de facto Conservative/Liberal "coalition" as exists in UK today. This would be a good result for Canada. As it appears there will be a hardline PQ government elected in Quebec, I for one would really like to see Stephane Dion as Intergovernmental Affairs in a Harper cabinet.

    • Prorogation is a normal parliamentary procedure. Rarely used to evade tough questions, though. And whether Mr. Harper did just that is a pivot point on which partisans will line up on one side or the other. What is not debatable, and herein lies the 'crisis', is the fact that a government cannot prorogue until they are, in fact, The Government. The party formerly in government may try to be so. but must offer up a Speech from the Throne – an announcement of intention, basically – which, upon delivery is subject to vote. That will be a vote of confidence.. Should Mr. Harper not achieve such confidence, there are very few – well, 2 1/2 (the half being Harper's resignation and Kenney or McKay, say, forming another entity to seek confidence) – options available to the ultimate arbiter (sadly) of such situations, a.k.a. the Governor-General.

      What's troubling, beyond this hypothetical, are Mr. Harper's musings about ignoring established Westminster convention and perhaps seeking remedies from the SCoC or some other machination that is entirely against convention, tradition and conservative – or what have been heretofore known as conservative – values and principles.

  34. Given that he's willing to do and say anything and everything to maintain his control over parliament, nothing can be ruled out.

  35. Where's myl?

    I was sure he'd be all over this post explaining to Mr. Coyne that Harper has never ONCE questioned the legitimacy of a coalition replacing him, and that he is, in fact, arguing in favour of said outcome's legitimacy by constantly campaigning against it.

  36. "The federal government may be on pace to pull Canada out of the red earlier than expected, according to a Finance Department report released on Thursday.
    The monthly Fiscal Monitor indicated that the federal deficit grew by $600-million in February, after gaining $300-million in January.

    With one month remaining in the fiscal year, the federal deficit sits at $28.3-billion — well under the $40-billion deficit for 2010-11 that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty projected last month."


    I don't think even Coyne thinks we should mess with this.


    • Thank you for parroting CPC Talking Point #34 – "ignore what we do to democracy, look only at the economy (and no debate now about whether credit is actually due to the CPC)"

  37. Prorgue after its been done 104 times: hysterics about demcracy coming apart as we know it.

    Coalition which has only been done ONCE before: as common as the rising Sun.

    Our media, desperate to get the "correct" party in power, has truly become unhinged.

  38. Mr Harper has said that he will not work with the other parties if he gets a minority…what's your malfunction at the junction Coyne?

    Please enlighten us on the constitutionality of including a party in government that is dedicated to breaking up the country. Is that part of Westminster parliamentary democracy? Have any anecdotes about that Andrew??

    • It would be on an issue-by-issue basis that the WHOLE of the Commons would vote should another party get the confidence of the House. There doesn't need to be a coalition for another party to replace the Cons.

  39. What no one is saying is this: What if refuses to go? And what if the Baird types start making threats and the mobs start demonstrating in the streets as they did against Jean?
    Does Harper acknowledge the authority of the GG? Maybe he thinks Johnson is in his back pocket. But anyway he says HE would not take the PM"s job even if asked to if he was in second place and the new government had been defeated. In this case wouldn't it be his DUTY to take power if asked?
    But can we see the GG asking Ignatieff to take over and Harper refusing to go with the support of his party and those who voted for him?

  40. So, I will attempt to join in the "what if" scenarios with this one: What if Harper, being just short of majority, convinces a few Liberals or NDP MPs to defect to the Conservative Party? I seem to remember wails of outrage after David Emerson crossed the floor immediately after an election. Liberal supporters and journalists felt frustrated and betrayed. They admitted that it was technically legal (because we elect individuals not parties to represent our ridings in the House of Commons) but still found it to be wrong "in spirit". Somewhere between then and now those same people have made a mass conversion to an almost Evangelical Constitutional Literalism. How do Coyne and Liberal supporters explain this change? And how can they now pretend to not understand how similar feelings of frustration and outrage will occur in the event of a Liberal led coalition/accord (other than assigning it to the appalling ignorance of conservatives, of course).

    • Nobody had a problem with crossing the floor per se– what they (and Coyne in particular) had a problem with was the rank hypocrisy of the Cons accepting floor-crossers after they gnashed their teeth and clutched their pearls over how wrong it was when Belinda did it.

    • No other party members will defect to the Conservatives this time. They were found in contempt of Parliament, remember. No one would be stupid enough to become associated with that.

      • Handy to have the gift of clairvoyance, Chipmunk. You could be correct but contempt of Parliament (which most Canadians seem to have shrugged off) concerns may come in secondary to political survival. Some rural and western MP's wanting to be re-elected may reconsider being associated a government that must become a headwaiter to Quebec separatists.

        Sure, Derek, all politicians tend to be hypocrites and dishonest but I'd bet those same journalists would be OK with Ignatieff's forming a coalition (or accord, which has the same effect) after promising not to. I'd also bet most constitutional experts quoted about the absolute legitimacy of coalitions regardless of circumstances would find a number of nuanced complaints about floor-crossing to Conservatives. Politicians, journalists and experts all put their politics before their principles.

        • Politicians, journalists and experts all put their politics before their principles.

          Maybe "all" is too harsh. "Too many" politicians, journalists and experts put their politics before their principles. When they do this those professions lose credibility and this is one of the main reasons why each new political scandal, despite its validity, has less and less impact on cynical voters. Fewer people take any of them seriously anymore.

  41. Almost EVIL eh …

  42. I knew there had to be a reason Harper picked David Johnston: "When the time came to choose a new governor-general, Harper opted for someone who had carefully drawn up terms of an inquiry commission to exclude the potentially most damaging aspects of a scandal involving a former conservative prime minister." If Johnston bent the rules to protect Mulroney from the Airbus scandal, we can expect him to bend the rules to protect Harper from Parliament's non-confidence.

    • Fortunately, there won't be one. Just a minority government supported by the various parties at various times.

  43. Great article, Mr. Coyne. Perhaps the most significant piece I've read so far on this election. Too bad you didn't raise any of these issues previously, or on your appearances on CBC.

    Perhaps it might be posed as one of the few questions journalists are still permitted to ask Mr. Harper on the campaign trail, (before the practice of asking questions is abolished if he's elected). Certainly Peter Mansbridge had an opportunity to push for a response, but he was obviously cowed in that ridiculous interview in Newfoundland.

  44. Can we please have some new, real intellectuals who are good problem solvers, whole hearted and honorable candidates who have not been experienced(corrupted) by todays political circles and private sector funding…..who strive to uphold rights and morals that everyone has grown up with. Intellectuals who look after Canada and not worry about their reelection

    • 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished … unfortunately, the system selects for the type of people we have now – power hungry, do-whatever-it-takes-to-win-all-the-marbles types … anyone who starts out the way you would want them to (and I'm willing to guess there are at least some) is soon co-opted to the core power-pursuers, or shunted off to the margins or out of it entirely …

      Besides, if you were a real intellectual, who was a good problem solver, and whole hearted and honourable with a wish only to serve Canadians … seriously, ask yourself – would you want to go to Ottawa?

    • I agree. Unfortunately, Harper has made "intellectual" a dirty word in Canada.

  45. It's astonishing that taxpayer subsidized Liberal party agents in the media are still trying to sell the only chance American Iggo and the Separatists have of being inserted into the PMO, against the will of the electorate. One week to go in this election and the desperation from the Liberals and their taxpayer subsidized media whores is getting to the point of derangement. Every political observer knows the Liberals/NDP/Separatists forced this election despite their abysmal poll numbers because they had a pre conceived pact to ignore the results of the election and seize power at the first opportunity. PM Harper has warned of this usurping of the will of the electorate from the moment the coalition conspired to force an election, and the Liberal party media have been trying to rationalize, and explain away this power grab ever since. The media's continuing efforts to sell the coalition as somehow normal and common, while prorogation is unusual and an abuse of power, is as impotent and flaccid as every other media excuse for "rising up" and "rising up" and inserting American Iggo into the PMO without Iggo and the Liberals actually winning the election. The taxpayer subsidized Liberal media are as pathetically impotent and desperate as the Liberal party they shill for.

  46. I like and admire Andrew Coyne a heck of a lot. But this is boring!!!

    Dogmatic opposition to coalitions?

    Talk about the strawiest man ever built.

    Forever, Andrew Coyne, you cannot be trusted with national unity. To be so flippantly glib about the particular nature of the coalition that is practically available to the opposition is to b e flippantly glip about national unity.

    The Bloc Quebecois are not lefties with a french accent. And, to think they would help govern Canada to the best of their ability is foolish to the power of 10.

    Harper is not dogmatic about this. Andrew Coyne is dogmatic about this. The facts on the ground make the kind of coalition we are talking about an absolute suicide march for Canada. Only dogmatists (or power hungry opposition MPs) pretend otherwise.

  47. You do understand that that interview was very carefully scripted to show the image of him and his family that he wanted to show. It's like Harper kissing his wife constantly on the campaign trail. How many 50-year old couples do you know that just have to kiss in front of an audience? Too funny. Anyone taken in by these acts is extremely naive.

    • Mansbridge is a dyed red in the wool Liberal. He professionally tailored his questions to be respectful of the P.M.

      However, the questions weren't all softballs, and bringing Mrs. Harper onto national television was, I believe, bold on her part. She strikes me as someone who would prefer to stay out of the limelight.

      I think the image of Harper in that CBC interview was authentic. No evil emperor Palpatine here. Just a good, if not somewhat nerdy, leader with conservative values.

  48. Harper's constant bombardment of negative ads against Ignatieff over the past few months have made it extremetly difficult for the Liberals to gain traction. Progressive voters are, therefore, switching to the NDP. That is EXACTLY Harper's plan. Split the vote so he can get his majority.

    Please vote strategically for whoever has the best chance to defeat the Conservatives in your riding.

  49. You know why Harper don't have a majority? People don't trust him because whether there is truth to it or not, it seems like he does have a hidden agenda. As for Ignatieff, who knows what he can or cannot do, but the same concern of trust surruonds him as well. Clearly there are a ton of die hard Conservative supporters on these blogs and the same can be said about the Liberals. Regardless of which, the politics over the last 5 years have become rotten with both sides be responsible and that's the reason why none of these parties will get a majority. It's either far right or far left politics and most Canadians are usually near the center. I hope that this election is our last for a while, but that won't happen. I personally think that with the momentum that Jack Layton has been riding and the fact that he is actually running a positive campaign, the NDP will shake things up a bit this time. Regardless of who wins the election, if politicians don't start getting their act together, all Canadians will lose.

  50. Except he's not. He's a liar.

    Income Trusts
    Appointed Senators
    Appointed Cabinet members
    Giving US lumber industry a billion dollars

    Sure, it's easy to be "plain spoken" if you don't mean a word of what you say.

  51. great story and even better photo

  52. The thumbs up and down are pretty much all the same–pro left and anti centre or right. Certainly tells you who is the audience. The left lovers are so fixated on the incredibly left wing Canuckistani media they lose sight of the very real fact there is another group who don't read the propaganda. They huff and puff and, then, unfortunately, comes election day and those who disagree show up.

  53. It is equivalent to voting for someone because he likes cats or has a nice mustache.

    Important decisions must be based on something other than the superficial.

  54. "To do so after having lost a confidence vote is surely unthinkable. "

    Come on … in Dec 2008, the moment the LIBs and NDP publicly announced that they were going to DEFEAT the PM in a scheduled non confidence vote is when the PM LOST THE CONFIDENCE of the HOUSE … HE REFUSED TO GIVE UP POWER.

    Do you think the Opposition leaders were IDIOTS ? WHY would they announce it if a PM can do a PROROGATION (and here it looks like the PM even LIED to the GG saying the BLOC was part of the coalition, they were not) ?

    They stable announced it to allow a transition over the next week … and then MR UNSTABLE took over with his MOB RULE approach taking what was Parliamentary procedure to the people with rallies right across Canada (that may of too intimidate the GG). Canada's duck tape week …

    Its one thing if we had a terrorist attack, etc. that require the immediate attention of the Government but to CANCEL a non confidence vote because you know you will LOOSE is NOT ALLOWED … else we NEVER had an Opposition non confidence vote mechanism (the PM said he knew BEST to the GG YET that was the WHOLE POINT of the NC vote, HE DIDN'T).

    The PM must ALWAYS maintain the confidence of the House, HE DIDN'T.

    TIME to EXIT the Harper FISH BOWL.


    • Leaders announcing that they have lost confidence in the gov't is no replacement for a cold, hard vote of the 308 MP's. Only then could we see if all the opposition party MP's were onside with their leaders.

      The 2008 prorogation lost Parliament all of 6 sitting days. If The Coalition was a sensible and popular proposal, it wouldn't have imploded within days of the prorogation, but would've continued on and would've defeated the gov't at the first asking when Parliament reconvened. IT WASN'T, AND IT DIDN'T. Think whatever you like, but the numbers just weren't with that coalition proposal. It was doomed to failure from the start.

  55. Coyne is often hot n cold and this article is definitely cold. Statements made by any leader during an election should be taken with a grain of salt. To suggest Stephen Harper is somehow denying Canadians or the opposition anything is laughable. Is Coyne is so worried about Harper provoking a constitutional crises why is he so quiet about the liberals running roughshod over the BNA Act's clear division of powers for the provinces? Why is Coyne & his liberal buddies so quiet about the NDP, never questioning their dark side of communist sympathizers or Israel Apertheid Week involvement? For a party that is in second place nationally all we seem to see are conservative faux scandals with no proof but great mileage on the CBC. Coyne's reputation has been slipping for months. Calling the Sun News program "rightwing dumb" puts him in the same lame category as Tasha Keriddian.

  56. although it would be expensive, embarrassing, and unable to survive for long, I think that if Harper gets 140+seats, he should just let them try it. vote against everything they do to make them bring all three parties together on every vote, and call their bluff.

    • Exactly. Excluding the largest party bloc from any coalition/accord/arrangement is fraught with danger in any legislature, so drive that point home. The only example I can see that comes anywhere close is the 1948 Irish election (but even in that example there are subtle and important differences, one being that the gov't there was cut down from majority to minority, instead of growing in seats and vote percentage).

      The NDP surge actually has me thinking that a full-term Con-Lib coalition is more and more in the cards.

  57. 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.

  58. WAIT! There is another way!

    Maybe someone has suggested this already but should a minority Conservative Government fail to gain confidence of Parliament, then the Governor General could simply ask to PM to resign instead of calling upon the Opposition or calling a new election. The Conservatives would have to select a new leader who would assemble a new cabinet and attempt to gain the confidence of the house. This would hand Harper the personal defeat that he's had coming since being found in contempt of Parliament but it would not tip the political boat too much – something GG's try to avoid.

    • In that scenario the GG wouldn't ask the PM to resign, but would dismiss them. That would involve back-channel discussions with senior members in the Conservative caucus, which is something the GG should avoid doing in general.

      The GG must have a gov't at all times, and it would be highly unconstitutional for them to fish for possible replacement candidates before dismissing the current PM, even if they were in a "caretaker" period.

      The Indian President's role in post-election "feeling out" is far different than ours, and just reflects a different trajectory in their Westminster constitutional inheritance. But India's way is what your post envisions.

  59. Sage advice, although I doubt the NDP and Liberals will be able to pull off a merger without a disastrous coalition first.

  60. The liberal media is sure trying to soften Canadians up for a coalition of the losers.Canadians won't stand for it Mr Coyne,so you and the Jane Tabers of the world can jam it.This counrty will be torn apart and it seems the liberal media is ok with that.The midia is the biggest enmey of Canada and all because Harper hurt their little feelings.

  61. King still had the confidence of the House (or had not yet lost it). In your scenario Harper would have lost the cionfidence of the House. That changes his status completely.

  62. Hockey fans are sophisticated after all.
    I was at a hockey game last nite and a booing broke out.
    Conspiculously it was booing for one politician but applause for another – hockey fans do have some sophistication.

    @RickRadovski Rick Radovski
    4000 people booed #Ignatief at the #Majors game tonight while #Mississauga Mayor#HazelMcCallion got a huge ovation. She should run Canada
    11 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

    Rick Radovski, Vice President Marketing and Sales at St. Michael s Majors Hockey Team, Mississauga,

  63. there are a not insubstantial number of Dippers that consider the Tories their second choice

    Sorry, just not believable. All polls I've ever seen show a lot of 2nd choice Lib/ 1st choice NDP and vice versa. As we now know, BLOC voters can see alot to like in the NDP. This makes sense as they are all centre to left-centre parties. The CONS much more than the old Progressive Conservative party are second choice for very few, apart from the useful wedge of the gun registry swinging some rural NDP voters to the CPC.

    Moreover, a merged party on the left could avoid the vote splits on the left (AND in Quebec). There would be some bleed-off of support from the right of the Liberal party, but that would happen anyway as a result of a coalition.
    Choose from way left or way right and nothing in between. No thanks. Rather than reduce the electoral choices on offer to accommodate our outdated FPTP system, we need fix the real problem. Change our electoral system to accommodate the many, smaller parties to better reflect the diverse views of Canadians.

  64. Well, of course calling new elections is the right thing to do. There isn't such a convention requiring the prime minister to yield the office to the opposition. It is up to the Governor-General to make that call. It is only right that the prime minister seek the dissolution of the House and call an election.

    • No convention, although Premier Frank Miller apparently did recommend that the L.G. ask David Peterson to form a gov't after he was defeated on his Throne Speech, instead of asking for a dissolution.

  65. Having the Bloc agree with you to pass legislation is not a coalition. The Harper gov't only needed one opposition party to pass legislation in the 40th Parliament. Such a situation caused each opposition to self-regulate its demands of the gov't. What The Coalition proposed is that the same constellation of parties (Lib-NDP-Bloc) would ALWAYS be necessary to get anything through, and in that situation, the power of the Bloc would've grown enormously.

    And THAT'S what Canadians couldn't stomach in that coalition/arrangement proposal !!!! How people don't get that, or see that, is beyond me.

  66. Its duration would either be "not long" as you say, or the full 5 years! It would be the latter if they resolved that it's better for them to all hang together than hang separately. Of course, the country would suffer in that situation, but an unpopular politician bringing forth an election is like turkey's voting to bring forward Thanksgiving. Wouldn't happen.

    Plus Rae and Dosanjh are old hands at postponing inevitable defeat to the bitter end.

  67. He had already considered going over the G.G.'s head to the Queen. He's power mad and will try anything; the man knows no shame. If he were a competent leader it would be one thing . . .

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