Is it safe to talk about a coalition?


Chris Selley says the New Democrats and Liberals should talk about a coalition before they talk about a merger.

… there’s very little standing in the way of such an arrangement except a little bit of leadership — legitimate coalitions cannot come from elections in which they’ve been explicitly disavowed — and, of course, an election result that makes it possible.

Both parties have much to do, if they’re to achieve such an outcome. But there’s no reason to believe they can’t do it separately and co-operate later, and plenty to like about having more choice in political parties rather than less. It would be a shame if one big idea was discounted in pursuit of another.

If memory serves, Jack Layton’s stance in the last election was that the NDP would work with any party in the House of Commons. If that position holds, the onus would seem to be on the Liberals to take a similarly open-minded position.


Is it safe to talk about a coalition?

  1. Either merge or don’t merge….but stop playing around with half-measures.

    • I’m a little confused.  Is anyone other than the media & a couple of long-shot leadership contenders from either party talking about a merger.

      Also, would a merged party take on the Liberal debt?

      • Yes, lots of people are talking about it, both within and outside the parties.

        The Libs don’t have a debt.

      • Shenping, remind me: Has the CPC announced when it will pay back the border security money stolen by Tony Clement?

        • Ah there’s certainly a dearth of opportunity to talk about that, now isn’t there?  No articles about Tony since poor Jack passed away!  Just state funerals, leadership runs (or not) and mergers. 

  2. If the Bloc has become a non-factor in Quebec, I think a coaltion becomes a realistic and potentially attractive option. There are ways the parties can cooperate without merging.

    • I fully agree.  The Australian coalition offers a good example.  The NPD and Liberal are and have always been two distinct parties. This is not at all the case of the ‘unite the right’, born from dissatisfied tories who kept changing names to confuse everyone including themselves. But the Libs and NDP have in the past and can in future work together.

    • Agree totally.  A coalition between the Liberals and NDP cannot be tarred as a deal with the devil of separatism.  Indeed, if the NDP and Liberals have a majority in the next Parliament, I don’t see how they could not form a coalition, even if the Conservatives had a plurality of seats (e.g., NDP keeps its current 103, Libs increase to 55, Cons drop to 150).  

      The real issue is working out the details such that (a) neither party is eviscerated in the campaign (a bigger threat for the Liberals, especially if the NDP leader is seen as most likely to be PM) and (b) there is not so much vote-splitting that the Conservatives squeak through despite having far fewer votes (basically, a replay of 2011).  One easy solution is to agree not to run candidates where the other party is the incumbent, but there are potential problems here, too – it doesn’t solve vote-splitting where the Conservatives are incumbent and it threatens to destroy the Liberals like a similar scheme nearly destroyed the Liberal Party of the UK in the 1920s.  

      (In my mind, the best solution is to implement the alternative vote once the NDP and Libs gain power, which could help them to continue long-term as separate entities a la the Australian coalition, but also avoid the problem of vote-splitting.  But, this can only be done *after* they win an election.)

  3. Coalition/merger talk is safe for NDP and Cons because they like ideas and don’t mind debate.

    Not so safe for Libs because they don’t like ideas or debate, they just want to be in power.

    NDP and Libs are having typical argy-bargy that always seems to occur between socialists and fascists. 

    Both groups think they are superior human beings who should always been in charge and that’s why discord between supporters is most acrimonious with NDP and Libs. 

    Two parties can have coalition or merge but people will shift their votes to party that best represents their ideals. We have three major parties – that is plenty – we need parties to choose ideology and stick with it and allow people proper choices.

    FR Scott ~ WLMK:

    We had no shape
    Because he never took sides,
    And no sides
    Because he never allowed them to take shape.

    He skilfully avoided what was wrong
    Without saying what was right,
    And never let his on the one hand
    Know what his on the other hand was doing.

    • WLMK was of course our longest serving Prime Minister so I guess you don’t like the democratic process.

      • So if you like democracy you can’t be critical of anyone elected to office? Does that apply to the current Prime Minister, in which case you might want to advise some of the other participants on this site.
        The essence of democracy, I would have thought, is that we are free to be critical of those who are elected and may seek to challenge their decisions and seek to replace them.  The fact someone is successful electorally, such as Mackenzie King, does not make them immune to critical analysis. He was, on the whole, a damaging presence in Canadian political life.  Scott’s poem goes on to call him a man who never did anything by halves that could be done by quarters. A good description.

        • Sorry for any misunderstading as to my belief in open, vigourous, and respectful debate.  I am all for it.

          The point I was inelegantly trying to make was that Tony Adams wants parties to have one ideological point of view and to hew exclusively to that.

          I was just trying to point out that the individual he was trying to ridicule for not meeting his consitency litmus test turns out to have been the most electorally successful Prime Minister the country has had.

          • Sorry if I misunderstood you.  I agree there has to be a healthy range of debate within parties – which there usually is, although not always publicly.  King, of course, was a master of inconsistency. I agree that was a successful electoral stragegy for him (and succeeding generations of Liberals) but in his case flexibility may have become too much like absolute opportunism and lack of principle ( I admit, not all would agree with my opinion of him). There is a balance between rigid ideology and pragmatism to the point of unprincipled pandering for votes. Hopefully our parties aspire to the middle ground.

    • Are you sure Cons like debate?  Because if they do, it never shows.  We’ve had more than 100 – now some 150 con MPs in the house for years now and they always all agree.  In what other field of human activity do we find this level of agreement in such a large group?  Certainly not in business. 

      For example:  on the civil definition of marriage to permit marriage between homosexuals, a Liberal cabinet member who was openly opposed  had to step down from cabinet but was allowed to remain in the Liberal caucus and to vote against the bill; while on the recognition of Quebec as a nation, a Conservative cabinet minister who was opposed had to step down and had to abstain from voting under threat of expulsion from the caucus.

      There are plenty of examples from the Chrétien era that the caucus, including the senators on the Clarity Bill, openly opposed the government.

      There is little evidence to suggest that debate is encouraged in the conservative ranks.

  4. I haven’t heard any prominent Liberals taking this seriously.  Even if I did, they’d quickly shut up when they realized that they’d be a junior partner in any sort of merger/coalition.  Pride goeth before victory, or something like that.

Sign in to comment.