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Notes on a crisis: Who will save the Liberals from themselves?


 

Who will save the Liberals from themselves?

So, just to review the bidding: If the coalition has its way, we would be governed by a party that won 26% of the vote barely six weeks ago, that has just a quarter of the seats in the Commons, that is a minority within its own coalition. It would be led by a man who, however massively he may have been rejected by the public at large, has even less support within his own party; who was in the process of being given the bum’s rush, but who will now pause, on his way out the door, to govern the country — for six months. The cabinet he convenes will be absent two of its most prominent members, either de jure or de facto, as they tour the country campaigning to succeed him.

It will, however, contain six New Democrats, whose job will be to push as hard as they can for as much as they can in the short time the coalition is likely to last. It will be similarly beholden to the Bloc for its survival, serving at their pleasure, vulnerable to a Bloc decision to withdraw its support every single day of the week.

And he will be powerless to resist either of them. He will have no legitimacy, no authority, no base of support. His party could not possibly endure another election, even with public funds; theirs could. His sole job will be to pay them ransom, in regular installments, until the whole thing collapses of its own weight — probably in a matter of weeks. It isn’t just that the coalition is made up of parties with wholly incompatible agendas. At some point, somebody will miscalculate, push too hard, overplay their hand. Or, most likely, either the NDP or the Bloc — possibly both — will decide, once they have milked the Liberals dry, that it would be better to provoke an election in the spring, while Dion is still leader, than wait until May, and the arrival of another, presumably more popular Liberal leader. (Oh, but it could not happen, Dion replies: he has a piece of paper. Please. Whipping up “betrayals,” is the Bloc’s life’s work. They do that sort of thing in their sleep: “This is not what we signed onto. The Liberals have not lived up to their end of the bargain. etc. etc.” The 18 month “commitment” is meaningless. It’s an agreement to support the government until they don’t.)

I know a good many Liberals who are utterly aghast at where this is taking their party. Simply put, Dion is driving them off a cliff. If Harper overplayed his hand at the start of this fiasco, Dion has returned the favour. That picture of Dion, Duceppe and Layton together on the podium will be featured in every Tory attack ad from here to kingdom come. It will burn its way into the public mind. At one stroke, Dion has legitimized the NDP as a party of government, marginalized his own party as a party of the left, and delivered the government of Canada into the trembling hands of the Bloc. To all intents and purposes, this will be an NDP-Bloc government. The Liberals are simply the front, propped up in the shop window to give the thing respectability.

That, at any rate, will be the perception. And it is one that can only lead to the ruin of the Liberal party: when, not if, the coalition collapses, it will be the Liberals who will be consumed in the fires that will then rage. So the question becomes: When will the grown-ups in the party take charge? Already we are seeing some cracks in the Liberals’ resolve. Quietly, through surrogates, Michael Ignatieff has let his discomfort with the arrangement be known. A couple of the Liberal “wise men” who supposedly were to guide the coalition’s economic policies have publicly disowned the idea.

But if the party is to be preserved from the abyss towards which it is hurtling, somebody is going to have to grab the wheel. It’s not enough to hope that the Governor General will dissolve Parliament before then, or that Harper will prorogue Parliament. The first is unlikely, and the second only postpones the inevitable. Somebody needs to speak out, now.


 

Notes on a crisis: Who will save the Liberals from themselves?

  1. More social mischief, eh Mr. Coyne?

    Thanks, but I think I’ll pay attention to what real reporters have to say from now on.

  2. Mr. Coyne – only 38% voted to have Harper as PM.

    62% of the voters should have to put up with constant partisanship and insults by Harper.

    Get rid of Harper and put in a more mentally stable, fair and respected Conservative – that might work.

    You can’t keep governing on hatred, venim, paranoia and constant chess games – it distorts vision and fairness.

    By the way – I don’t mind a petty $1.95 towards the party of my choice. It’s cheap support, especially for those who can’t afford money to support their party.

    And it helps to get rid of vote buying by big money and disgusting and childish ads.

  3. 62% of the voters should have to put up with constant partisanship and insults by Harper.

    whoops – I meant to say “shouldn’t have to put up with…………by Harper.

    Sorry, I think Harper is a sick man.

  4. You know when this whole coalition thing began? When Paul Martin tried to work with the NDP. Can we imagine how different everything would be if Paul Martin had gone to an election in May of 2005? He probably would have gotten a strengthened minority or majority, and none of this stuff would exist today.

    Instead he worked with the NDP. Which tainted moderate Liberals whose votes he lost six months later. Then following his defeat, a left-ish professor took control of the party and moved it further left, and again the party lost more votes to the Conservatives.

    Now, embracing this concept full on, Dion has plunged his party into the full left of the spectrum and alligned himself with Bloc and NDP party fabric. Can we all guess what will happen next?

  5. Isn’t the better question: “Who will save the Conservatives from Harper”?

    If the GG grants the prorogation which most expect Mr Harper to ask for, all she’ll be agreeing to is 6 weeks of vitriol before the inevitable.

    That’s the writing on the wall. If Mr Harper were to read it, and use his 7 PM address to act a statesman and bid us all adieu, the appetite and momentum for the Coalition would instantly evaporate. An interim leader (Mr Prentice?) could step in, reach out to the coalition … and proceed to govern.

  6. Riley – you are so wrong – the Gomery Report killed it for Martin as well as the RCMP/Goodale thing.

  7. “A couple of the Liberal “wise men” who supposedly were to guide the coalition’s economic policies have publicly disowned the idea.”

    Oh goody. Official disclaimer of a G&M rumour backed by “a Liberal strategist”.

    You sharpen that hatchet yourself or get it sent out so you can claim it on your taxes?

  8. We should not be governed by such a coalition with the majority of the coalition from a separatist provincial party. Without the “Unloyal” Separatists – the “Loyal Opposition” cannot make a majority to take over the government.

  9. I love it when political reporters play the partisan game, when they to tell readers what’s important and what’s not.

    Stating the obvious in inflammatory political language is not good political writing. It’s not even good prose.

  10. Finally some reasoned perspective. Well done Coyne.

  11. >Quietly, through surrogates, Michael Ignatieff has let his discomfort with the arrangement be known. <

    Which is exactly what he should be doing, and which is a move he more than likely worked out with Dion. It’s a no-lose situation – he looks good if things don’t work out, and if they do he inherits a position of power.

    Dion plays bad cop, Iggy gets to play good cop. The West Wing’s final season wasn’t only applicable to US politics, you know.

  12. Andrew, why are saying that the Liberals would be a minority in their own coalition? The coalition contains the NDP and the Liberals. The Liberals have more seats than the NDP. They are not a minority in their own coalition.

  13. It warms my heart to see your deeply-held love for the Liberal party, Andrew.

    No, wait – it sets off my bullshit detector.

  14. “62% of the voters should have to put up with constant partisanship and insults by Harper.

    whoops – I meant to say “shouldn’t have to put up with…………by Harper.

    Sorry, I think Harper is a sick man.”

    best. unintentionally ironic post. ever.

  15. The Bloc and NDP make up for more than the Liberals within the coalition. That is what Coyne is referring to. The absolutely delicious irony of it.

  16. Andrew, I think you are off base…that is one outcome, but it is an outcome that reflects more about your own personal attitudes rather than those of others. It also ignores the reality of the day (i.e. if we weren’t staring at a recession/depression).

    A minority government that walks in and makes everything confidence measures, while trying to knee-cap the opposition, is not a government of stability. In fact, it is the polar opposite. A coalition government that has an agreement in writing that there will be no votes of non-confidence for 18 months is surely more stable. And isn’t that what we are looking for under these demanding economic circumstances?

    As far as “high-placed Liberals”, there are always quite a few of them isn’t there, and I have no doubt that they have been read the riot act.

    Austin

  17. Why is he saying that? Frankly, because Andew Coyne is lying. Just like Stephen Harper. We’re expected to be polite and pretend they’re not lying through their teeth when they pretend the Bloc is part of the coalition, or when they pretend flags aren’t there, but guess what Andrew? You can lie all you want. You can shred what little credibility you have all you want.

    But you can’t force anyone to believe it, so why don’t you just throw a little hissy fit like Harper so we can all sit back and laugh at what a pathetic little man you really are.

  18. the Gomery Report killed it for Martin as well as the RCMP/Goodale thing.

    Especially the RCMP investigation in the middle of a campaign. That’s when quite a few longtime Liberals I knew felt the Liberals were riven with scandal.

    We have never gotten closer on that, except indirectly when it was revealed some time later, how corrupt Zarcardelli was.

    But Riley’s thesis to explain the downfall of the Liberals as having anything to do with working with the NDP is pure revisionism and smacks of agent provocateurism.

    Much like this blog post, come to think of it.

  19. “Oh, but it could not happen, Dion replies: he has a piece of paper”

    Ha!

  20. Finally some reasoned perspective. Well done Coyne.

    I didn’t write this. Can’t Macleans at least control for sock-puppets?

  21. >Especially the RCMP investigation in the middle of a campaign. That’s when quite a few longtime Liberals I knew felt the Liberals were riven with scandal.

    The Jane Creba shooting didn’t help as well, convincing everyone outside Toronto that the city was being overrun with gun-toting madmen who were coming for their innocent teenage daughters after they were done burning Hogtown to the ground. The “Soft on Crime” attack ads were a daily fixture after that, and had a noticeable effect.

  22. Wow, a lot of angry & nasty stuff in the comments here.

  23. AC wrote,

    “At some point, somebody will miscalculate, push too hard, overplay their hand.”

    Ulm….hasnt this happend already? Dion and Layton started something they can’t control, and they did it by jumping a rung or two on the escalation ladder. Somehow they have made it about them and not the what they were trying to do.

    Ignatieff could end it now, destroy his rivals (rae and leblanc supported this) layton would go to, by calling it absurd. He could turn it all back to Harper for the future by calling the coalition what it is and withdrawing his support.

    To turn the coalitionistas argument back on themselves, there will be an election soon enough, under that scenario.

    I suspect that not a few NDP MP’s west of the lakehead would be more then happy with this.

    Layton and Dion will be gone within weeks….deservedly so. For all you Harper haters, you can get him later.

  24. The only thing that Mr. Coyne succeeds in demonstrating is that he doesn’t understand what a coalition government is.

    There are coalition governments all over Europe now, working fine.

    And relax: no one gave Harper a majority either.

    DH

  25. i find it ironic or perhaps a little inconsistent, that Andrwe Coyne, the champion of proportional representation is so driven by seat percentages and popular vote by a coalition. You would think different coalitions would be the political reality if there was more rep by pop.

  26. Stage is being set and the Fenix wil rise from the ashes one again and descend on the population. This is not what we had in mind. I think coalition is a wonderful idea and Ignatieff is missing an oppotunity of a lifetime by not joining it. I am sure that Justin Trudeau will rise to the challange summon the spirit of his father and make this Coalition of Blind a resounding success. Fidel and Raul Castro are already on their way to help out so how can it fail now??

    Lefties posting on this blog will also pitch in.

  27. Mr Coyne,

    Isn’t it better to ask who will save the Conservatives from themselves?

  28. It doesn’t surprise me that Iggy is worried about this. Dion is going to be PM, and more people are worried about Dion being PM than they are about BQ being involved in coalition according to Angus Reid, and then we are going to have Iggy as PM. We are going to have two unelected Libs for PM’s and that will come across as Libs thinking the Head Of Government is the political version of ‘pass the parcel’.

    Iggy has never been on winning side in election, never held a cabinet post, has not put himself forward to the Canadian people as a potential PM. Iggy is all about wealth and influential friends and, due to those two things, he has good chance of being PM six months from now after spending most of his adult life living abroad. I wonder what Canadians will think of that? No wonder Iggy is worried about optics of it all.

  29. The “Soft on Crime” attack ads were a daily fixture after that, and had a noticeable effect.

    I remember that vaguely, but I don’t remember any Liberals taking that seriously. It probably just influenced swing voters.

    It was morally bankrupt though, but what can we expect? These are the Harrisite Conservatives.

  30. stephen: ““At some point, somebody will miscalculate, push too hard, overplay their hand.”

    Ulm….hasnt this happend already?”

    It certainly has – Harper triggered this whole mess by miscalculating, pushing too hard and overplaying his hand.

  31. Perhaps this really is the death throes of the Liberal Party. They have lost the left to the NDP and the Bloc and with the Tories getting more of the center, they are getting squeezed out. In amongst all of this, it is almost impossible to see what the Liberal’s policy contribution to the coalition will be? All they can do it moderate Layton’s dispensation of taxpayer’s money to all and sundry, and whatever it is that the Bloc hopes to get.

    Ignatieff can sit on the sidelines and muse all he likes, but he has nothing to offer here at all in the way of new thinking.

    The more this goes on, the more I curse Harper for his stupidity.

  32. Finally some reasoned perspective. Well done Coyne.

    I didn’t write this. Can’t Macleans at least control for sock-puppets?

    Whoever you are, stop it. Coyne, what’s the point of including emails
    if you’re not going to verify them?

  33. “When will the grown-ups in the party take charge?”

    The same line was used on CBC’s insider (Anderson) panel last night. Coincidence?

  34. “The only thing that Mr. Coyne succeeds in demonstrating is that he doesn’t understand what a coalition government is. There are coalition governments all over Europe now, working fine.”

    David Hyder et al

    I think Coyne understands all too well how coalitions work in Westminster style government, which is what we have here in Canada. Pointing to Germany or Italy or Denmark or wherever is not very helpful because there political systems are some form of prop-rep and are designed to create coalitions.

  35. Are coalition governments in Europe not elected under PR systems? Are there any FPTP systems that see coalition governments on a regular basis?

  36. I didn’t write this. Can’t Macleans at least control for sock-puppets?

    Ti-Guy, if they could they wouldn’t have been dragged in front of the BCHRT. ;)

    The best evisceration of the coalition I have seen yet. Well done Coyne. Compared to what your peers are putting out, this is a Pulitzer winner.

  37. I am waiting for Ignatieff to be a hero in all of this.

  38. There has been a lot of vitriol thrown towards the BQ and the NDP during the ‘crisis.’ Nearly 30% of Canadians voted for these parties. Do you all really thing that 30% of Canadians are awful, evil people? I must live in a good part of town, because I wouldn’t classify 30% of the Canadians I meet as evil communist separatist bastards.

  39. Riley writes: “The Bloc and NDP make up for more than the Liberals within the coalition. That is what Coyne is referring to. The absolutely delicious irony of it.”

    The Bloc is not part of the coalition.

  40. Oh please, the two Conservative friendly Liberals, the two that you would use if you wanted to forge a coalition with the Conservatives instead of the NDP aren’t behind this coalition? Shocking!

  41. Andrew, you’re doing what we call “concern-trolling”.

    As well, I’ve seen enough of the National Post (though hopefully not for too much longer), the Sun chain, CTV, and Canwest to know the “liberal media” that Cons keep charging is biased against them is a falsehood.

    “SCLM” – So Called Liberal Media – is more like it.

  42. John D> How about all the vitrol thrown towards 25-42% of the population since 1993? Or the idea that the CPC somehow invented the loss of civility in the house, when Reform Party MP’s were called racists on the floor of the House of Commons.

    That’s what you get when one confuses politics for cosmic struggle against demons, instead of a conflict of competing interests. Insults also seem much worse when they are directed at yourself rather than at your enemies.

  43. The realistic threat of elections keeps everyone in line, government and Opposition. In this case the opposition is acting in an undisciplined fashion. They think they have found a costless way to keep the election going and take power.

    Their whole strategy counts on their not being an election.

    And look to the last parliament, you had an agreement that the government finally broke….but after countless musings from the opposition about bringing them down ahead of time etc etc. Fixed election dates for minority governments that ARENT coalitions are ridiculous. I believe Dion was quoted as saying it gave him all the power to choose when he would bring the government down.

    You want compromise? then the election needs to be a realistic possibility. None, including the tories want the uncertainty of an election. If the possibility is real and the opposition stops thinking there is a free lunch (spare me the its in the rules arguments we arent playing Candyland) then I bet you the government would take up the offer.

    That means Dion and Layton have their cred shredded and Harper is now on a clock that is pretty short to rebuild swetervestman, if he cant he will be gone before the next election as well.

    I said it earlier, Harper may have fired the first shot, who knows maybe this was coming from Dion anywya kind of looks that way, but the latest round is coming from the mistakes of the opposition.

    AC is correct, can you really believe the Bloc?…serious leaders know you cannot, large numbers of Canadian people know they cannot. Remeber how the Bloc come about, out of betrayal of the government they were in when it could inflict maximum damage….Dion and Layton arent serious leaders, they are merely politicans.

    If they insist on trucking with the Bloc then lets test it out in an election. Those who fear the election do so because they know the result.

  44. 82% of Canadians didn’t vote for Layton
    74% of Canadians didn’t vote for Dion
    90% of Canadians didn’t vote for Duceppe

    0% of Canadians voted for a coalition of Layton and Dion, backed by Duceppe.

  45. Finally some reasoned perspective. Well done Coyne.

    I didn’t write this. Can’t Macleans at least control for sock-puppets?

    Wait, I did write it, my mistake.

  46. john g writes: “Compared to what your peers are putting out, this is a Pulitzer winner.”

    This is stupid. The pulitzer prize is only open to American publications.

  47. Question…

    Why is it that, when Chretien even wins a majority on the strength of 38% of the vote, that’s perfectly okay among Liberals…

    But when Harper wins with 38% of the vote, it somehow is a travesty against democracy?

    Talk about convoluted logic for the sake of convenience, eh?

  48. Springer, shut up and stop being a lying hack.

  49. What did Springer say that was untrue?

  50. Coyne: “Dion has . . . delivered the government of Canada into the trembling hands of the Bloc. To all intents and purposes, this will be an NDP-Bloc government. The Liberals are simply the front, propped up in the shop window to give the thing a veneer of respectability”

    Andrew I think, like Harper, you have exaggerated just a bit in that quote. Stay calm.

  51. “We are going to have two unelected Libs for PM’s and that will come across as Libs thinking the Head Of Government is the political version of ‘pass the parcel’. ”

    Weren’t these Gentlemen elected in their ridings, just as Mr. Harper was?

    JWL, you really don’t understand how our system works. Or you would rather believe we should have a presidential system

  52. Lying hack?

    Indeed, Chretien won 3 straight majorities with between 38% and 41% of the vote. Liberals think he is some sort of political God for this.

    Harper wins a strong minority, Liberals think he is the devil incarnate. Then they take the very same numbers they used for a decade to legitimize their own majorities, and would do so again in a heartbeat, as ample reason to stage a coup d’etat against the Conservatives.

    Obviously principle is the least of considerations on Liberal minds right now.

  53. OR…the Opposition finally get’s Harper’s attention – threatening confidence votes on everything is over, and the House gets back to business.

  54. To the 45 % or so who voted LIb & NDP:.

    The Libs main plank was the Greenshift, the NDPs was the $50 billion of tax cuts.

    BOTH of those are nowhere to be seen.

    So you aren’t getting the main stuff you voted from Jack & Dion either.

  55. When did anyone in this coalition say that Harper winning a minority government was a “travesty of democracy?” That’s the lie.

  56. Can someone please bitchslap Springer for continuing to spread this “coup d’etat” lie?

  57. John K

    I understand perfectly how our system works, I am writing about how it will be perceived. When Canadians vote for their local MP, they do so because of party affiliation, specific policies/promises or who they want as PM. How many people do you think vote for their local MP without taking anything else into consideration? Iggy has good chance of being PM in six months but how many Canadians even know who he is.

    Potter’s post earlier today about disconnect between how our system actually works and how people perceive it was spot on. PM’s Dion and Iggy will have little legitimacy amongst non-partisans and that’s very bad for Canada.

  58. Springer: if Harper has a majority we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Chretien had a majority, and that is how the system works. Maybe it sucks: we should change the system.

  59. Calgary Junkie: “So you aren’t getting the main stuff you voted from Jack & Dion either.”

    Right, so the gloves are off. The Coalition just has more fists.

    Also, the Coalition are NOT doing what they ran on, whereas Harper has introduced new sh*t.

  60. Brilliant analysis. Too bad your… erm…. colour commentators can’t seem to focus on your blog’s content in all their sheer, blind hatred for your opinions. Amazing that so many of them comment so frequently, so readily, so faithfully, with such vitriol. As if they, too, were once reporters.

    What I believe you’re saying is there is no future for this Coalition of the Boneheaded, that they have succeeded in directing attention away from critical issues (ie. the economy) and onto their own power-grabbing antics, and in doing so, have willfully cast themselves into the Sea of Irreparable Political Damage for the next twenty years. Well done, everyone. At least you have succeeded in making Canadian politics seem breathtakingly interesting, while ensuring we get nothing done for the next two months.

    A plague on both your Houses!

  61. There has to be a Liberal in that caucus that has will show some inkling of loyalty to their country. This is just wrong. If a partisan liberal cannot see this treachery for what it is, there is no hope left for this country. I am ashamed to call myself Canadian if this treason is allowed to prevail.

    Pro Patria.

  62. Andrew: throwing around allegations of treason is extremely serious and exposes you to defamation suits. In other words: what you mouth.

  63. I have heard repeatedly…until I could gag…from the principles in this affair that 62% of Canadians did not vote for Harper, which, we are asked to believe, thus justifies this coup.

    The premise that all three members of the junta are “left wing”, and thus justifies their actions, doesn’t even merit a rating of specious.

    This is all about the left wing trying to legitimize their own self-righteous existence.

    The fact remains that about 80% of Canadians, if not more, could not possibly care less about “left / right” politics. What they care about is good government that gets the job done.

    Which precisely is why outrage with this ill conceived power play, and its contrived excuses thereof, is so vociferous across Canada.

    The Liberals and NDP are going to wear this disaster for a long, long time.

    And, frankly, it looks real good on ’em, too.
    ]

  64. >Indeed, Chretien won 3 straight majorities with between 38% and 41% of the vote.

    True… except even if Chretien had wound up with a minority government in 1997 (his only sub-40 performance), it would have been a governable one (pick your choice from the NDP or the PCs, depending on how Charest was feeling on any given day). Right now, Harper clearly has an ungovernable parliament, and THAT’S the problem far more than the actual election numbers.

  65. From Coyne’s column above: “The 18 month “commitment” is meaningless. It’s an agreement to support the government until they don’t.)”

    From O’Malley’s Monarchist League of Canada post: “Equally as is to be expected, the Opposition leaders are considering how the situation might work to their advantage; and they have made a declaration of their intention to work together in some form of coalition government should the situation arise where they might be called to do so. That is their right, although their agreement has no legal force or standing.”

    Can we accept that this coalition government is inherently vulnerable to any of the Liberals/NDP/Bloc throwing their weight around? Can we accept that at any moment of their chosing, the Bloc can back out of this deal? I think the answer to both of those questions is yes.

    However individuals feel about the legitimacy/utility of this coalition, I don’t think anyone should believe that it isn’t somewhat fragile.

  66. I love Andrew’s quote about the “piece of paper”, the immediate image that came to mind was that of Neville Chamberlain when he came back from Munich after selling out Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Shame on the Libs and NDP for this crap and shame on Harper for starting it.

  67. The Liberals really miscalculated this time, by forminng the axis of idiots and the Three theives they have created the coalition of national destruction.

    God save our great nation from this disaster!

  68. “I’ve never seen the leader of a Conservative party, certainly not Bob Stanfield, certainly not Joe Clark, lie — I choose the word deliberately — the way Mr. Harper has,” (Ed) Broadbent said.

  69. So now we’ve got *another” Andrew? Not Potter, not Coyne, and not Not Potter or Coyne.

  70. Andrew: that is defamation: watch yourself.

  71. Gregory
    Dec 3, 2008 12:58
    Report Abuse

    82% of Canadians didn’t vote for Layton
    74% of Canadians didn’t vote for Dion
    90% of Canadians didn’t vote for Duceppe

    0% of Canadians voted for a coalition of Layton and Dion, backed by Duceppe.

    You’re wrong….
    0% of Canadians voted for Layton*
    0% of Canadians voted for Dion*
    0% of Canadians voted for Harper*
    0% of Canadians voted for Duceppe*
    (except for in their own ridings)

    100% of Canadians voted for an MP with a party affiliation. Geez…its called 9th Grade social studies. We elect MPs not PMs. I know it can be confusing sometimes.

  72. Don Mitchell: “I love Andrew’s quote about the “piece of paper”, the immediate image that came to mind was that of Neville Chamberlain”

    Maybe you’re thinking of Belgium 1914 & the “scrap of paper”?

  73. Gregory
    Dec 3, 2008 12:58
    Report Abuse

    82% of Canadians didn’t vote for Layton
    74% of Canadians didn’t vote for Dion
    90% of Canadians didn’t vote for Duceppe

    0% of Canadians voted for a coalition of Layton and Dion, backed by Duceppe.

    You’re wrong….
    0% of Canadians voted for Layton*
    0% of Canadians voted for Dion*
    0% of Canadians voted for Harper*
    0% of Canadians voted for Duceppe*
    (except for in their own ridings)

    60% (or whatever the voter turnout was) of Canadians voted for an MP with a party affiliation. Geez…its called 9th Grade social studies. We elect MPs not PMs. I know it can be confusing sometimes.

  74. Jack, Belgium came to mind as well, but the Chamberlain image is more appropriate.

  75. Coyne, you’re misreading the situation between the NDP and Liberals; this is far from the NDP-Bloc government you fear. Remember, the Liberals were quite content to sit as the Opposition for some time as they pick their new leader and rebuild — to say they were looking for power now is a complete overstatement. That’s why the NDP — who’s never been closer to wielding power in a government — made huge sacrifices in order to get the Liberals motivated enough in this situation to form a coalition, once the public funding idea was removed (e.g. 6 cabinet seats in 24? the NDP should have a third of cabinet seats, not a quarter, if we go off of caucus sizes; or that whole thing with backing down on corporate taxes).

    In office, things will go much the same way: the Liberals still consider these few months until May a writeoff and so they don’t REALLY care what happens during them. That isn’t to say they don’t want to be government or they will necessarily do a bad job, they just never really expected to be in the situation (in other words, they expected to be a weak Opposition until May, and that’s all they really need to be ‘satisfied’ — if they get to be government, that’s a plus, but they didn’t need it to be ‘happy’).

    For Layton, he knows he will never get any closer to government than this coalition, and he’s not gonna let any minor (or major, for that matter) squabbles between them and the Liberals bring it down. It’s him who stands to lose the most in such a situation, at least in terms of pride. Now as for the Bloc, I do think you’re discounting the value of the signed agreement a little too much, but I do generally agree that they will remain pretty well as powerful as ever. The idea that the NDP runs this government though? Not a chance.

  76. 100% of Canadians would like to kick Patrick and Sean in the balls for continually whinging that nobody understands parliamentary rules in every damn post over the past week.

  77. So largely the people who say 62% of people didn’t vote for Harper are also ignorant of their Grade 9 social studies, yes?

    At the end of the day, this policy seems to be scorched earth for the Liberals and the NDP west of Manitoba, where the majority of the votes are. I doubt if the 18 months in government is going to be used to make amends to the Western voters who have found their MP removed from government in an extraordinary (even if it isn’t a traitorous or unconstitutional) way. Some gerrymandering to get some more NDP seats out of urban Saskatchewan might be a possibility, but that doesn’t really benefit the Liberal party in the long term.

    They Liberal strategists have to know this, so their terror over having to finance their own campaigns from their own pockets must be far greater than their ambitions to ever form a majority government with MP’s from every province of Canada again.

  78. Fun question: Who benefits more from this coalition – the Liberals or the NDP?

    I don’t agree with all the points that Andrew is making here, but it seems obvious to me that the greatest benificiary is the NDP – being legitimized as a potential governing party while the Liberals are at their lowest level of popular support in ages – and that long-term, this could hurt the Liberals as a result.

  79. A couple of the Liberal “wise men” who supposedly were to guide the coalition’s economic policies have publicly disowned the idea.

    And apparently Romanow doesn’t know anything about it either.

    There is no advisory council. They are lying about being guided by these 4 “Wise Men”. They made up the story out of thin air to try and lend credibility to their little social science experiment.

    Paging Ti-Guy…your new government is already lying to you before they even take over.

  80. The voices! The voices! I keep hearing voices! Why do things keep moving in the house and I don’t remember moving them? Oh, Dear Gaia! Where did I get that Stockwell Day button! I’m sooo confused.

  81. The voices! The voices! I keep hearing voices! Why do things keep moving in the house and I don’t remember moving them? Oh, Dear Gaia! Where did I get that Stockwell Day button! I’m sooo confused.

  82. Coyne is right on the mark. Once again, we witness Jack Layton and the NDP playing Dion and the Liberals like a bad fiddle, for Layton’s own lust for power. Please, Liberals, please get someone in to lead, immediately, who will no longer be used by Layton and the NDP for their lust for power. As a once former proud Liberal, it is absolutely painful to watch Dion flush this once great party down the toilet. Please do something, and soon. Rae is tainted beyond return now. Dion was done like dinner long ago.
    Ignatieff simply must fill the void for all Canadians, not just Liberals, so wanting and needing leadership. Somebody somewhere please convice Ignatieff to immediately distance himself, or better still – denounce, this so-called “coalition”, which everyone except the NDP, unions, and the Bloc see as a power grab, and nothing else.

  83. Great column Andrew Coyne, finally something written that is honest and intelligent. And now we hear that Jaques Parizeau has publicly endorsed the coalition!! You know, the radical separatist who blamed the referendum loss on the ethnic vote. If Parizeau likes the coalition that tells me that it is toxix to the rest of Canada. Can someone explain to me how allowing Socialists to have cabinet seats when we are facing economic uncertainty and a financial meltdown globally is a good idea. As Liberal MP Keith Martin has stated before “the NDP always drive the economy into the ground”. In a democracy shouldn’t voters decide who the PM is?

  84. So the question becomes: When will the grown-ups in the party take charge?

    Precisely. I’m curious as to why Chretien didn’t kibosh this whole thing from the start. Usually he’s smarter at playing the long game.

  85. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible that *ALL* the parties in the House could self-destruct SIMULTANEOUSLY, but here we are. The only possible winner out of this mess is the NDP.

  86. I dunno, Olaf, I think anything that frazzles the Tories as badly as this can’t hurt the Liberals. They were already at rock bottom, and even if this doesn’t help them it doesn’t hurt them.

    For one thing, I’d say that a lot of Canada’s disgust with Dion was the spectacle of his rolling over and playing dead in front of big bad Harper for his whole first year as leader. Now he doesn’t look like such a wimp. Also Harper may be given the axe by the Tories, and they have no one with anything like his political skills ready to take over.

  87. Bang on the mark Coyne.

    This crazy stunt will mark the end of the Liberal Party. As they say in the TV business, this is where they jumped the shark.

  88. By Conservative logic, anything they support is smart, and anything they don’t, isn’t. Then they proceed to namecall those that disagree, and this seems to be quite a normal trait I’ve noticed, across many different newspaper comment sections.

    Can you please stop calling this a coup when it is 100% legal? Coups aren’t legal. But whatever, I suppose you need to keep up the propaganda in hopes that those without the best of knowledges about how our parliament works support you. Just keep saying 2+2=5 if that’s what you need to do to win I suppose!

  89. Jack,

    I dunno, Olaf, I think anything that frazzles the Tories as badly as this can’t hurt the Liberals.

    I have to admit that I didn’t include the “frazzle factor” in my otherwise flawless calculus. :)

  90. As someone who is absolutely not enjoying this mess, I keep hoping, HOPING, for a grownup to appear. Harper took the so-called offensive items off the table, as if that was the real reason for this mess. Now it’s up to the Liberals. It won’t be Dion. He long ago decided he was the smartest guy in the Liberal Party and didn’t need to listen to anyone. I sincerely believe that the Liberal Party is finished if they proceed with this.

  91. The Liberals are toast no matter who leads them.-next general election is pay back time. This party sold out to the separatists in a closed backroom deal that is so good that Jacques parizeau had this to say: in an interview with the Journal de Montreal published Wednesday, Mr. Parizeau praises Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe for his “impressive victory,” in prying enough concessions out of the coalition of the New Democratic Party and Liberals to agree to back them.

    Clearly the coalition is miising one necessary component for poitical balance-a leader from a western separatist party. This may be the only way in which the West can get it’s fair share of bribe money and political influence.

  92. “As someone who is absolutely not enjoying this mess, I keep hoping, HOPING, for a grownup to appear. Harper took the so-called offensive items off the table, as if that was the real reason for this mess. Now it’s up to the Liberals. It won’t be Dion. He long ago decided he was the smartest guy in the Liberal Party and didn’t need to listen to anyone. I sincerely believe that the Liberal Party is finished if they proceed with this.”

    Canada needs a gang of 14, MP’s from every party, but I think Iggy liberals are the most likely, to band together and form a third bloc with the following demands.

    1. Some (smaller) stimulus
    2. Retain public financing of parties
    3. Possibly Harper’s resignation

    Otherwise they will vote no confidence.

    The problem with the coalition is that they have offered no amendments and no compromises – nor did they give any warning of this. Frankly they want power more than they want effective government (just like Harper).

  93. Small point, but you can’t criticize Andrew Coyne’s reporting skills. He is not a reporter, he is a columnist and, as such, he is paid to provide his opinion.

  94. McGuinty may be the one to get to the grownups, Ignatief .

    McGuinty says he works well with PMSH. McGuinty wants auto help quickly. He knows Quebec will be running this coalition – absolutely.

    He knows Quebec has been jealous of Ontario’s giant auto sector since the Auto Pact with the US was signed in 1965.

    McGuinty knows that aid will flow to Quebec first under a Duceppe-Dion-Layton coalition.

    Mike Duffy had one exliberal Ontario MP on his show – blasted any thought of a coalition. Duffy said other Liberal MPs had similar views but are reluctant to come on his show, ( but do not want to be first ?).

    McGuinty also knows ‘green’ ideolgy would decimate the Industrial Heartland as much as the energy economies of Sask, Alta, BC, NS, NFLD. Not much left, eh ? Where will PQ get it equalization.

    The LPC has two choices.
    1) Loose now and survive to win another day.
    2) Win a coalition but loose the LPC AND the country .

    Because those with financial security are the ones who will actually go ahead with separation first. Your call Iggy.

  95. Everyone now needs to save face. To save the country, my suggestion would be for the PC to dump Harper as leader. This would resolve the personality conflict for everyone. He is not a good leader. The PC Party could remain in power with someone in charge who can get along with the opposition. His vitrol against Quebec in Parliament will make it impossible for him to govern. We need an Obama like person here.

  96. Ed Stelmach

    There is growing concern on the streets, in online forums and on radio call-in shows that a Liberal-NDP coalition government may fan the flames of Western alienation, and even separation, in Alberta. “We’ve certainly been hearing it,” said Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, a staunch federalist, adding that often separation talk in Alberta is based “straight out of frustration.”

    He wants federal politicians to “park their egos” and at least give the Tories a chance to deliver a budget early next year. The provincial government has been bombarded with calls and messages about a possible coalition government, and Mr. Stelmach said he can’t recall another issue that has “drawn such an angry response from Albertans.” (Source: Katherine O’Neill)

  97. the silliest comment people make about coalitions is that “they are common in Europe, so why not here?”.

    sure, it’s true, but European countries are “states”, and are small, with a concentrated population.

    and they don’t contain “separatists”.

    big difference.

    the “coalition” in Canada tries this at their peril.

  98. We’re being lead by the 3 Stooges and the Grinch. And that’s an insult to the aformentioned. I say let them call another campaign. Dion is just giving a majority to Harper on a silver platter. I wouldn’t want that bumbling academic egghead as the leader of a church pot luck.

    It may be simplistic but I think the Liberals just don’t know how to be the minority opposition. Grasping at straws and paper promises fromm the likes of the Bloc smells of such desperation it’s hard to fathom.

  99. Heh. It would be only too funny to see the western vote split once again between the Conservatives and a separation party.

  100. Bang on, Andrew. I don’t know what Ignatieff was thinking when he agreed to this. He had (has?) nothing to gain by this. The Liberal brand will be soiled beyond all recognition in Western Canada and rural Ontario. Did people not see that in many ridings out west, the Liberals were not even coming in secord or third? This will seal that for a generation.

    Bob Rae had something to gain here by muddying up the waters — it’s a desperation play, and moved at a stunning pace by the old Power Corp crew (Chretien and bro John) behind the scenes.

    Ignatieff, as the frontrunner, had nothing to gain but a polluted Liberal brand, and yes, maybe a short bit as the PM. But it would be nasty, acromonius, short and then done for his political life. He should have pushed back and hard. I think, for his sake, he should still. His best chance at a better result would be to push back now. Find a reason, and do it.

  101. As a long-time citizen of what had been the Liberal-infatuated Toronto area, I think Andrew Coyne’s analysis is right on the mark. I think this current parliamentary fiasco threatens to rob us of the most precious commodity in Canadian democracy – meaningful choice beyond zero-sum, extreme left or extreme right government.

    My greatest fear is that the kind of desperate, polarizing behaviour and rhetoric on the part of both the coalitionists and the Conservatives could, if unchecked, ultimately re-contour our political landscape into a US-style, binary political universe of only left and right extremes. Anything that ‘unites the left’ so irreversibly, as will this ill-conceived coalition should it succeed in governing for even a few weeks or months, could so dilute the Liberal brand that our 3 (or more) national party system will eventually disappear along with the flexibility and creativity it affords us in designing effective public policy, good government programs and meaningful political discourse and choice during federal elections.

    We need epiphanies of wisdom and the gift of second-thought to descend upon the Hill on both sides of the aisle lest we find ourselves at the bottom of this slippery slope of left-right and/or east-west national political alienation. Deliver us, please, from the extreme dead-lock partisan politics that are creeping across the border and poisoning our political.

    Mr. Dion, this clay-footed coalition will damage both your party and our country beyond anyone’s imagination. Have the courage to step back from the abyss and think about those that will follow your brief tenure. Put this coalition to a vote before the people if you want to prove yourself a real man of integrity concerned for the good of a unified Canada.

    Mr. Layton, wipe the smile off your face as you savour watching the Liberals drive themselves off the cliff. You may enjoy your ill-gotten gains for a season, but you will damage your integrity and weaken all that you profess to stand for on behalf of ‘ordinary Canadians’ who love this country from coast to coast.

    And Mr. Harper, if you cannot learn to build consensus rather than consolidating your own power base during minority rule, step aside and let a more reasonable person lead your party. Your tactics of late are inexcusable for a man of your intelligence and instinct. It’s time for you to renounce autocratic rule and involve others more in leading your party and this country. Deliver the economic goods and get back to governing without undo provocation.

  102. T. Thwim — “Heh. It would be only too funny to see the western vote split once again between the Conservatives and a separation party.”

    Hilarious. Once proud Canadians so embittered that they would rather separate than stay. That’s awesome!

  103. I’m afraid, Mr Michael L., these men have no integrity. Pure, almost rage-like, partisanship in the midst of the greater issues of the day is beyond contemptable. It’s insanity for insanity sake.

  104. Once proud? Which western separatists have you been talking to? The ones I know are still embittered from a policy that ended over 20 years ago that had no effect on their economy that the price of oil didn’t.

    And it’d be funny because in that split, they’d effectively remove any chance they had of forming power in Ottawa. You’d have the Bloc, the Western Bloc, and the Conservatives in perpetual opposition.

  105. Great column Andrew. If Iggy sits on the sidelines now he loses a lot of credibility, especially if the coalition fails. Character is often revealed in a crisis. Unfortunately all I have seen from Iggy is spokespeople trying to play both sides of the fence.

  106. Kubota M95

  107. “At one stroke, Dion has legitimized the NDP as a party of government, marginalized his own party as a party of the left, and delivered the government of Canada into the trembling hands of the Bloc.”

    Don’t forget ensuring that all parties wear the coming deficit, which could have been the issue that ensured a genuine Liberal election victory next year with the new leader.

    Also Andrew, I disagree with your gloomy (or is that optimistic?) outlook on the length of this coalition. I see only two things that can end it: high Liberal polling numbers, or the Bloc seizing on/manufacturing some contrived “humiliation” to dramatically break from the government and attempt to re-ignite the separatist powder keg.

  108. If the Conservatives are going to profit from this coalition actually becoming government, that will require a Conservative leader willing and capable of wooing centrist Liberals no longer comfortable in the leftist Liberals. Does anyone thing Harper is that leader?

    Harper seems more interested in throwing red-meat to the base, than in broadening his clearly too-narrow coalition (as evidence by his minority status)

  109. People, people, people…….

    First of all, the difference between a coalition government in the Netherlands and one in Canada is that the Netherlands has a PR system with approximately 10 parties. Each party represents a different political ideology from left to right. The United Kingdom hasn’t had many coalition governments, and in fact I believe the last election saw Tony Blair and the Labour Party win with only 35% of the vote.

    If all of this coalition were to come out and say they were going to implement electoral reform then I’d take those who yelp about how “62% of people didn’t vote for Harper” seriously. However their is no indication that we’ll have a different electoral system after this. If the election does happen soon afterwards then the result will likely be dependent on a 2% voter swing.

    Second, most people were taken back by this simply due to the fact that we’ve never had a coalition at the federal level before, and more or less the idea that the Bloc will be the power broker.

    While I realize many people hate Stephen Harper, my view is that the best thing for all parties to do is wait until the actual budget. Keith Martin [Liberal MP] has openly stated that their should be an avenue for compromise between the opposition and government, so far it doesn’t look like either side will budge.

  110. The only thing that would make the west split off and form a new party would be to become disillusioned when they have supported the governing party and yet not see any of their policy goals met and their interests ignored. The west is the politics of protest after all.

    However, the Liberals and the NDP have just given a lot of Tory MP’s in the west a lot of job security. Outside of Ralph Goodale who has the riding of government employees of Regina-Wascana, I don’t expect there will be any liberal red on the prairies any time soon.

    Too bad, before this, there was plenty of discontent for the way Harper’s Tories were spending and who they were giving that money to. If the Liberals had bothered, they might have begun with a few acts of contrition for their past screwjobs begun to develop a party base in the west again, which might have paid off in a decade or so.

  111. Stewicide> What read meat? I mean sure he kicks Liberal politicians in the balls once and awhile, but he hasn’t actually delivered much that matters.

  112. I agree there’s hasn’t been much red-meat, but ideally there should be none since hard-right policies are political poison in Canada. The kids-in-prison, imaginary arts cuts followed by a real jabs at artists, and this most recent attack on public party financing are the most obvious examples. Each backfired badly. At least the pay-off on the other side of the party financial issue is notable for the Conservatives. They threw away their majority on issues they don’t even care about.

  113. I’m really, REALLY tired of people constantly trying to persuade us the Conservative (not HARPER) Gov’t is somehow illegitimate due to “only” getting 38% of the vote. In fact there have been only TWO times in Canadian history (once by Diefenbaker and once by Trudeau) where a party has gotten more than 50% of the vote. Take in 2000 for example Chrieten got a whopping 172 seats with only 40.2% (go ahead and check for yourself).

    Liberals cannot decide to play buy the first past the post system and then simply throw the rule book out the window when it no longer suits them. Try another argument…this once is dead once and for all.

  114. 6 months from now the Liberals will be reading the headlines: “Liberal Government Budget. First Deficit Budget in xx Years”.

    Their very worthy and valuable brand as fiscally responsible will be gone.

    Liberals are signing their death warrants. I suspect the notion is floating into view through the fog of potential power. I don’t think the government will fall next monday.

    This situation has people very mad and watching. The moment a deficit budget is brought forward, whoever brings it is finished.

    Canadians are a bit dense at times, but remember clearly the difficulty and pain involved in getting rid of deficit budgets.

    What is really funny is I read somewhere last week about Rae’s hard learned wisdom on what not to do with budgets and deficits and recessions. Now he’s going to be tied to a government that is going to do exactly what he did in Ontario, with the same results. How do one’s toes look through the sights of a gun before you blow them off?

    Any budget of any sort that Harper brought forward without deficit (the real word for stimulus) was going to fail in the house. Now the Liberals have the choice of having their name on it.

    Derek

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