The King's precedent -

The King’s precedent


John Duffy recalls what preceded the King-Byng Affair.

That said, I certainly agree that Mr. Harper knows his Mackenzie King … He’ll know, then, that King actually did govern from below a plurality from 1925 until 1926. So there are federal as well as provincial precedents for non-plurality governments.

To these then, Mr. Mansbridge might add one more question for Mr. Harper: Do you believe Mackenzie King’s government in 1925 or the Liberal-NDP accord in Ontario in 1985 were illegitimate?


The King’s precedent

  1. But will Mansbridge risk asking Harper that?

    Probably not.

  2. You are asking Mansbridge to ask Harper a tough question? With supplementary follow-ups? I know it's only Wednesday, but can I have some of what you are smoking/drinking/injecting, Wherry?

    • You seem bitter about something. Peter Mansbridge is a great Canadian news correspondent and anchor, and I'm sure he'll interview Mr. Harper with the same vigour as his interview with Mr. Ignatieff.

      • Shhh, quiet Crit. The echo chamber from the denizens of the U of T don't want you interrupting their narrative.

  3. Tom Flanagan today:

    "However, given every poll that we've seen, the only way to construct a majority without the Conservatives will be for the Liberals, NDP and Bloc to vote together. It can't even work with the Bloc abstaining, because the Conservatives will have more seats than the Liberals and NDP put together.

    Such an arrangement, in which each of three parties has veto power, cannot last long unless it is managed behind the scenes with continual tripartite negotiations. That's why I call it a “virtual coalition.” It is a fantasy to think that Mr. Ignatieff could govern for any length of time on a case-by-case basis. That would work only if the Conservatives would vote for his measures from time to time, and I doubt they would after having been dislodged from government in this way.

    I take my guidance here from the greatest of all Liberal prime ministers, William Lyon Mackenzie King. He said in 1926 that the opposition parties would be unable to govern, and he was proved right in four days. He was also criticized by constitutional experts. Stephen Harper is Mackenzie King without a ouija board.

    • all of which may very well be true…but none of that makes it a "coalition"…virtual or otherwise.

    • That's why I call it a “virtual coalition.”

      And you could even call it an unelected coalition – still a fantasy, and a shade of the truth – because we haven't had an election yet.

  4. So, Wherry, you're saying if the following were to happen, you wouldn't have a problem with it?

    1. CPC came in second to a LPC plurality.
    2. Harper loses his seat.
    3. Harper refuses to resign as PM and makes some other CPC MP resign so he can get a seat in a by-election.
    4. Harper continues to form government with the help of some hypothetical 3rd party, but he doesn't give them Cabinet seats, but just relies on their support.

    I'm pretty sure everyone would consider that illegitimate.

    • Especially all the denizens of the U of T who frequent this message board. Seriously, are all of you from Toronto? Or are you all a diaspora of the disaffected left from across our great land? :)

    • ????? This isn''s making any sense.

      • Cons never do. It's always a plot with them. And apparently university in particular frightens them

        • Rae said it best about all the hypothetical/speculation before we see the actual seat numbers – castles in the air and we're already picking out the dining room furniture. The only thing we know for certain – Harps can't work with others – so his options are limited.

          • Yeah, everybody counting their chickens…..people push for an election all the time, and then when we have one they can't wait for it to be over.

          • How is a Liberal arrangement with the NDP/Bloc a "castle in the air"? Ignatieff said on Mansbridge that if Harper was defeated on a VONC, he'd go to to governor-general. He and all of the opposition parties VONC'ed Harper on a contempt motion – not a budget vote – and I'm guessing they are still pretty contemptuous. Every poll out there (except maybe whatever craziness COMPAS is spewing) suggests a Conservative minority.

            Don't you want to know what the Liberal-NDP-Bloc arrangement will look like? Must Liberal voters maintain the fantasy that the Liberal platform is going to implemented in full, rather than some document negotiated with the other parties?

        • Try to keep up, OriginalEmily1.

          • Hard to keep up with Cons…just when you think you've heard everything from them….they come up with something even whackier.

          • Wow.

            Your head is so far up your own a$$ you must be able to see your breakfast.

          • See? Con whackiness advances by leaps and bounds.

            We're now not only all from the U of T….we can do anatomically impossible things….just because we disagree with one guy.

            Strange, huh?

          • Who's a Con? The only con I see is your disingenuous and deliberate daftness.

            First of all, why are you replying to my comment in response to Jan's, who in turn was responding to Mark?

            The comment about the U of T is because a lot of the commentary around here sounds like prepping for the debate club at the U of T. That's only slightly more of an outrageous comment than is your bailiwick, in case you were going to trot out accusations of "con whackiness" again.

            Perhaps in your haste to brand me as a "Con", as though that were some slur, you missed some of these salient points.

          • Perhaps you don't know how a chatsite works.

            S'okay, wacky Cons don't know how govt works.

          • This isn't a chatsite, it's a message board for Maclean's readers. Actually, it's where a lot of future politicians talk past each other and argue with strangers, but semantics are always a messy business.

            Anyway, let's get to the brass tacks. I don't recall me calling you out personally, so I can only draw one conculsion. You're trying to make a new friend.

            (Actually, due to your deftness with utilizing this "chatsite", you erroneously replied to Jan instead of me when you posited that I had something against universities in general. But again, semantics, I know, messy)

            It's working.

          • I repeat, you don't know how this works.

            So kindly return to the topic.

    • I'll play. I like these theory questions.

      First off, how can Harper refuse to resign as PM if he isn't in the House? There's nothing to resign from! The Prime Minister must be an elected member of the House. He can continue as party leader mind you. But still, it's a good scenario to play with.

      So let's say the Conservatives nominate someone other than the party leader to be Prime Minister. Let's say Pierre Poilievre (bear with me people). Skippy would then tell the Governor General that he can gain the confidence of the House and form a government. Now if the Grits go to the GG at the same time, old Johnny (David Johnston bears an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Carson you see) would naturally ask the party with the most seats to give it a go. So Iggy gets first crack. Now, if Iggy cannot gain the confidence of the House, then Dave-O might call upon Skippy, or Mr Harper assuming he manages to get elected somewhere in Darkest Alberta.

      It call comes down to if the governing party can gain the confidence of the House, then they get to form the Government.

      • "The Prime Minister must be an elected member of the House."

        Not true. In the 1925 election W.L.M. King lost his seat in York North, yet stayed on as Prime Minister until the King-Byng Affair in June of 1926.

        • Excellent point! The King-Byng affair though truly started when King insisted on staying on as PM. Byng wanted him to resign as he had lost his seat, but on the other hand he did realise that there was no way the Conservative party would be able to govern as they and the Progressives got along like Itchy and Scratchy. If I may revise my answer, Skippy would NOT then become PM but the Conservatives would attempt to govern. I suspect they would be defeated in the House at which point the GG asks Ignatieff to attempt to govern.

          • I'm not sure that's exactly what went down in the immediate aftermath of the 1925 election.

            I'm not sure Byng had any opinion on who should have been PM immediately after the election. The convention is that after an election the previous prime minister has the first chance to form government. Generally, in the case of a party who just lost, this almost never happens as that party would face immediate defeat in the Commons. However, King did not resign but instead attempted to stay in government with the support of the Progressives.

            Long story short: it was King's decision, not Byng's.

            (I'm currently reading John Duffy's "Fights of our Lives", hopefully what I just stated adequately paraphrases the chapter on the 1925 election…. BTW, amazing read, I highly recommend).

          • Certainly sounds a propos to our world these days!

      • "The Prime Minister must be an elected member of the House." – Technically, not quite. We've had two Senators (Abbott and Bowell) serve as Prime Ministers. John Turner never sat in Parliament during his brief time as PM. But you're right that it's a convention (relatively recent in the centuries of parliamentary history) that the PM be a sitting MP in the House of Commons.

        • Completely forgot about John Turner- I am humbled by the collective knowledge on this board sometimes.

          It would behoove Brad Wall to log in here sometimes.

    • 3. Harper refuses to resign as PM

      If he doesn't have a seat, it'll be tough to command the confidence of the house.

      • Contrary to popular belief, not the PM nor the rest of cabinet must sit in the House of Commons. That they do is more a matter of tradition. We could have an executive branch consisting entirely of non-MPs.

        I'm starting to think it might actually be preferable for the executive to be outside of Parliament.

        • Damn Yank :P

        • +1. BC has a premier right now who isn't an MLA.

          I was basically outlining what King did in 1925. It was a reply of sorts to Wherry questioning if the 1925 King government was legitimate. I would say no. Despite what the rules allow, it just doesn't seem right.

        • That's all very true. But in Stephen's case, i feel there are extenuating circumstances. Yes it would all be legal. But he's poisoned the well so badly. A not elected leader of a party?

          • It's not really relevant. Harper is not going to lose his seat. Satan himself could get elected in a landslide if he were running for the Conservatives.

          • :-) I didn't raise the hypothetical question.

          • "…in Alberta" I think you meant to add….

    • Well not me. This is somewhat similar to Britain. Is it our custom that the sitting PM gets first chance regardless of the number of seats?

      If it is, then sure, Harper has a chance to earn the confidence of the House and as long as he holds that the Conservatives can form government. He would be free to sort out his lack of a seat as suits him.

      If he fails to hold the confidence of the House then someone else gets to try unless sufficient time has passed that would make another election a reasonable choice.

      We elect our MP's and then it is their job to figure out how to govern. Leadership is displayed by the one who can gain the support of a majority of the House and whoever that is should be PM.

      This is how our system works and it doesn't scare me.

  5. MacKenzie King. Not a leader.

    • Leadership if necessary, but not necessarily leadership.

  6. Ignatieff sounded pretty confident and well prepared in a clip I just heard. Everyone thought he blundered in the Mansbridge interview comment, but I'm starting to wonder if it was planned. A hail Mary pass? His quote about Harper was "who does he think he is the King?, Parliament decides, not him etc.
    The PMO leaning media think the coalition issue is all in Harper's favour. Maybe Ignatieff thinks he can use it to smoke out Harper on the democracy contempt issues and force a mistake..

    • I'm beginning to think so too. It feeds into the narrative that he's been framing since the day the writ dropped – that Harper is unbending and dismissive of Parliament while he is willing to work with everyone to get things done. Public polling seems to say that outside of the solid Conservative base, the notion of multi-party cooperation isn't the bogeyman that Harper says it is.

      It also is telling disillusioned supporters that there's still reason to come out and vote for them, even if they're unlikely to win a majority.

    • Yeah. sure, that sounds like what Iggy was doing or maybe he was just blathering on about what the Constitution would allow and forgetting that ordinary people with common sense might think he was thinking more about what would make him PM than what the people wanted.

  7. Can you also add 1873 to your post – when the Sir John A. Macdonald lost the confidence of the House and the GG called upon the leader of the opposition (Alexander Mackenzie) to form government. In other words, Mackenzie became Prime Minister (Canada's second) WITHOUT an election – although the following election in 1874, he was elected with a majority.

  8. What was King's percentage of the vote,

    and did it involve having to placate a seperatist party who's founding purpose was the destruction of Canada?

    All very inconveniant details that those who seek to propagandize rather than inform, dare not get in to.

    • I'm curious, what exactly can the BQ actually do in Parliament to destroy Canada? It seems to me that the great paradox of their existence is that they're ultimately powerless to actually achieve their stated goals.

      • They WERE ultimately powerless.

        And is the destruction of Canada where the bar is set?

        How about whether the policies of this mischievous party, who cares not a bit about Canada as a whole, advocated for as the price of their agreement to maintain Iggy in power,

        is good for Canada, or bad for Canada?

        I appreciate to the partisan Liberals here, that question should not even be asked, since once the goal of the Liberals achieving power, the rest becomes irrelevant.

        I suspect that average Canadian, may think otherwise.

        • 1) "The destruction of Canada" was the bar that YOU set.

          2) You didn't answer my question.

  9. While the water carriers in the media create the mother of all straw arguments – it's only about the PROCESS – that its a coalition per se that is the inherent wrong being alleged rather than the SUBSTANCE of this one, requiring the involvement of separtists (and to a lesser extent socialists),

    they dishonestly ignore the SUBSTANCE of what Harper's claiming.

    He's not calling a "coalition" per se wrong, he's calling it a "reckless one" precisely because of who it will by necessity have in it,

    by virtue of Iggy's low vote totals.

    The party with up to HALF the seats of the party that won, will take power with socialists and seperatists.

    BTW, if you think the public will just ignore these details because the Ottawa elite media tells them to, you're in an even thicker cocoon that I had previously imagined.

    • Quite honestly, I don't think it's a reasonable argument to insist that any federalist party would support and facilitate policies by the Bloc that would bolster Quebec sovereignty, particularly a party that is often accused of being a "centralist" party. You may disagree with every policy that a party presents, but surely you can recognize that the men and women who work in all of the federal parties have a very sincere commitment to Canada. I don't accept that a coalition that would require Bloc support on confidence measures would require substantial concessions towards the Quebec secession cause, particularly given that Conservatives have relied on Bloc suport for confidence matters in the past.

    • Well, we don't know that Giorno was saying Carson was bad news. Maybe the letters were meant to quash anything negative that might be swirling about and in effect said Carson was a really great guy.

      Is anything of the contents known?

  10. I also love the location of the bar which Iggy must surpass in order to satisfy the leftist media "elites".

    As long as it's technically "legal" there's no need to look into the substance of the course of action.

    Apparently if there was a White supremists party, oh let's say started by the current Liberal candidate, and he held a small percentage of the vote, but an amount necessary to gain the "confidence" of the house,

    the substance of that we dare not question. Iggy, cannot be questioned. It's "legal" and that is that.

    Actually we're not far off with the absurdity of having the party once considered the great defenders against seperatism, now being fine with giving them a veto (and God knows what concessions for their vote) in government.

    Anything for power it seems.

    • Anything for power it seems — sounds like Harper's own inside-head meme…

  11. Note to Liberals,

    If you think trotting out a bunch of constitutional lawyers arguing that a coalition with a socialist and, more importantly, a seperatist party which avowedly wishes to destroy our Country, is technically legal,

    will convince the public that such a course of action is good for them,

    you are more deeply enmeshed in that cocoon that we could have imagined.

    It's "legal" for me to stay at home, not get a job and drink vodka all day. No lawyer can tell me that I'm breaking the law. But would the public approve of that?

    You keep clinging to process, and ignore substance, and we'll see how that turns out for you.

    • If it meant posting less on these boards, we'd all approve of that.

      • I assumed he had been drinking…

    • Well Chet, at least you'd be safe from terrorists.

      Unless of course, Al Qaeda knows where you live….


    • The situations are probably analogous in that the public would.. except for a very few pissants who think their opinions should take precedence over other people's.. not really care

  12. What makes Harper's (and Brad Wall's) erroneous arguments so nauseating is the hypocrisy. All one has to do is put the proverbial shoe on the symbolic other foot:

    What happens if Harper has a minority, with he most seats, and the Liberals and NDP won't support his government? What if he must rely on the Bloc to pass his budget?

    Will those spewing vitriol at the very idea of a government relying on separatist MPs, made more unpalatable by the likely attendant cash transfer for Quebec, "rise up" and declare Harper's minority coalition to be illegitimate? Will they call for his downfall because of his collusion with traitors?

    Or will we hear nothing by hypocritical crickets?

    • Harper's negotiating position is vastly better because he can play the Bloc, NDP and Liberals against one another. In that context, the Bloc must keep its demands low, or face a different party snatching a better deal. At different times he has snagged backing from all three parties, but it is hard to find an instance in which they significantly changed a budget. On the other hand, Ignatieff's options would be much narrower because he would need the support of both the NDP and the Bloc to retain power – he can't go to the lowest bidder, like Harper can (unless he wins a lot more seats than every poll out there is projecting).

      • "Harper's negotiating position is vastly better"

        But his reliance on separatists or socialists would be just as real s it would be for the Liberals if voters return a fourth consecutive minority to Ottawa. Hence, he and his supporters are being deceitful and hypocritical when it comes to how governments and legislation would proceed in a minority Parliament.

        It's only scary and unacceptable if the other guys do it.

      • Of course, if Mr. Harper were to find himself on the Opposition side of the House, we should never expect him to take the noble course of action and realize that another election is something that Dennis would absolutely not want.

        No, the only expectation we can possibly have is that the other parties must acquiesce to what Mr. Harper wants to do.

        ANY minority government requires some support from one or more opposition parties. Mr. Harper has not really cared where that support comes from. He has relied on support from the BQ and the NDP in the past.

        It is blatant hypocrisy to suggest that any other minority government can't do the same.

  13. That post started off a little shaky, but you finished strong. I like your points in the last couple paragraphs.

    Of course, if elected to another minority, Harper does have to be willing to work with one of the other parties. I'm just not sure who it will be. The LPC can't be seen as snuggling too close, and even if the CPC and NDP wanted to work together, I just think they are too far apart on a lot of issues.

  14. Hoser,
    As a retired negotiator you are right on with your comments. The most important principle in negotiations is that you have a good outcome when all parties are equally unhappy. Give and take. How much will the Liberals have to give to the NDP and the Bloc to carry on with Government? Put a price tag on it. Billions? Tens of Billions? Alberta?

  15. YOU certainly have a problem

    Please return to the topic…..I'm not it.

    • There's that disingenuous side of you I've grown fond of!

      Let's do a test: if this is the real Emily, say nothing. :)

      • It's a lovely day out there….go play outside.

        • Perhaps one should heed one's own advice, shouldn't one?

          • That's it, you're done.

            Ciao baby.