What if


Ned Franks considers that minor democratic crisis of some months ago.

The Conservatives were governing with the support of less than 40 per cent of the electorate. Nevertheless, they mounted an astonishingly speedy and successful anti-coalition public-relations campaign. They had only seven days to do this, between the government’s disastrous fiscal update of Nov. 27 and Mr. Harper’s meeting with the Governor-General. While the anti-coalition campaign was filled with misrepresentations and half-truths, it worked brilliantly. Public opinion turned formidably.

(Excerpted from Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, a copy of which I ordered on Friday.)


What if

  1. “While the anti-coalition campaign was filled with misrepresentations and half-truths, it worked brilliantly. Public opinion turned formidably.”

    Chicken/egg statement. I would argue that public opinion turned before Cons cranked up the rhetoric about ‘socialists and separatists’. I think Franks give far too much credit to Gov’t being able to influence public opinion that quickly.

    • If there was a shred of logic in that statement it would be funny. The govt cranked up the anti-coalition arguement because… Your whole statement is a logical absurdity.
      What’s much more worrying about Frank’s arguement that the GG was correct to grant the prorogation is that he also concludes that it was necessary because of what Harper might do next, and how far he would be willng to go to get his way. Isn’t this rather like saying: it’s wrong what the GG did, but she had no choice under the curcumstances. And he may even be right – but what precendent has been set here, apart from rewarding the unscrupulous?

      • Curious to know why what I wrote is a ‘logical absurdity’. Public opinion about coalition taking power, mainly concerned by BQ getting near levers of power, was negative and then Cons decided to ride wave of discontent. I agree that Cons stoked fires but they were just tuned in to public opinion, which was that Dion and BQ should not be allowed to usurp the government.

        I think you have the ‘logical absurdity’, kc, if you and others are going to argue that public thought Coalition was just dandy but nefarious Cons turned public opinion in a matter of days.

        • As you say it’s the chicken and the egg. My reading of your statement was: that anti-coalition arguement with all it’s attendant half truths [ Frank’s pt ] was a non-factor in turning public opinion – which would be absurd, why bother at all? I think you’re still engaging in sophism when you state the cons were just along for the ride. Anyway, the public was mad, and it’s now fairly obvious that Dion attemptig to seize the reins of power was a non-starter.

    • Pretty strong argument there jwl.

      Here was one of the first polls I believe. And if my memory is correct, the numbers took a dramatic turn against the coalition a week later.

  2. Like the misrepresentation of the “council of wise men” that would guide the coalition? Which didn’t, in fact, exist?

    Ooops…that would a misrepresenation made BY the coalition. And thus, not subject to further scrutiny.

  3. And was the GG intimidated or even threatened with public relations, political, and advertising campaigns?
    Does Franks offer a definitive answer on this?

  4. Or the half truth that the Bloq was not part of the coalition, even though Duceppe declared himself part of it on numerous occasions?

    Gee, this is fun cherry picking misrepresenations and half truths from only one side. I could do this all day!

    • You’re seriously comparing a matter of subjective judgement on whether the bloq was in or out, when there was documentary evidence that there was at least an attempt to keep them out, with misrepresentations of how our parliamentary democracy ACTUALLY works. I’d think that on that a little more if i were you.

  5. My guess is that public opinion turned formidably against the coalition for reasons that had nothing to do with the Conservative PR campaign.

    • Are you saying, as jwl does that was never the intent of the PR campaign? That’s simply absurd! Unless you’re saying it was all about Dion, which i think there’s now plenty of evidence for?

      • I think a lot of it had to do with Dion.

  6. Yep, there’s only one take on history, or there should be. Neo-cons couldn’t care less about bias in the media – the last 8 years of con truthiness has pretty much killed that canard.

  7. “While the anti-coalition campaign was filled with misrepresentations and half-truths, it worked brilliantly. Public opinion turned formidably.”

    Oh I don’t know if one could say that this one “worked brilliantly” when one considers that it has cost the CPC the entire province of Quebec and, ultimately, any hope they have of forming a majority.

    • Good point.

    • in turn though PolJunkie, they have were able to retain their minority.

      And, I think that the big factor in appraising future prospects would be that had they lost power, one of the first things that the coalition who have done was expose what we all know now: that the fiscal update misrepresented the state of the government’s books. this would have been devastating to the near future of the CPC if it had come out in that manner.

      • Footnote: they retained their minority with Harper as leader. If they’d been willing to ditch Harper, or in fact if there had been any “they” apart from Harper), they’d have let the Coalition take over and — inevitably — have watched it implode; all in the midst of this terrible economic crisis. But I guess Harper has a rather tighter grip on the CPC than Dion had on the Liberals, to make the understatement of the year.

  8. I was just mad about the deliberate misinformation. In my manadatory Civics class, which coincided nicely with the election and hte coalition crises, where we had just spent a semester learning about parliamentary democracy there were a few students who parroted their parents line of it being ‘anti-democratic’ and nearly gave our Civics teacher an embolism, who patiently explained that in Canada we don’t elect our Prime Minister.

  9. Well, we almost had an opportunity to engage younger people through a coalition as well. Of the 62 per-cent who didn’t vote Conservative, how many of them were under 30? Under 40? If our votes meant anything, you would see a rise in voting rates as well. Young people are disengaged from the system because the system doesn’t represent the needs and aspirations of the young; rather the needs and aspirations of the old.

    The first engaging part of political drama in our adult lives was summed up by a public relations campaign of misinformation about how our democracy works injected with a lesson in morals from the morally bankrupt. An unelected figurehead denied democracy from taking place in the House of Commons in favour of maintaining a minority government which had publicly lost it’s legitimate right to rule and the house was not allowed to express it’s political right to express nonconfidence.

    There was even a Conservative MP calling on all gun owners to organize and resist such an unholy alliance through all means neccessary. Fun times.

    Most younger people have seen the shortcomings and folly in our democracy through this Conservative government. Once the babyboomers are gone, we can get on with electoral reform and enter the 21st centruy.

    Time for our system to mature and admit we are no longer in a two party system and you will neer have young people engage in ‘the system’ when the system is designed to work against their interests.

    It’s as simple as that.

    • By the time the last baby boomer is gone, today’s “young people” will be middle aged.

    • #67 smwhite on 03.30.09 at 11:53 Very well said Nick.

  10. ‘Birds of A Feather’ was written 20 yrs ago…..and i thought you were the one going off about anecdotal evidence the other day, no????

  11. Seeing how the CONs manipulated fact and fear into a burning pyre of hatred, just how will Harper react and turn when it appears democracy may lean another way? Can we trust this character to not dig into the same disgusting levels to protect his job even if it continues to incite political and geographical divides? Could we be looking at the true father of separation?

  12. The Coalition idea did indeed work brilliantly as it clearly defined for quite some time that canadians don’t buy into the gimmicky idea and as Iggy and harper clearly state for once and all time (a few years anyways) there will be no such ridiculousness here thank you very much. The best part that worked though was that it gave Iggy the excuse to push Dion under the Bus and blame it all on him ROFL LMAO! – (The next best part is the dirty little secret that we Conservatives and Liberals now share – with Iggy as leader of the LPC many of the essential principles canadians now get are basically the same)

    • It proved nothing of the sort Wayne. The main reason for rejecting the coalition was the thought of Dion as PM, scaring folks over the bloq was hypocritical as well as scurrilous demagoguery. Harper himself wrote to the GG proposing pretty much the same thing. Bet that coalition wouldn’t have offended you near so much. The convergence of Iggy and Steve will backfire for the cons, once voters figure out they can choose the one who most wants to govern inclusively. Canadians are funny that way.

  13. I like how everyone avoids the simple fact that Dion said no to forming a coalition during the election meaning the whole coalition idea caught the Canadian public by surprise. The argument put forward by defenders of the coalition was that it was constitutional while opponents argued it was anti-democratic. In reality, they were both right in that yes, the coalition was constitutional, but the argument that it was anti-democratic was also right in that the formation of a coalition had been ruled out during the election. Are we really surprised that in a public debate over who will govern a democratic society a somewhat coherent argument over democratic legitimacy won the day over a constitutional argument?

    • I believe this arguement is essentially a fallacy. While it’s true Dion did rule out a coalition during the election [ more evidence of his lack of judgement] it must be remembered that if you rule out any possible coalition, unless explicitly promised during a campaign [ many cons made this point during the crisis ] then you effectively prevent any opposition from approaching theGG in the event that a PM loses a confidence vote. In other words opposition parties must be free to pack up with whomever they chose after a confidence vote is lost. In fact, didn’t Harper propose such a coalition once upon a time.

      • I don’t disagree with you. But the Tories, when you sift through alot of scattershot rhetoric, basically asked the public “Did you vote for this?” and, if the polls were to be believed, the public basically responded “No”. Non-Conservative voters who opposed the coalition likely opposed it for different reasons but by framing it as anti-democratic and Dion having said that he would not form a coalition during the election gave those voters an argument to attach themselves to and ensured that all the constitutional and parliamentary procedure arguments fell on deaf ears.

        • Can’t fault your logic. It’s legal vs non-democratic, i guess legal lost.

  14. A lot of Leftist Mental Disorder going on around here, heh, heh, heh.

    The coalition of the three stooges was an act of desperation by Dion to become PM, pre-engineered by Layton and Duceppe who knew they could easily dupe Dion into playing along with them. It was also a reaction to the idea of repealing the Chretien $1.95 per vote taxpayer subsidy to political parties, which incidentally the majority of Canadians support and will more likely than not be a key feature of the Conservative platform whenever another election occurs.

    So suck on that lollipop you believers of fairy tales and unicorns.

    • Speaking of fairy tales.

      • Can’t handle reality can you kc?

        Just like you lefties can’t handle the fact that the GG serves at the pleasure of the Queen on the advice of the PM.

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