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Coalition matters: the Coshist talking points

Colby Cosh on why the Conservatives’ indignation over deals with the Bloc and the NDP is insincere


 

1. The grouches who are complaining that the election talk so far has focused too obsessively on coalitions and post-election hypotheticals are apparently incapable of seeing that discussion goes faster in the 21st century. That they are making this complaint all the way into the official first full day of the election should have served as a hint to them. (You’re exhausted already? Poor lambs.) There is plenty of time left to have this conversation, and to obtain desirable assurances from various party leaders. Particularly ones that are (or were, until yesterday) trying to get away with being a little mealy-mouthed about it!

2. The coalition chit-chat, after all, concerns a field of ethics and procedure in which there are few firm rules and novel, still-unresolved complexities. Canada is trying to govern itself with a separatist party close to (and unlikely to be driven very far away from) the fulcrum of power in its popular assembly. It is worth taking a little while to get this right.

3. From this standpoint, there seem to me to be obvious relevant differences between the 2004 Harper-Duceppe-Layton letter to the Governor-General—which merely expressed a common desire to be consulted before a dismissal of Parliament—and the detailed, binding, highly specific Opposition arrangements of 2008. It’s clear that Harper was contemplating an explicit deal with the Bloc Québécois (and the prior Reform/Alliance leadership had, while the stakes were still low, gotten pretty darned chummy with the Bloc). But events saved him from having to make the final choice; it’s Michael Ignatieff’s bad luck, I suppose, that he was faced with the same choice and signed on the dotted line for posterity.

4. The biggest difference of all between the “coalitions” of ’04 and ’08, of course, is that the second one was a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties. The wonk/nerd debate over the “how” of the ’08 coalition ignores the “why”. The wonks and nerds are being insincere; they know perfectly well how terrified Liberal strategists were, and are, of being cut off from the trough. This may be what they dread most about a Conservative majority.

5. When the Conservatives recite the word “coalition”, over and over again, this is what they really intend to remind the public of—that the Liberals were ready to talk turkey with the Bloc and the NDP to impede a very popular measure that would compromise their partisan interest. Do my fellow pundits really think it is wrong to suggest that Dion and Ignatieff put their party’s budget a little bit ahead of its traditional national-unity principles for a few weeks there? That seems like a fairly flat factual description of what happened, and, at any rate, that is how many voters will remember it. Public financing of political parties is a lot less popular on the street than it is in the salons frequented by the slothful dilettantes of the press and electronic media. (We are, after all, indirect beneficiaries of that financing.)

5. What this does mean, of course, is that the Conservatives’ own indignation over deals with the Bloc and the NDP, as such, is insincere. They’re posing as opponents of coalitions of a certain procedural type, merely as a way to preserve the memory of a particular one. But if the punditariat is prepared to plunge the political context of the ’08 coalition into oblivion, it cannot very well blame the Conservatives for trying to talk past it.


 

Coalition matters: the Coshist talking points

  1. I agree with most of that, except point 4. It wasn't *just* the political per-vote subsidy (which I remind everyone was put in place to end the corporate and union party buying), it was that was all the Conservatives had to combat the economic crisis! Now, this is an important point, because I imagine it is the one thing the Conservatives most hope isn't remembered. The great fiscal managers, so proud of it they have spent more in advertising than any other government program in history (I think, haven't checked that) didn't come up with it at all!

  2. I agree with most of that, except point 4. It wasn't *just* the political per-vote subsidy (which I remind everyone was put in place to end the corporate and union party buying), it was that was all the Conservatives had to combat the economic crisis! Now, this is an important point, because I imagine it is the one thing the Conservatives most hope isn't remembered. The great fiscal managers, so proud of it they have spent more in advertising than any other government program in history (I think, haven't checked that) didn't come up with it at all!

    • I suppose I could have put a 4(a) in there: the Conservative move against public funding in '08 was tactically opportunistic too–though part of the reason it seemed like an attractive tactic is that it is a very popular idea, and it was not insincere in the sense of comporting poorly with stated Conservative priorities or ideology or in violating some Conservative promise.

    • and killing pay equity.

      • Thanks–I tried to work that in a couple of times, but couldn't get it to flow without sounding like a woman whining about it.

      • Also extremely popular in the realm of the productive class.

  3. I suppose I could have put a 4(a) in there: the Conservative move against public funding in '08 was tactically opportunistic too–though part of the reason it seemed like an attractive tactic is that it is a very popular idea, and it was not insincere in the sense of comporting poorly with stated Conservative priorities or ideology or in violating some Conservative promise.

  4. Or journalists could deal with something relevant instead of hiding in displacement behavior.

    Are you all afraid of the answers you'll get?

  5. Or journalists could deal with something relevant instead of hiding in displacement behavior.

    Are you all afraid of the answers you'll get?

  6. I wonder if distinctions between 2004 and 2008 really matter given how broadly the Harper Conservatives have used the term "coalition" over the last 2 years. By their definition, even opposition parties voting in concert constitute a coalition–though, strangely, this isn't the case if any of these parties happen to vote with the government.

  7. I wonder if distinctions between 2004 and 2008 really matter given how broadly the Harper Conservatives have used the term "coalition" over the last 2 years. By their definition, even opposition parties voting in concert constitute a coalition–though, strangely, this isn't the case if any of these parties happen to vote with the government.

    • The distinctions are relevant when the CPC needs them to be and irrelevant when they are not. Didn't you get Harper's memo?

      If you need a definitive difference, the CPC arrangementt left the Bloc in a far stronger negotiating position.

  8. Jenn, that's not true. Harper and Flaherty had committed at the APEC meetings that fall to inject stimulus into the economy amounting to 2% of GDP, in concert with the other APEC nations. The same agreement happened at the G20 meetings in Washington that year.

    So while stimulus measures might not have been in the economic statement, they were going to be in the next Budget.

    The 2004 agreement was more of a defensive shield than '08. It was put in place to stop PM Martin from calling a snap election in order to regain a majority. It's clear from the remarks in the press conference with Duceppe, Harper and Layton that none of them considered it a coalition (Duceppe said those exact words, and now he's saying it was a coalition, etc.). It's also clear from Harper's first speech in the 38th Parliament on Oct. 6th that he accepted the election results, but that he (and Duceppe and Layton) wanted changes to the Standing Orders of the House, plus other concessions from Martin, which Martin largely agreed to.

  9. Jenn, that's not true. Harper and Flaherty had committed at the APEC meetings that fall to inject stimulus into the economy amounting to 2% of GDP, in concert with the other APEC nations. The same agreement happened at the G20 meetings in Washington that year.

    So while stimulus measures might not have been in the economic statement, they were going to be in the next Budget.

    The 2004 agreement was more of a defensive shield than '08. It was put in place to stop PM Martin from calling a snap election in order to regain a majority. It's clear from the remarks in the press conference with Duceppe, Harper and Layton that none of them considered it a coalition (Duceppe said those exact words, and now he's saying it was a coalition, etc.). It's also clear from Harper's first speech in the 38th Parliament on Oct. 6th that he accepted the election results, but that he (and Duceppe and Layton) wanted changes to the Standing Orders of the House, plus other concessions from Martin, which Martin largely agreed to.

    • Can anyone imagine a CPC minority gov't supported by the NDP and Bloc lasting a long time? At most, it would last just under a year … there's no way such an arrangement could've survived a Budget-making process. So the CPC would've called for elections in short order if that agreement was ever activated.

      Have to wonder about the readiness of the Tory war room though … normally they would have all the info, all the transcripts from that press conference, and any related info, all ready to go in short order. Unless I'm missing something, they haven't put that out there yet.

      Perhaps, though, they're ok with the questions to Harper about the 2004 agreement hanging out there. They're probably thinking that no one is going to change their support from Harper to Ignatieff b/c of this, and that it keeps the whole coalition issue front and centre in the campaign. Both Duceppe and Layton doth protest too much. Voters will most likely disregard the 2004 letter, b/c in the end nothing ever did come of it, whereas they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008.

      • Both Duceppe and Layton doth protest too much. Voters will most likely disregard the 2004 letter, b/c in the end nothing ever did come of it, whereas they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008.

        You're presuming though that Layton and Duceppe are protesting in order to damage Harper and/or win votes. I'd argue they're protesting because he's saying things in public today that contradict the things he told them in private in 2004. I'm not sure that Duceppe has called Harper a liar to score points, I think he simply believes that some of the things Harper has said about what happened in 2004 are lies.

        Also, “they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008”??? Yeah, I remember that, it was chaos, utter chaos.

        The worst part was the zombies.

      • "Perhaps, though, they're ok with the questions to Harper about the 2004 agreement hanging out there. "

        Well if today's performance is any indication, Harper is scared of the question. Why else would his guardians announce only one more question, then toss it some potted plant to ask a lame hockey question?

        • That was interesting, wasn't it? It wasn't as cringe-inducing as Ignatieff's fumbling of the coalition question on Friday, but it was a rare peek at a peevish and unprepared Harper. This election becomes much more interesting if the CPC's core message of fear and brinkmanship is eroded by a public perception of hypocrisy.

          • There's quite a bit of material to work with if hypocrisy becomes the issue.

          • We'll have to see what happens, but if Harper doesn't turn this around in a hurry it's going to really hurt him. Now that the press is asking hard questions, I think he's going to have to drop the whole coalition thing. It just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

      • You may want to remember what actually threw the country into "chaos" (chaos being defined as hyperactive media coverage, I guess) was Mr. Harper suggesting that such a coalition was an illegitimate, illegal, coup, and his going to the Governor General to prorogue so as to prevent the elected members of the opposition from being able to vote on a confidence matter.

  10. Isn`t the other big difference on point 4 which is being glossed over the fact that that the 2008 agreement was perfectly clear, in writing, and the parameters of it were announced on national T.V. for all to see, whereas the 2004 letter was more vague, though still highly suggestive of a coalition agreement with Bloc support, and all of the discussions around what it really meant were held in secret meetings in hotel rooms.

    Also, on point 5, I don`t disagree that partisan interests were high on the agenda, but I do think that one could argue that wiping out the NDP and the Liberal Party and leaving the decentralizing Tories and separatist Bloc standing to fight out how quickly to break the country into 10 different countries might not have been great for national unity. After all, the Prime Minister who was recommending that we devastate the other two federalist parties in the House of Commons is the same PM who once said “Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion“, so I`m not sure I trust him fully to defend national unity all on his own. To me, national unity is about more than keeping Quebec in Canada. To me, it actually matters whether Canada ends up as one national government, or two, or ten.

  11. and killing pay equity.

  12. Isn`t the other big difference on point 4 which is being glossed over the fact that that the 2008 agreement was perfectly clear, in writing, and the parameters of it were announced on national T.V. for all to see, whereas the 2004 letter was more vague, though still highly suggestive of a coalition agreement with Bloc support, and all of the discussions around what it really meant were held in secret meetings in hotel rooms.

    Also, on point 5, I don`t disagree that partisan interests were high on the agenda, but I do think that one could argue that wiping out the NDP and the Liberal Party and leaving the decentralizing Tories and separatist Bloc standing to fight out how quickly to break the country into 10 different countries might not have been great for national unity. After all, the Prime Minister who was recommending that we devastate the other two federalist parties in the House of Commons is the same PM who once said “Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion“, so I`m not sure I trust him fully to defend national unity all on his own. To me, national unity is about more than keeping Quebec in Canada. To me, it actually matters whether Canada ends up as one national government, or two, or ten.

    • Why do you hate the troops, LKO?

      • I don`t hate the troops, I hate the idea of them one day no longer being troops in the CANADIAN Forces.

        (ETA: Of course, I realize your reply was a joke).

    • The leader of the liberals couldn't care less about your point, LKO.

      • Maybe not. I wasn`t really addressing them to him anyway though.

    • One other huge difference between 2004 and 2008 that has been completely glossed over:

      The opposition parties then didn't for a moment talking about toppling the government with their agreement. They were responding to the possibility that Martin might call a snap election only a couple of months after winning the 2004 election in an effort to capitalize on the Conservatives' dying momentum at the end of the campaign, and attempt to reclaim his majority. Never once did they suggest they would vote non confidence in the government and attempt to take over; only that an election didn't have to be the only response to a request to dissolve Parliament.

      • The opposition parties then didn't for a moment talk about toppling the government with their agreement.

        Not in public they didn`t.

    • I feel safe because now that he’s governing Canada it’s a great big deal to Harper that he gets to continue governing all of it. Personally I think he has been the best thing for national unity in a long time because his decentralized philosophy jives so well with Quebeckers who feel like they’ll always be very distinct and very much a minority in the country and nacent western grumbling too. But I do worry that people will feel like the national government is fading away. I’d really like to see some kind of national cultural project from the Cons but I doubt they’ll come up with anything themselves.

      By the way what was it that Harper thought was more important than Canada remaining as one federal government? I feel like I should know…

      • By the way what was it that Harper thought was more important than Canada remaining as one federal government? I feel like I should know…

        His point I believe was about the welfare of the people living in Canada. i.e. That in some ways it really doesn`t matter if we`re one country, or two countries or ten countries so long as the people are in charge, and free, and that the people and the land that we currently call Canada continue to prosper. That the continuation of the unified nation-state known as Canada was a secondary consideration. He concluded with: “Whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be“. It`s not even a crazy argument either, but I find it ironic in that it`s basically the same argument that the Bloc and PQ make (except for the smaller government bit I suppose) in that their belief is that the unity of the nation we call Canada is secondary, and if the people can remain free and prosper under some other arrangement than a united Canada, then that`s just fine and we shouldn`t fear that. That a guy who once said that “the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country“ (emphasis mine) wasn`t really important in the big scheme of things is now beating people over the head with fear of the separatist threat boggles the mind.

    • "I do think that one could argue that wiping out the NDP and the Liberal Party and leaving the decentralizing Tories and separatist Bloc standing "

      Two years ago, the NDP raised more money from donors/members than the Liberals, although that's changed somewhat. The Bloc would be broke (currently the PQ does heavy lifting for fundraising in Quebec and the Bloc relies on the subsidies). The Liberals wouldn't necessarily be broke, but they'd be hurting.
      link here http://www.thehilltimes.ca/dailyupdate/view/63
      "In 2010 five parties received $27.4-million from the per vote subsidies. The Conservatives received $10.4-million; the Liberals received $7.3-million; the NDP received $5.0-million ; the Bloc Québécois received $2.8-million; and the Green Party received $1.9-million…

      …The Elections Canada's website indicates that in 2009 (the latest full year available), the Bloc Québécois raised $834,762; the Conservatives raised $17,770,477, the Greens raised $1,166,874 ; the Liberals raised $10,120,312 and the NDP raised $4,039,104 (The Hill Times, March 29, 2010).The total equals $33.94-million."

  13. The distinctions are relevant when the CPC needs them to be and irrelevant when they are not. Didn't you get Harper's memo?

    If you need a definitive difference, the CPC arrangementt left the Bloc in a far stronger negotiating position.

  14. Can anyone imagine a CPC minority gov't supported by the NDP and Bloc lasting a long time? At most, it would last just under a year … there's no way such an arrangement could've survived a Budget-making process. So the CPC would've called for elections in short order if that agreement was ever activated.

    Have to wonder about the readiness of the Tory war room though … normally they would have all the info, all the transcripts from that press conference, and any related info, all ready to go in short order. Unless I'm missing something, they haven't put that out there yet.

    Perhaps, though, they're ok with the questions to Harper about the 2004 agreement hanging out there. They're probably thinking that no one is going to change their support from Harper to Ignatieff b/c of this, and that it keeps the whole coalition issue front and centre in the campaign. Both Duceppe and Layton doth protest too much. Voters will most likely disregard the 2004 letter, b/c in the end nothing ever did come of it, whereas they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008.

  15. the second one was a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties.

    I'm shocked, Colby! Shocked, I tell you!

    The opposition politicians specifically stated at the time that the agreement had NOTHING TO DO with the proposed reform of political party financing in Flaherty's "Eff-You" FU. Are you suggesting they are not to be believed?

  16. the second one was a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties.

    I'm shocked, Colby! Shocked, I tell you!

    The opposition politicians specifically stated at the time that the agreement had NOTHING TO DO with the proposed reform of political party financing in Flaherty's "Eff-You" FU. Are you suggesting they are not to be believed?

    • Hysterical defensive response, or a measured response to an undemocratic attempt to buy power?

    • And the threat itself was all about protecting the Canadian taxpayer, and had nothing to do with a scorched-earth policy of attempting to destroy the other political parties before the next election?

      Now that's hysterical, in the colloquial sense at least.

      • Apparently it didn't have anything to do with the evil destruction of democracy as we know it (patent pending on preceding phrase), since the parties went to great lengths to point out that this proposal had nothing, repeat nothing, did-you-hear-me-I-said-NOTHING to do with their opposition to every other terrible detail in the FU-FU.

        • And what was the wording of the justification for the idea in the first place?

          • FU

  17. So far, we've seen Jack Layton's written description of the secret hotel room meetings and Duceppe has given a bit of detail. Harper — not so much. If we get into this, we'll need to get the details from Harper to compare the various versions.

    On public subsidy of political parties, my understanding is that the Conservatives wanted to keep the hefty tax credits for donors and only eliminate the per vote subsidy. Is that correct?

  18. So far, we've seen Jack Layton's written description of the secret hotel room meetings and Duceppe has given a bit of detail. Harper — not so much. If we get into this, we'll need to get the details from Harper to compare the various versions.

    On public subsidy of political parties, my understanding is that the Conservatives wanted to keep the hefty tax credits for donors and only eliminate the per vote subsidy. Is that correct?

    • That's my understanding too. But, of course, it was still more than enough to stampede the Liberals.

      • Harper tried to buy power and the opposition parties stopped him.

        • Harper tried to "buy power", by cutting off funding for political parties? That doesn't even make sense.

          • It makes more sense when you remember that it was about cutting off funding for political parties when his main opponent was bankrupt and he was sitting on a huge war chest of cash.

          • Isn't that kind of like "buying" a house by not giving money to the homeless guy on the corner?

          • No. It's more like ensuring the homeless guy on the street stays homeless for a long long time. Meanwhile you're the king of the castle. Of course it wasn't Harper's fault the libs were dolts at fund raising…so you could take some comfort in that, it you were so inclined.

          • I'd say it's more like buying a house after ensuring that the other major bidder for the house gets his income cut in half ahead of the sale.

            Mind you I don't exactly agree with Reverend Blair's characterization that Harper tried to "buy power", that's a pretty big overstatement of what happened, imho. He did try to change Canada's election laws without consultation in a way that would benefit his party and severely hurt all the others though, and imho, that's bad enough.

    • Just assume Harper will say whatever is convenient at a particular moment, and may change what he says at any given moment.

      In all seriousness, the guy least likely to keep a promise here is Harper. Iggy has backtracked on stuff most definitely, but Harper seems to derive glee from looking the country in the eyes and telling whopping fibs.

  19. I think Cosh is right about point 4. The coalition was formed as an attempt to preserve the parties' access to taxpayer money. It's the free money that is the issue.

    It's similar to the US, where they claim the issue in Wisconsin and elsewhere with unions is worker's bargaining rights. That's simply not true. The reality is that the unions want to maintain their access to workers' money, which they use with great effect to influence elections. It's the free money that is the issue. It's the election influence that ultimately delivers the goods to the public unions, not the bargaining rights.

  20. I think Cosh is right about point 4. The coalition was formed as an attempt to preserve the parties' access to taxpayer money. It's the free money that is the issue.

    It's similar to the US, where they claim the issue in Wisconsin and elsewhere with unions is worker's bargaining rights. That's simply not true. The reality is that the unions want to maintain their access to workers' money, which they use with great effect to influence elections. It's the free money that is the issue. It's the election influence that ultimately delivers the goods to the public unions, not the bargaining rights.

    • Good for you for knowing what the leaders of Canadian political parties and those rich, fat-cat US unionists really want.

      I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that the US and Canadian business communities have no interest in free money, or we'd end up living in one hell of an economically predatory society.

      • Wait, are you saying that you believe scf's "they're all out for themselves" is a unique position held only by him and completely ignored by the parties in queston?

      • "Good for you for knowing what…"
        I read s_f_c to say "I think", as in an opinion. Might not be yours, but chill out.

        • He thought about Cosh's point.
          He didn't think at all about the rest.

  21. That's my understanding too. But, of course, it was still more than enough to stampede the Liberals.

  22. Why do you hate the troops, LKO?

  23. Just assume Harper will say whatever is convenient at a particular moment, and may change what he says at any given moment.

    In all seriousness, the guy least likely to keep a promise here is Harper. Iggy has backtracked on stuff most definitely, but Harper seems to derive glee from looking the country in the eyes and telling whopping fibs.

  24. I'm surprised there's been so much about the 2004 letter from Harper/Duceppe/Layton. After all, it was 7 years ago and has almost no bearing on anything today. The truth is, the leftist media (hello TO Star, G&M, CBC) is trotting out the story repeatedly in order to provide cover for the opposition parties to have popular support for a coalition today. Once again, the media is trying to set the narrative (this time by talking about the past), rather than reporting the news as it happens, and keeping their opinions to themselves.

  25. Thanks–I tried to work that in a couple of times, but couldn't get it to flow without sounding like a woman whining about it.

  26. I'm surprised there's been so much about the 2004 letter from Harper/Duceppe/Layton. After all, it was 7 years ago and has almost no bearing on anything today. The truth is, the leftist media (hello TO Star, G&M, CBC) is trotting out the story repeatedly in order to provide cover for the opposition parties to have popular support for a coalition today. Once again, the media is trying to set the narrative (this time by talking about the past), rather than reporting the news as it happens, and keeping their opinions to themselves.

    • You think?
      :)

    • "After all, it was 7 years ago and has almost no bearing on anything today."

      Well, thank heavens we agree on the relevance of the sponsorship scandal.

      • You seem to be having trouble following the conversation.

        • I don't think so.

          If the sponsorship scandal is still relevant (but Harper's actions in 2004 are not), perhaps you could explain why.

          • The obvious difference is that one works to the advantage of the CPC, the other to the detriment of hte Liberals. duh.

          • Or
            The obvious difference is that one works to the advantage of the LPC, the other to the detriment of the Conservatives. duh.

          • Wait.. calling for equal treatment of both circumstance is because it works to the disadvantage of the CPC?

            So you're flat out admitting that if we look at things fairly, it's bad for the CPC?

          • How's about that one deals with an event that has been categorically denied as being anything like a coalition by both Layton and Dueceppe and the other is about the theft of millions of dollars. Good try!! The Liberals stole the money and have yet to return it. They're thieves and thugs that have the support of the MSM to cover for their criminal ways..

        • Still waiting for that explanation…

          • The sponsorship scandal isn't relevant in this election. The the Liberal's are talking about Harper's letter to the GG in 2004. And that letter was basically a response to the sponsorship scandal. It's the Liberals who are bringing up the sponsorship scandal, not the Conservative's. It seems to me that the CPC is more than willing to fight this election over Mr. Ignatieff's hidden agenda than resurrecting any Sponsorship Scandal boogymen.

  27. "The wonks and nerds are being insincere; they know perfectly well how terrified Liberal strategists were, and are, of being cut off from the trough."

    That's why I read Colby – for his crisp, scrupulously fair analysis.

    "But if the punditariat is prepared to plunge the political context of the '08 coalition into oblivion, it cannot very well blame the Conservatives for trying to talk past it."

    Speaking of plunging the political context of '08 into oblivion, you fail to mention the existential threat posed to two of four federal parties by the party financing changes, or that the only national party that would definitely survive was the governing party. Seems relevant.

    Also – which pundits, exactly, are trying to plunge that context into oblivion? All I see is a press corps finally asking two key questions: 1) Is it accurate for the Prime Minister to claim that a coalition is lying in wait today? 2) How can the PM candidate so stridently against a coalition when he seemed at least open to the concept himself in 2004?

  28. "The wonks and nerds are being insincere; they know perfectly well how terrified Liberal strategists were, and are, of being cut off from the trough."

    That's why I read Colby – for his crisp, scrupulously fair analysis.

    "But if the punditariat is prepared to plunge the political context of the '08 coalition into oblivion, it cannot very well blame the Conservatives for trying to talk past it."

    Speaking of plunging the political context of '08 into oblivion, you fail to mention the existential threat posed to two of four federal parties by the party financing changes, or that the only national party that would definitely survive was the governing party. Seems relevant.

    Also – which pundits, exactly, are trying to plunge that context into oblivion? All I see is a press corps finally asking two key questions: 1) Is it accurate for the Prime Minister to claim that a coalition is lying in wait today? 2) How can the PM candidate so stridently against a coalition when he seemed at least open to the concept himself in 2004?

    • "Speaking of plunging the political context of '08 into oblivion, you fail to mention the existential threat posed to two of four federal parties by the party financing changes, or that the only national party that would definitely survive was the governing party. Seems relevant." I think the threat is overstated, myself, but the Liberals don't–which is why I wrote that first sentence you apparently don't like the sound of.

      • I think you make a reasonable point about the severity of the threat, but you do seem to have cherry-picked the context included in this piece. And plunged the rest into oblivion, I guess you would say.

        As for my last paragraph – I've been watching for the entire, grueling duration of this election and I think my assessment is more accurate than yours. Rather than a failure of the media on this topic, I think we're witnessing a media that's doing its job better than it has in the last few federal elections. Perhaps you could help me understand where the media is burying the context of 2008.

        • My complaint is that the real reason the coalition formed isn't being mentioned (though I could just be reading and listening to the wrong material–hey, it's been a long campaign). It should be mentioned, not because it makes the Liberals (or the Conservatives, if you approved of the coalition) look bad, but because it's impossible to make tactical sense of Harper's obsession with the subject without that context.

          • My complaint is that the Conservative attempt to kill the per-vote subsidy was nothing but a partisan attack and, worse yet, was a blatant attempt to try to buy their way into permanent power. It was inherently anti-democratic and bit of the myopic politicking that is harmful to this country in the long run. It was the action of a gang of petty thugs, not a party that should be ruling a country.

          • That's a view that's not inconsistent with my complaint.

          • You really painted it just as Liberals being cut off from their funding though. I believe you said “cut off from the trough.” There was a lot more to it than that. This really goes back to Harper's lawsuit over third party advertising. It's also very much in line with Republican strategy in the US, and it's no secret that Republicans and Conservatives share some strategy. Harper feels he should be able to buy elections.To me that trumps whether it cut into any party's funding. Harper's proposed cuts were a direct assault on our democracy. He needed to be stopped.

          • Well, OK. It is not the point of the piece above to argue against the view that Harper's campaign-finance cuts were an unconscionable attack on our most priceless democratic traditions (est. 2003). The opposition is free to make the argument you're making, and we both know that for better or worse (aside from perhaps the BQ), they won't dare.

          • Shouldn't the press be making that argument though? Not necessarily you, but I haven't seen anybody in the press stand up and honestly make the argument, yet it would seem to be exactly the kind of thing the press should be pointing out, especially because the opposition can't make that point for political reasons.I bring it up because I keep noticing this kind of snarky tone about this…how the opposition was only saving its own butt etc….but the larger issue is never discussed.

          • "I bring it up because I keep noticing this kind of snarky tone about this…how the opposition was only saving its own butt etc….but the larger issue is never discussed. "

            Exactly. Almost as though Cosh had plunged much of the context into oblivion, just like he accused the press of doing in his own piece.

          • Well, you're correct in that at least. After all, it seems the point of the piece is really to paint the Liberals, and only the Liberals, as a party seeking public financing over anything else.

            Of course, as we both know, the party that receives the *most* public financing, whether with, or with-out the per-vote subsidy, is the CPC with the subsidy making donations to them worth more than that donated to Japan or Haiti or causes that make people's lives significantly better.

            But that doesn't fit in with the point either.

          • *My complaint is that the Conservative attempt to kill the per-vote subsidy was nothing but a partisan attack*

            Imagine, political parties acting in a partisan fashion!!! the outrage!!!

            *and, worse yet, was a blatant attempt to try to buy their way into permanent power. It was inherently anti-democratic and bit of the myopic politicking that is harmful to this country in the long run. It was the action of a gang of petty thugs, not a party that should be ruling a country.*

            If the Tories, by eliminating the per-vote subsidy, were to acquire `permanent power', it is because they actually have the monetary support of many more voters than do the other parties combined… of course, hopefully the subsidy will indeed be elmininated, and then the Libs and NDP will have to come up with policies that will, you know, encourage voters to donate to them.

            It's that simple, and that democratic.

          • Money is neither speech nor democracy.

          • True, but it`s still TOTALLY AWESOME.

          • Hint: The per-vote subsidy requires they come up with policies that encourage voters to.. you know.. *vote* for them. That sounds more important to me.

            Of course, the CPC concentrates on the donations because it's a lot more subsidized.

            If your concern is subsidies.. take away the donation subsidy first. It costs more and is less democratic to boot.

          • So like Stephen Harper, you are angry your version of the facts isn't being strictly adhered to?

          • I dunno, do you have a specific problem with "my version" of the facts?

          • Uh, ok – I think my point below includes some critical context about the proposed elimination of per-vote subsidies, without which no voter can really understand the factors at play.

            But if you're looking to make "tactical" sense of Harper's rhetoric, it might make more sense if you hear what was presented to the focus groups by John Baird for testing:

            "AH BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA! BAAAAD MAN! KILL YOUR CHILDREN, RAISE YOUR TAXES! WEIRD AMERICAN, PERMANANENT TAX ON EVERYTHING, STEPHAN DION'S GHOST WILL HAUNT YOUR SOOOOOUUUULLLLL!!!!"

            It's pathetic. Even George W. Bush had the sense to leave the really shameless rhetoric to his underlings and flacks.

          • It's quite possible.

            He's no genius.

      • <i<"I think the threat is overstated, myself.."

        On the severity of the threat: if somebody proposed to limit me to 1200 calories/day, I might just be freaked out enough to portray that as an existential threat, even though technically I could survive and over time learn to forage and hunt to supplement my dietary intake.

        In the meantime, it would cripple my ability to defend myself.

        For Harper to propose the elimination of the party subsidy (with minimal notice) was a blatant attempt to cripple his opposition. It's undemocratic to change the system for partisan advantage and it was shocking of Harper to attack it considering:

        "The most troubling aspect of the proposed elimination of the public financing of political parties is that Harper and his Reform party sanctioned a “constitutional trade-off” to allow public financing that dates back to their own days in opposition under the Chrétien government.

        The trade-off was the elimination of key sources of existing funding to the other main parties — corporate funding for the Liberals and trade union contributions for the NDP…

        The greatest beneficiary of the “constitutional trade-off” was the Reform/Alliance, and later the merged Conservative party, which had the strongest individual contributions base.

        Knowing they were the primary beneficiaries, Harper and his opposition members strongly supported what is a very fragile balancing act under our system of guaranteed rights and freedoms."
        http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/a

        Maybe there's a better analogy: Harper tried to stab his opponents in the back, and here you are arguing that it wouldn't have been a fatal wound.

        • Well, I can't object to that retort. I really don't believe it would have been a fatal wound. The influence of money on politics is overestimated, for very natural reasons, by people with political jobs that involve shovelling out money. The actual evidence is that monetary advantages, even profound ones, don't necessarily cut much ice; I spent some time in California in October and November learning this first-hand.

          • Again, totally reasonable to argue that money's influence on politics is overstated. I happen to disagree, but that's not really the key point here.

            I think the key point is that we have a Prime Minister who attempted to change Canada's political system in a way that would badly hurt his opposition. Considering the governing party has been found in contempt of Parliament for a bunch of other undemocratic moves, the true context of 2008 simply has to include Harper's stab-in-the-back that precipitated the crisis.

            I'd rather have a bumbling an inept coalition than a Prime Minister who displays such disregard for the structures, rules and conventions that form our democracy.

          • *I think the key point is that we have a Prime Minister who attempted to change Canada's political system in a way that would badly hurt his opposition.*

            Of course, the move was to reinforce democracy, by cutting off forced public subsidies of parties that have, thus, no worry about actually attracting donors by having policies that will encourage donations – as the Tories do, in amounts enough to beat the rest of the parties in turn.

            That is what the other parties were afraid of – actually having policies that would encourage enough people to donate. Couldn't have that now could we.

            Hopefully, the public subsidy will be the first thing to go if and when the CPC gets a majority

          • Is it really wrong of me to not want our political parties making policy decisions based on what will attract donations to their party?

            I much preferred when I was a citizen in a nation. Being a shareholder in a company seems, I don`t know, less somehow.

          • Cut that out now LKO…don't go all bolshie on us man.:) Look on the bright side. You could allways sell your share and move somewhere more salubrious.

          • I don't really want to sell my shares though. I'm SUPER attached to this company (I mean, country).

            The current management team does drive me a bit nuts though.

          • I don't think the influence is over-estimated at all. If the NDP, Bloc and Liberals all could have afforded to run 6000 ads since January, would Harper still be leading in the polls? You can make the argument that advertising doesn't work, I guess, but pretty much everybody in the media and advertising business would disagree with you.

            If Harper did succeed in financially crippling the opposition, it would have left him with no real opposition for several years. That is inherently undemocratic.

          • What's more he pulled the proposal out of his ass…didn't campaign on it at all.

          • Now, now, you should have known that it was part of their agenda.

            Don't complain now just because they kept it hidden.

          • If advertising didn't work, you wouldn't be getting paid for this stuff.

          • Not true. All that's necessary is that businesses THINK advertising works. That would tell us nothing, necessarily, about whether (a) it does work or (b) political advertising is equally effective.

  29. You think?
    :)

  30. "The biggest difference of all between the “coalitions” of '04 and '08, of course, is that the second one was a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties. "

    Um, er, yeah. I seem to recall that back in '08 there was also an issue with Harper calling what many (including the opposition) saw as an illegitimate election in direct violation of his Government's own fixed election date law, passed only the year before. Indeed, Harper called the GG having NOT lost a confidence vote, thus the opposition parties presented the GG with an alternative, making the '04 and '08 letters quite similar in that they both "merely expressed a common desire to be consulted before a dismissal of Parliament" as you put it.

    The coalition had more than public funding on their minds at the time.

  31. "The biggest difference of all between the “coalitions” of '04 and '08, of course, is that the second one was a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties. "

    Um, er, yeah. I seem to recall that back in '08 there was also an issue with Harper calling what many (including the opposition) saw as an illegitimate election in direct violation of his Government's own fixed election date law, passed only the year before. Indeed, Harper called the GG having NOT lost a confidence vote, thus the opposition parties presented the GG with an alternative, making the '04 and '08 letters quite similar in that they both "merely expressed a common desire to be consulted before a dismissal of Parliament" as you put it.

    The coalition had more than public funding on their minds at the time.

    • (1) We're talking about the Liberals here; Harper's "coalition" talk isn't aimed at the NDP, because the NDP has said all along that it is happy to work with anybody on its terms. (2) Your belief about how important the public funding is to the Liberals (if you mean to suggest it's not very important to them) is very, very, very mistaken. (3) The public certainly did not vote as though they were angry with the Conservatives and in agreement with the Liberals about whether the election was "legitimate". Surely it's public sentiment that defines "legitimacy" here; you don't mean that the election was crooked or unconstitutional, I trust.

      • Public sentiment is for the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana too, Colby. Does that mean Harper's anti-pot laws are illegitimate?

        More to the point though, you have to admit that Harper used some really hysterical and dishonest rhetoric about the coalition to whip up that sentiment. There was no calm discussion, just Conservatives screaming about coups and how the separatists would be in charge, even though that clearly wasn't the case.

        • What's more it appears Harper was reported to be ready to throw in the towel in 08 and had to be threatened/persuaded that his job was on the line if he didn't fight[ see Wells/Geddes] Not a very convincing portrait of a guy who was all that worried about legitimacy; that is until he was prodded to, or face the loss of the party.
          Everything about Harper screams crass oportunist. And in a profession where it's the rule rather than the exception, that's really quite an accomplishment.

      • Your reply contains responses to positions I did not take in my comment (and do not hold, if it matters). I did not belittle the importance of Federal funding to the Liberals, for instance. I rather took issue with your singular oversimplification of the '08 coalition and point to the fact that there was more afoot in the 2008 election and in the proposed coalition than "a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties".

        In addition to public funding and the legitimacy of the snap election (which was most certainly a topic of discussion at the time, if not a prime mover of voting behaviour), there was the global credit meltdown, the feeble fiscal forecasting of the Finance Minister (pardon the consonance) and the fall economic update. There was also a misguided sentiment by at least three parties that so-called green issues would invigorate the electorate.

        As for this being about the Liberals and not an NDP of easy virtue, I'll point out that the Conservatives, too, have never shown a reluctance to obtain support from whichever party it can.

        I'm also not sure I agree with you that public sentiment, which is frequently mercurial, equates with legitimacy.

  32. "After all, it was 7 years ago and has almost no bearing on anything today."

    Well, thank heavens we agree on the relevance of the sponsorship scandal.

  33. I have to say, we're now in the second day of this campaign, and the topic du jour is still coalition. Harper critics, including those in the media, seem to think they have him on the ropes over that frequently misrepresented letter from 2004. I think all it does is keep the issue hot, and that will only help Harper. Nobody thinks he's going to form a coalition after this next election. The only threat of a coalition will come from those who most certainly tried it the last time around.

  34. I have to say, we're now in the second day of this campaign, and the topic du jour is still coalition. Harper critics, including those in the media, seem to think they have him on the ropes over that frequently misrepresented letter from 2004. I think all it does is keep the issue hot, and that will only help Harper. Nobody thinks he's going to form a coalition after this next election. The only threat of a coalition will come from those who most certainly tried it the last time around.

    • Oh, and so much for the idea that that nonsensical contempt charge against Harper was going to dominate the campaign from the outset. The budget dominated the news of the week. The contempt charge came on a Friday afternoon, shortly after which Iggy made coalition the continuing topic everyone keeps talking about. As they say with military plans, they usually get thrown out the second that a war starts, don't they.

      • It wasn't nonsensical. Harper broke the rules…acted like he was above them. He was found in contempt. So much for Conservative claims of law and order.

        • If it was nearly as important as you say, then why is nobody talking about it now? The only people who seem to think it made any sense are the ones who desperately used is as an excuse to have an election nobody else thinks we need. And this idea that we have to have this election to have democracy in Canada makes about as much sense as the contempt charge does to most people. This stuff ain't flying. Sorry.

          • What do mean nobody is talking about it? All three opposition parties are. It's appeared in the press coverage. That's in spite of Harper's dishonest coalition rhetoric being the main topic.

            The idea is that elections like we are having right now are part of our democracy. Harper lost the confidence of the House, so we're having an election. That is our democracy. It works whether the economy is good or bad, whether we are at war or not, whether there is a natural disaster or not. Suggestions that we shouldn't practice democracy because of other things going on are spurious and misleading.

          • You're more than welcome to show me media reports focusing on those silly contempt charges.

            And why accuse Harper of dishonest coalition rhetoric? In fact, you're saying he can't speak the truth. Why? If we have a minority Conservative government, why wont' the coalition try it again. They did it before,and lied about it, they'd do it again? Why is it not allowed to say this?

            Regarding democracy, it's ludicrous to suggest that the calling of frivilous elections is needed to practice democracy in this country. Harper could have served his full four year term, and democracy will have been no worse off – despite the hysteria coming from the opposition benches and people like you.

          • somehow i doubt you were saying that when Harper broke is fixed election rule in 08; and in the middle [or start?] of the worst recession in a generation.

    • I think it's the liar and hypocrite labels that can hurt Harper.

      • Those who hate him already call him those things. Unfortunately for you, most Canadians don't. Indeed, polls seem to confirm that, too. Despite all the attacks and accusations against him, he still scores highest on trust and integrity – far higher than Iggy, in fact. That's gotta hurt for people who have worked so long and hard to smear the prime minister at every opportunity.

        • That's gotta hurt for people who have worked so long and hard to smear the prime minister at every opportunity. "

          This is what I don't get: today on cross country check up I heard, once again, that the Tories attack ads really managed to define Ignatieff.

          But for years, years, and even today, we read about Harper being secretive, being 'nasty' , "mean', and we actually hear this coming from the media! Is that not more dangerous than attack ads? It seems to me that the drip, drip, drip tactics are the real attack ads, because no one can really point them out and therefore the 'doers' cannot be held unaccountable.

          Doesn't the media understand how corrosive this can be, in fact, much more corrosive than attack ads, yet, no one talks about it.

          • Ah, but they DO understand, which is why they continue IMHO.

          • Do you understand the concept of cause and effect at all? The cause- attack ads; the effect – Harper is mean and nasty. In fact it all started well before that. Labelling Martin as approving of pedaphellia, Cadman and sueing the leader of the opposition[ first time in Canada i believe]…the list is too long and boring to continue. Has Harper suffered unjustified personal attacks?…most certainly. You'd think an upright Christian man like him would have learnt something?

    • I suppose that the coalition members feel obligated to talk about it in an attempt to try to nip it in the bud. But that's just not going to work, primarily because nobody believes a Harper coalition is an issue in this election. It's just not on the ballot. So, again, I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish. To me, it just shows how little they had going into this election in the first place. Should be fun.

      • I believe you're right. What I hear mostly is that there was no need for an election and that the budget was good under the economic circumstances. People wanna move on with their lives. And a majority government is what they want to let this rest of a while.

      • What you, with blatant and admirably unabashed dishonesty, call the "coalition members" — they aren't talking about the Harper document because they or anyone else seriously expects Harper to form a coalition after the next election. They are talking about it because it's the most convenient, sound-bitey example of the equally unabashed hypocrisy of Harper, his party, and his supporters, in claiming that it's apples and oranges, that somehow "Harper didn't mean it, so it was permissible for him".

        If you don't like it, contact CPC headquarters and tell them that as a CPC supporter, you're disappointed in your party's pathological focus on this coalition boogeyman at the expense of discussion of real issues.

        • I'm sorry, but you just don't make any serious points. As seems to be common with Harper haters on here, you viciously attack anything he does. What's so dishonest about the term "coalition members?" You don't like it? Well isn't that too bad. Why isn't it an issue, especially since they tried it the last time, and Iggy himself raised in on the first day. You know, there are place in this world where only leftists can have a say and rule. China and Cuba are two examples. You're more than welcome to go there if that's how you want it, right? Meanwhile, here in Canada, the other side gets to speak and, so far, they're by far the most popular option among Canadians. I know its hard to live with for people like you, but freedom can be hard for some, I know.

          • "They are talking about it because it's the most convenient, sound-bitey example of the equally unabashed hypocrisy of Harper…."

            Perhaps you could respond to this serious point.

          • Even if that was true, and it's not, what does talking about it accomplish? We know the opposition resents Harper for being so successful. We know they level every accusation against the guy that they can think of. What does that have to do with talking about coalition over and over again? Again, I think that plays right into Harper's hands.

            Harper's opposition has this peculiar tendency of not being able to look beyond the latest knee-jerk reaction to anything that Harper does. Maybe that explains why the only way they can try to get power is with unelected coalitions.

          • That's an interesting point of view. From my point of view, we've seen a well-prepared Conservative campaign that leans heavily on reminding voters of an unpopular 2008 coalition attempt. We've also seen some pressing questions from the press about Harper's apparent openness to the same sort of coalition in 2004.

            Harper is committed – the coalition is clearly the cornerstone of his campaign, and he's hitting it hard. This is not a policy debate, it's not possible to disagree on substance, it's pure demagoguery. If the public starts to see it as hypocritical or as fearmongering, it will reflect badly on Harper. If he has to drop the coalition topic, that will reflect a serious misstep on his part and will dominate at least a day's headlines.

            Come to think of it, it's very much in line with his past missteps – decide on a strategy, get too aggressive and overplay it. I guess all those stories about Harper's seasoning and maturity were premature…

          • This is not a policy debate, it's not possible to disagree on substance, it's pure demagoguery.

            If it's so lacking in substance, why did Iggy feel compelled to talk about it on the very first day? I don't understand your greatly exaggerated accusations. How isn't the makeup of the next Parliament a central question for voters? Do you want more of the partisan games that we've seen, including a coalition attempt, or do you want a more stabler Conservative majority? Why is this not valid to you? I suspect it will be to voters.

            Come to think of it, it's very much in line with his past missteps – decide on a strategy, get too aggressive and overplay it. I guess all those stories about Harper's seasoning and maturity were premature…

            Yeah, and I guess that's why he's dominated a minority Parliament for the past five years; all those "missteps." lol

            When Iggy inserted himself into the leadership of the Liberal party, he said he wouldn't engage in this knee-jerk underestimation of Harper. Yet, all this time later, and it's rampant. Amazing.

          • Uuuh, sure. You haven't addressed anything I actually wrote, but keep changing that topic.

          • lol, I even cut and pasted your major points and addressed them directly. Your response suggests to me what I've been saying all along, that the attacks and accusations against the Conservative government have been a bunch of hyped up nonsense. Thank you.

          • Swing and a miss.

            The key point in my post was actually (obviously): "Harper is committed – the coalition is clearly the cornerstone of his campaign, and he's hitting it hard… If the public starts to see it as hypocritical or as fearmongering, it will reflect badly on Harper."

            Feel free to distort that into whatever best serves your foregone conclusion.

          • I gave a longer reply to this post, but it was deleted by the moderator upon sending it. So I'll keep this shorter. You can declare yourself a winner of debates all you want, and tell me what to and what not to focus on all you want. Seems rather dictatorial. Nevertheless, as I've already said, more talk of coalition only helps Harper. He's not being hypocritical because the 2004 letter was in no way a coalition agreement. It's not fear-mongering because they actually did try to grab power with an unelected coalition. You may not like these facts, but it doesn't mean they're not completely valid and legitimate. Thank you. And, moderator, please hold back on the censorship!

          • "You didn't address my point" is not the same as declaring myself the winner.

            And again, you didn't address my point. If you'd like to try again, start by reading the whole italicized quote again.

          • Keep dodging. Burns calories.

          • You post this one-line knee-jerk nonsense, and I'm the one accused of "dodging." Like I keep saying, some people have a lot of gall on these boards. A lot of gall. One anonymous nut even comes on here, signs on with the name "gall" and continues with the knee-jerk nonsense. I guess it's kind of entertaining, a bit.

        • I am watching Harper in Brampton and he is over and over again, referring to to the opposition as the coalition. If he wants to move on, he needs to put down the gas can.

    • Dennis is correct.

      • He's closer to the mark than he usually is, maybe. It does seem the other parties are probably getting a more fair shake than ever on the coalition issue – expect Duceppe to be eating harper's credibility for breakfast. But maybe all it will do is reinforce the negative opinion created by Harper.

        Who can say?

        • Duceppe viciously calling Harper a liar is an example of "eating Harper's credibility for breakfast, is it?" Mind you, people like you usually call for "civility" in politics, then turn around and applaud this kind of nonsense from a person who wants to break up the country. Terrific.

  35. Oh, and so much for the idea that that nonsensical contempt charge against Harper was going to dominate the campaign from the outset. The budget dominated the news of the week. The contempt charge came on a Friday afternoon, shortly after which Iggy made coalition the continuing topic everyone keeps talking about. As they say with military plans, they usually get thrown out the second that a war starts, don't they.

  36. You seem to be having trouble following the conversation.

  37. I think it's the liar and hypocrite labels that can hurt Harper.

  38. I'm loving the election so far. All about who is in a secret alliance with who else. It's better than Big Brother!

  39. I'm loving the election so far. All about who is in a secret alliance with who else. It's better than Big Brother!

    • Just to be clear, the 2008 scenario wasn`t exactly secret. The letters weren`t vague, and the agreement was explained in a meeting that was filmed for national television, not private meetings between the leaders in hotel rooms.

      • Facts, schmacts.

      • Quite correct and the legally binding document that was drafted is still in effect and is still legally binding on Iggy & Layton.

  40. I don't think so.

    If the sponsorship scandal is still relevant (but Harper's actions in 2004 are not), perhaps you could explain why.

  41. At least we have someone who's coming in the open and try to set things in perspective. Thank you, Colby Cosh!

    This is what I think happened: the art's community had found a way to mobilize the anti-Harper forces during the 2008 election. Duceppe saw his chance and jumped onto the anti-Harper bandwagon as soon as Harper had made his so-called and over-reported art's gaffe.

  42. At least we have someone who's coming in the open and try to set things in perspective. Thank you, Colby Cosh!

    This is what I think happened: the art's community had found a way to mobilize the anti-Harper forces during the 2008 election. Duceppe saw his chance and jumped onto the anti-Harper bandwagon as soon as Harper had made his so-called and over-reported art's gaffe.

  43. Those who hate him already call him those things. Unfortunately for you, most Canadians don't. Indeed, polls seem to confirm that, too. Despite all the attacks and accusations against him, he still scores highest on trust and integrity – far higher than Iggy, in fact. That's gotta hurt for people who have worked so long and hard to smear the prime minister at every opportunity.

  44. (1) We're talking about the Liberals here; Harper's "coalition" talk isn't aimed at the NDP, because the NDP has said all along that it is happy to work with anybody on its terms. (2) Your belief about how important the public funding is to the Liberals (if you mean to suggest it's not very important to them) is very, very, very mistaken. (3) The public certainly did not vote as though they were angry with the Conservatives and in agreement with the Liberals about whether the election was "legitimate". Surely it's public sentiment that defines "legitimacy" here; you don't mean that the election was crooked or unconstitutional, I trust.

  45. I suppose that the coalition members feel obligated to talk about it in an attempt to try to nip it in the bud. But that's just not going to work, primarily because nobody believes a Harper coalition is an issue in this election. It's just not on the ballot. So, again, I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish. To me, it just shows how little they had going into this election in the first place. Should be fun.

  46. "Speaking of plunging the political context of '08 into oblivion, you fail to mention the existential threat posed to two of four federal parties by the party financing changes, or that the only national party that would definitely survive was the governing party. Seems relevant." I think the threat is overstated, myself, but the Liberals don't–which is why I wrote that first sentence you apparently don't like the sound of.

  47. 2. The coalition chit-chat, after all, concerns a field of ethics and procedure in which there are few firm rules and novel, still-unresolved complexities. Canada is trying to govern itself with a separatist party close to (and unlikely to be driven very far away from) the fulcrum of power in its popular assembly. It is worth taking a little while to get this right."

    How, Colby? When people no longer feel the sense of there being a Canada, then how will this be solved?

    Sincerely, yours………………………

  48. 2. The coalition chit-chat, after all, concerns a field of ethics and procedure in which there are few firm rules and novel, still-unresolved complexities. Canada is trying to govern itself with a separatist party close to (and unlikely to be driven very far away from) the fulcrum of power in its popular assembly. It is worth taking a little while to get this right."

    How, Colby? When people no longer feel the sense of there being a Canada, then how will this be solved?

    Sincerely, yours………………………

  49. The leader of the liberals couldn't care less about your point, LKO.

  50. Dennis is correct.

  51. Both Duceppe and Layton doth protest too much. Voters will most likely disregard the 2004 letter, b/c in the end nothing ever did come of it, whereas they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008.

    You're presuming though that Layton and Duceppe are protesting in order to damage Harper and/or win votes. I'd argue they're protesting because he's saying things in public today that contradict the things he told them in private in 2004. I'm not sure that Duceppe has called Harper a liar to score points, I think he simply believes that some of the things Harper has said about what happened in 2004 are lies.

    Also, “they will remember what chaos the 2008 Coalition agreement threw the country into for a week or so in Nov-Dec of 2008”??? Yeah, I remember that, it was chaos, utter chaos.

    The worst part was the zombies.

  52. "Perhaps, though, they're ok with the questions to Harper about the 2004 agreement hanging out there. "

    Well if today's performance is any indication, Harper is scared of the question. Why else would his guardians announce only one more question, then toss it some potted plant to ask a lame hockey question?

  53. Maybe not. I wasn`t really addressing them to him anyway though.

  54. I think you make a reasonable point about the severity of the threat, but you do seem to have cherry-picked the context included in this piece. And plunged the rest into oblivion, I guess you would say.

    As for my last paragraph – I've been watching for the entire, grueling duration of this election and I think my assessment is more accurate than yours. Rather than a failure of the media on this topic, I think we're witnessing a media that's doing its job better than it has in the last few federal elections. Perhaps you could help me understand where the media is burying the context of 2008.

  55. Hysterical defensive response, or a measured response to an undemocratic attempt to buy power?

  56. And the threat itself was all about protecting the Canadian taxpayer, and had nothing to do with a scorched-earth policy of attempting to destroy the other political parties before the next election?

    Now that's hysterical, in the colloquial sense at least.

  57. Harper tried to buy power and the opposition parties stopped him.

  58. I wanna know: why does my total count not go down when I get record minus marks? My point count has gone up, in fact, from 84 to 85 but I keep scoring negative points. How does that work?

  59. I wanna know: why does my total count not go down when I get record minus marks? My point count has gone up, in fact, from 84 to 85 but I keep scoring negative points. How does that work?

    • Apparently when you post, you get a + 1 everytime. Thats what i heard anyway

      • Oh God don't tell her that. She posts enough as it is.

  60. Good for you for knowing what the leaders of Canadian political parties and those rich, fat-cat US unionists really want.

    I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that the US and Canadian business communities have no interest in free money, or we'd end up living in one hell of an economically predatory society.

  61. That was interesting, wasn't it? It wasn't as cringe-inducing as Ignatieff's fumbling of the coalition question on Friday, but it was a rare peek at a peevish and unprepared Harper. This election becomes much more interesting if the CPC's core message of fear and brinkmanship is eroded by a public perception of hypocrisy.

  62. I believe you're right. What I hear mostly is that there was no need for an election and that the budget was good under the economic circumstances. People wanna move on with their lives. And a majority government is what they want to let this rest of a while.

  63. Just to be clear, the 2008 scenario wasn`t exactly secret. The letters weren`t vague, and the agreement was explained in a meeting that was filmed for national television, not private meetings between the leaders in hotel rooms.

  64. One other huge difference between 2004 and 2008 that has been completely glossed over:

    The opposition parties then didn't for a moment talking about toppling the government with their agreement. They were responding to the possibility that Martin might call a snap election only a couple of months after winning the 2004 election in an effort to capitalize on the Conservatives' dying momentum at the end of the campaign, and attempt to reclaim his majority. Never once did they suggest they would vote non confidence in the government and attempt to take over; only that an election didn't have to be the only response to a request to dissolve Parliament.

  65. My complaint is that the real reason the coalition formed isn't being mentioned (though I could just be reading and listening to the wrong material–hey, it's been a long campaign). It should be mentioned, not because it makes the Liberals (or the Conservatives, if you approved of the coalition) look bad, but because it's impossible to make tactical sense of Harper's obsession with the subject without that context.

  66. I don`t hate the troops, I hate the idea of them one day no longer being troops in the CANADIAN Forces.

    (ETA: Of course, I realize your reply was a joke).

  67. I feel safe because now that he’s governing Canada it’s a great big deal to Harper that he gets to continue governing all of it. Personally I think he has been the best thing for national unity in a long time because his decentralized philosophy jives so well with Quebeckers who feel like they’ll always be very distinct and very much a minority in the country and nacent western grumbling too. But I do worry that people will feel like the national government is fading away. I’d really like to see some kind of national cultural project from the Cons but I doubt they’ll come up with anything themselves.

    By the way what was it that Harper thought was more important than Canada remaining as one federal government? I feel like I should know…

  68. That's gotta hurt for people who have worked so long and hard to smear the prime minister at every opportunity. "

    This is what I don't get: today on cross country check up I heard, once again, that the Tories attack ads really managed to define Ignatieff.

    But for years, years, and even today, we read about Harper being secretive, being 'nasty' , "mean', and we actually hear this coming from the media! Is that not more dangerous than attack ads? It seems to me that the drip, drip, drip tactics are the real attack ads, because no one can really point them out and therefore the 'doers' cannot be held unaccountable.

    Doesn't the media understand how corrosive this can be, in fact, much more corrosive than attack ads, yet, no one talks about it.

  69. What you, with blatant and admirably unabashed dishonesty, call the "coalition members" — they aren't talking about the Harper document because they or anyone else seriously expects Harper to form a coalition after the next election. They are talking about it because it's the most convenient, sound-bitey example of the equally unabashed hypocrisy of Harper, his party, and his supporters, in claiming that it's apples and oranges, that somehow "Harper didn't mean it, so it was permissible for him".

    If you don't like it, contact CPC headquarters and tell them that as a CPC supporter, you're disappointed in your party's pathological focus on this coalition boogeyman at the expense of discussion of real issues.

  70. Still waiting for that explanation…

  71. Apparently when you post, you get a + 1 everytime. Thats what i heard anyway

  72. There's quite a bit of material to work with if hypocrisy becomes the issue.

  73. My complaint is that the Conservative attempt to kill the per-vote subsidy was nothing but a partisan attack and, worse yet, was a blatant attempt to try to buy their way into permanent power. It was inherently anti-democratic and bit of the myopic politicking that is harmful to this country in the long run. It was the action of a gang of petty thugs, not a party that should be ruling a country.

  74. The obvious difference is that one works to the advantage of the CPC, the other to the detriment of hte Liberals. duh.

  75. <i<"I think the threat is overstated, myself.."

    On the severity of the threat: if somebody proposed to limit me to 1200 calories/day, I might just be freaked out enough to portray that as an existential threat, even though technically I could survive and over time learn to forage and hunt to supplement my dietary intake.

    In the meantime, it would cripple my ability to defend myself.

    For Harper to propose the elimination of the party subsidy (with minimal notice) was a blatant attempt to cripple his opposition. It's undemocratic to change the system for partisan advantage and it was shocking of Harper to attack it considering:

    "The most troubling aspect of the proposed elimination of the public financing of political parties is that Harper and his Reform party sanctioned a “constitutional trade-off” to allow public financing that dates back to their own days in opposition under the Chrétien government.

    The trade-off was the elimination of key sources of existing funding to the other main parties — corporate funding for the Liberals and trade union contributions for the NDP…

    The greatest beneficiary of the “constitutional trade-off” was the Reform/Alliance, and later the merged Conservative party, which had the strongest individual contributions base.

    Knowing they were the primary beneficiaries, Harper and his opposition members strongly supported what is a very fragile balancing act under our system of guaranteed rights and freedoms."
    http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/a

    Maybe there's a better analogy: Harper tried to stab his opponents in the back, and here you are arguing that it wouldn't have been a fatal wound.

  76. Public sentiment is for the decriminalization or legalization of marijuana too, Colby. Does that mean Harper's anti-pot laws are illegitimate?

    More to the point though, you have to admit that Harper used some really hysterical and dishonest rhetoric about the coalition to whip up that sentiment. There was no calm discussion, just Conservatives screaming about coups and how the separatists would be in charge, even though that clearly wasn't the case.

  77. So like Stephen Harper, you are angry your version of the facts isn't being strictly adhered to?

  78. It wasn't nonsensical. Harper broke the rules…acted like he was above them. He was found in contempt. So much for Conservative claims of law and order.

  79. He's closer to the mark than he usually is, maybe. It does seem the other parties are probably getting a more fair shake than ever on the coalition issue – expect Duceppe to be eating harper's credibility for breakfast. But maybe all it will do is reinforce the negative opinion created by Harper.

    Who can say?

  80. That's a view that's not inconsistent with my complaint.

  81. I dunno, do you have a specific problem with "my version" of the facts?

  82. We'll have to see what happens, but if Harper doesn't turn this around in a hurry it's going to really hurt him. Now that the press is asking hard questions, I think he's going to have to drop the whole coalition thing. It just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

  83. Uh, ok – I think my point below includes some critical context about the proposed elimination of per-vote subsidies, without which no voter can really understand the factors at play.

    But if you're looking to make "tactical" sense of Harper's rhetoric, it might make more sense if you hear what was presented to the focus groups by John Baird for testing:

    "AH BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA! BAAAAD MAN! KILL YOUR CHILDREN, RAISE YOUR TAXES! WEIRD AMERICAN, PERMANANENT TAX ON EVERYTHING, STEPHAN DION'S GHOST WILL HAUNT YOUR SOOOOOUUUULLLLL!!!!"

    It's pathetic. Even George W. Bush had the sense to leave the really shameless rhetoric to his underlings and flacks.

  84. I'm sorry, but you just don't make any serious points. As seems to be common with Harper haters on here, you viciously attack anything he does. What's so dishonest about the term "coalition members?" You don't like it? Well isn't that too bad. Why isn't it an issue, especially since they tried it the last time, and Iggy himself raised in on the first day. You know, there are place in this world where only leftists can have a say and rule. China and Cuba are two examples. You're more than welcome to go there if that's how you want it, right? Meanwhile, here in Canada, the other side gets to speak and, so far, they're by far the most popular option among Canadians. I know its hard to live with for people like you, but freedom can be hard for some, I know.

  85. Your reply contains responses to positions I did not take in my comment (and do not hold, if it matters). I did not belittle the importance of Federal funding to the Liberals, for instance. I rather took issue with your singular oversimplification of the '08 coalition and point to the fact that there was more afoot in the 2008 election and in the proposed coalition than "a hysterical defensive response to the Conservative threat to withdraw public funding from political parties".

    In addition to public funding and the legitimacy of the snap election (which was most certainly a topic of discussion at the time, if not a prime mover of voting behaviour), there was the global credit meltdown, the feeble fiscal forecasting of the Finance Minister (pardon the consonance) and the fall economic update. There was also a misguided sentiment by at least three parties that so-called green issues would invigorate the electorate.

    As for this being about the Liberals and not an NDP of easy virtue, I'll point out that the Conservatives, too, have never shown a reluctance to obtain support from whichever party it can.

    I'm also not sure I agree with you that public sentiment, which is frequently mercurial, equates with legitimacy.

  86. Duceppe viciously calling Harper a liar is an example of "eating Harper's credibility for breakfast, is it?" Mind you, people like you usually call for "civility" in politics, then turn around and applaud this kind of nonsense from a person who wants to break up the country. Terrific.

  87. Well, I can't object to that retort. I really don't believe it would have been a fatal wound. The influence of money on politics is overestimated, for very natural reasons, by people with political jobs that involve shovelling out money. The actual evidence is that monetary advantages, even profound ones, don't necessarily cut much ice; I spent some time in California in October and November learning this first-hand.

  88. I am watching Harper in Brampton and he is over and over again, referring to to the opposition as the coalition. If he wants to move on, he needs to put down the gas can.

  89. Again, totally reasonable to argue that money's influence on politics is overstated. I happen to disagree, but that's not really the key point here.

    I think the key point is that we have a Prime Minister who attempted to change Canada's political system in a way that would badly hurt his opposition. Considering the governing party has been found in contempt of Parliament for a bunch of other undemocratic moves, the true context of 2008 simply has to include Harper's stab-in-the-back that precipitated the crisis.

    I'd rather have a bumbling an inept coalition than a Prime Minister who displays such disregard for the structures, rules and conventions that form our democracy.

  90. "They are talking about it because it's the most convenient, sound-bitey example of the equally unabashed hypocrisy of Harper…."

    Perhaps you could respond to this serious point.

  91. You really painted it just as Liberals being cut off from their funding though. I believe you said “cut off from the trough.” There was a lot more to it than that. This really goes back to Harper's lawsuit over third party advertising. It's also very much in line with Republican strategy in the US, and it's no secret that Republicans and Conservatives share some strategy. Harper feels he should be able to buy elections.To me that trumps whether it cut into any party's funding. Harper's proposed cuts were a direct assault on our democracy. He needed to be stopped.

  92. If it was nearly as important as you say, then why is nobody talking about it now? The only people who seem to think it made any sense are the ones who desperately used is as an excuse to have an election nobody else thinks we need. And this idea that we have to have this election to have democracy in Canada makes about as much sense as the contempt charge does to most people. This stuff ain't flying. Sorry.

  93. "I do think that one could argue that wiping out the NDP and the Liberal Party and leaving the decentralizing Tories and separatist Bloc standing "

    Two years ago, the NDP raised more money from donors/members than the Liberals, although that's changed somewhat. The Bloc would be broke (currently the PQ does heavy lifting for fundraising in Quebec and the Bloc relies on the subsidies). The Liberals wouldn't necessarily be broke, but they'd be hurting.
    link here http://www.thehilltimes.ca/dailyupdate/view/63
    "In 2010 five parties received $27.4-million from the per vote subsidies. The Conservatives received $10.4-million; the Liberals received $7.3-million; the NDP received $5.0-million ; the Bloc Québécois received $2.8-million; and the Green Party received $1.9-million…

    …The Elections Canada's website indicates that in 2009 (the latest full year available), the Bloc Québécois raised $834,762; the Conservatives raised $17,770,477, the Greens raised $1,166,874 ; the Liberals raised $10,120,312 and the NDP raised $4,039,104 (The Hill Times, March 29, 2010).The total equals $33.94-million."

  94. Apparently it didn't have anything to do with the evil destruction of democracy as we know it (patent pending on preceding phrase), since the parties went to great lengths to point out that this proposal had nothing, repeat nothing, did-you-hear-me-I-said-NOTHING to do with their opposition to every other terrible detail in the FU-FU.

  95. Even if that was true, and it's not, what does talking about it accomplish? We know the opposition resents Harper for being so successful. We know they level every accusation against the guy that they can think of. What does that have to do with talking about coalition over and over again? Again, I think that plays right into Harper's hands.

    Harper's opposition has this peculiar tendency of not being able to look beyond the latest knee-jerk reaction to anything that Harper does. Maybe that explains why the only way they can try to get power is with unelected coalitions.

  96. Ah, but they DO understand, which is why they continue IMHO.

  97. That's an interesting point of view. From my point of view, we've seen a well-prepared Conservative campaign that leans heavily on reminding voters of an unpopular 2008 coalition attempt. We've also seen some pressing questions from the press about Harper's apparent openness to the same sort of coalition in 2004.

    Harper is committed – the coalition is clearly the cornerstone of his campaign, and he's hitting it hard. This is not a policy debate, it's not possible to disagree on substance, it's pure demagoguery. If the public starts to see it as hypocritical or as fearmongering, it will reflect badly on Harper. If he has to drop the coalition topic, that will reflect a serious misstep on his part and will dominate at least a day's headlines.

    Come to think of it, it's very much in line with his past missteps – decide on a strategy, get too aggressive and overplay it. I guess all those stories about Harper's seasoning and maturity were premature…

  98. And what was the wording of the justification for the idea in the first place?

  99. Well, OK. It is not the point of the piece above to argue against the view that Harper's campaign-finance cuts were an unconscionable attack on our most priceless democratic traditions (est. 2003). The opposition is free to make the argument you're making, and we both know that for better or worse (aside from perhaps the BQ), they won't dare.

  100. Keep dodging. Burns calories.

  101. This is not a policy debate, it's not possible to disagree on substance, it's pure demagoguery.

    If it's so lacking in substance, why did Iggy feel compelled to talk about it on the very first day? I don't understand your greatly exaggerated accusations. How isn't the makeup of the next Parliament a central question for voters? Do you want more of the partisan games that we've seen, including a coalition attempt, or do you want a more stabler Conservative majority? Why is this not valid to you? I suspect it will be to voters.

    Come to think of it, it's very much in line with his past missteps – decide on a strategy, get too aggressive and overplay it. I guess all those stories about Harper's seasoning and maturity were premature…

    Yeah, and I guess that's why he's dominated a minority Parliament for the past five years; all those "missteps." lol

    When Iggy inserted himself into the leadership of the Liberal party, he said he wouldn't engage in this knee-jerk underestimation of Harper. Yet, all this time later, and it's rampant. Amazing.

  102. You post this one-line knee-jerk nonsense, and I'm the one accused of "dodging." Like I keep saying, some people have a lot of gall on these boards. A lot of gall. One anonymous nut even comes on here, signs on with the name "gall" and continues with the knee-jerk nonsense. I guess it's kind of entertaining, a bit.

  103. Shouldn't the press be making that argument though? Not necessarily you, but I haven't seen anybody in the press stand up and honestly make the argument, yet it would seem to be exactly the kind of thing the press should be pointing out, especially because the opposition can't make that point for political reasons.I bring it up because I keep noticing this kind of snarky tone about this…how the opposition was only saving its own butt etc….but the larger issue is never discussed.

  104. Uuuh, sure. You haven't addressed anything I actually wrote, but keep changing that topic.

  105. "I bring it up because I keep noticing this kind of snarky tone about this…how the opposition was only saving its own butt etc….but the larger issue is never discussed. "

    Exactly. Almost as though Cosh had plunged much of the context into oblivion, just like he accused the press of doing in his own piece.

  106. lol, I even cut and pasted your major points and addressed them directly. Your response suggests to me what I've been saying all along, that the attacks and accusations against the Conservative government have been a bunch of hyped up nonsense. Thank you.

  107. *My complaint is that the Conservative attempt to kill the per-vote subsidy was nothing but a partisan attack*

    Imagine, political parties acting in a partisan fashion!!! the outrage!!!

    *and, worse yet, was a blatant attempt to try to buy their way into permanent power. It was inherently anti-democratic and bit of the myopic politicking that is harmful to this country in the long run. It was the action of a gang of petty thugs, not a party that should be ruling a country.*

    If the Tories, by eliminating the per-vote subsidy, were to acquire `permanent power', it is because they actually have the monetary support of many more voters than do the other parties combined… of course, hopefully the subsidy will indeed be elmininated, and then the Libs and NDP will have to come up with policies that will, you know, encourage voters to donate to them.

    It's that simple, and that democratic.

  108. *I think the key point is that we have a Prime Minister who attempted to change Canada's political system in a way that would badly hurt his opposition.*

    Of course, the move was to reinforce democracy, by cutting off forced public subsidies of parties that have, thus, no worry about actually attracting donors by having policies that will encourage donations – as the Tories do, in amounts enough to beat the rest of the parties in turn.

    That is what the other parties were afraid of – actually having policies that would encourage enough people to donate. Couldn't have that now could we.

    Hopefully, the public subsidy will be the first thing to go if and when the CPC gets a majority

  109. Swing and a miss.

    The key point in my post was actually (obviously): "Harper is committed – the coalition is clearly the cornerstone of his campaign, and he's hitting it hard… If the public starts to see it as hypocritical or as fearmongering, it will reflect badly on Harper."

    Feel free to distort that into whatever best serves your foregone conclusion.

  110. Money is neither speech nor democracy.

  111. I don't think the influence is over-estimated at all. If the NDP, Bloc and Liberals all could have afforded to run 6000 ads since January, would Harper still be leading in the polls? You can make the argument that advertising doesn't work, I guess, but pretty much everybody in the media and advertising business would disagree with you.

    If Harper did succeed in financially crippling the opposition, it would have left him with no real opposition for several years. That is inherently undemocratic.

  112. What do mean nobody is talking about it? All three opposition parties are. It's appeared in the press coverage. That's in spite of Harper's dishonest coalition rhetoric being the main topic.

    The idea is that elections like we are having right now are part of our democracy. Harper lost the confidence of the House, so we're having an election. That is our democracy. It works whether the economy is good or bad, whether we are at war or not, whether there is a natural disaster or not. Suggestions that we shouldn't practice democracy because of other things going on are spurious and misleading.

  113. I gave a longer reply to this post, but it was deleted by the moderator upon sending it. So I'll keep this shorter. You can declare yourself a winner of debates all you want, and tell me what to and what not to focus on all you want. Seems rather dictatorial. Nevertheless, as I've already said, more talk of coalition only helps Harper. He's not being hypocritical because the 2004 letter was in no way a coalition agreement. It's not fear-mongering because they actually did try to grab power with an unelected coalition. You may not like these facts, but it doesn't mean they're not completely valid and legitimate. Thank you. And, moderator, please hold back on the censorship!

  114. The truth is that Harper was scared spitless in 2008 that he would be kicked out as PM, and he has remained traumatized ever since. The big coward thinks repeatedly yapping "coalition" in every speech he makes will get people to vote for him out of fear.

    But Canadians are not frightened by the idea of a coalition, and are already geting bored with Harper's horror fiction. The coalition is a zombie that has eaten Harper's brains, but no one else with any sense cares about his paranoid delusions.

  115. The truth is that Harper was scared spitless in 2008 that he would be kicked out as PM, and he has remained traumatized ever since. The big coward thinks repeatedly yapping "coalition" in every speech he makes will get people to vote for him out of fear.

    But Canadians are not frightened by the idea of a coalition, and are already geting bored with Harper's horror fiction. The coalition is a zombie that has eaten Harper's brains, but no one else with any sense cares about his paranoid delusions.

    • I think you`re over confident and in for a disappointment (as am I, on that second part) but I do have to say that I LOVE how many times zombies have already come up in the campaign and run-up thereto.

    • If the idea of coalition is so palatable to Canadians, they should run on that platform and see what votes they get. While we're at it, there should only be one out of the three Opposition leaders debating with the PM, otherwise it's three against one and that's certainly not democratic.

  116. You're more than welcome to show me media reports focusing on those silly contempt charges.

    And why accuse Harper of dishonest coalition rhetoric? In fact, you're saying he can't speak the truth. Why? If we have a minority Conservative government, why wont' the coalition try it again. They did it before,and lied about it, they'd do it again? Why is it not allowed to say this?

    Regarding democracy, it's ludicrous to suggest that the calling of frivilous elections is needed to practice democracy in this country. Harper could have served his full four year term, and democracy will have been no worse off – despite the hysteria coming from the opposition benches and people like you.

  117. Harper tried to "buy power", by cutting off funding for political parties? That doesn't even make sense.

  118. The sponsorship scandal isn't relevant in this election. The the Liberal's are talking about Harper's letter to the GG in 2004. And that letter was basically a response to the sponsorship scandal. It's the Liberals who are bringing up the sponsorship scandal, not the Conservative's. It seems to me that the CPC is more than willing to fight this election over Mr. Ignatieff's hidden agenda than resurrecting any Sponsorship Scandal boogymen.

  119. The opposition parties then didn't for a moment talk about toppling the government with their agreement.

    Not in public they didn`t.

  120. By the way what was it that Harper thought was more important than Canada remaining as one federal government? I feel like I should know…

    His point I believe was about the welfare of the people living in Canada. i.e. That in some ways it really doesn`t matter if we`re one country, or two countries or ten countries so long as the people are in charge, and free, and that the people and the land that we currently call Canada continue to prosper. That the continuation of the unified nation-state known as Canada was a secondary consideration. He concluded with: “Whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be“. It`s not even a crazy argument either, but I find it ironic in that it`s basically the same argument that the Bloc and PQ make (except for the smaller government bit I suppose) in that their belief is that the unity of the nation we call Canada is secondary, and if the people can remain free and prosper under some other arrangement than a united Canada, then that`s just fine and we shouldn`t fear that. That a guy who once said that “the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country“ (emphasis mine) wasn`t really important in the big scheme of things is now beating people over the head with fear of the separatist threat boggles the mind.

  121. Haven't had time to read all the comments. Excellent summary on all 5 points though. Regarding #4: this is why, as a former large L Liberal and now just mostly a small l liberal, I think the Libs should accept the cutoff of public funding for parties, and then also switch to a one-member-one-vote system like the Conservatives have. They'll have a debt-filled year or two, but the membership (especially the longer Harper is in power) will feel more invested in the party. The Bloc will suffer, and eventually people will put their money where their mouths are, if they truly want to see the Conservatives defeated.

  122. Haven't had time to read all the comments. Excellent summary on all 5 points though. Regarding #4: this is why, as a former large L Liberal and now just mostly a small l liberal, I think the Libs should accept the cutoff of public funding for parties, and then also switch to a one-member-one-vote system like the Conservatives have. They'll have a debt-filled year or two, but the membership (especially the longer Harper is in power) will feel more invested in the party. The Bloc will suffer, and eventually people will put their money where their mouths are, if they truly want to see the Conservatives defeated.

  123. It makes more sense when you remember that it was about cutting off funding for political parties when his main opponent was bankrupt and he was sitting on a huge war chest of cash.

  124. True, but it`s still TOTALLY AWESOME.

  125. Is it really wrong of me to not want our political parties making policy decisions based on what will attract donations to their party?

    I much preferred when I was a citizen in a nation. Being a shareholder in a company seems, I don`t know, less somehow.

  126. I think you`re over confident and in for a disappointment (as am I, on that second part) but I do have to say that I LOVE how many times zombies have already come up in the campaign and run-up thereto.

  127. Isn't that kind of like "buying" a house by not giving money to the homeless guy on the corner?

  128. Also extremely popular in the realm of the productive class.

  129. Wait, are you saying that you believe scf's "they're all out for themselves" is a unique position held only by him and completely ignored by the parties in queston?

  130. No. It's more like ensuring the homeless guy on the street stays homeless for a long long time. Meanwhile you're the king of the castle. Of course it wasn't Harper's fault the libs were dolts at fund raising…so you could take some comfort in that, it you were so inclined.

  131. Cut that out now LKO…don't go all bolshie on us man.:) Look on the bright side. You could allways sell your share and move somewhere more salubrious.

  132. What's more he pulled the proposal out of his ass…didn't campaign on it at all.

  133. What's more it appears Harper was reported to be ready to throw in the towel in 08 and had to be threatened/persuaded that his job was on the line if he didn't fight[ see Wells/Geddes] Not a very convincing portrait of a guy who was all that worried about legitimacy; that is until he was prodded to, or face the loss of the party.
    Everything about Harper screams crass oportunist. And in a profession where it's the rule rather than the exception, that's really quite an accomplishment.

  134. somehow i doubt you were saying that when Harper broke is fixed election rule in 08; and in the middle [or start?] of the worst recession in a generation.

  135. Do you understand the concept of cause and effect at all? The cause- attack ads; the effect – Harper is mean and nasty. In fact it all started well before that. Labelling Martin as approving of pedaphellia, Cadman and sueing the leader of the opposition[ first time in Canada i believe]…the list is too long and boring to continue. Has Harper suffered unjustified personal attacks?…most certainly. You'd think an upright Christian man like him would have learnt something?

  136. "When the Conservatives recite the word “coalition”, over and over again, this is what they really intend to remind the public of—that the Liberals were ready to talk turkey with the Bloc and the NDP to impede a very popular measure that would compromise their partisan interest. Do my fellow pundits really think it is wrong to suggest that Dion and Ignatieff put their party's budget a little bit ahead of its traditional national-unity principles for a few weeks there"

    You left something important out there CC.[ the cuts to the subsidy were not previously campaigned on] and the intercepted teleconference thingy; you know when the CPC couldn't bare to tear itself away from a private conversation [ not sure i totally blame them – not like they tapped the ndp's ph] Isn't it supposed to be true the NDP & Bloc were planning this thing before the FU? The theory i heard was Harper put the defunding stuff in as a provocation – obviously it was a loony thing to do, and backfired badly.
    If true, It doesn't entirely disprove your point, but it does offer up another motive for the opposition other then just money.

  137. "When the Conservatives recite the word “coalition”, over and over again, this is what they really intend to remind the public of—that the Liberals were ready to talk turkey with the Bloc and the NDP to impede a very popular measure that would compromise their partisan interest. Do my fellow pundits really think it is wrong to suggest that Dion and Ignatieff put their party's budget a little bit ahead of its traditional national-unity principles for a few weeks there"

    You left something important out there CC.[ the cuts to the subsidy were not previously campaigned on] and the intercepted teleconference thingy; you know when the CPC couldn't bare to tear itself away from a private conversation [ not sure i totally blame them – not like they tapped the ndp's ph] Isn't it supposed to be true the NDP & Bloc were planning this thing before the FU? The theory i heard was Harper put the defunding stuff in as a provocation – obviously it was a loony thing to do, and backfired badly.
    If true, It doesn't entirely disprove your point, but it does offer up another motive for the opposition other then just money.

    • Times, I have heard the same story of the Conservatives having advanced knowledge of the coalition plan and that Harper inserted the subsidy cut to the Fiscal Update.

      I see it as a brilliant thing to do. I think it tipped the scales of public opinion towards its disgust with the coalition. It did not backfire as the past 2.5 years have been a free ride for Harper. It will give Harper an easily gained Majority. The Liberals know their ill advised coalition agreement make them toxic now so they forced this election to get it over with knowing that they are far behind in the polls.

  138. Facts, schmacts.

  139. "You didn't address my point" is not the same as declaring myself the winner.

    And again, you didn't address my point. If you'd like to try again, start by reading the whole italicized quote again.

  140. "Good for you for knowing what…"
    I read s_f_c to say "I think", as in an opinion. Might not be yours, but chill out.

  141. Or
    The obvious difference is that one works to the advantage of the LPC, the other to the detriment of the Conservatives. duh.

  142. I don't really want to sell my shares though. I'm SUPER attached to this company (I mean, country).

    The current management team does drive me a bit nuts though.

  143. I'd say it's more like buying a house after ensuring that the other major bidder for the house gets his income cut in half ahead of the sale.

    Mind you I don't exactly agree with Reverend Blair's characterization that Harper tried to "buy power", that's a pretty big overstatement of what happened, imho. He did try to change Canada's election laws without consultation in a way that would benefit his party and severely hurt all the others though, and imho, that's bad enough.

  144. You could've also put in 4(b) that said while the move was popular, it did not go so far as to remove the subsidies that played directly into the Conservative's fundraising strength (rebates), thus further weakening the Conservatives' credibility.

    Perhaps too much of a digression though.

  145. Now, now, you should have known that it was part of their agenda.

    Don't complain now just because they kept it hidden.

  146. FU

  147. You may want to remember what actually threw the country into "chaos" (chaos being defined as hyperactive media coverage, I guess) was Mr. Harper suggesting that such a coalition was an illegitimate, illegal, coup, and his going to the Governor General to prorogue so as to prevent the elected members of the opposition from being able to vote on a confidence matter.

  148. He thought about Cosh's point.
    He didn't think at all about the rest.

  149. Wait.. calling for equal treatment of both circumstance is because it works to the disadvantage of the CPC?

    So you're flat out admitting that if we look at things fairly, it's bad for the CPC?

  150. It's quite possible.

    He's no genius.

  151. Well, you're correct in that at least. After all, it seems the point of the piece is really to paint the Liberals, and only the Liberals, as a party seeking public financing over anything else.

    Of course, as we both know, the party that receives the *most* public financing, whether with, or with-out the per-vote subsidy, is the CPC with the subsidy making donations to them worth more than that donated to Japan or Haiti or causes that make people's lives significantly better.

    But that doesn't fit in with the point either.

  152. Hint: The per-vote subsidy requires they come up with policies that encourage voters to.. you know.. *vote* for them. That sounds more important to me.

    Of course, the CPC concentrates on the donations because it's a lot more subsidized.

    If your concern is subsidies.. take away the donation subsidy first. It costs more and is less democratic to boot.

  153. If advertising didn't work, you wouldn't be getting paid for this stuff.

  154. Not true. All that's necessary is that businesses THINK advertising works. That would tell us nothing, necessarily, about whether (a) it does work or (b) political advertising is equally effective.

  155. Um, if rebates were removed, the Tories would still out-raise everyone else substantially. So, they would lose money, yes, but relatively they would be either be the same or better off than other parties as they clearly have a motivated grass-roots. I haven't heard that the Libs or other parties are also advocating a drop in rebates… Personally, I would support dropping political donations to the same class as charitable donations. Seems wrong to get more money back from a political donation than a charitable one.

  156. Um, if rebates were removed, the Tories would still out-raise everyone else substantially. So, they would lose money, yes, but relatively they would be either be the same or better off than other parties as they clearly have a motivated grass-roots. I haven't heard that the Libs or other parties are also advocating a drop in rebates… Personally, I would support dropping political donations to the same class as charitable donations. Seems wrong to get more money back from a political donation than a charitable one.

    • I'm with you – I wasn't advocating for the Liberal position or the Tory position – I was saying that if the tories want to end taxpayer subsidies they should actually go all the way.

  157. I'm with you – I wasn't advocating for the Liberal position or the Tory position – I was saying that if the tories want to end taxpayer subsidies they should actually go all the way.

  158. LKO makes a good stab at an answer. I know what my justification is (long story short, it was wrong to have created the scheme in the first place). But I bet the Tories were a lot closer to LKO's reading than to mine.

  159. Never once did they suggest they would vote non confidence in the government and attempt to take over; only that an election didn't have to be the only response to a request to dissolve Parliament.

    But what would the other alternative? Denying an election? I don't think the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson would have been wise to emulate Lord Byng. So, to me that is sort of a distinction without a difference, especially given the fact that pre-Prime Minister Harper encouraged a coalition of working parties in the face of a Liberal minority government:

    <iframe title="YouTube video player" width="480" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/vDTmpXj9vyM&quot; frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

  160. In 2008, the NDP and the Liberals took action mostly because they saw that, in the face of the looming recession that everyone except Harper could see coming, the government was doing nothing except playing partisan fiddles while watching Rome (and the budget surplus) burn. If the Tories really were so all-fired concerned about taxpayers' subsidization of parties' election expenses, why were they so determined to remove only the per-vote subsidy instead of decreasing the very-rich tax write-off for political contributions? Oh, yeah, because that would have hurt their finances as much as the other parties, since they appeal to a wealthy base who can more easily afford to give large donations.

  161. In 2008, the NDP and the Liberals took action mostly because they saw that, in the face of the looming recession that everyone except Harper could see coming, the government was doing nothing except playing partisan fiddles while watching Rome (and the budget surplus) burn. If the Tories really were so all-fired concerned about taxpayers' subsidization of parties' election expenses, why were they so determined to remove only the per-vote subsidy instead of decreasing the very-rich tax write-off for political contributions? Oh, yeah, because that would have hurt their finances as much as the other parties, since they appeal to a wealthy base who can more easily afford to give large donations.

    • Interesting to read that again…but didn't Ignatieff eventually sign on? I seem to remember his was the last signature…or am i misremembering?

  162. Oh God don't tell her that. She posts enough as it is.

  163. Interesting to read that again…but didn't Ignatieff eventually sign on? I seem to remember his was the last signature…or am i misremembering?

  164. As I scan that document again, it's interesting that Ignatieff seems to have signed twice, as opposed to the more general convention of signing once and printing once.

    Does this mean he was doubly in favour of the coalition? Duh duh duh! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHjFxJVeCQs

  165. Times, I have heard the same story of the Conservatives having advanced knowledge of the coalition plan and that Harper inserted the subsidy cut to the Fiscal Update.

    I see it as a brilliant thing to do. I think it tipped the scales of public opinion towards its disgust with the coalition. It did not backfire as the past 2.5 years have been a free ride for Harper. It will give Harper an easily gained Majority. The Liberals know their ill advised coalition agreement make them toxic now so they forced this election to get it over with knowing that they are far behind in the polls.

  166. How's about that one deals with an event that has been categorically denied as being anything like a coalition by both Layton and Dueceppe and the other is about the theft of millions of dollars. Good try!! The Liberals stole the money and have yet to return it. They're thieves and thugs that have the support of the MSM to cover for their criminal ways..

  167. Quite correct and the legally binding document that was drafted is still in effect and is still legally binding on Iggy & Layton.

  168. If the idea of coalition is so palatable to Canadians, they should run on that platform and see what votes they get. While we're at it, there should only be one out of the three Opposition leaders debating with the PM, otherwise it's three against one and that's certainly not democratic.

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