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Old friends


 

Brian Topp assesses the future of relations between Stephen Harper and Jack Layton, and dishes a bit on the past.

In the winter of 2005, then-opposition leader Stephen Harper met intensively with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe (“the separatists”) and with Mr. Layton (“the socialists”) to discuss a proposal to defeat the Paul Martin minority government at the first opportunity, and to replace it with a Conservative government supported in the House by the balance of the opposition. Mr. Harper canvassed this proposal with the Governor-General of the day in writing.

Regrettably for Mr. Harper at the time, Mr. Layton does not run with the opposition crowd. Uneasy with the idea of putting Mr. Harper in office, Mr. Layton withdrew from these discussions and negotiated the spring 2005 budget accord instead.

Follow the link for a photo of the trio of Stephen, Jack and Gilles in happier times.


 

Old friends

  1. 'Uneasy with the idea of putting Mr. Harper in office, Mr. Layton withdrew from these discussions and negotiated the spring 2005 budget accord instead.'

    So, PMSH did not offer up cabinet seats, so no signed 'arrangement', just discussions…
    But I was sure a signed deal was all over the internet….?? confusing eh.

  2. Indeed, it's apparant that even back then, Stephen Harper was unable to do what was needed in order to make government work.

  3. A letter of intent — or possible intent — was sent to the Governor General, but it sounds as though the negotiations collapsed before they were able to actually figure out what that coalition government would look like. It would be interesting to know if any of the NDP or Bloc participants in those meetings hung onto any notes, memos or draft documents from those meetings, though.

    (Side note: I believe that, in his book. Talking Out Louder, in which he also discusses his growing discomfort with the idea, Layton suggests that it was, in fact, the presence of the Bloc Quebecois that unsettled him to the point that he backed out of the deal, not his wariness about installing Stephen Harper as prime minister.)

    • Even in the famous Conservative-NDP-Bloc joint press conference, Harper referred to an "agreement" with the other two. You don't have to have it in writing to be an agreement and an agreement to install Harper as PM without an election is not a "coalition".

      But wasn't that the original point of objection for Harper in December when he was cancelling Parliament to save his job, that installing a PM with the support of the other parties but without an election was undemocratic?

      The whole "coalition" branding has been shorthand for that but it has morphed away from that.

      • You are partially correct, part of the objection a few months ago was that it was a change without election. But this is where the people start arguing different things….the word illegal was never said, nor unconstitutional yet this is where the coalition supporters went to buttress their position….It is legal and constitutional (which it is). The opponenets went for undemocratic…thats is an apparently simple word but can mean lots of stuff, including elections, but was really about legitimacy.

        There are circumstances under which it would have worked, if it was a situation where the the ruling party had lost seats and votes, or they had run on the possibility, or if the leader who was to be PM hadnt been so clearly rejected so recently.

        It is probably to Harper's benefit that his own exploration of this didnt work out in 2005, but remember at the time this was when the Liberal government was mired in the midst of Adscam, the extent of it was unknown.

        It is a mistake to say there it shoudl never be or should always work a certain way, it really does depend, and it is never a mistake for the GG to ask for the people's advice before she makes a decision.

        • Splitting hairs department. Yeah alright no-one said it was illegal. However, there were many Conservatives and their supporters who referred to it as a Coup D'etat.

          I suppose a Coup D'etat would have been legal based on your analysis.

  4. At no time is it reported that Harper said "no I can't work with you separatists and socialists! It isn't because I don't want to be PM and finally get my wife to wear my name, but darn it, you guys remind me too much of myself when I was a wild-eyed idealist. That is just so wrong!"

  5. That's an interesting side note, Kady! Someone should inform Brian Topp.

    • But I dont think thats even the point, as interesting as that side is. We are slipping into calling unlikes as likes.

      Even if you accept the fact that Harper was trying to form government with the Bloc and the NDP, would you consider that the same as what DIon was doing? The example is Rae Petersen, which was always referred to as an accord. No cabinet seats or power, just a short list of agreed legislation and a stand still on Non Confidence from the NDP.

      Dion, well heck, I dont think even Dion knew what he was doing, but that was a coaltion with the NDP and an undefined accord with the Bloc, the terms of their support was never clear.

      Is a situation like Rae Petersen legal, constitutional and would it be seen as legitimate. Absolutely, if they could govern liek that. If the Bloc is required, then the policy terms better be laid out, what was missing last time, even then one wonders, per Layton's misgivings.

      But lets stop calling accords coaltions,,,or vice versa, they really are differnt things.

      • So, if the Liberals win a minority in the next election and try the same thing ("accord" not "coalition") with the NDP afterwards then you'll be A-OK with it? Just curious.

  6. How things have changed! Jack can't wait to keep Harper in office now.

  7. OK back to the discussions on the more recent coalition attempt ….

    Iggy took a lot of flak for killing the latest coalition in January so he has nothing to lose on that side.

    proposed New Liberal Slogan:
    "Stephen Harper created the coalition, Michael Ignatieff killed it."

  8. OK back to the discussions on the more recent coalition attempt ….

    Iggy took a lot of flak for killing the latest coalition in January so he has nothing to lose on that side.

    proposed New Liberal Slogan:
    "Stephen Harper created the coalition, Michael Ignatieff killed it."

    Not only plausible but also true!

  9. How abour

    "Ignatieff was for the coalition before he was against it"

  10. That's funny, because by the winter of 2005 Paul Martin's minority government had already been in office for, lets see, what was it, six or seven months. I'm pretty sure not even that noted consitutional authority Bob Rae would think that a prime minister who lost a confidence vote after seven months in office wasn't entitled to an election to sort things out.

    I think there's even a precendent (or two) for this. The first Diefenbaker was in office from June 21/57 to Feb 1/58, which works out to 7 months, ten days. Nonetheless, His Excellency Raymond (I know, it was Vincent, but I've always liked Arsenic and Old Lace) Massey saw fit to call an election when Mr. Diefenbaker asked for it. And then, of course, there was Joe Clark's gov't which lasted from June 4/79 to Dec 14/79 whicfh, by my count, is six months, ten days. Mr. Schreyer saw fit to dissolve Parliament in that case, so I'm a bit perplexed what Mr. Topp is talking about. Of course, Mr. Topp is an NDP strategist, so the facts don't really enter into it. Sadly, the facts seem beside the point to most Canadian journalists as well.

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