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'Coalition' seems to be the summer topic in Canada.

Blame the UK, its electorate, and its parties for that being the case, I guess :).

In brief, and to expand on other musings on what I think the Liberal Party should or shouldn’t be saying, I find it silly that some in the party would be flatly dismissing scenarios that may or may not occur. No one in the UK pre-election advocated an open coalition within any of the parties; all wanted to win outright. But, once the chips fell as they did, they had to work with the options they had.

To reject something outright is limiting one’s options rather unnecessarily and paints one into a corner that one didn’t need getting painted into.

PS – I was going to be rather hard on Scott Reid – former Paul Martin and current Liberal adviser – and what I deemed to be hyperbole from him when he started bringing up scenarios about not running Liberal candidates in the Prairies and so forth, but I’m going to be charitable and presume he’s doing that in reference to any of the “merger” talk that has also popped up of late in certain circles, and not about coalition possibilities. As he should well know, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ran candidates in all of their ridings in the UK election; the coalition was formed only after the inconclusive results.

I maintain my earlier musings on the topic; I believe you should state that you are running to win a majority government in Canada, but that if it doesn’t occur, and there is no clear majority, then other options will be looked at to help form a “stable” government (to quote Nick Clegg and David Cameron and everyone in Labor post-UK election). I think that should be fairly non-controversial. I just think the reason this coalition scenario is getting such play NOW is because a) the way the UK election shook out, and b) because Ignatieff and some of his advisers categorically rejected the scenario, and others are piping up that we shouldn’t be so hasty in putting it off of the table, especially because the UK elections showed how coalition government could and would work in a parliamentary setup.

6 comments to ‘Coalition’ seems to be the summer topic in Canada.

  • DL

    I have to say that when the LibDem/Con coalition was unveiled in the UK, I had a feeling it would restart the narrative about coalition government as a concept in Canada. It has actually created discussion about it that has gone beyond my wildest dreams. Its all good.

  • I’m following this debate with interest. You’re right in pointing out that the difference in the UK is that this was a post-election coalition, where what seems to me to be being floated over there is a pre-election pact or merger of some sort.

    I guess the other issue in the UK is that we have no history of minority government, and the press and public seemed very concerned about what that would mean. Cameron would actually have been in a stronger position than Harper is (numbers wise) to run a minority, but this was seen as a non-starter by pretty much everyone (for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of the financial situation and/or fear of an early election)

    Finally, our nationalists are nowhere near as despised or feared as the Bloc seems to be over there, and Cameron is very weak in Scotland (just one MP) so needed the LDs (who are second party, seats-wise in Scotland) for credibility there. Cameron was effectively in the position Harper would have been without his Quebec mini-breakthrough in 2006.

    • ck

      Brian, out of curiosity, how much influence do major corporations have over your government and/or election campaigns? Do you have strict rules regarding corporate contributions to political parties? Lobbying (If you use a different term…)?

      It is a current research subject of interest to me.

      In a sentence or less, I am seeing Canada is American with a westminster parliamentary system.

      • @ck,

        The system in the UK doesn’t have any limits on donations. You have to be registered in the UK (either as a company, or as a voter, if you’re an individual) to donate. The main hurdle is that if you donate over a certain limit – something like £1,500 to a constituency (riding) association – then you have to agree to having your donation recorded and published. The register gets a lot of media coverage, so I guess that puts people off. We have no system of state funding as you do in Canada, though the opposition parties in parliament get extra resources for researchers etc so there’s a more level playing field.

        The trade unions continue to wield a lot of influence over the Labour Party, mainly because they’re by far Labour’s biggest funders. The Tories’ money comes mainly from Lord Ashcroft and a few other wealthy individuals rather than businesses themselves, and in the Lib Dems we struggle on with bits and pieces from individuals and liberal-inclined charitable trusts.

        I’d say the main influence of corporations isn’t through funding but through the media. Our press is nationwide, and ownership is heavily consolidated. The Murdoch-owned press, in particular, wields a lot of influence over the political system.

        The new Coalition is going to introduce a register of lobbyists and a cap on donations (the Tories had proposed £50,000 before the election but I don’t think the Coalition have put a figure on it). That will hit Labour hard as the Tories and Lib Dems are better placed to raise large numbers of smaller donations (a bit like your Tories do) and Labour has relied too much on Union funding.

  • Anon ABC

    Scott: The statement re. coalition intention you had suggested seemed to me entirely appropriate and prudent. The Libs should not leave voters with the impression that they are dismissing the possibility of a coalition (unless they really mean it).

    I am further surprised that at this stage the Libs have not done 2 things: (a) be more aggressive in educating voters that coalitions are legitimate regardless of their intentions to ever form one with any party post election, and (b)put Harper on the defensive by repeatedly asking whether he ever intends to form a coalition himself. Perhaps all these are an indication of what seems to be a somewhat lack of political acumen on the part of Ignatieff.

    I was watching Goodale on CBC last night when he was asked twice whether the Libs are considering the idea of a coalition with the NDP. Unlike the story that Taber had put out earlier, indicating that the Lib leadership had dismissed the idea, Ralph hemmed and hawed but did not answer the question both times. That leads me to conclude either that they are indeed considering the idea, or there is a group inside the Lib (including Ignatieff?) which is still deluding itself that they can win more seats, perhaps even a majority.

    Sad, if it is the latter because it demonstrates that they have still been unable to recognize that the non-Cons votes are simply split too many ways for any single non-Cons party to come out ahead.

    • ck

      Anon, I don’t think they should campaign on a coalition in case they lose neither.

      Actually, the only party who really would have nothing to lose by talking coalition possibilities before an election would be the NDP:they’re third place and they’ll never ever govern on their own. I believe Nick Clegg never hid the fact that the first party to win, he would give a kick at the can to them to form government.

      For point A: a complete waste of time, energy and resources: The Timmy’s crowd don’t like having their comfy little lives invaded by inconveniences like facts. They don’t know about how parliament works and they don’t understand democracy and they are content to remain that way. These folks don’t think outside the box, it would give them a collective nosebleed. No, one must pander to their ignorances, I’m afraid; they are, after all, the majority. Liberals would be best to find a way to work around that.

      As for your point B: This is something the Liberals can and should and must get behind; bring up that proposed letter Steve wrote to then GG Adrienne Clarkson regarding a coalition with “separatists” and “socialists” to bring down the Paul Martin government. Logically, who is to say Steve wouldn’t attempt it again? Except given the merger with defunct Progressive Conservatives; I would call it more of a hostile takeover.

      Furthermore, many, myself included believe that a the NDP are more likely to get into bed with the Harpercons than with the Liberals anyway. Conservative pundits seem to be warming up to that idea. The NDP has moved rightward toward the center. And of course, the NDP seems to never ever miss a chance to snipe at the Liberals publicly; maybe even more than they snipe at the Harpercons. Certainly far more than the Liberals snipe at them.

      Layton’s real give-away will be whether or not Jack whips his MPs or contributes to the beginnings of the scrapping of gun control. Oh and before anyone rushes to his defense saying his 12 mps wanna keep their rural and western ridings; they would lose seats in their urban ridings if they don’t whip their vote. I can see Mulcair losing his seat over it, given the Polytechnique is in his riding.

      Honestly, whether the Liberals are willing or not to form a coalition shouldn’t be giving that info away one way or the other before an election.

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