Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On coalitions and Liberals

Lots in the Canadian press following the historic British coalition government formed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats speculating whether we on this side of the pond can draw any lessons from our British cousins.


It's been amusing to watch conservative pundits in the media insisting no, it doesn't apply at all. Their culture is completely different (they find Benny Hill funny) and their system is too different (our Westminster model being named after Westminster, Romania or something). And on the other side, liberal pundits saying the UK example is proof it's acceptable and can work here.

And, of course, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives and are trying to revive their coalition bogeyman strategy, seeing Liberal/NDP cooperation as a threat that could hurt his hold on power. The UK example could hurt his efforts to demonize a coalition as some kind of anti-democratic coup by showing no, actually it's perfectly benign and in the best democratic traditions. He can't have that.

I think there are some notable and significant differences between the UK coalition and the one attempted in Canada. For one, the UK one involves the largest seat-holding party. Secondly, the Canadian one involved a party that the voters had just punished at the polls, a leader who (as much as respect him) Canadians had clearly rejected, and also relied on a separatist party for support. All those factors cost it public support, making Michael Ignatieff's decision to back away from it after forcing economic concessions from the Harper government the right move.

That doesn't mean, though, that we should rule out a coalition in the future. Should the circumstances be right, we need to absolutely be open to going down the coalition road. Just because it didn't make sense yesterday doesn't mean it won't make sense tomorrow.

It's a dicey political strategy question for the Liberals, though.

Obviously the Cons want to paint the Liberals into a corner, trying to both demonize coalitions and them force us into disavowing them. It's a transparent strategy: they see a coalition as a threat they want to quash.

For the NDP, it's in their interests to play-up the possibility of a coalition. It gives them added relevance and the potential for clout. And it firms up their vote. Which is also why it's dicey for Liberals. They compete with the NDP for those centre-left swing votes.

The Liberals want to solidify the anti-Harper vote under their banner; that's their key to returning to government. Only the Liberals can stop Harper, so unite with us will (once again) be the line. But if a coalition is firmly on the table, it makes it harder for Liberals to make that argument, and easier for those swing voters to feel safe parking their votes with the NDP, knowing there can be a coalition and wanting to give the NDP a stronger hand in it.

So, it's a tough line for the Liberals to take on both sides. My advice for Team Liberal? Don't rule-out a coalition, but don't get drawn into deep discussions on the issue either. The line is simple: we're not ruling anything out, but we're committed to electing a strong Liberal government that will once again give Canadians the strong, responsible government they need and deserve.

Plain and simple. Rule nothing out, but focus on electing Liberals. And when the dust settles, we'll see what's what.

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11 comments:

JimBobby said...

The thing I found interesting about the UK situation was that, even though the Cons had a fairly strong plurality, the lack of a majority meant that they had to enter into a coalition in order to form a government. If we'd had such a situation here, presumably the CPC would have had to enter into a coalition with either the "socialists" or "separatists" to form a government.

I wonder why we allow a 38% minority to govern without giving any such concessions like making Jack Layton deputy PM.

RayK said...

JimBobby, Harper had to get the Liberals onside (voting for his Throne Speech) to form/retain his government. This is no different than the UK except that Ignatieff didn't get any concessions in return.

CanadianSense said...

Jeff how did the press frame a coalition of the Labour-Democrats?

Did you miss the name on purpose?

Can you point out when the party with the largest number of seats won does not form a coalition?

Can you provide an example of parties that place 2nd, 3rd and deny of any relationship or willingness than six weeks later decide its necessary.

Context is missing in your analysis.

Brian Topp dismissed the coalition deal with CPC-NDP-Bloc against Martin.

Take a look at the political map in 2008 the Liberals suffered the worst political route in their history in popular support. The WEST would have lost their voice.

You forgot to mention we are missing 30 seats from Ontario, BC, AB and the Liberals have joined the Bloc in demanding we keep giving concession to Quebec.

The coalition by virtue of the Liberals track record in retreating to Quebec goes back to Laurier (via conscrption).

He put his party ahead of dealing with raising troops for WWI and II. The Liberals strategists have benefited from the Quebec separatist alliance.

Why else would they protect the Bloc political party subsidy of 87%?

The Rat said...

Don't forget that a possible coalition with the NDP could drive blue Liberals into the Conservative camp. If the Liberals are willing to tell the truth in an election and state that they would consider a formal coalition then I'm sure Canadians will accept that result if it happens. If Liberals deny it when asked and then change their mind when it benefits them, that makes it illegitimate. And you had better be able to do it without even a hint of formal support from the Bloc. That would rip the nation apart.

CanadianSense said...

Jeff in fairness to Provinces look at it this way

Popular Vot 11.4% Lib, 12.7% NDP is 24% vs 64.7% in Alberta.

In BC 45 (Lib+ NDP) vs 44 CPC

The platform and promises would have be closely aligned. Liberals should not talk left and govern right.
I am for the coalition before the election of the opposition of smaller parties.

I don't agree with 2-3 smaller parties after the election taking control.

The Bloc win 65% of the seats with 38.1% of popular vote and Liberals want to add more seats in Quebec.

Pittin region vs region political strategy again.

Ontario, BC, Ontario is underrepresented. Another grenade by the Lib-Bloc partnership.

Josh said...

The coalition by virtue of the Liberals track record in retreating to Quebec goes back to Laurier (via conscrption).

He put his party ahead of dealing with raising troops for WWI and II. The Liberals strategists have benefited from the Quebec separatist alliance.


Huh? What does Laurier - who died in 1919 - have to do with WWII when Mackenzie King was the very Liberal PM? Is this some dig at "conscription if necessary but not necessarily conscription"?

DL said...

"Can you point out when the party with the largest number of seats won does not form a coalition?"

Ontario 1985 - The PCs had the most seats, but the second place Liberals and the 3rd place NDP made a deal and the Liberals took power. That government proved to be extremely popular and the Ontario Liberals won just about the biggest landslide re-election ever two years later in 1987.

CanadianSense said...

The crisis came in 1917, when Prime Minister Borden was summoned to London, England to participate in the Imperial War Conference. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George wanted a greater manpower commitment from Canada and the other dominions, and following on Canadian success at Vimy Ridge earlier in the year, Borden decided that he had no choice but to implement conscription to keep the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the numbers he had promised. Quebec Conservatives warned him that it would take his party 25 years to rebuild if he introduced conscription. The issue threatened to divide the country as many workers and farmers as well as Quebecers were opposed. Borden hoped that a coalition government made up of Conservatives and Liberals would help. Although Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier refused, 25 Liberals later joined with Borden to carry conscription.

http://www.mta.ca/about_canada/study_guide/debates/conscription.html


Quebec was against it and Lauier lost many Liberal MP outside Quebec.

What political paid the price for the next 70 years until Brian Mulroney, what party became the defacto federalist party in Quebec after Laurier chose to defend the anti-conscription push?

CanadianSense said...

DL,

you made my point Liberals WON popular support and fell a few seats SHORT of seats.

Ont Seat PC 52, Lib 48. NDP 25

In 2008 the Lib suffered their worst pop in 150 years.
Lib+NDP did not have seats or P.O.P.

Josh said...

What political paid the price for the next 70 years until Brian Mulroney, what party became the defacto federalist party in Quebec after Laurier chose to defend the anti-conscription push?

It would be more accurate to say that the Liberals dominated Quebec almost exclusively... until 1958 when Diefenbaker's Tories won a majority of seats there. From 1962-1979, varying numbers of "Créditistes" tended to do better than the Tories in Quebec, but it's a stretch to say that these patterns had much to do with a "federalist" option versus a "sovereigntist" one. And what "Quebec separatist alliance" do you mean?

CanadianSense said...

What ridings vote for the separatist party, what are the traits demographics, linguistic?

"Créditistes" rebranded? I don't use the politcally correct term "sovereignist" when describing people who want to break up my country and demad special consideration.

The alliance with the Liberal Party-NDP in protecting them is self-evident.

What political party benefits from political party welfare? What party used their majority to pass this legislation?

Quebec Liberals won't balance their books, refuses to investigate corruption charges, loss of billions in their pension fund.

Federal Liberals won't repay their leadership loans.

The NDP-Lib leaders are playing wedge politics pitting region against region in cooperation with the separatists.

Quebec is the only province with language police, restricts English through active enforcement regulation.

Instead of allowing Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia to add thirty seats in rebalancing parliament they have picked up the Separatist issue for more Quebec seats victim card.

Quebec is not replenishing their population and will not be growing to justify adding seats.

The culture of entitlement for special interests, taxes is vey strong bond.