Saturday, March 26, 2011

Moving past the coalition on day one

It's only day one of this election campaign but we're well into year five of the permanent campaign, which perhaps is why while Michael Ignatieff's Liberals released a statement ruling-out a coalition after the next election before Stephen Harper even made it to Rideau Hall this morning to pull the plug on this Parliament and officially begin the 41st general election in Canada's history, it still felt like an overdue move.

Still, getting it out of the way on day one had to be done. It had become a media pre-occupation the last few day. Here's a snippet of the statement, which I think is about a clear as we could hope for under the circumstances:
Whoever leads the party that wins the most seats on election day should be called on to form the government.

We will not enter a coalition with other federalist parties. In our system, coalitions are a legitimate constitutional option. However, I believe that issue-by-issue collaboration with other parties is the best way for minority Parliaments to function.
We categorically rule out a coalition or formal arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois.
Seems pretty dammed clear to me. No to a coalition. The party gets that gets the most seats gets to form the government. If the Liberals are called on to form a minority government, they'll govern just like past Liberal governments have done, and just like the last Conservative government has done (but slightly less arrogantly, I trust): seeking support from the other parties in the house on a case-by-case basis.

Let's pause briefly on policy and democracy. It's a shame Ignatieff has to explicitly rule out a coalition. They are a perfectly legitimate constitutional option, and I'm glad the statement makes that point. The Conservatives have deliberately confused and misled to such a point that the well is poisoned and it's a shame, because our democracy suffers as a result of the ignorance they stoke for their narrow political ends. They erode trust in our democratic institutions, and we all suffer for that.

And really, what could be more symbolic for the attitude of this Harper Government? A coalition is about cooperation, about different groups working together for a common goal. And the Conservatives have made cooperation a dirty word. Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

As for the politics, I think this settles the issue for most people, at least those who would be open to considering us in the first place. The media interest will fade out and the pack will move on. I hear they actually gave Harper a rough time on this at his five-question presser this morning.

The Conservatives, of course, will still keep harping (sorry) on this theme. Even if the media won't amplify it, their speeches and ad buys and their surrogates will keep spreading the secret evil voodoo coalition boogedy-boo. But I'm doubtful how effective running around calling Ignatieff a liar will be.

There is a certain irony though. A few elections back Harper knew the abortion question would be a big barrier to him breaking-through. The Liberals warned of a hidden agenda. On day one of the campaign, Harper came out and addressed it: I will do nothing on (edited: same sex marriage) . It settled the question, and let him move on to other issues. Now, Ignatieff has ruled-out a coalition on day one, and it's Harper warning people of a Liberal hidden agenda.

If Harper wants to keep reversing roles, I hear Stornaway is pretty nice... :)

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ottlib said...

Just a little quibble.

I believe the issue Mr. Harper talked about on the first day of the 2006 election was SSM and not abortion.

He stated that he would have free vote in the House on the issue and then left it at that.

It effectively put that issue to bed for the remainder of that election and this statement by the Liberals will probably put the coalition issue to bed, except for the usual suspects that you mention in your post.

Gayle said...

I guess this was for the best, but it does play into Harper's hands. He is afraid of a coalition. Now he does not have to be.

Frankly Canadian said...

Good luck on your campaign Jeff and remember, the power is in the people, the same people who will challenge our media to expose the truth and question the actual policies. Challenging our media to expose all the truths will benefit everyone but the Conservatives.
P.S. enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of our country.

Frankly Canadian said...

Good luck Jeff and remember power to the people, the same people who will challenge our media to expose the truth and question the actual policies. The truth will help everyone but the Conservatives.
P.S. enjoy one of the most beautiful places in Canada (the west coast islands)

Jeff said...

Thanks ottlib, memory cramp. I blame jet lag. :)

Thanks fc, beautiful day in the valley today!