05.26.2010 06:46 PM

Coalitions, talking points, and missing opportunities to maintain a dignified silence

You know, I’ve read this thing a number of times, and looked at it from every conceivable angle, and I still can’t see why it was necessary to add that sentence in the first bullet, the one in bold.  In fact, I don’t see why it was necessary to issue the entire document. Politics 101: don’t comment on hypotheticals.

Also: Pour faire de l’histoire, il faut savoir compter.

Talking Points:
Conservative coalition fear-mongering


•    The Harper Conservatives are trying to change the channel from their skyrocketing G8/G20 summit costs by resurrecting a bogus coalition boogie-man.


•    Liberals will campaign to form a Liberal government. We aren’t interested in coalitions.

•    This accusation is rich coming from Stephen Harper, who signed a letter with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe in 2004 offering to form a Conservative-Bloc-NDP coalition government.

•    As former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien confirmed yesterday, there are no coalition talks, no mandate for negotiation, and no negotiating taking place.

•    Something the Harper Conservatives just don’t understand is that parties in Parliament can work together – without forming a coalition.

•    The Conservatives have even attacked David McGuinty for suggesting that parties in Parliament “should be working together to put the interests of the Canadian people first.”

•    The Conservatives think that parties in Parliament should not work together, and would rather put Conservative Party interests before the interests of Canadians.


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    parnel says:


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    Brammer says:

    I think we’ve had too much “dignified silence” from this side. Nothing wrong with being prepared for the inevitable attacks, no?

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    Robbie Armstrong says:

    The ‘bold’ statement: “We aren’t interested in coalitions” screams out and begs the question of what exactly it is then, if not coalitions, that the Conservatives have a vested interest in? What ultimately fascinates and holds the Conservative’s attention? Hone in on that, and like those old 3-D pictures with an image in the dots, the answer will literally jump out. Clue: starts with an M ends in a Y and has a cross in it.

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    e says:

    well, the good news is that they are trying to issue talking points; currently you cannot go to any newsblog and not find at least a couple people posting the CPoC talking points

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    Scott Tribe says:

    If they wanted to issue this statement, I’d have liked to have seen a snide reference to their Conservative cousins in the UK being not only able to work with other parties, but being able to form a coalition in a Westminster style Parliament.

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    George Webb says:

    God help us, the litany of useless announcements continues, I’m 69 years old and am seriously considering stopping my monthly victory fund contributions and not voting voting next election. Why doesn’t someone have some balls call Harper on the contempt of parliament and force the election. If the BS continues I may not be around to see another progressive government in this country and that is very sad.

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    Michael Watkins says:

    Gosh, instead of even acknowledging the Conservative’s attempt to divert attention, I think I’d rather be talking about what 1 billion dollars could do in better hands than providing security for a G20 meeting that will accomplish very little on Canadian soil except provide for some moronic photo ops and really should be held in the middle of a field in Manitoba surrounded by a few dozen jeeps and snipers for a tiny fraction of the cost.

    Or you could talk about Conservative MP’s like Russ Hiebert who believes he is entitled to his entitlements and feels no remorse at all for having the largest travel bill for shipping his wife and kids back and forth from B.C. to Ottawa even though tens of thousands of regular Canadian “road warriors” who spend as much time on the road as many MPs don’t get that *luxury*.

    Or you could talk about why an omnibus spending bill is marching its way through parliament even though it contains all sorts of non budgetary measures such as the weakening of Canada’s environmental protection legislation and hands over even more power to the minister, out of reach of parliament. This seems very topical even as millions of gallons of oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico, while Conservatives and conservatives in the federal government and Gordon Campbell’s misnamed B.C. Liberals seek an opportune moment to eliminate a long-standing moratorium on off shore oil and gas exploration despite massive opposition from B.C. residents.

    Or we could be talking about the hated HST and the Harper government role in pushing this through in both Ontario and B.C.

    Or… ah, no sense in going on.

    Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are out of touch with Canadians and our priorities and sensibilities.

    Apparently so too are the folks behind the latest set of Liberal talking points where they feel compelled to deny and rebut something that probably ain’t happening any time soon no one is really paying attention to, instead of addressing any number of topics that have us regular folks good and steamed, no thanks to any of the opposition parties.

    Just a thought.

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    Namesake says:

    It is a stupid document, on several levels: it “speaks with a forked tongue” (both disavowing & talking up coalitions); it’ll come back to haunt them when the Libs _will_ be interested in some type of coalition to try to stop splitting the vote in the next election; it signals we may be doomed to many more years of a Harper gov’t if they don’t get there heads out of their behinds and reconsider a coalition; and it completely misses the point it started to try to make: the fiscally incompetent Conservatives have just created a Billion dollar boondoggle of their own — probably one of many. Why couldn’t these summits be held somewhere isolated, easier to guard, & less disruptive like the Kananaskis, where the G8 summit was held in 2002?

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    Mark Wilson says:

    You hit on a key problem with politicians. No comment on hypotheticals. But anyone with convictions and principles should never fear commenting on anything.

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    Tim says:

    You will campaign, and fail again, to form a stand-alone Liberal government.

    Until progressives arrive at the same difficult but necessary decision conservatives did in the 2000s, namely that their narcissistic small differences are less important than fielding a political force capable of winning power nationally, the Tories will win by default. You won a bunch of really easy elections in the 1990s in just the same fashion, Warren. It’s not a coincidence it took the unified right exactly one full election cycle to win power once McKay broke his promise to the PC base and allowed the once-proud party of Sir John A. to be subsumed by the radical Western right.

    You just can’t have one half of the ideological spectrum divided 3 ways in English Canada and four ways – if one includes the Bloc – in Québec. Our dysfunctional electoral system simply doesn’t permit it. When you also factor in the massive, permanent cash advantage the Sorries enjoy, their complete partisan control of much of the mainstream media, and their ruthless style of politics, the picture becomes even grimmer.

    I’m not even necessarily calling for a merger or formal coalition, but the mentality in both camps MUST change. This is a fundamental prerequisite for any real change in this country.

    The days of Liberals laughably calling the NDP ‘irrelevant’ when it wins nearly 3 million votes each election and holds seats, including relatively secure bastions where strong MPs are firmly ensconced, in every single region of the country, in Montréal and Alberta and across Ontario is an offensive joke. Similarly, the days of New Democrats farcically portraying the Liberals as reactionary criminals who’ve accomplished nothing for Canada – suggesting that they’re no different from the Tories must end.

    Both are crude, counter-productive and frankly, inaccurate stereotypes. Both parties have contributed in different but immeasurably valuable ways to this country and its evolution. It’s the compassionate society that our respective heroes and heroines, be it McPhail or King, Douglas or Trudeau, Broadbent or Chretien, built together which are under sustained and increasingly effective attack by this Government each and every day.

    Politics is a competitive business, and when you’re fishing in the same pool there’s sure to be conflict. I for one, though I am proud of my own party, am damn sick of sniping at other progressives over petty bullshit rather than working towards a government which can actually deliver on the tremendous and enduring promise of this nation, a goal which comes to seem less attainable every day Harper remains in office.

    If there’s no mandate to even talk, there should be.

    Think of it this way: both Liberals and New Democrats love to secretly envision themselves as inheriting the Canadian mantle of Obama. Thusly, Grits say: ‘clearly we’re Obama. We’ve won national power and, like the Clinton democrats delivered moderate and effective progressive government which cut spending but preserved the most important social programs people need.’

    New Democrats, by contrast, think: ‘clearly I am the the Obama. We’re about real change and putting ideas on the agenda which wouldn’t otherwise be there on behalf of interests which wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. We fought the great battles for health care, women’s rights, choice and secure public pensions before it was popular. We’re outsiders who promise to shake up a patently crooked system and deliver change.’

    The division between experienced establishment Democrats, represented by Hillary, and outsider insurgent Democrats, represented by Obama in the 2008 nomination fight closely mirrors the divide between Liberals and New Democrats today. They fought it out on experience. They clashed on the issues. They even got personal. At its worst, it was downright nasty.

    But once grassroots progressive finally endorsed President Obama’s candidacy, by democratic means, they all focused on what matters: fielding the best possible candidate and winning the national power needed to enact a progressive agenda conducive to the interests of an embattled middle class and the restoration of America’s proud voice in the world. They’re not perfect but imagine the alternative. (read: Palin)

    I recognize the differences between our systems and political cultures, but the fundamental analogy holds: if Clinton and Obama, offended as their considerable sensibilities may have been after a bitter nomination fight, had committed to working at direct cross purposes throughout the actual campaign, President Obama would be unemployed and Republicans would still control the White House. No health care reform. No controls on corporate greed. No accountability for BP (debatable anyway.) But they realized the nation’s interest transcended their narrow political interests and personal vanity.

    Sorry for the interminable rant, but these questions have weighed heavily on me of late. I know progressive Canadians around the country feel the same way. I close by suggesting there’s a reason Tory hysteria reaches its highest crescendo when talk of coalitions and purposeful cooperation on behalf of the Canadian people arises: it’s because this is what they fear most, and what alone can politically destroy them.

    THx, WK

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    JStanton says:

    This is exactly why grass-roots Liberals are in despair:

    ‘Liberals will campaign to form a Liberal government. We aren’t interested in coalitions.’

    Since sand-bagging Mr. Chretien, the LPC, having repeatedly chosen long-shot candidates, have tried ‘to form a Liberal government’ again and again, and failed miserably. So what’s changed in the LPC that will break this pattern?

    Moreover, apparently even journalists can do the math, and realize that, structurally, the LPC simply cannot form a government in the conventional manner. Does the LPC leadership have their collective head in the sand?

    In order to change the current regime, this country needs a coalition opposition, which will inevitably morph into a coalition government. The longer the LPC leadership stands in the way of this, the more that hitherto stalwart Liberals will bleed away.

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    Elizabeth says:

    I just think you can’t tell what’s going to happen until the election is called. I don’t think that we’re seeing the whole Ignatieff here – and won’t until there’s a battle.

    I remain optimistic for the Liberals, and I’d prefer not to have a coalition with the NDP, because I don’t trust Jack Layton. Honestly, I don’t think a lot of Canadians can see Layton as Prime Minister, ever.
    If it were Ed Broadbent in a coalition, that would work, because Ed is/was a totally different kind of politician.
    I think any coalition is going to be trouble in the long run; there would be a pre-formed split, and there’d be bound to be disagreements and power struggles, because of the way Layton is. I can’t see a coalition governing smoothly, and that would just invite more trouble, another election and a divided coalition.

    I suspect there’s a silent majority that’s going to be heard on election day. The chance has to be taken – I think that a coalition would look like everyone huddling behind a hedge, in fear of Harper. I’d rather see the Liberals just go for the throat when the writ is dropped. 🙂

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    wilson says:

    talking point
    ”This accusation is rich coming from Stephen Harper, who signed a letter with Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe in 2004 offering to form a Conservative-Bloc-NDP coalition government.”

    No, harper wanted a ‘working majority’,
    much like the Lib-NDP accord with Bob Rae, which today is being tooted to as the ‘model’.

    So when the Liberal talking points are ‘no coalition’ (shared cabinet),
    they are not saying ‘no accord’,
    which IS what Harper instigated, but it failed when Jack backed out.

    If Libs and Dippers can collectively gain 41 seats in the next election, they could have a working majority,
    legitimate mandate where the 2008 coalition of losers was not.

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    Ryan Pollard says:

    “We aren?t interested in coalitions.”

    …and we DON’T have VD!

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