06.06.2010 09:40 AM

Coalition chatter on a cold, rainy Sunday morning

We woke at the cabin to near-freezing temperatures, this morning, and also plenty of rain. Will make a run for it when things die down a bit.

Also woke to morning headlines suggesting that the Reformatory leader is now “licking his lips” about a Liberal-NDP get-together – and the Liberal leader pouring coldish water on merging.

I don’t suppose that the former could say a Liberal-Democrat Party actually worries him – just as the latter can’t simply say he’s now worried enough to embrace it. Both men are saying what they can only say, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, me – and those like me – may be completely wrong. One thing is a fact, however: if the Grits drop much more below that 25 per cent floor, their rank-and-file will be transformed into an army of pro-coalition missionaries.

But if the Libs wait that long, of course, the NDP won’t be in the mood to be converted to the coalition cause. And that’ll likely be right around the time you start to read stories and columns about the Dippers’ ambitious re-decoration plans for 409-S.

Man oh man, the weather is nasty out there, isn’t it?


  1. Scott Tribe says:

    I think Ignatieff’s statement is proper and follows what the UK leaderships of those parties were saying both before and after their election. SO, as a pro-coalition person (or at least one that urges Liberals not to discount that form of government if the scenario pops up post-next election), I have no issue with Iggy’s statement; in fact I approve of it.

  2. Joseph says:

    Well, Iggy has now given Harper carte blanche to run attack ads against the “coalition” and make it the issue in the next election instead of it being a referendum on Harper. I wonder if he even knows what the caucus sentiment is today.

  3. William M says:

    The Nordic and Benelux nations, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan, India, Switzerland, and the UK have all been governed by coalitions as some point.

    The Harpercrites have an interesting and, so far, effective strategy here; keep the opposition on the defensive.

    Ignatieff said exactly the right thing on this. Have the election on the merits of each party’s platform and look at the results and any potential avenues of stable government afterwards.

    Had Harpo not tried to gut the $1.95 subsidy and had actually proposed some stimulus in the Nov 2008 Economic update, there would never have been a coalition in the first place.

    I, for one, welcome an election asap. I want to know how the great economic manager who proposed no stimulus, said “If we were going to have a recession by now, we wold have had it”, and who campaigned on zero deficits, can answer with a straight face when pushed on the economy.

    C’mon Emperor Stephen, we’re looking forward to your new duds!

  4. Bill Templeman says:

    But Scott, what about this quote in the WFP article from Ignatieff?

    “”Talk of coalition (now), it seems to me, is not only a distraction but I don’t think it serves the interests of my party and I actually don’t think it serves the interests of the country. I think what’s right is we should stand up and raise that Liberal banner and say, ‘Here’s what we stand for. Vote for us.’ ”

    I could concede your point re coalitions, but when, oh when, will Ignatieff tell the country what the LPC stands for, other than the Harperites are scary? Little in his performance to date convinces me that he will actually stand up and explain what the party stands for. So if he is understandably lukewarm on coalitions, where’s the trumpet call and banner to rally the troops? We’re waiting…..

    Warren. your point about timing is right on target. Better bargain from a position of relative strength (77 seats) that a position of desperation.

  5. Sean says:

    Where this whole thing gets very dangerous for Ignatieff is the theory that the rest of the party will actually follow him and rule out working with the NDP. The more it appears this guy is going nowhere, the more obvious it is that his career will end with the next election, the more difficult (impossible) it will be to keep the troops in line. I foresee many ugly scenarios… IE, what if grass roots riding associations in strong NDP ridings begin to refuse to provide Liberal Candidates and overtly support the NDP? At what point are Liberal M.P.s going to start defecting?

    Lastly, I have to strongly disagree that it is a given that Iggy would lead any coalition. If we go the route of a merger, I suspect that many Liberals would want a new leadership process in a new party. In an ideal fantasy situation, you might have a contest between Brian Tobin, Jack Layton, Charlie Angus, Allan Rock, Sheila Copps as leadership Candidates. This would be the most graceful way for Iggy to bow out of this mess, ala Peter MacKay: IE simply not run, but retain some credit for bringing about a positive process.

  6. Sandra says:

    I think Ignatieff’s statement is the right way to go.

    The media is having a hay day with this and Cons are ever so happy and getting their summer attack ads ready.

    We look like panicky fools.

    • keyrocks says:

      The more money the Cons burn up fighting an imaginary target the better.

      • Catherine says:

        in the CPC ranks though the ground support is still donating. We can replentish that which we use before the next election. I’m thinking the NDP can also. Liberals? Looking mighty Iffy.

  7. Eugene Parks says:

    coalitions tend to lead to compromise based on what the public sees as in their best interests

    on the other than, mergers tend to lead to ideological ballot box-offerings, which the public views as so much bunk

    – hence why harper cannot form a majority or why the NDP cannot get traction and why the separatists cannot get a mandate to separate… the public wants their best interest protected rather than being served up ideological dogmas that amount to nothing more than vain rhetoric. the public hates gaseous ideology fantasies

    be the party that fights for the public/national best interest where theory/philosophy/ideology is second to the public’s best interests

  8. If the preternaturally perspicacious L. Ian MacDonald, who suffers from no partisan predilection, says it isn’t happening, well, it isn’t happening.

    – sarcasm off –

    It would be helpful to see less scaremongering and partisanship in this discussion about coalitions. It seems as some Liberals have already bought Harper’s “socialist coalition” spin line, hook and sinker. The word is being used as a pejorative because it sounds nasty and has extra connotations for many of our immigrant communities. Don’t allow yourselves to be played.

    There’s a difference between party member-activists, and party supporters. Like all parties, the NDP counts as supporters a broad representation of the Canadian public. No one would call my neighbour and his wife socialists, yet they are constant NDP voters.

    Earlier in the year an Ekos poll put a coalition government – no mention of the Bloc – at 50% vs 43% for Harper. More instructive than anything, the percentage of NDP and BQ aligned voters in favour of the coalition was the highest at 86% and 85% respectively.

    The latest Angus Reid poll showing a higher degree of support for a merged Liberal-Democrat party under Layton than Ignatieff. The regional breakdowns appear to show that Canadians detect Ignatieff might be more conservative in outlook than the alternatives and this really only works for Ignatieff in Atlantic Canada. In PQ, ON and BC it is a decided negative. The country appears to reward leadership which speaks to the common good with more conviction than Michael can muster and indeed the polling difference between Rae or Layton leading a merged party is not that great.

    With almost 9 in 10 NDP and BQ voters signal they’d support a coalition of some sort, and the recent Angus Reid poll showing that winning scenarios are possible, no wonder Harper is jacking up the rhetoric big time.

    Activist members have to remember that those they purport to represent, every day Canadian voters, are not concerned about what riding association survives a merger, or even which candidate survives. The public applauds political darwinism, even if party activists with their own investment in time and energy quite naturally have other agenda which takes time and emotional maturity to cast off.

    Either way, coalition or merger, to me these sorts of numbers sound like an incredible opportunity to bring together Canadians, and that Canadians want to be given that option.

    A far more united opposition, with the real potential to make significant electoral headway in Quebec, is clearly a political force that Stephen harper does not want to see, ever.

    • Namesake says:

      Um, what he said… or I said, less eloquently, here,

      in response to a Lib. riding prez’s revelatory remarks about taking the long view (where he said, essentially, so what if the Con’s are in 2 more terms… we can always undo alll their policies when we’re restored to power).

      I guess we “free riders” get what we deserve on this for not being more active, but it seems to me that many who are actively engaged in party politics and are opposed to a coalition on that basis are motivated by the wrong reasons. To some of them, it’s just a giant, glorified, spouse-sanctioned game of Risk, and it’s the game itself, and staying (and hopefully advancing) in it) that’s all important — not the societal and environmental impacts and collateral damage along the way. (Where the individual swaths of people or even species who could be hurt or even killed by Con. policies (like weakening safety & environmental & oil drilling standards, eg.: see ) are regarded as just so many interchangable token plastic ‘armies’ that could be replaced when they retake those continents 2 or 3 elections from now.

      To those people I say, why don’t you do us all a favour & go play Dungeons & Dragons or something, instead, if it’s the game you like. Or, if you’re of the ‘preserve the long-standing, glorious party / club / brand at all costs, rather than advancing it’s mission’ school, go join a service club like the Knights of Columbus. But don’t oppose a coalition or even merger simply on the basis that it might spell the demise of the Liberal party per se.

      Perhaps there should be some sort of litmus or situational ethics tests posed to the various bloggers & party people circling the wagons so we can gauge whose interests they have at heart: What’s more important to you: the Party or the policies? And, would you still be opposed to any type of pre-election coalition talks even if you personally could not continue to participate in the existing Liberal party (because you were suddenly implicated in the sponsorship scandal, e.g.)?

  9. allegra fortissima says:

    The article only proves that Stephen Harper is desperate. Labelling the NDP as “socialist” is a ridiculous “McCain style” strategy – plain right wing propaganda. And way too plain to be called “Machiavellian”.

    The NDP is a Social Democratic Party. Don’t believe me? Get your school-books or history books out, folks.

    “If the Grits drop much more below that 25 per cent floor…” – my advice right now to the Liberal Party leader (and I hate to say this): time to order Gordon Campbell to the principle’s office. The man will cost you votes! I am referring to the BC anti-HST petition – 7000 volunteers are ready to organize the next step: a MLA recall.

    Cranky voters don’t forget, on provincial or federal level – and they will take it out on the Liberal Party!

    Gentle warm rain drops on this side of the country, weather-wise. Time for a swim.

    • Paul R. Martin says:

      Harper is desperate??? Perhaps you haven’t noticed that he is the Prime Minister and has a very nice lead in the polls. Methinks it is the Liberals who are desperate and Layton is thinking of changing his moniker to “Happy Jack”. Personally, I plan to visit Ottawa during the last week in June. It should be a good time to visit as the politicians will be out of town.

      • parnel says:

        Martin, according to the latest EKOS numbers out…….the culture of deceit would tumble to around 120 seats if an election were held now. Do you really think Harper wants an election anyh time soon? The Libs can hold their fire because it appears more and more likely we are going to see the second dip in the recession over the coming months and then Harpecrite can continue to take “credit” for the economy.

        That’s why the Libs don’t need a coalition partner.

        • Paul R. Martin says:

          I have no idea why you use that silly phrase “culture of deceit”. It is one thing to be a partisan Liberal, but it is another thing to continue to parrot useless slogans. Just who is deceiving who? Wishing and hoping will just not cut the mustard with the general public. What does the Liberal Party stand for? You have been out of power for about 4 years. That is not very long. Being negative is not enough. Tell the voters what you stand for.

        • Michael Watkins says:

          Don’t be too sure that a re-softening in the world economy doesn’t work for Harper. I have no doubt that he has the skills to make it happen, and I have every reason to doubt that the opposition can make such a problem stick to him. If that changes, it’ll be the first time since… well, ever.

          Harper and Flaherty lied and bluffed about economic matters leading into the 2008 election, and people bought it. Even if the media were skeptical, none of them did their homework to prove that Harper was already digging a deep debt ditch on the day he called for the writ to be dropped.

          Canada, little thanks to any Conservative policy, was always seen to be somewhat insulated from the lows of the recession. Nothing Conservatives did caused our primary materials producers to bounce back or step away from the brink. Maybe U.S. and Canadian governments can get some credit for making unpopular decisions to prop up certain auto-makers. A real “conservative” wouldn’t have authorized those “investments”. But they did help save jobs and prolong the life of an auto-maker. Whether it survives the test of time is another matter. Freeing up our big banks of certain debt obligations by buying off their balance sheet hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mortgage portfolios was an unnecessary move. None of our banks was ever in trouble during the past three years, but what the Harper government did was give the Canadian banks more freedom to make even more money. And they did. Hell, Greece (or more pointedly, Spain) could have done the same trick with the same results.

          What really mattered was China’s (and the rest of the developing, accelerating, world) insatiable appetite for raw materials and energy, and the reality that prices went from too high to too low in record time. When that happens buying returns, and it did. And when that happens, commodity prices bounce back, and they did.

          Making the call that we’d bounce back faster than most of the world, and certainly faster than the moribund U.S., did not require any genius, but Harper gets to take the credit for it just the same.

          Canada’s return to semi-normalcy would have happened if we shut down Ottawa completely for the last two years, didn’t print a single over-sized Conservative cheque spending our money, didn’t print even a regular cheque, didn’t have a single debate, pass a single new bill, didn’t even cut the lawn on Parliament Hill.

          Political leaders can make an upcoming bad situation work for them if the other guy doesn’t look like she/he has the credentials or gonads to deal with it. We should have no doubt that Harper doesn’t look at an upcoming period of softness with a nervous eye. If anything, like Jean Chretien did in 2000, if he is perceptive enough to see the train coming down the track, he’ll call an election before it runs a bunch of Canadians over.

          Chretien timed it perfectly in 2000 and came back with even more seats, against a divided opposition.

          What do we have now? A divided opposition.

      • allegra fortissima says:

        Sure I noticed – who couldn’t notice this fact??? Even the young conservative fellow I talked to yesterday notices the fact, may I quote him: “I always voted conservative, but not anymore. The debt load is outrageous, it wasn’t even that bad under Mulroney…”. I assume the polls didn’t ask him and many others.

        Of course Jack Layton will be “Happy Jack”. I think he is happy already. “…However, if the coalition were to propose Jack Layton as prime minister, according to the Read poll, it could defeat the Conservatives by 43-37 per cent.” (Spector Vision, May 31)

        You plan to visit Ottawa when the politicians will be out of town? Wouldn’t it be way more interesting to visit Ottawa when the politicians are in town? I would probably choose winter, depending on the Rideau Canal skating conditions – sounds like fun!

  10. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve always felt that Harper is addicted to power, on a personal level. He’s going to have a tough time giving up the job – because where else do you get that kind of power, where is he going to get it, in the private world? This is the only real job he’s ever had, as the leader of a wealthy country. He’ll do anything to hang onto it.

    This is scary:

    But it’s exactly how I felt when the coalition crisis with Dion first burst upon the national consciousness. “First thing – take him out.”

    The media is as much to blame as anyone for this, it took them far too long to start calling Harper on his behaviour.

    Coalition wasn’t announced until after the UK election was over, was it? Harper is going to demonize the opposition parties based on a coalition regardless of whether it’s announced before an election or whether we have to wait until after an election. Next election is going to be a really dirty, ugly one.

  11. Bill says:

    Warren, I know you have been around long enough to realize that “fear” of a coalition is the last emotion that Harper is feeling when he hears this talk. I would say “licking his lips” is a lot closer to the emotion that conservatives will have if this talk continues. Basically what Iggy is saying is that if Canadians don’t chose him and/or the NDP during the election, he will take steps to make that decision for them…..thus wiping out what will be valid election results under our current system. Voters are not going to appreciate the arrogance that this kind of action reflects.

    • parnel says:

      Bill, that is clearly a wrong thought. The “Coalition” issue is now clearly in the vocabulary of the voters with the results of the UK election. Almost every Western European government is in a coalition of some kind and has Silver pointed out in a G&M article the current Israeli government was formed by a coalition of “losers”.

      And if an election were held today Harpo could lose up to 25 seats but still have the largest number. The Libs and Dippers could then go to the GG with their perfectly legitimate offer to cooperate and become the government. That’s what scares Harpo and why his culture of deceit and lies continues in full attack mode.


    • Michael Watkins says:

      Bill said: “thus wiping out what will be valid election results under our current system. Voters are not going to appreciate the arrogance that this kind of action reflects.”

      I guess you’ve forgotten about David Emerson then.

      Thought so.

      You want to talk about arrogance? Emerson called the citizens who opposed his actions “bugs” and Harper called us inconsequential, despite most citizens in Vancouver and even in the deeply conservative more rural areas of the province being steadfastly opposed (> 75%) to Harper engaging in secret negotiations with Emerson less than 24 hours after Emerson was elected as a sitting Liberal cabinet minister.

      What Emerson did was more than simply jump ship after being bored by opposition. He jumped ship the day after being elected only we, there mere voting public, wouldn’t find out until Emerson’s mug exited from a town car at Rideau Hall a couple weeks later.

      By accepting a cabinet position in Harper’s government Emerson effectively swore to renege on every single meaningful policy promise he’d made both as a cabinet minister and as an incumbent running for re-election under the Liberal banner. Cabinet ministers may not vote in opposition to government bills. Thank’s for voting Emerson in, now go fuck yourselves is the message Harper and Emerson sent to voters that day in February 2006.

      Stephen Harper has no virtuous soapbox upon which to proclaim that some other so and so isn’t respecting voters or the true spirit our democracy should represent.

  12. parnel says:

    I don’t think the Libs will sink lower. Iggy said the right thing. One must always remember the plight of Chretien and Harper when they were opposition leaders. Hell, Kim Campbell had a 20% personal lead over JC in 1993 and Harper had similar numbers against Martin.

    The Libs just need to stay close or even slightly ahead, change Iggy’s profile somewhat to put a fighting edge around him, and just keep hammering the Tory culture of deceit and lies. “A coalition if necessary but not necessarily a colaition” could come AFTER an election as Iggy has stated.

  13. Paul R. Martin says:

    Hello Warren. Whenever I use BING to find your blog, I find the phrase “a modern day Machiavelli”. As my copy of The Prince disappeared about 40 years ago, I was wondering what Machiavelli would think about a NDP / Liberal coalition. Any comments?

    • allegra fortissima says:

      “One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.”

      “Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”

  14. Robbie says:

    Nature abhors a vacuum. People are instinctively drawn to, respect, and admire an assertive, direct leader whether they be a man or a woman. The cream usually rises to the top unless the milk sours. The proof is in the pudding. Man, am I ever hungry for dessert. Not just desserts but also a substantial meal.

  15. hugger says:

    Angus Reid offers this on the subject;

    A merged Lib NDP with Iggnatieff as leader would bring 34% decided voters, to the Conservatives 40%.

    A merged Lib NDP with Bob Rae as leader would result in a tie at 38% each.

    A merged Lib NDP with Jack Layton as leader would bring 43% support for Lib / NDP, to the Conservatives 37%. How’s that for a Pepto Bismal moment?


  16. JStanton says:

    It appears that, effectively, Mr. Ignatieff has conceded defeat, which will lead to at least another term of Mr. Harper’s re-shaping of Canada.

    Firstly, Mr. Ignatieff has allowed the notion of “coalition” to be shaped and defined by Mr. Harper, rather than by facts and/or reason, or even by coalition partners. This concession, in the face of facts or convention to the contrary, make Mr. Ignatieff appear spineless.

    Secondly, Mr. Ignatieff evidently has been overcome by hubris and delusion. By insisting that he will best Mr. Harper mano a mano in the election arena – despite his being an election neophyte, despite his perennially poor showing in the polls, despite his inability to win over hearts and minds on anything since his inauguration, despite the mathematical impossibility of his party taking enough seats from the Bloc in Quebec AND the Conservatives in Alberta/BC – make Mr. Ignatieff appear a flake.

    Thirdly, by allowing Mr. Harper to define the election timetable, Mr. Ignatieff appears to be an opportunist who cares little about the Canada that Mr. Harper is intent on changing, and the Canadians who will suffer because of it.

    To put this in perspective – Mr. Martin became Prime Minister at the end of 2003. During the two years prior to that, the Chretien government was focused on the implementation of policy that had been formulated several years before that. During Mr. Martin’s tenure, there was little or no policy implementation, as, either the bureaucracy waited on firm directives from government, or government sat on their hands waiting for an election to serve them a majority. There have, in other words, been no new Liberal policies implemented for ten years. Whatever progressive social, economic or environmental policy implementation that still remains is ten years out of date. Whatever new policy is implemented by Mr. Harper has as its primary purpose the neutralization of previous Liberal policy.

    Mr. Ignatieff, by dismissing out of hand the quickest and most expedient manner of rescuing the government from Mr. Harpers’s Conservatives and their regressive and destructive policies, demonstrates either a failure to grasp just how high are the stakes, or an unconscionable ambivalence to the danger.

    We need decisive action, and we need it now. The existing policy of doing nothing until circumstances are more auspicious is less a policy than it is the abandonment of the fundamental responsibilities of being in opposition. The only sensible and ethical course of action is immediate coalition agreements with opposition parties.

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