04.14.2011 01:39 PM

Chretien: Why a majority now? Why isn’t a minority good anymore?

…and my friend points out a big gap in Harper’s logic:

  1. He’s been saying since 2004 he’s a-okay with a minority.  He’s in fact even suggested it can help to hold him in check, remember that?
  2. He’s been saying, for years, we can get the job done with a minority.
  3. Now he’s saying, over and over, he needs a majority.
  4. He’s obviously saying that because he has polling showing people agree that it is a good way to avoid further “unnecessary elections.”
  5. So what, then, would happen with a Harper majority?

I endeavour to answer that last question in my Sun column on Sunday.  Needless to say, I don’t see it as a positive development.

Neither does Chretien.  Thus, this:

Ex PM Jean Chretien takes aim at Harper’s plea for a majority government (FedElxn-Chretien)
Source: The Canadian Press
Apr 14, 2011 14:22

MONTREAL – Jean Chretien took aim Thursday at Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plea for a majority government.

Harper has repeatedly urged Canadians to give the Tories most of the seats in the Commons on May 2 to avoid another election.

But when asked about the prospect of a Tory majority, the former Liberal prime minister shot down the need to heed Harper’s request.

“You know, most of the countries in the world don’t have majority governments,” Chretien, who himself won three consecutive majorities, said before addressing a conference on international policy in Montreal.

“Only in Canada, when I was there, we had three. In all humility.”

Looking at his own party, Chretien said the Liberals’ election campaign has been better than most Canadians thought.

“Not bad, better than expected,” Chretien said when asked about the Michael Ignatieff-led Liberal campaign.

“But we knew that the day of the election (call).

“We have good candidates and the mood with the membership that I meet seems to be better.”

Chretien also predicted the leaders’ debates will have little influence because there were no knockout punches.

He said with the televised debates behind the leaders, the “real campaign” now can begin.



  1. Mike L says:

    I miss Chretien. I was too young to appreciate a lot of what was happening during his tenure as PM, but there is no comparison between the political leaders we have now and him.

    • Russ says:

      I miss Chretien too. He won his 1st Majority on my 10th Birthday (October 25, 1993). I’d love to see him on the Campaign Trail between now and Election Day.

  2. Martin says:

    Actually, I would say there is a comparison. Chretien won in good part because of the divided right. The same could be said of Harper vis-à-vis the divided left.

      • Wayne says:

        Power at all cost, eh old boy?

      • reformatory says:

        I disagree. The liberals won handsomly and several times before the right or left was divided. There was no divided oppositon with Trudeau, Pearson, King, or Laurier. I’ve spoken about my skepticism of the divided left “theory” on this website, and I’ve asked for people to share their thoughts and shed light on it. It was an extensive post but nobody responded. I even asked WK to weigh in himself- and he did not.

        I’ve made several grefat points as to why as I Liberal I would be oppossed to an NDP / Liberal Merger or whatever else you’d want to call it. It makes tons of sense to me. I asked for some much more intelligent people who know their way around politics much better than I to weigh in and to convince me and I’m still waiting.

        Anytime would be a good time?

    • James Bow says:

      I always wondered why so many people conflate the centre with the left. They’re not the same thing. They have different agenda and deserve different representation in parliament.

  3. Wes Werkman says:

    Of course Chretien would have been pleased as punch with a minority for himself. Give me a break.

    • Warren says:

      He won a majority three times in a row because Canadians liked him better than they like your leader. And they trusted him more. Full stop.

      • Pete says:

        JC won because he was better and smarter than the guys on the other team. He also won because Mulroney was a crook and doomed the party. The libs of today are making similar claims about Harper’s honesty and hopefully will have made that dishonesty an election result in favor of their excellent team.

      • Smarto says:

        And What did Chretien do with that trust?? HE CUT HEALTH CARE TO THE PROVINCES!! But alas – this is the only place you can read about him now – because nobody cares about him anymore.

    • Mike says:

      But he didn’t have to. Your point then?

      • Reality Bites says:

        Chretien also won 19, 26 and 36 seats in Quebec, which had nothing to do with a divided right.

        In Ontario a divided right gave him virtually every seat, but twice he had an actually majority of the popular vote in Ontario (49.5 the other time).

        It’s great to have a divided opposition, no question. But even with one, Harper doesn’t come close to the electoral victories Chretien has. If he faced a united opposition he’d be leading Reform 2

  4. mamapeggie says:

    Aren’t most successful minorities made up of the winning party with the most votes and another party with enough votes that give the two of them a majority. How many are made up of all the losing parties??? Unfortunately I remember the Chretien years only to well, The Red Books full of promises to gain power but NEVER to fulfill the promises. With Creitien it was all about staying in power and never to do with the good of the people. Can’t see a whole lot of difference in Ignatieff, except even he can’t keep his promises straight.

    • Ted H says:

      I believe with Harper it is also all about staying in power and what has he honestly ever done for the true good of the people, absolutely nothing.

    • MississaugaLibPeter says:

      It seems that enough promises were kept from the Red Book that two majorities were won afterwards.

      The left-leaning NDP uniting with the centre Liberals makes as much sense as the right-leaning Conservatives uniting with the centre Liberals. If anyone suggests otherwise federally, I would hope they would apply that logic provincially. The problem is that Ignatieff is no McGuinty or Chretien (who would have won majorities, although much smaller) or Trudeau. If that logic is followed, Pearson needed to unite with the NDP over 50 years ago. Sorry WK, this is one of the few issues I strongly disagree with you on. If there were only Conservatives and Liberals, the only party to voice our views on Afghanistan in the HOC would be the Bloc. I much more prefer greater debate than the two party game down south.

      • George says:

        You are exactly right! Where Dalton is proposing tax breaks for corporations and building mega-prisons, Ignatieff’s call is the opposite, which makes Harper and Dalton a bit of a coalition at the moment.

    • Robert W says:

      Mamapeggie, you are just flat out wrong. The Liberal red books of the Chretien era contained promises that were mostly fulfilled. You should try checking your facts.

      Don’t believe the hype. Do some thinking for yourself.

    • fritz says:

      “Aren’t most successful minorities made up of the winning party with the most votes and another party with enough votes that give the two of them a majority.”

      Actually I would say a successful minority could be a winning party with another party; or parties with a similar ideology; and enough votes to give the two of them a majority.

      Two or more losing parties could form a successful government provided their ideologies were similar. The LPC with the support of the NDP & BQ could govern successfully for years.

      The CPC has no party in Parliament that supports their right wing agenda so can never do this. The Tory ceiling is around 38% so they are doomed (thank God) to always be a minority.

  5. Chris says:

    Here you go Warren. I bet you’ll like this. http://shitharperdid.ca.nyud.net/
    The videos are pretty funny.

  6. bell says:

    Harper 122.8 +27.9
    Layton 57.3 +0.2
    Ignatieff 52.7 +3.1
    Duceppe 13.8 -0.6
    (latest nanos leadership results)

    I guess this puts the “who won the english debate?” question to bed. The question now is how will this translate to voter intentions.

  7. George says:

    Apparently, Paul Martin and Iffy coming to Edmonton Saturday and Vancouver on Sunday.
    Bad move IMO

  8. AmandaM says:

    Where the hell does Harper get off asking for a majority (which doesn’t exist in most western liberal democracies these days) because it will prevent unnecessary elections? You know what would’ve prevented this election, sir? If your government hadn’t been held in contempt of parliament and if your office had actually understood that you had a minority and compromised with the opposition.

    Harper’s arrogance is sociopathic. His life’s goal is to eliminate progressivism – WHY? What is his problem with actual debate in this country? He has GOT to go. He’s so blind in his hate that he didn’t realize those horrifying ads would do nothing but knock Mr. Ignatieff to the point that he had nowhere to go but up in Canadians’ estimation. He has no idea how people not blinded by hate operate.

    Also, I love that Michael Ignatieff is elevating the discourse in this campaign. It’s so refreshing and I’m glad that there is actual policy to consider from him.

    • Warren says:

      I love AM comments.

    • Ottlib says:

      Mr. Harper cannot get rid of progressivism any more than progressives can get rid of conservatives.

      But it is true that his overarching goal is to do just that. He has not really governed since he won power he has just tried his best to destroy progressivism in general and the Liberal Party in particular.

    • Cynical says:

      I’ve always said that Harper hates Liberals more than he loves Canada. It isn’t a great motivator for the long haul.

    • Ramon K.Buckland says:

      To hell with your ‘Western Liberal DeMockeries’. The greatest threat to our western culture – in fact our entire western civilization itself, is the constant ever increasing rate of decadence that threatens the very foundations, pillars, and sheltering roofs of decent civilized humanity in the name of ‘Liberism’.

      Canada, under the leadership of past left leaning shitheads (the likes of Trudeau, Chretien, Martin) has been heading TOO FAR LEFT for far too long. ENOUGH!! Take a look at the shameful state of abortions in this country, same sex marriage, the unforgiveably abject neglect of our once proud military, the obvious stigma being applied to our cherished western religious traditions in favour of “People of other faiths,” the seeming handing over of our country, on a platter – with our heads, hearts, brains, balls, money, and asses on it to those who would just as soon inflict their brand of unrelenting bullshit on our backsides – to our childrens’ demise. Take a good look at the ogre that is a beast called (reverse discrimination) in the job market for instance.

      Canada is a great country, with a great future for all it’s citizens, and immigrants, and residents – as long as we sail the seas of life carefully, fairly, and wisely.

      If not, then just like that ill fated ship (Titanic) we risk certain political, social, and economic disaster. Think we’re ‘unsinkable,’ good people? Think again.

      Yes… Canada has been going TOO FAR LEFT for far too long. It’s time for some FIRM corrective action in EVERYONE’S best interest. It’s time for a HARD RIGHT RUDDER, good people. Take an honest look at current world conditions if you don’t agree, or understand why. Be honest with yourselves & I’m sure YOU WILL SEE CLEARLY through the fog of fiberal folly. There is a colossal ‘Vice Berg’ straight ahead caused by way too much rampant, selfish, irresponsible, unconscionable ‘liberism.’ We better make a HARD FAST RIGHT RUDDER, and keep it that way – if we want to keep happily sailing along

  9. Sean Cummings says:

    Most people I talk with are tired of going to the polls every couple of years. I really don’t care who wins, but I’d like to see someone with a majority government. I suspect there’s a lot of people out there who feel the same.

    • nic coivert says:

      It really is a problem when people feel it too onerous to exercise democratic responsibility.

      I would suggest to those that don’t care though to stay home and watch TV, otherwise you are in the way.

      • The Doctor says:

        I don’t think it’s the “going to the polls” thing that irritates people; it’s the sitting through a 1-2 month campaign having to listen to and watch all this partisan BS, irritating TV commercials, watching the leaders making ridiculous promises with our money, etc. That’s what I hate about it. I dutifully have marched to the polls every election. That part is easy and painless. If I didn’t have to endure the idiocy and inanity of an election campaign, I’d happily vote once a week.

    • Sam Gunsch says:

      1957 – 1968
      6 elections, minorities and majorities

      The common good seemed to be more important to Canadian governments back then.

      re: “I really don’t care who wins”

      Under Harper, what has been important?

      When Canadian citizens made the incredible sacrifice of subjecting themselves to the horrendous misery and costs of going to the polls 6 times in 11 years back then…

      …back then it seems frequency of elections did not prevent good governance on many issues.

      …governance from both Conservative and Liberal governments with of course significant NDP contributions.

      Sam Gunsch

  10. A. Marshall says:

    I don’t understand these people complaining about frequent elections. Especially those on the conservative side of the fence. I thought they all loved the United States, and they have Congressional elections every two years. They want to add elections to the Senate, those are going to be an added cost as well. And didn’t the Reform/Alliance gang want to introduce more referendums on issues near and dear to their heart? Seriously, if our countries biggest problem is that citizens are frequently required to give their consent to be governed in a peaceful and fair election, then we are truly the spoiled children of the world.

    • Sean Cummings says:

      Frequency of elections has an impact on voter turnout and like it or not, the cost is pretty ridiculous. Ideally most people would probably be fine if all the kids in the sandbox played together nicely, but that doesn’t happen. Our political system is all about a party governing with a majority – Tories want one, Liberals want one – to suggest otherwise is kind of silly. Gamesmanship is the common currency in Ottawa – it is heightened because of minority governments. To think otherwise is naive.

      • Robin says:

        Our political system is NOT all about a party governing with a majority for the simple reason that Parliamentary democracy works with a minority. To suggest otherwise is just ignorance of our political system: just when have we ever had to have another election because we failed to elect a majority? Never, that’s when.

      • AmandaM says:

        You know what, if Harper hadn’t spent so much time pointing out the differences between Canadians and creating an extremist right-wing party out of a progressive, conservative party (which I like to see debating with centrists and liberals, it’s good for us), we wouldn’t be in this situation. He can’t get over about 35% of the vote because 65% of Canadians are not interested in far-right version of conservatism. That’s a majority, by the way. He hasn’t really changed any minds since 2006, and until he grows up and gets over his hate of those who don’t agree with him (the majority), or until he gives up his extremist crusade and steps down, this country will continue to have these issues. I thought for a long time that Harper was better than that, but he simply isn’t.

        Our system doesn’t have to be about majority, as much as I like the stability it brings, but only if that stability is reasoned, and takes into account the needs of Canadians who need their government. Minorities can work just as well (cf. Pearson – we pretty much hold him up as a Canadian god). The only thing that can save us from it is if the naive left grows up and stops believing that the revolution is coming, or if Quebeckers figure out that their interests are not at all served by quasi-separatists, despite their dreamy blue eyes. Ignatieff is the best leader the Liberals have had since Chretien and it’s BETTER to have the smartest kid in the class at the helm.

        • Roger says:

          extremist right wing party, Amanda?…you should be more worried about the fact that the LPC is getting so far left that it would make Mao blush….oh…I forgot, let the flowers bloom….

      • smelter rat says:

        Bullshit. If Harper had stuck to his fixed election dates, and/or not caused the last 2 elections, we wouldn’t be doing this one.

        • Namesake says:

          which is completely irrelevant to the point, that Harper triggered the election himself, in direct violation of the spirit if not the letter of his own fixed election date law.

  11. JH says:

    I would point out that I realize it’s encouraging to reinforce each other and that a number of you don’t want to hear any dissenting voices.
    However it’s WK’s basic even-handedness and political smarts that keeps me coming back to add my 2 cents. So here goes. It’s wishful thinking and pizzing against the wind, as my grandfather used to say, if you think there’s no Conservative party and it will implode etc. That’s just not reality. There’s a hard-core 35 – 40% Conservative vote in this country and not just since the writ dropped, it’s been there a long time. Until you can unite the center left (for want of a better term) you will always have to depend on being propped up by the Bloc to compete against that. Most of us, even those inclined to go back and forth across the line, just cannot buy into that.

  12. Windsurfer says:

    I wish I were a fly on the wall at the “ethnic gathering” tonight.

    Had I been able to drive the miles, I’d-a-been a Klingon with a Batt’leth.


  13. Jeff M says:

    So if the result is a Conservative minority and we end up with a coalition of the losers, shouldn’t Layton be PM since he is always by far the most popular leader among the 3 losing parties?

  14. AmandaM says:

    Yeah, seriously. It’s THAT MUCH of a problem to take 2 hours out of your life every few years to get educated about the parties and go and vote? I don’t know anyone who is THAT busy. I’m a single mother with a teenager, a dog, a full-time job and freelance work and I’m not that busy. Hell, the President of the United States isn’t even that busy (he has to vote at least every two years and in countless other campaigns).

    If you’re one of these people who is “tired of going to the polls ever couple of years”, get over yourself. Or move to a desert island. Or Libya.

    • The Doctor says:

      It’s not the 2 hours that it takes to go and vote that’s the irritant. It’s the 2 months having to watch and listen to party leaders and their partisan mouthpieces talk BS and bribe voters with our money that’s the irritant.

      • AmandaM says:

        Seriously? We’re talking about the future of our nation, and choosing/holding accountable our representatives and decision-makers on things that actually affect us in our daily lives. If people paid more attention and got educated about politics and the process in this country, mouthpiece BS wouldn’t fly anymore because people would demand more nuanced discourse.

        “Bribe voters…” I’m sorry, I can’t even. The job of government is to collect revenues and re-distribute that revenue through programs and services. The people who are running for those positions are expected to propose ways in which they would do that so that the electorate has some idea of what to expect if/when the party they vote for is elected, and if not, what that party is going to prioritize in the coming parliament. Moreover, one is not forced to sit and listen to anything – turn off the TV and radio if you don’t want to hear about it, and read the platforms, and you’ll be all set.

        I want stability in government as much as the next guy, and will even sacrifice a bit of democracy for it (first-past-the-post instead of direct vote), but the PM was found in contempt and he refused to live up to his responsibility as the PM in a minority situation – the burden was on him to keep things running by cooperating with the opposition, and he refused because of his blind hate of anything from a communist to a red tory. That means an election needed to be called to assess if the electorate was willing to continue to allow this kind of behaviour. It’s NOT a waste of time, and asking the people to hold their MPs accountable is never a waste of money.

      • Mandos says:

        Frankly, we should be happy to have the opportunity to go through this process much more often than we do. Democracy is doomed; no one cares.

        Whatever happened to Reform populism? Stephen Harper drowned it in a bathtub.

      • Robin says:

        But what about the earlier propositions by the Reform Party, what with all those possible referenda, recall votes, etc.? I guess when that was something very prominent in the Reform platform you had no problem with innumerable opportunities for the electorate to cast their vote, am I wrong? If Stockwell Day had been elected, we voters would have been off to the polls incessantly to bid on his referenda.

  15. Gabriel Germaine says:

    I don’t see any substantive difference between the Liberals or the Conservatives. I cannot get engaged in an election that offers only nuanced differences in direction of the country. This is in large part why I couldn’t give a shit about this election. I comfortably feel I can sit this one out because whether it’s Iggy or Harper it’s the new boss, same as the old boss. I’m sure the partisans will disagree but I believe there are many people like me.

    • nic coivert says:

      Market based philosophy is not philosophy Gord, it is laissez-faire capitalism.

      That is what Canada got with RB Bennett in the depression, he brought us the Bennett Buggies, and he, like Harper, was based in Calgary.

    • Mandos says:

      The price signal is inhuman and amoral and must be limited. Even you admit this through your denial of an identity between “market” and “laissez-faire”.

      In any case, almost every who bleats about the market is or wants to be on the corporate welfare gravy train. Socialise risk, privatise profit. That’s all it means.

      • Mandos says:

        You’re kidding, right? The price signal is simply a numerical reification of predator/prey interactions. It at best reflects our ability to do math applied to an animal skill.

        A very narrow, inflated view of our place in the world.

    • Robin says:

      “trade and markets and the price signal are at the very core of what it is to be human” ? Huh? That is fucked up. I’m sure you live your life that way, but that is not what is at the core of my existence as a human and it’s hubris to say that this is the case for every human being. Indeed, individuals are both socially and morally ontologically prior to “trade and markets and the price signal.” One need only look to life before trade and the market or non-capitalist societies: are they un-human or less human than you? If so, what moral claim to the universal arbiter of humanism affords you such legitimacy over all others? If you want to wax philosophic, Gord, don’t spout off BS as though you are Aristotle. It’s unbecoming and it shows that all you know is some basic economic theory that wouldn’t even make the layperson envious.

  16. Jim says:

    “He won a majority three times in a row because Canadians liked him better than they like your leader. And they trusted him more. Full stop.”


    I didn’t vote because we had no viable option. To me Cretien is a minor gangster and a puppet of the Power Corp, like every other Liberal leader or Liberal PM…why not just install Paul Desmarais as leader of the LPC and cut the crap…oh yeah, he is almost dead.

    The desperation of the Liberals is getting thick…time for you to take it on the chin BIG TIME.

    To quote Richard Morgan:

    “Society is, always has been and always will be a structure for the exploitation and oppression of the majority through systems of political force dictated by an élite, enforced by thugs, uniformed or not, and upheld by a willful ignorance and stupidity on the part of the very majority whom the system oppresses.”

    The Libs were THE party of big business for a long time, but the changes to donation rules has taken that away from them…if they had of looked after their membership and grassroots over all those years they were in power they would be lean, responsive to the public need and believable…instead they are going to struggle to keep official opposition status.

    Enjoy the Conservative majority, your party caused it.

    Full stop.

    • reformatory says:

      What a piece of work this guy is!
      Wow .. hope for your sake that you spend some time in your life- repenting

  17. reformatory says:

    above is meant for Jim

  18. What debate were you watching?

    • Gord – I watched the debate and can see how in the heat of a multi media event someone may interpret a word differently than intended but nobody’s picked up on this supposed nugget since the debate.

      I understood Ignatieff to mean that the winner has the opportunity to win and keep the confidence of the house – really simple.

      He went on to state a moment later if he, Igantieff were to win, he would work with other elected parties as Canadians expect Parliament to work.

      I understand the tactic here, quite effective against Mr. Dion, is to define the opponent before he/she does. Not nearly as powerful against Ignatieff who has specifically explained his intentions. Repeated attempts to ‘re-define’ him are simply much less effective and a little childish.

      I think PMSH is far more exposed on his own clear coalition letter delivered to the GG and signed by Messrs. Layton, Duceppe and Harper.

  19. Namesake says:

    the only dissembling here is by you, in presenting that false choice. There are at least two other options: a Liberal minority, OR a Liberal majority, with enough seats not to require any advance agreement with the BQ… just as we have for the past 5+ years with the CPC minority, and for the year or two before that with the LPC.

    • The Doctor says:

      Well, if you’re talking about a Liberal majority, why don’t you mention those other oh-so-probable options like a NDP majority, a NDP minority . . . and of course a Green majority or minority . . .

      • Namesake says:

        hence the “at least” in the above; but a Lib. minority really isn’t so improbably, considering that the double digit gap at the start of the campaign has been reduced to as little as 5, as of Tuesday, and that we may be about to learn that the CPC administration is indeed guilty of war crimes, for continuing to turn over Afghan detainees to those they had strong grounds to believe would be highly likely to torture them…. which is why they prorogued Parliament last year, to try to conceal that.

  20. George Webb says:

    Hey Warren
    Totally off topic.
    Thoughts on Tory Goons at UniversIty of Guelph advance poll.

  21. Niall says:

    Hi Warren

    Yes, two different sets of rules.

    One, f. the NGPOC

    The second one?
    For every other single political party in Canada.



    Niall from Winnipeg

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