Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tom Mulcair and the Coalition Dream That Will Not Die



As you may know, I have always been a strong supporter of a progressive coalition.

Because I can't forget how once upon a time we came so close to having one, and bringing down the Con regime.

Until we were betrayed by the Governor General, Michael Ignatieff caved, and both the Liberals and the NDP ended up burying the idea.

So I was really glad to see Tom Mulcair bring the idea of a future coalition back from the dead. 

"We've always said we're ready to work with other parties. We're a progressive party. We want to get results," New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters when asked if he was willing to form a coalition with Trudeau after the election.

And I was not surprised that Justin Trudeau shot down the idea.

Minutes later, Trudeau told reporters he opposed any formal arrangement with the NDP. Trudeau has battled hard for voters to the left of the Conservatives but has viewed some of the NDP economic ideas as too interventionist.

Because he's ahead in the polls right now.

But he will at least have to think about the idea, because those polls also show that even if he does manage to hold on to that lead, it probably won't be enough to win a majority government. 



So he will have to depend on Mulcair and the NDP to stay in power. Or vice versa.

And then there's that other scenario that Paul Wells examines here.

But there is another case, and its likelihood seems pretty high. That’s one where the Conservatives lose their majority, an opposition party comes close in seats, and with the other opposition party it greatly outnumbers the Conservatives. Something like this: 145 Conservatives, 100 NDP and 90 Liberals (plus 3 left over so nobody feels left out of my imaginary Parliament).

If the next election shakes out the way I just sketched, then an NDP government with Liberal support could end almost a decade of Harper. But they’d have to move immediately: as we saw in December 2008, just a few post-election confidence votes for the returning government would give it enough legitimacy that the Governor General would follow the Conservative PM’s counsel in any subsequent conflict.

And asks the obvious question:

How does that go down, New Democrats and Liberals? Would you accept a few more years of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while New Democrats and Liberals had the makings of a solid parliamentary majority between them? 

And if your parties’ leaders inexplicably failed to take power when they had a shot, how long could they remain as leaders?

Which to me has an obvious answer:

The two parties WOULD have to form a coalition, because most Canadians would never accept that they would allow the Cons to stay in power, when they had the power to remove them.

But you might ask, why discuss the idea now? Why not wait until the situation happens, if it does?

And the answer to that is because the longer we refuse to talk about the idea of a coalition, and make it sound like something bad, instead of a legitimate choice in a Parliamentary system. The longer Harper will be able to demonize it.

Like he did last time...



And that could make it harder to form a coalition if one becomes necessary.

Of course, as I said before I'm biased. I don't see a coalition as something to fear or reject out of hand. I embrace it with all my heart. 

I see it as a way to unite progressives, for only by uniting can we be sure to defeat the Cons. 

As they MUST be defeated if our country is to survive.

And those brief days, which now seem so long ago, when we marched through the streets together were some of the greatest days of my life...



When everything seemed possible, we were a movement stronger than any party, and Stephen Harper was quaking in his boots.

Yup. The coalition was always an idea too powerful to kill.

And we better be prepared to discuss it honestly and openly. For whether people like it or not, if it is the only way to destroy the Cons.

It WILL live again...



Please click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.

29 comments:

  1. IIRC, and my memory is not as good as when I was young, many of the social advances were implemented due to the CCF and later NDP supporting other parties legislature in return for changes that benefited the Working man- 40 hour work weeks, Canadian pensions, unemployment Insurance, rights of union membership and healthcare to name a few.

    A coalition appears to me a more favorable situation at the present time, especially when one does not really trust any of the party leaders to make serious attempts to rid us of draconic Harper policies that have been implemented. With a coalition, the electorate that should have the power, as we show our displeasure with all parties and leaders, and our refusal to support any party based on their present policies.

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    1. hi Filcher...I've always thought of coalitions as eminently Canadian, requiring the use of what used to be our greatest strength, our genius for compromise. And you're right, when the Liberals and the NDP worked together it produced all kinds of social advances, In the present situation it could be the only way to make up for splitting the vote, in the face of a united right-wing party. And all I'm saying is that we need to make sure it's available to us as a weapon to defeat the Cons...

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  2. Anonymous8:13 AM

    I've noticed way too many times how NDP supporters are more than willing to have this coalition, yet Liberals never want to even discuss it. Their party always comes before the country. I hope they wise up.

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    1. hi anon...I think the question of who is leading in the polls has a big role in determining who is in favour of a coalition or not. Unfortunately many Liberals believe they can bring back the glory days when they could do it all by themselves. But the situation has changed since they lost the automatic allegiance of Quebec, and winning a majority is harder than ever. So whatever Justin says, he will have to at least consider the question of a coalition...

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  3. Anonymous8:26 AM

    Have to agree with you Simon.

    Harper and his con clown puppets that are transforming/destroying Canada have to go. A progressive coalition would stop the darkening of Canada. Working together the Liberal and NDP would be forced to listen and seek balanced solutions that required cooperation and honest democracy. Something not even in Harper's "play book". The vast majority of Canadians now disenfranchized would would be represented and all Canada would have a brighter future.

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    1. hi anon...I'm glas somebody at least agrees with me. Whenever I write a post about a coalition, I usually have to spend the next day or so sheltering under my desk, while the shells burst all around me. ;)
      But yes, I like to think that when the Liberals and the NDP work together it can bring out the best in both of them, in the best kind of Canadian way. And to those who don't agree, I would ask them this: why does Stephen Harper feat a coalition more than he fears anything else? When the dictator quakes in his boots, you know you're heading in the right direction.... :)

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    2. Anonymous1:13 PM

      Hi Simon! I'm with you with the coalition. I believe it's the best thing that could happen to Canada. The absolute best!

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  4. Sorry Simon I can not agree. Proportional Representation is the only solution. A NDP Liberal Hybrid will get very poor political gas mileage.

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  5. Following up. Both Justin and Thomas should run on a platform that if elected they will abolish first past the post.

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    1. hi Steve....if I could whip out my magic wand, I would bring you proportional representation TOMORROW. I believe in it strongly myself. But unfortunately the only magic wand I have would probably fall off if I whipped it out in this freezing cold. ;) And trying to get parties to agree to PR is like trying to demolish a building by beating my head against its walls. However, the junior partner in a coalition could make it a condition for joining, because necessity is the mother on invention. And the only reason I'm bringing up the idea of a coalation now, is so people can get accustomed to the idea, and so the Cons can't demonize the idea as they have in the past...

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  6. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Somebody better start edjumucating Little Lord Font-trudeau that his way of looking at a Coalition Gubmint will only keep harpie's crime cabal in office ad infinitum and we will end up a police state just like the u.s. as if we weren't almost there anyway. If this kid doesn't get over himself real fast, his already-decimated party will get their asses handed to them again this election and the lib-eracons will find their brand almost as distasteful as lepers once found themselves.
    Actually, I find the idea of a lib-eracon majority almost as disgusting as the con crime cabal is. They are just a different adjective of the same rotten-to-the-core noun as the cons.
    And, on a more genteel note, for all the right-wingnut assholes that troll this blog, I fondly wish you a "FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUCKS!" and I hope you and all your filthy, mindless kind die in a raging fire!

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    1. hi anon...I share many of your misgivings about the direction those who are writing Liberal policy these days are taking their party. But then I also have misgivings about the NDP and the smallness of their vision. However I do know this, when I look at my squabbling Liberal and NDP friends, I can't tell the difference between them, I know that they all share the same basic Canadian values I believe in, and even on their worst days are better than the Cons. I look at the political situation these days as I look at populations at risk. It's a question of harm reduction, and when we're dealing with a country as sick as ours, we must put aside what divides us, and do what must be done...

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    2. Anonymous1:16 PM

      So well said, Simon!

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  7. Given that some European countiries , Germany for example, seem to always have coalition goveernments I don't see any real problem and perhaps some good. While I tend to be an NDP suporter some of their policies are not my favourite things but I really am not fond of quite a few Lib policies so some moderate horse-trading sounds like a good idea.

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    1. hi jkrideau...you're absolutely right. Coalitions are a normal part of political life in some of the world's most advanced countries. And when humans are forced to compromise, or unite around a minimum set of decent goals or values, they can do great things. As I said before, in a country that was created through our genius for compromise, it seems to me that coalition and Canadians go together like french fries and gravy. And if we ever get proportional representation, the skill required to put coalitions together will become even more important....

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  8. A well thought and laid out treatise Simon! NDP & GPC are many miles apart on principles, values and ethics that I personally and others uphold that are contrary and juxtaposed to the Neo-Liberalist leanings of Justin Trudeau. Its make a workable relationship amongst the three opposition parties a tough proposition either if Cons end up with a minority and either NDP or LPC form a minority Govt in 2015. Right not Justin Trudeau is quite far over in the right spectral bandwidth (look at some his divulged policy directions) fighting it out with Cons for conservative base support.

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    1. hi gerrjame...thank you, I am grateful to Mulcair for giving me a chance to put in a good word for coalitions, because I honestly believe we may end up having to form one whether people like it or not. I agree that the way things are developing, it's hard to see any of the parties wanting to talk about a coalition. But if they find themselves having to choose whether to leave the Cons in power or form a coalition, they better do the right thing, or ELSE...

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    2. Appreciate reply Simon, that it is congruent with how I would like to see things unfold short of for myself a preferable miracle of enough NDP & GPC MP's elected to at least form a minority govt. The problem I see with the Liberals is not so much the members and supporters but their LPC Leader Trudeau, his ideology and Neo-Liberalistic policy direction inferences (he's been very ambiguous and dearth on content) are quite far removed from anykinds of middle ground consensus with NDP and/or GPC. Is a coalition of sorts tenable and workable with those near polar opposites come 2015?

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  9. e.a.f.4:07 PM

    Now let me remember, oh, yes the NDP did support the Liberals for awhile when the Liberals had a minority and I do think it was Justin's Dad, who they supported. It of course cost the NDP a lot of votes when they went to the polls the next time.

    Of course Mulcair is open to a coalition government. it makes him look cooperative and much more reasonable. Now the kid, is young, he thinks he can do it all by himself, and probably for fund raising purposes, he wants to give the image he can restore the party to its glory days. Who knows maybe he can and maybe he can't. what leaders say in public and what their party apparatus is doing in the back rooms is frequently quite different. Wouldn't be surprised if the play books had already been published and they are simply waiting to see what develops next yr. Both parties ought to start running some ads, now, just to remind people on a continual basis of what the slimers are up to.

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    1. hi e.a.f...I have always tried to be a trouble making peacemaker, and although I am extremely idealistic I recognize that politics is the art of the possible. *sigh* And at this time I am entirely focused on saving the life of the patient. i.e. Canada. And would urge everyone to focus on the goal of removing the foul tumour known as the Cons, before they kill us all...

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  10. In fact, the actual effect of Harper's demonizing faded after Christmas, 2008, as the public began to absorb what educated commentators were telling them. Ignatieff chose to keep it alive, and it became a media myth, but the polling results were known:
    http://wilfday.blogspot.ca/2011/03/canadians-supported-coalition-in.html

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    1. Hi Wilf...thanks for the link to your excellent post. I remember how happy I was to see that Canadians attitudes were evolving when it comes to coalitions. But I can't ever forget how Harper demonized the idea, whipped it into an anti-Quebec thing, and got the highest numbers he has ever received. It was the scariest demagogic performance I have ever seen in Canada, and I fear he may try it again. Which is why we need to start discussing coalitions like adults, for the more we do, the less Harper will be able to turn them into boogymen...

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  11. Simon? Would it be unacceptable if mentioned, with all due respect to you and your guests, the Jack-Harper coalition? Just curious and I don't want to offend...

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  12. hi liberalandloving...you can mention anything you want, I won't be offended, and I'll always treat everybody with respect. Even when I think they're wrong. ;) In a better time I might be able to be a real partisan like some of my Liberal and NDP friends. But right now all I'm fixated on, is the total and absolute destruction of the Con regime by whatever political or legal means necessary. And that means trying to forget what has happened in the past, and focusing only on the future...

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  13. I am so offended by by the cons being so upset about JT saying that poutine (did i spell that correctly) might be a tad upset about the loss to CANADA , that he might take it out on the Ukraine. And now pootine (dick(think chenney nixon) tator)is doing exactly that. That he crawled like a diseased gutter rat to apologize to such scum shows the true strength of his nonexistent backbone. I will vote green as the only DEMOCRATIC way to destroy my vote.

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  14. If you survey the history of Parliamentary governments, coalition governments are more likely to do what most citizens in the country want; in other words, coalitions are the most democratic. What Harper did in 2008 was redefine "coalition" as a dirty word, to mean a type of government one should fear, and it worked.

    http://www2.macleans.ca/2014/02/26/how-could-the-ndp-and-liberals-turn-a-coalition-down/

    Political Flip Flops
    February 27, 2014 9:09 PM
    http://www.cbc.ca/thenational/content/analysis/atissue/political_flip_flops.html




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  15. Anonymous12:22 PM

    The first thought that crossed my mind when Baby Justin shot down the idea of a coalition was that he is courting the CON vote. Soft CONS don't like coalitions and if they hear that the LIBS would entertain that idea then they will keep their vote with Harper.

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  16. Anonymous3:45 AM

    1. To those criticizing Justin for saying he doesn't want a coalition, just remember that Mulcair said 2 years ago in March 2012 when he became NDP leader that he wanted nothing to do with the Liberals and said last Summer that the Liberals were on their way to the graveyard and that he would mop the floor with Justin. So perhaps Justin and the Liberals are now dishing out a taste of the NDP's own medicine. Why don't we just admit that both parties have behaved immature at times like this?

    2. I think it's true that Justin and the Liberals are trying to attract some Conservative voters from the right, but the reality is that they are forced to do so. Whether we like it or not, this is not a far left country. It is a centrist country. It's not a far-right country which is why Harper hasn't ever gotten over 40% and can't win Quebec, but the NDP wasn't able to beat Harper outside Quebec in 2011. The reality is that to beat Harper a party has to attract moderate Conservatives and red Tories of the old PC type. So Justin is correct to reach out to the PC Joe Clark types - there aren't enough NDP, Greens & lefty LPC voters. We need to attract some Cons away from Harper, too.

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  17. Trudeau apologists....thumbs down to that bogus construct argument. Justin is the embodiment of Neo-Liberalism at its worst. Establishment's & Corporate Canada go-to contingency back-up plan B should Harper Govt fail and fall. Many of us are glad to see Justin show is true colors, far far over on the right spectral bandwidth. Trudeau led LPC does not belong in any kind of workable Progressive alliance or coalition going into 2015.

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