Politics - Federal

Left-Leaning Coalition in the Making?

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 28, 2008

After squandering its huge budget surplus on tax cuts to their corporate friends and nickel-and-dime tax credits to nearly everyone else, the Conservatives have the government right where they want it: with no alternative but to make more ideological cuts to program spending under the cover of the global recession.

So much for all the recent talk about transcending party lines and doing what's good for the country during a time of crisis.

Experienced at pushing their opponents to the wall, the Conservative Government also announced a plan to scrap the party financing system that allocates public funds to political parties based on the number of votes cast for each party.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty went so far as to announce that the Conservatives will make the cut a matter of confidence, assuming that the Liberals would rather back down (as they did many times during the previous Parliament) than risk another election while broke and leaderless.

The Liberals and NDP responded by threatening to topple the government in favour of a centre-left coalition. Liberal MP Dan McTeague summed up the situation when he said, "They're either very stupid or very arrogant in thinking we'd simply just buckle. We don't have many more cheeks to turn here."

Harper responded by dropping the plan to scrap the public party financing system. Unlike the previous capitulations, which were merely political losses, this decision would effectively bankrupt the Liberals when they are already struggling to pay off their election campaign debts.

Stephen Harper and his advisors have been remarkably savvy in how they have managed Parliament over the past few years, but they may have crosed the line this time with a partisan move that threatens not only the fortunes of is opponents but their financial viability.

It remains to be seen whether the back-channel coalition talks will continue, now that the Conservatives have backed down on this particular plan.

The Liberals and NDP combined have 114 seats (77 and 37, respectively) to the Conservatives' 143, so a coalition would need to include the left-leaning but nominally separatist Bloc Quebecois as well. The Bloc has 49 seats and independents hold the last two.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus and HuffPost. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 28, 2008 at 13:52:37

Ryan, ever since Paul Martin began cutting corporate tax rates around 2001, corporate revenue has increased as a percentage of overall tax receipts. Yes, on the surface it appears that corporations are getting a free pass, but the result is that there is more money in government coffers to spend on programs that you support.

The reason why the Fed's are suffering a shortfall today is not due to less revenue, but rather excessive spending. The conservatives have been spending money faster than the economy has been growing, so it's easy to see why the surplus has left us.

There are many reason why this government should be criticized for its handling of the economy, but a lack of spending on programs for average people isn't one of them.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 28, 2008 at 15:42:17

If the Liberals or any other opposition party introduce a confidence motion on Monday and force an election, I will not vote. Democracy in this country is hardly that. It's backdoor politics with little or no regard for the country they're supposedly governing.

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By A sign of the times ... (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2008 at 00:58:52

Ohhh, Ryan ... You should write for the Toronto Star. Your left-wing views are sooo dated and tiresome.

Corporations employ millions of Canadians ... tax cuts allow them to hire more people and invest in research and development.

Don't like your 2% GST cut? You and anyone else who are so appalled by it can send it back to the Feds. Every 'nickel and dime' makes a difference in today's tough economic climate. Are you forgetting the GST was created to pay for the financial ruin that Trudeau left us in ... and promised to be scrapped altogether by the Libs?

Financial contributions should not be subsidized by our tax dollars. Contributions made to political parties already cost the Feds hundred of millions a year in income-tax deductions.

The Liberals are in horrible financial shape. Can you imagine if Dion was running this country during a world-wide recession? You don't know how lucky you are to have Harper in these times.

I'm sure a lot of people on this board will disagree with me ... but look around you. Have decades of sloppy NDP-style governance made (downtown) Hamilton a success story?

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By here (anonymous) | Posted November 30, 2008 at 11:34:21

to correct

The 2% cut was implemented instead of a personal income tax cut. Most economist viewed the GST cut as mere politics whereas income tax cut would be beneficial. By cutting the GST in good economic times, they lowered the surplus and left themselves with little room to move. Standard economic theory also posits the need to leave taxes alone or even raise them in good times and cut them in bad. As they already cut taxes, limited their income, the Conservatives are in a bind which they demonstrated in their do-nothing economic statement.

The GST was created to replace the hidden Manufactures Sales Tax (13.5%)shifting the tax burden from the manufactures to the consumers. Mulroney claimed this would help increase exports. Speaking of financial ruin, Mulroney wasn't a good guardian of treasury either. Credit Chretian/Martin.

For the 15 years I've lived in Hamilton, I don't believe the NDP elected a mayor nor a majority of councilors. Sure there is a culture of corruption and sloppy rule but the Liberals/Conservatives have taken turns in that department.

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By Grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 08:07:03

A Sign of the Times: You may not like the NDP but the people in Hamilton have voted for them. Anyways, the NDP have come out to numerous public forums, yet the liberal and conversatives are mostly no shows.

Anyways, you can thank the conservatives and their common sense revolution for the raising business taxes.

The liberals do not do much for the people either in their hour of need, just a lot of talk, talk,talk.

What is missing from the mix is the voices from the people, the grassroots groups that allow the people to step and speak their minds.

There is no easy answer but to leave it in the hands of just the business people is not viable. The people deserve to have their voices heard form their own mouths and not just from the politicos.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 09:17:28

let's not forget Trey's piece after the last election highlighting the boost to the economy that elections bring. The Conservatives forced the last unnecessary one, now another party might force this one. Perhaps all the parties got together behind the scenes and agreed to call one election after another in order to 'stimulate the economy'. Stranger things have happened.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 10:38:03

The last thing they want is an election...which is why they aren't trying to force one with a non confidence vote.

As far as your left leaning coalition - Two parties who weren't chosen to run the country with even a minority government can band together and run a country as a majority government... that can only happen in Canada. Your statement about a left leaning centrist majority only holds water from your perspective. From mine, in the last elections, voting Canadians chose to have a minority Conservative party run the country allowing the others at least some say in the laws and motions passed in parliament.

Let's say I was a Liberal voter, I would've voted as such because I identify the Liberal party as the party I feel able to lead the country. Now, let's say I voted NDP, that's equivalent to me saying that the NDP can somehow run our country. In NEITHER case have I said I think a liberal-ndp coalition can run the country. This type of coalition should be illegal because it actually voids the results of an election during which the nation of Canada democratically elected a minority conservative government to represent them at home and on the world stage.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 10:41:06

Added to that, from my perspective, although Gilles Duceppe might be a smart man, it's my personal opinion that his party shouldn't be allowed to run in a federal election and also that any party that consorts with a separatist party to gain a majority position in parliament should be coloured with the same brush.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 11:24:50

as much as voters don't want another useless election, I'm sure they'd prefer to trudge back to the polls instead of have the GG appoint a new PM. At some point the NDP and Liberals will likely start to talk about merging parties similar to what the PC and Reform did a few years back. This time Harper could actually gain some votes if the public is ticked off enough at the opposition. Last time the Conservatives forced the election and had virtually the same results as the prior election. I think they could actually make some gains if it's clear that the other parties are responsible for forcing the next one. At some point, somebody needs to step up on one of these rather useless parties and show some vision for Canada instead of all acting like spoiled brats simply feuding with each other and their party machines. Another strike against political parties in my books.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 12:51:49

yes, 'she' appointed the ones that won an election.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 01, 2008 at 12:56:54

"Let's say I was a Liberal voter, I would've voted as such because I identify the Liberal party as the party I feel able to lead the country. Now, let's say I voted NDP, that's equivalent to me saying that the NDP can somehow run our country."

If we are going to make assumptions about why voters vote the way they do, then we can't discount the "strategic voters" which, whether conservatives like it or not, generally vote for whichever party is most likely to keep the conservative from winning the riding.

Many conservative supporters consider this unfair - and some even claim it should be illegal - but the reality is that these huge swaths of strategic voters have, in fact, expressed a desire to see anyone in power other than the conservative party. For many this preference could include a left leaning coalition.

Unfortunately, our system is flawed and tends to fail most Canadians. This coalition is not a solution for the failure of the voting system, but it is probably closer to what most voters wanted than a conservative minority is...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 15:54:40

wow...interesting stuff. For once our politics is more fascinating than south of the border. Lol.

by the way, is there any easy shortcut to come back to a blog like this that has fallen off the front page and is in the previous month?? Or am I just being plain lazy? haha.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 01, 2008 at 16:31:53

yes, it does. thanks. I just used the 'recent comments' feature and it worked great too.

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