Federal Election 2011

This Pesky Coalition Business

Without knowledge of how our parliamentary system works, Canadians are susceptible to well-spoken demagogues willing to subvert the system.

By Michael Cumming
Published April 21, 2011

One of the most prominent issues of the current Canadian election campaign is the idea of coalitions. Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, presents coalitions as an affront to Canadian values and all that is right about our democracy.

This absurd position, which has no historical foundation, is not countered in any substantial way by the other parties.

Unified Left

In Canada, the left is splintered while the right is unified under Stephen Harper. The only way that the left will assume power is to become as unified as the right.

This is made a little more difficult in the Canadian context because one of the parties on the left is the Bloc Québécois, a Quebec-only party that promotes sovereignty for Quebec.

Therefore, for the left to unify in a formal way, as a single party, would be a difficult or impossible. The only way to unify it is to do so in a virtual way - as some kind of coalition.

This is not unusual in other countries but is presented as something to be avoided at all costs by Harper.

Harper presents a coalition of the right as a natural phenomenon, while a coalition of the left as an unholy alliance. All evidence seems to point to Harper getting away with this misrepresentation.

Two-Party System: Right and Far-Right

In the USA there exists a two-party system. The hard right is now represented by the Republican Party, and the centre right by the Democrats. Both these parties are tireless in their efforts to support corporate interests, with little or no regard to political concerns to their left.

In the USA, the left is not unified under the umbrella of the Democratic Party. It is simply absent from the political party system entirely.

This 'democratic deficit' and limited range of political options in the USA makes it an anomaly compared to many other western democracies, where leftist parties do exist and sometimes have real influence in the political sphere.

Harper wants Canadians to believe they live under a similar political construct, in which the right assumes a natural right to govern while the left is effectively disenfranchised.

What favors Harper in the popular imagination is a basic misunderstanding of the parliamentary system.

This is not the USA

In a republican system as found in the USA voters elect a president directly. The candidate who gets the most votes gets to be president.

In a parliamentary system, you elect your local member of parliament. You do not elect the prime minister directly. The prime minister is the person who manages to acquire the 'confidence of the house.' This is usually, but not always, the leader of the dominant political party in parliament.

In the USA, there are profound checks and balances on the power of a president. In Canada such checks do not exist because the role of a president does not exist.

Harper wants to be a president, but one with few checks and balances. The Canadian system is not set up to accommodate such a position. In fact, the US system is not set up for such a position either.

A parliamentary system is not necessarily superior or more democratic than a republican one, it is simply structured in a profoundly different way. It is the misunderstandings of the these differences by the voting public that Harper hopes to exploit.

Working With Others

In a parliamentary system, a leader in a minority situation must work with the members of other parties to get things done. If a ruling party lacks the confidence of others, the government will fall and another election will be called. This has already happened to Harper, in 2008 and in 2011.

Harper has difficulty in gaining the confidence of those with opposing political views. He does not work well with others - especially with parties to his left, which includes all other parties in Canada's parliament.

Harper is greatly offended by the idea that when he is in a minority position, he must work with members of other parties. He would prefer not to have to do this, but when in he's in a minority he has no other choice.

He proposes that the only sensible option is for Canadians to elect him to a majority, which would allow him to escape the 'bickering' and rule in a way unconstrained by consensus-building protocols. He wants a majority in order to centralize all political power in himself and to ignore all others.

Judging by his recent record, he clearly wants to set himself up as a petty dictator, but one who supposedly derives his legitimacy within the parliamentary system.

Harper wants to be a father figure, whose authority is unquestioned either by the voting public or by other members of parliament - even those within his own party. Such an overtly authoritarian and patriarchal politician is rare in Canadian history.


When Stephen Harper rails against coalitions, he misrepresents the basic structure of the parliamentary system under which he works. He is, in fact, making it up as he goes along.

Many Canadians find this political tactic disingenuous in the extreme. They are rightfully worried about the fragile state of our democracy.

Clearly, Canadians need to learn a little bit about the basic structure of our parliamentary system. Without this knowledge they will be victims to well-spoken demagogues like Harper who are willing and able to subvert the system under which they work in strikingly undemocratic ways.

this blog entry was first published on Michael's website

Michael Cumming is a designer, writer and photographer concerned about sustainable design and urban development. He has training in Architecture and Computational Design and has lived in several cities in Canada, the US and Europe. He is delighted to have settled with his wife and two children in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Hamilton. You can view his website or follow him on Twitter.


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By lorne (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2011 at 17:19:17

Thanks for your article, Michael, a timely reminder of some of the basic facts of our system of government, facts which, as you make clear, Harper doesn't want Canadians to understand. Of course, it is also obvious by his litany of lies, his tactics of sowing fear, suspicion, and distrust, that his appeal is directed not to those who think deeply about issues, but rather respond viscerally to inflammatory rhetoric, something many of history's most vile dictators used to advance their reprehensible causes.

Comment edited by lorne on 2011-04-21 17:19:56

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By Trevoe (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 17:23:47

These are important points. I wish a politician or even the Canadian media would make a real point of conveying this information.

I do think, however, that your detour into bashing Harper (regardless of whether or not you are correct or justified) will turn off anybody who might otherwise have learned something about Canadian parliament and Stephen Harper.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 05:32:02 in reply to Comment 62565

Bashing Harper was maybe a mistake. I think that there are things going on in our politics that goes beyond the tactics of someone like Harper. This centralizing tendency didn't start with him.

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2011 at 18:34:46

Both Canada and the US are one party states going under various labels at the moment. The US is run by men chosen by Goldman Sachs with a little help from other big banks. In Canada the party of big business, the party of big gummerment and the party of big unions act together because they need each other, regardless of who has the most seats at the moment. They form a triangle with a beastly multinational heart glued together by mainstream media with the job of funneling our wealth into tax havens. You could call either system a coalition, with actors and actresses playing to entertain the sheeple. People who don't vote, or who vote strategically, play into their hands.

Only those on the triangle's inside benefit. Little people on the outside are just fodder who feel they have no voice, even if they do. The solution is to avoid voting for the triangle and instead vote for a smaller party of your choice. Voting what you really feel is essential to democracy. Plenty of choice in Hamilton East SC, my favorite of course being the Canadian Action Party. Please research all your candidates, unswayed by media distraction.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 00:10:00 in reply to Comment 62566

Canadian Action Party, Wow. Why not stay home on election night and save yourself some time and aggravation. They are even more fringe than the green party, and even more silly. Have you actually read their platform? What a bunch of gobbledygook.

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 15:20:48 in reply to Comment 62576

I believe Mr Meister reflects the view of people who are doing well by the present triparty economic system I described. If there were only a few lazy folks unable to do well, I would agree and happily quit this arduous task. The low turnout rate, plus angry comments on the street should worry the Mr. Meisters of the world, even if they live in gated enclaves. Divide the country if you like, but things will necessarily turn ugly, which is a danger to us all. Vote for the 'fringe' now or vote for worse later. Fringe we may be, but if you think monetary and electoral reform is silly, then it's you that is out of step.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:38:09 in reply to Comment 62601

I am not sure how you got to some of your comments about me from what I wrote. You know nothing about me or how well I am doing under "...the present triparty economic system..." Most certainly I do not live in a gated community. I do not think monetary or electoral reform are silly, I think the Canadian Action Party and its site are silly. They call for monetary reform that is simply printing more money with out concern for the consequences because it would allow people to pay off their debt. I wonder what a million dollar bill would look like and what it would actually be worth. Other countries have tried this and it does not work. The runaway inflation is lethal. What do you think a hundred trillion dollar bill (100,000,0000,000,000) from Zimbabwe is really worth? That is exactly what Zimbabwe did, just print money to pay debt. This is what you want for us? No thanks. That is why I call them fringe and silly. Nobody in their right mind would want that for our country.

This is taken directly from their website and I hope does not get me into trouble.

"Monetary Reform

The Canadian Action Party advocates a dramatic reduction in bank ratios using statutory reserves. At the same time, the proportion of money created by governments (who own the patent on behalf of the people) through the Bank of Canada has to be substantially increased. This will allow the fiscal flexibility necessary to balance their budgets and help finance critically important infrastructure and social projects. Many other problems could be solved by a substantial infusion of debt free government created money. This is what monetary reform is all about."

The CAP is fringe and hopefully will stay that way because they are dangerous.

We need to use some common sense not just knee jerk reactions.

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 24, 2011 at 21:01:30 in reply to Comment 62631

Thank you for attempting a substantive reply and we are happy to have you quote our site, although you might want to try reading more carefully both what I wrote, and the quotation.

Nowhere do we call for hyperinflation. What money is printed by the Bank of Canada merely balances the "reduction in bank ratios" noted. And if you truly are worried about hyperinflation, just wait to see the mayhem the present system is about to unleash. The signs are already present and while you might protest that I refer to US problems, please recall the old adage about what happens in Canada when the US sneezes. What we advocate is that the people, through their elected representatives should control our future, not the banks. Is that such a dangerous idea? The only thing dangerous is the reaction of bankers who like to kill folks who take away their punch bowl (JFK, Lincoln, Garfield, King Charles 1).

In slandering the monetary system we call for, you slander Canada's proud history. The system is that which got Canada through WW2. It is also the system used by the state of North Dakotaand which allowed the state to greatly mitigate the effects of the 2008 meltdown while achieving many societal benefits. The CAP site gives prominence to Prime Minister Mackenzie King and to two videos about our system of debt money. While debt money created by banks is a boon to some, it can be and is now, an unappreciated danger to us all.

What burns me most at the present time is that the faith many profess in the present Canadian System and by extension, the Canadian banks is completely misplaced. We have been told repeatedly that our banks were sound and supposedly the envy of the world. What our scurrilous media have failed to remind us is that Canadian banks received a relatively larger bailout than US banks - $75 vs $650 billion. That falls directly on the shoulders of taxpayers, who already struggling. We already pay $57 billion in interest each and every year in interest to the banks, who then show a profit of roughly half that amount. Bonuses amount to $11 billion. Nice work being a banker. Did any Canadian bank pay back the money as did US Banks with their TARP loans? Canadians should be triple outraged and hopefully, will vote accordingly.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 23:21:58 in reply to Comment 62637

Of course you are not calling for runaway inflation but that is the direct consequence of simply printing more money. That is what Tanzania did printed more money to cover their debts. Now their currency is worthless.

I had no idea that North Dakota could print money on their own, I always thought that privilege belonged to the feds.

Nowhere did I slander Canada's proud history. Never did never will. I have absolutely no idea where you got that from. Neither did I say anything positive about our commercial banks. Maybe I was not quite clear enough, the CAP wants to simply print more money so the government can pay its debts. That is a terrible idea and will lead to inflation and even hyper inflation and that will destroy out country. There are better ways to deal with our monetary problems than simply printing money. Tough unpleasant hard ways but in the long run ways that must be used because printing more money is not the answer.

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 25, 2011 at 12:34:22 in reply to Comment 62639

You are correct about North Dakota Bank - I mentioned it as the only example of a state run bank, which is something the commercial bankers will furiously resist. The article linked is a fascinating account of the many advantages to be gained.

We both agree that simply printing money willy nilly is a terrible idea, which is what prospective voters need to know about me. The reason I joined this party, albeit fringe, is the solid fact that we advocate exactly the system Canada used during WW2 and up to the 70s, when Trudeau caved in to the G7 and sidelined the BOC from its previous function. Now it merely makes coins & bills, a small percent of total money, but I truly believe that it is this crucial difference with the US Fed, that could be our main, or only bulwark against the mayhem that is being unleashed. We had better be prepared to use it once the breakdown now initiated, gains full force. CAPs role now is to bring this important element of Canada's government to the attention of the public.

It looks like we probably agree on the hard choices ahead of us. Let's hope more voters than usual make choices, and their choices are wiser than usual. We can't, as Einstein said, keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.

Comment edited by BobInnes on 2011-04-25 12:38:47

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 19:54:54 in reply to Comment 62651

I must plead ignorance to the state run bank in North Dakota. Just what was it able to do to mitigate the meltdown in 2008?

When you refer to the system used during WWII are you referring to arbitrarily setting the value of the Canadian Dollar against other currencies? Canada did this in the very early years and during the two world wars and then again during much of the 1960's until during Trudeau's reign it was once again turned into a floating currency. Since all of the other major currencies (if not all of them) are allowed to float who do we peg our dollar to? The US? The Euro? The Ruble? Just why would we do this? What makes you think that is a better system? Can you imagine if our dollar were pegged to the US dollar when it crumbled? What would the price of gas be now? Even if you or the CAP wanted to do that what other country would take us seriously?

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 00:44:49 in reply to Comment 62670

I shouldn't pass myself off as an expert on the North Dakota bank so here's an excerpt from the linked article:

We also provide a dividend back to the state. Probably this year we’ll make somewhere north of $60 million, and we will turn over about half of our profits back to the state general fund. And so over the last 10, 12 years, we’ve turned back a third of a billion dollars just to the general fund to offset taxes or to aid in funding public sector types of needs.

MJ: Not bad for a state with a population of 600,000.

EH: Right. And here’s another thing: Back in 2001, 2002, when we went through the dot com bust, all the states suffered some sort of budget shortfall, including the state of North Dakota. At that time our budget shortfall was fairly insignificant--$40 some million. And so it was quite easy to overcome that. The governor just simply said alright, we’re going to turn back 1 percent of all general fund agencies, and the Bank of North Dakota, you will declare another dividend to make up the balance. And so we did that. Our capital was in a fine position to go ahead and do that. So in some cases we’ve acted as a rainy day fund.

On your wartime question, the dollar peg and how the BOC can be used are two different things. But I do suppose pegging could be a supplement to our BOC's ability to control our destiny.

I'm not quite sure what you mean about the USD having crumbled. You ain't seen nuttin' yet - the crumbling has only just begun. We will soon have to make a decision about whether to save Ontario manufacturing by lowering interest rates to keep CAD close to par - which risks much more inflation. Alternatively, we can let the loonie rise and kill manufacturing to keep inflation in check. Mackenzie King understood this kind of choice when he designed the BOC system.

We in Ontario would prefer the former choice but it begs the question, if we allow US profligacy to trash our loonie, what will bondholders who buy our debt be thinking? Do they want to be paid back with a shadow of the present dollar? I believe bondholders, especially China, etc. will soon shun all western currencies and demand payment in some kind of the alternative currencies you suggest - rubles, yuan, gold or whatever. While MSM ignores this issue, the blogosphere is a-buzzing! MSM is useless.

All the worries you have expressed about CAP, I suggest are exactly what the present system (banking and otherwise) is in the process of delivering to Canadians - hyperinflation, crumbling currency, lost jobs, depressed wages, temp jobs for many while corporations enjoy record profits, widening wealth gap, super bonuses, tax haven loopholes galore. We're being bled dry while the MSM says all is well.

Wouldn't Canadians be far better off with more tools in the toolchest and our hands were not tied in using them? Using the BOC as it was intended by Mackenzie King is a fabulous tool that, as North Dakota has found, has turned interest lost into profits that are plowed back to the people's country. Sounds like a better deal to me.

PS. I wonder how narrow this column will become? <;-)

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 09:19:36 in reply to Comment 62684

You keep referring to the old BOC system. Just what is different between the old system and the new system besides the floating dollar? What makes you think that we can arbitrarily peg our dollar at any rate? That is exactly what the USSR did for many years. What was the result of that? Virtually every other country in the world refused to accept it making it worthless. Do that with the Canadian dollar and you guarantee that foreigners will refuse to accept it. You can declare your house to have the same value as your neighbour's house but the only person who will believe you is the tax man when he assesses your abode. The market will decide what your house is really worth.

So North Dakota has a commercial bank that is owned or at least controlled by the state. I could see that if you think it will make a difference. In a state where the total budget is 2.5 billion dollars it might very well make a difference. A better idea would be for Hamilton to have its own bank since our budget is about half of theirs it might make sense, if it is even legal.

Currently the interest rates are at record lows so I do not see how they can be lowered much more. Inflation is actually pretty low especially considering the low interest rates.

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By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:29:36 in reply to Comment 62696

Mr Meister, perhaps the nub of our disagreement centers on exactly what is going on now. You seem happy with the status quo, I am not. You said inflation is relatively low, I do not believe that piece of codswallop MSM constantly feeds us. This means we can never agree on how to fix the problem if there is no problem in your eyes to fix. I think ordinary folks know that the inflation data is a lie. It is made up by manipulating stats in fascinating ways. Please visit shadowstats.com for one man's attempt to shine a light on this. Inflation data is a core metric that affects everything else. False readings make politicians look good but renders their decisions useless.

A Smith alludes to this when he mentions house prices. The adjustment is occurring as we speak but will gather speed and take people by surprise. Then they may recall a crazy guy who ran for a fringe party that talked of such things :-)

A Hamilton Bank would probably be an excellent idea (as long as it's not run by the money interests that run the city now). I'm sure commercial banks will or have made it illegal by 'persuading' politicians to pass laws not in our interest. My insight into how this works comes from page 87 in Maurice Strong's book Where on Earth Are We Going. The guy should be strung up and might well be if he had not removed himself to tax haven Hong Kong.

As to the mechanics of the old BOC vs the new, voters should visit the CAP website rather than listening to me. We are arranging a meeting in Brantford on the 30(?)th for a presentation by our specialist in this area - please get in touch if interested. I believe the main mechanisms are reserve requirements and bank monies held by the BOC. Not sure about the dollar but again, I'm surprised at your take on the issue. Russia had many problems besides the ruble but look at how China prospers at our expense by manipulating exchange rates to the benefit of their nation. Americans are furious but they are also profligate. They will crash and bring us down with them.

CAP wants to rescue Canada from this folly before it is too late. Voters must decide if they want a lone voice in the system outing these truths.

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2011 at 02:30:31 in reply to Comment 62705

I never said that I was happy with the status quo. Far from it. I think this country needs to make some very difficult choices in the near future. Printing more money is not an acceptable choice.
All of a sudden you cannot answer the question and defer to your party's expert.

The Chinese Yuan is a floating currency so I do not know what you mean when you say that they manipulate the exchange rate for their own nation.

Not that familiar with Maurice Strong or his book. I always thought that he was a very successful entrepreneur and statesman. If he really is evil then so be it, I can not nor do I want to defend him.
I believe that the CAP's policies are very bad and would be detrimental to the country. Thank goodness the likelihood of any of their candidates being elected is pretty remote. Instead of voters wasting votes on candidates that have no chance of winning I would much prefer that they would use that vote to help elect a viable candidate who is the best of the lot, no matter how bad that lot is. Personally I think they are all crooks, if they were not they would have a real job.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 02:06:37 in reply to Comment 62684

>> we can let the loonie rise and kill manufacturing to keep inflation in check.

Our economy would be better off if current interest rates were higher, not lower. Artificially low rates encourage consumption and bubbles, whereas market rates (fixed to the price of gold) encourage sound investments.

Over time, Ontario's economy will grow best if it promotes only those investments that don't need artificially cheap money to be profitable.

Eventually this housing boom will end and when it does, the people of Ontario will see their so called wealth disappear just as our U.S neighbours did.

Long term wealth will not created by subsidizing Ontario manufacturers with a low dollar, it will only be created by increasing productivity.

Productivity comes from allowing the free market to work, low taxes, low spending and sound money. Boring but effective.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 05:35:21 in reply to Comment 62576

I have no idea the CAP stands for but I think voters should have the option of voting for fringe parties however wacky -- this should be a democratic right. Even their vote should not be 'wasted.'

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 23:11:26 in reply to Comment 62582

CAP - Canadian Action Party

Voters have the right to vote for anyone they wish to. My point is if you go out and vote for a fringe party especially one like CAP you are voting for a candidate who has no chance of winning.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 19:08:55 in reply to Comment 62638

Voting is about more than picking the winner.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2011 at 23:08:49 in reply to Comment 62566

Vote local. :)

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 19:11:54

"In a republican system as found in the USA voters elect a president directly. The candidate who gets the most votes gets to be president."

Don't be silly: the 2000 election wasn't that long ago, and in that election, Gore received 500k+ more votes than Bush. Bush, however, had more electoral college votes, and so he became the president. (And this was by no means the first time such a thing had happened in the US.)

In other words, American voters certainly /don't/ directly elect a president. Sure, they vote in favour of presidential candidates, but that vote only determines how electoral college members in their state will vote. It's a two-step process... just like in Canada. And just like in Canada, the peculiarities of this process can trump the popular vote.

At least by parity of reasoning, Harper should hate the American electoral process as well.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-21 19:41:54

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 05:36:22 in reply to Comment 62567

Yes, agreed. Lots of so-called democratic elections are manipulated and stolen. I was talking 'in theory.'

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 00:55:56 in reply to Comment 62583

Fair enough (on the point of your article), though the fact that the 2000 election was stolen wasn't my point. Seriously, it's an undisputed fact that Gore received 500k+ more votes. The events in Florida are entirely tangential.

My point was just that the American system is far more like ours than you make it out to be, since it (like ours) allows someone to receive more power than the popular vote indicates they ought. That's just the nature of our implementations of first-past-the-post, and Harper should realize that the Canadian system certainly /doesn't/ entail that the person with the most votes will have the most party members in power (and who can thus vote one into leadership).

All Harper is really entitled to claim, given the facts about our system, is that the party with the most MPs deserves (if you will) to be in power. But this needn't imply that that party received the most votes. On the contrary, our system forms a government on the basis of 'most MPs', not 'most votes', and these can occasionally diverge (sometimes even radically).

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-23 01:15:22

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By damonallan (registered) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 19:50:33

Pick your topic of choice. The constant fear mongering by the Left of the Scary Conservatives is also off base. If you watched the debate, all of the leaders of their respective parties chose to make the other candidate(s) look bad by using "choice" wording. This is politics. I don't like it but people will do whatever they feel is necessary to get elected.

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By simonge (registered) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 22:21:27

Great post. This is also why I was against having Harper/Ignatieff debate one on one. It was a further attempt to move us towards a US two-party system. Our parliamentary system is being badly perverted by an out of control executive and parties having more input into MPs than constituents.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 05:38:10 in reply to Comment 62571

I think MPs should be given some autonomy. Treating them like 'trained seals' subverts our democracy in a fundamental way. We elect them, yet this sit around like dummies. Why?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 09:24:53 in reply to Comment 62584

The reasons for MPs being subservient to party positions are to be found in 18th and 19th C history. Parliament as we know it is not a designed system but rather something which evolved. Party discipline and cabinet confidentiality came about in response to problems with maintaining a stable government.

While it's lovely to imagine a parliament of independent legislators speaking their minds and voting the consciences (or "values", I suppose), I think that that particular experiment (in a highly restricted form) was found to be a failure. I'm very happy that it seems to work at the municipal level - but I note that even cities tend toward party politics when their governments are large enough.

Parliament continues to change and I dare say must do so if it is to continue to be a successful form of government. Both the proponents of the way things are meant to be and the defenders of the way things are would do well to keep history in mind.

Comment edited by moylek on 2011-04-22 09:32:51

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By simonge (registered) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 01:15:35 in reply to Comment 62586

Agreed. Although this is not an all or nothing proposition. I don't suggest we do away with party affiliations in parliament or even the idea of party discipline. However, we could loosen the grip of the parties, have more open votes and see a little more backbone in our backbenchers. Mrs. Thatcher could talk about the tradition of independent backbenchers in UK I'm sure.

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted April 21, 2011 at 23:05:58

The Harper Minority Government just a long standing coalition of Alliance whackos and Progressive Conservative old money. The Harper Coalition Minority Government is fearful of another more potent coalition. Jack and Mike, a marriage that would be good for the Canadian family.

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 01:02:19 in reply to Comment 62572

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing: a coalition should be cool with Harper as long as we give it a new name.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted April 21, 2011 at 23:41:20

"This is made a little more difficult in the Canadian context because one of the parties on the left is the Bloc Québécois, a Quebec-only party that promotes sovereignty for Quebec."

Actually thats not all true. The Bloc is a conservative party with most of it's founding members defectors from the Mulroney regime. It was founded as a result of the failure of the Meech Lake accords. They are center right if anything. Unfortunately, most people don't know that because they are blinded by the party's separatist ambitions. The same can be said for peoples view of the Green party, which is fiscally conservative while at the same time advocating for green issues.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 13:57:48 in reply to Comment 62574

That's just not true.

The Bloc has a long history of leftist politics, as does the Quebec Separatist movement in general. Not exclusively, but their voting record reflects it far more than any conservative bias.

As for the greens, while there's certainly a lot of businesspeople involved, there's really no way you could look at their platform and call it conservative. They're just not as ardently old-left as the NDP or Liberals.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 19:53:10 in reply to Comment 62597

Your mixing the Bloc and the PQ. The PQ is a Socialist party with much of the same ideology as the NDP.

The only thing that the Bloc and the PQ have in common is their wish for Quebec independance. The founding members of the Bloc were almost exclusively former members of the Progressive Conservative party. Many of them former cabinet members in the Mulroney years. They may be a little left of todays Conservatives in social policy but they are right of center in fiscal policy.

The Greens consider themselves to be right of center. They are socially progressive and fiscally conservative.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2011 at 00:29:31 in reply to Comment 62602

Separatist politics are always complicated. Nationalists, idealists and everyone in between get involved. And federal electoral politics always involve powerbrokers.

Still, they have a good relationship with organized labour, and their platform includes calls for mandatory labelling of GMO foods, questioning the military, shifting taxes to wealthier citizens and corporations, same sex marriage, a condemnation of the World Bank and IMF and decriminalization of marijuana.


As for the greens, how exactly are you defining fiscally conservative?

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 05:39:08 in reply to Comment 62574

Good point. I didn't know that. Appearances can be deceiving.

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By mb (registered) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 00:39:51

I don't really think most Canadians would have a problem with a 'coalition government' if the only parties involved were the NDP and Liberals. I think the problem would be if the Bloc were involved. I don't consider them 'scary seperatists', but I do believe, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, that if the Bloc were involved, Quebec would be getting more than they deserve or need. EVERYTHING would go to Quebec.

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By NoDopingPolitics (anonymous) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:02:18

Watch out, eh? The NDP is soaring in Quebec. They are the only leftist party in Canada and Quebecois are lefties at heart. Wrestle back La belle province from Charest et al.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 13:45:27

Coalitions do happen in Parliamentary Democracies. Witness the UK. However, they are usually formed by the party which won the most seats, aligning with one of the other parties.... again witness the UK with the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. They are typically NOT formed by a coalition of parties wherein neither one has actually elected the most MPs. This is where Mr Ignatieff is being disingenuous and dishonest with Canadians. While technically correct in his description of how the system works with his interview with Peter Mansbridge the other day, he neglected to speak to the realities of parliamentary tradition.

Further, his refusal to man up and simply admit "yeah I will attempt to form a coalition" has damaged both his credibility and his parties' image and relevance in this election. Before the writ was dropped there could have been no one in the LPC who thought they were going to actually win the most seats in this election. Now in light of polls across the country in the last few days that seems a certainty. The LPC may be lucky to even form the Official Opposition. These facts beg the question then: Did/does Mr Ignatieff plan to do an end run around Parliamentary tradition, bring down another Tory minority and in concert with the NDP and Separatists assume the mantle of Prime Minister? It's a legitimate question, one he has refused to answer honestly, instead hiding behind semantics.

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-22 13:46:09

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 22, 2011 at 20:32:43 in reply to Comment 62596

The party with the most seats must be willing to compromise with other groups. Harper at this point has demonstrated either an unwillingness or an inability to do so.

If he cannot unbend enough to do that then if the next two parties in line are able to consolidate their votes there is nothing wrong with them forming a government.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 13:58:42 in reply to Comment 62596

Fortunately Mr Harper has made his opinions of coalition governing very clear of the years.


It seems a taste of power can change ones perspective.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2011 at 14:24:17

This whole "coalitions are illegal" thing confuses me greatly. If I didn't know better I'd expect it came from the Freeman-on-the-Land crowd. How can a Prime Minister get away with such nonsense?

I'm familiar enough with the basic rules of electoral democracy (here and abroad) to know that a coalition would be totally legal. Despite this, the Liberals have refused to act and have left Harper as PM, where he's exercised his executive powers in ways that would make most majority governments nervous. If Harper's really so evil, why have they not taken basic steps to stop him?

The progress of Layton so far is pretty darn amusing. Fringe party, eh?

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2011 at 00:31:24

Excuse me. We would not have had the longest running minority government in Canadian history if Mr Harper did not "get along" or "play nice" with the other parties. There was legislation passed that was passed with the support of one or all of the other parties at one point.

The problem for the LPC was that they brought their wonder boy Count Ignatieff home to be Prime Minister not leader of the opposition. Problem was they pranced him around Rosedale and Forrest Hill as the annointed one and forgot to tell the rest of the country. His flip flops and double speak and continued support by votes in the House of the Conservatives while railing against them in the media painted him into a corner. He had to bring down the government and force an election. He couldn't do it on a budget that was middle of the road and in the LPC wheel house so along with the other parties had to cook up the "contempt of parliament" angle and try to fight an election on wait for it...... ethics. Which is rich coming from the LPC. It isn't working and it is evident now that Mr Ignatieff will be heading back to Harvard sooner rather than later.

Mr Layton has run a very good campaign, it will be interesting to see if his recent surge in the polls can translate into seats. If it does, he has a good chance of becoming Leader of the Opposition and effectively tossing the LPC onto the scrap heap of history.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 13:50:11 in reply to Comment 62608

We would not have had the longest running minority government in Canadian history if Mr Harper did not "get along" or "play nice" with the other parties.

The only reason for this is that the Liberals needed time to get there shit together and didn't dare call Harper's bluff prematurely, the couple of times Harper had a real chance of going so far that the opposition would be forced to vote him down, he suspended parliament so he wouldn't have to face the house of commons.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 19:06:40 in reply to Comment 62654

Do you consider the current state that the LPC is in as having their shit together? Awesome. In that case I can't wait for election day. The LPC voted with the Conservatives time after time after time in support of budgets and other legislation, only to rail against them in the media.

If the current state we find ourselves in is simply because Mr Ignatieff and his handlers felt that they "had their shit together" finally, then they deserve the political wasteland they could very well find themselves in come next Tuesday.

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By april (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 17:19:30 in reply to Comment 62608

boy you really are delivering all the talking points in one verbose package. I guess that's why we have 'messaging'.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2011 at 21:07:27 in reply to Comment 62621

I suppose I could use the vernacular of the street or what's common in my neighbourhood. Then I would probably be labeled as an uneducated, uncouth, kool aid drinking neo con.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:52:37 in reply to Comment 62608

I must admit, I'm still quite ticked at the Proroguing fiascos. Don't know if I'd call that "nice".

I'm in total agreement about the Liberals, though. I don't know if the party has a clue why the Canadian public is so pissed off. Iggy is the worst sort of celebrity rent-a-leader, and his confusion about coalitions really isn't helping him in the polls.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 17:46:04

There is NO difference between our major political parties. All of them are socialists/statists and this proved by the fact that they have spent more than 40 cents out of each dollar since 1975. From 1961-1974, when government spending was still less than 40%, GDP/capita growth averaged 3.43%. From 1961-66, when government spending stayed around 30% of GDP, GDP/capita averaged 4.4%. From 1975-2008, as government spending got as high as 54.81% of GDP, GDP/capita has only averaged 1.73%.

If we accept the fact that public freebies can only be delivered if we have a strong and dynamic private sector (in the nineties, there had to be drastic cutbacks in freebies, due to the fact that government spending was between 48%-54% of GDP), then ALL parties should be calling for smaller government.

Alberta, which has the lowest government spending relative to its private sector, also spends the most on health care, per person. It can afford to do this because it also has the highest productivity of any province. Why is this? Well, the main reason is because businesses get rewarded when they do so, by earning higher profits. In contrast, public unions/governments don't care about making profits, because all they have to do is raise taxes.

In other words, the people who run our governments don't have a personal interest in creating productivity. There is no cash bonus if a minister makes his/her department more efficient. In fact, if a minister does become more efficient, it's more likely they will have their budget cut. In other words, government is set up to punish those who think about saving taxpayers money.

To sum up, Canada and Hamilton will not regain their historic economic prosperity if we continue to allow more than 40% of our economy to be wasted by government.

Public spending as % of GDP
1961 0.3113
1965 0.3003
1970 0.3671
1975 0.4160
1980 0.4238
1985 0.4818
1990 0.4990
1995 0.5016
2000 0.4255
2005 0.4101
2008 0.4153

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 13:53:25 in reply to Comment 62622

Well, the main reason is because businesses get rewarded when they do so, by earning higher profits.

Yah, it has nothing to do with sitting on A HUGE SUPPLY OF OIL.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 14:27:57 in reply to Comment 62655

When oil prices fell in the late nineties, Alberta's oil reliant economy should have done worse than the Canadian average, yet it still outperformed it.



Question: Who do you think feels more stress to invest wisely, a business owner who can lose his house if he/she doesn't succeed, or a government employee who will never be fired unless they break the law?

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 16:38:07 in reply to Comment 62622

Is the point then that we should vote Liberal? I'm confused.

The pre-1984 numbers you give might lead small-government-types to think we should vote conservative, but everything post-1984 strongly indicates otherwise.

If anything, these numbers show that Chrétien and Martin were the best thing to happen for small government in Canada in one hell of a long time.

(You can tinker with the start and end dates a bit, and the numbers for Clark's government won't mean much due to its brevity, but I'm not sure what advocates of small government should read into your numbers otherwise.)

1963 [30.1%] - 1979 [40.9%] = Liberal government, dramatic increase

1979 [40.9%] - 1980 [42.4%] = Conservative government, minor increase

1980 [42.4%] - 1984 [47.8%] = Liberal government, marked increase

1984 [47.8%] - 1993 [53.9%] = Conservative government, marked increase

1993 [53.9%] - 2006 [41.1%] = Liberal government, dramatic decrease

2006 [41.1%] - 2008 [41.5%] = Conservative goverment, no significant change

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-24 17:02:12

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 16:58:30 in reply to Comment 62636

>> Is the point then that we should vote Liberal? I'm confused.

If you want a strong economy, vote for the party that will cut taxes, because over the long run, taxes will determine how much money they have to spend.

In Ontario, since 2003, taxes as a percent of GDP have gone from 15.06% of GDP to 18.05%. Health taxes, HST, etc. In that period of time, our real
GDP has averaged only 1.1% per year.

In contrast, Saskatchewan has cut their sales tax from 9% to 7% in 1997, to 5% in 2006. They have also cut income tax rates from 50% to 44%. Ontario's have stayed steady at 46% and so has our share of the HST , at 8%.

Even though Saskatchewan has cut tax rates, they have managed to pay down almost all of their debt, whereas our provincial debt continues to climb.

Perhaps this has to do with what it says in the Bible...

Matthew 13:12 (King James Version)

"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

Maybe it is that when citizens get tax cuts, it produces the correct environment for even more tax cuts. Perhaps tax cuts, while allowing people to keep more of their money, also motivate people to work harder, which is what really creates the new found wealth.

Ask yourself this, who works harder and with more enthusiasm, the slave (taxes are a form of slavery), or the person who owns his own plot of land?

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By thrillhouse (registered) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 21:36:19 in reply to Comment 62662

In contrast, Saskatchewan has cut their sales tax from 9% to 7% in 1997, to 5% in 2006. They have also cut income tax rates from 50% to 44%.

You do realize which party governed Saskatchewan from 1991 to 2007, right?

Is the point then that we should vote NDP? I'm confused.

Comment edited by thrillhouse on 2011-04-25 21:53:02

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 01:43:50 in reply to Comment 62679

NDP and tax cuts, strange but true.

Perhaps even more important than tax rates, is the inflation tax we have all been paying recently. Since 2000, the Canadian dollar has lost 75% of its value against gold, a traditional store of value. In fact, if you price oil in grams of gold, the current price of oil is 2 grams, around the historical average.

By allowing the Bank of Canada to devalue the Canadian dollar, the result has been a doubling in the cost of homes, record household debt levels and doubling in the price of gas. Unfortunately, personal incomes have only climbed 23% in that same time period.

From 2001 to 2006, when gold was relatively constant, Ontario's GDP grew an average of 4.3%. Since 2006, as gold has risen from around $500 an ounce to $1,453 an ounce (CDN dollars), Ontario's GDP has only grown by an average of only 2.06% and that's in nominal terms, not even adjusting for higher home and gas prices.

If you want to reduce poverty and grow the economy, vote for the party that embraces the free market. Sound money, low taxes, limited safety net (for those truly in need) and consumer choice (private health care, school vouchers).

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:42:04 in reply to Comment 62686

If you want to reduce poverty and grow the economy, vote for the party that embraces the free market.

We've been doing that for 3 decades now.

I know the trees are big, but take a step back and maybe you'll see the forest.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 13:04:54 in reply to Comment 62709

Respectfully, I don't consider a free market having the government taxing and spending over 40 cents of each dollar Canadians earn. In fact, in 2008, the last year I have data for complete government spending, 41.53 cents of each dollar was spent by some level of government. It's likely closer to 44-45% today.

In the first half of the sixties, when Hamilton was still a manufacturing city, the government only spent around 30 cents of each dollar.

Do you want Hamilton to regain its economic fortunes and strong private sector job creation, or do you feel safer having the government spend your money for you? You can't have both socialism and a fast growing, innovative economy. It's one or the other.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 16:29:39 in reply to Comment 62717

When you post stuff like this it only reinforces my belief you are completely ignorant. A willful fool among the wolves perhaps lucky not be eaten yet. The free market will not save us all. The global economy actually has nothing to do with improving the quality of life of the average North American working class family… quite the opposite actually. A fast growing economy is nothing but a race to destruction. It is funny how the left is always accused of being the ones who believe money grows on trees when it is the free market demagogues who nurture the fallacy of unlimited growth.

The fact most people on RTH see right through your statistical blather is testament to the critical thinking skills of the people who frequent this website.

If you want to pollute your brain with Randian notions, believe the self-admitted obscurantism of Leo Strauss and the Chicago School of Economics and worship at the altar of trickledown theory economics (an altar even Fukuyama has abandoned) then go ahead. I only hope you are upper-middle class or higher. Otherwise what you support is akin to a molecule of gasoline in a fuel tank hoping for the throttle to be floored.

Anyway, knock yourself out.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 17:13:52 in reply to Comment 62733


Do you consider a country with taxation level of 40% to be a free market country?

Yes, or no.


What time period in Canada's history do you feel was our best, for the average person?

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 19:12:24 in reply to Comment 62739


Do you consider a country with taxation level of 40% to be a free market country?


Define for me a free market and give me an example of one.


What time period in Canada's history do you feel was our best, for the average person?

No idea, but I'm pretty sure it was before NAFTA.

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted April 24, 2011 at 12:10:13 in reply to Comment 62622

No idea why you wold be down voted for such a well thought out comment. Anyways...

Just an anecdotal example of how cutting costs isn't rewarded in government. A friend of mine has a wife who works for the govt. Her performance is based on how much (the more the better) of the budget she spends.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 12:59:05 in reply to Comment 62632

On that note, Dalton McGuinty brags about lowering the student teacher ratio...

"Over the course of the next three years, we will move to establish our cap on class size across the province"

Imagine if a manager at Dofasco said something similar...

"Over the course of the next three years, we will move to establish our cap on steel production across our factories"

In the case of education, the goal should be to have teachers be able to produce MORE educated students per teacher hour worked, not LESS.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 08:17:34 in reply to Comment 62652

This is by far the most ridiculous statement I've ever seen from you.

If students were in fact like steel, then we'd have no problem in reproducing good drones on a regular basis, but unfortunately (?), they aren't.

Each child is different and has their own host of issues. Some will pick up on things quickly and then proceed to get bored while others require more time to pick things up, but once they get it have no trouble with it. Others can't really get it at all. It's like herding cats in a room full of mice.

Smaller class sizes leads to fewer students falling through the cracks and a better education for those students, which can only make them more productive in the long run because the teachers can focus on the students as individual and work on encouraging their strengths and working around their weaknesses.

I truly feel sorry for teachers. They're given responsibility for a group of kids yet not given any true authority over them. When they do assert what authority they are supposed to have they're often cut off at the knees by an administration that doesn't want to deal with any complaints.

A friend of mine was in a situation that went badly and he saw no other way to deal with the issue. While being disciplined, he asked what the correct approach would have been and he was told "Be nicer".

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:00:38 in reply to Comment 62694

>> If students were in fact like steel, then we'd have no problem in reproducing good drones on a regular basis, but unfortunately (?), they aren't.

And if you are a teacher and you want to keep your job, this makes perfect sense. Scare the public, outlaw alternative school choices for parents and threaten to strike if your demands aren't met by taxpayers.

In contrast, if steel workers try this, the company shuts down and moves production elsewhere.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 19:07:43 in reply to Comment 62702

And if you are a teacher and you want to keep your job, this makes perfect sense. Scare the public, outlaw alternative school choices for parents and threaten to strike if your demands aren't met by taxpayers.

Are you suggesting that all kids are the same? Do you have any suggestions or are you just telling us an ideal situation and letting other people figure out how to get there?

In contrast, if steel workers try this, the company shuts down and moves production elsewhere.

Canadian workers should earn similar wages to Chinese workers, right? The grand old race to the bottom! Ahh, capitalism...

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 21:00:09 in reply to Comment 62753

>> Do you have any suggestions or are you just telling us an ideal situation

How about paying teachers based on something like this...

# of students * % improvement in test score (from beginning of semester to end) = wages.

If a teacher takes too few students, they will earn less than optimal wages. If they take too many, they may will lose money as well, due to low test scores. Over time, teachers will figure out the correct number of students for their particular style of teaching.

Moreover, if a teacher can't produce improvements at all, which is highly unlikely after a whole semester, they will earn nothing.
In this case, they would likely quit and find another way to make a living.

>> Canadian workers should earn similar wages to Chinese workers, right?

If Canadian consumers want to buy products made with Canadian made steel, rather than import steel, they are free to do that. Same goes for cars, appliances, farm equipment, etc.

Ultimately, it is the Canadian consumer who decides where their products are sourced from.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 25, 2011 at 14:45:31 in reply to Comment 62652

In the case of education, the goal should be to have teachers be able to produce MORE educated students per teacher hour worked, not LESS.

We should just eliminate teachers altogether - then using your simple performance measurement, we'd reach infinity!

Comment edited by seancb on 2011-04-25 14:48:25

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 15:01:07 in reply to Comment 62657

No, we should set up incentives for school boards to become more productive. For example, if a school board figures out a way to cut costs, without cutting quality, they should be able to keep half of those cost savings. In other words, make it profitable for teachers and administrators to do more with less.

In this way, teachers could end up making more money and also see their tax bill fall as society used less resources to teach young people.

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By Georgie (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 15:19:01 in reply to Comment 62658

Right, no perverse incentives there :P

If you reward schools for reducing costs you're just going to end up with schools cutting corners and gaming the test results. The kids are the ones who will lose out.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 15:35:56 in reply to Comment 62659

How will school boards be able to game the test if it is given by the province, or a third party?

Furthermore, if you are admitting that school boards are willing to cheat to make more money, what does it say about those people currently in charge at those school boards?

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By RickD (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2011 at 15:43:06 in reply to Comment 62660

It's called Teach To The Test and schools already do it since Harris brought in EQAO.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 18:24:27 in reply to Comment 62622

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), inflation adjusted prices for the government sector went up by 18.25X from 1929-2010. In contrast, personal consumption (private sector) prices only went up by 10.58X in that same time period, while private investment saw price increases of only 6.47%.

In other words, the government sector was the WORST at cutting costs, by between 80-180%, compared to the U.S private sector.

If we assume that our numbers are similar to the U.S numbers, it explains why our economy has slowed as we have embraced "big government".

In fact, by not embracing smaller government, we will never attain the social safety net we all wish for. Think of it this way, would you rather have an economy with big government spending, but that created slow average increases to that public spending.

Or, would you rather have an economy with less public spending as a percent of the economy, but that created faster growing tax revenue, thus allowing for a faster growing public sector in absolute terms.

Are lefties willing to give up their hatred for those who produce the tax revenues who pay for their freebies? If so, they will be the big winners with better job prospects and better social services.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted April 23, 2011 at 18:25:52

Bah, I've tried to comment because this article and some comments have made some great points.

But geez, I'm just too bitter so I'll keep my mouth shut.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2011 at 21:58:10

Actually we are in a lot better shape than the Americans. There are about 293000 Canadians in the public service which works out to about .90 percent of the population. In the USA there is a stunning 23 million people employed by the US government which works out to a whopping %6.9 percent of the population and almost doubles the 12 million still employed in the manufacturing sector.

Having said that we are tip toeing across a slippery slope. I want less government in my life not more. I want the federal government to stay out of provincial jurisdictions, I want the provincial governments to stay out of the way of municipalities which have the most impact in our lives and I want the municpalities to stay out of the way of entrepreneurs and actually help them drive prosperity in this country.

We need to address some serious issues in this country that are coming on like the 5:30 freight to Winnepeg and they aren't being discussed in any degree of seriousness in this election.

Healthcare spending cannot keep increasing at 6% a year. It will bankrupt us. No one is talking about it except in platitudes. The left in an effort to maintain control over what they see as a sacred cow repeatedly wails about the spectre of "US style for profit healthcare" while refusing to admit that the US and Canada have maybe the two worst systems in the developed world and refuse to acknowledge that there are other options that work way better.

The right .....terrified of being labeled "republican" or "uncaring" over the issue and losing elections says all the right things while whistling past the dark alley.

Ahhhh frig... It's late, I'm tired, I don't have enough room here to finish this rant.

To be contined

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-23 21:58:31

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 03:49:17

Yet another reason why Canada needs to teach civics & political history to young people. Minority governments are sometimes the most effective governments.

Harper has been coasting on his own 'coalition' for 2 terms as a minority.

A coalition of the willing, the unwilling, & politicians who decided to give him enough rope & see what he hung first, himself or democracy in Canada. Politicians who knew that Canadians did not want to go to the polls again, played along with him & let many things slide that should not have been allowed to pass.

The only time important things (usually) get done in Canada is with a minority government that is willing to co-operate & find common ground with the opposition parties. This is how we got pensions, & health care.

If Harper wants a majority, he'll have to earn it, & so far he has not.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 11:22:54

Talked to my Liberal candidate the other day. She insisted that they weren't planning to be a part of a coalition, but that if things changed after the election they might reconsider.

Not surprised they're dropping in the polls.

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By cmc (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 13:13:56

It pains me to defend Michael Ignatieff and I will not be voting for him but the idea that Ignatieff has been "disingenuous and dishonest" on the subject of minority government is absurd. Mr. Ignatieff has simply described how the system works. He has been roundly criticized by the punditocracy for failing to devise some clever evasion and thus opening himself up to charges of opportunism like the ones levelled against him by Shemaptolla. Never, never, describe the process of sausage making, say the pundits and don't address hypotheticals if you can possibly avoid it. Ignatieff’s sin here appears to be his tiresome insistence on talking about the way the system works instead of providing spin.

No one, including Mr. Harper, can say what they will do in a minority situation the day after the election. Mr. Harper sounds as though he is staking out a firm position but the truth is he can't really tell us what he would do. He confidently predicts what the other parties would do faced with a Harper plurality, but he doesn't really know that either and neither do the other parties know. It all depends on the relative positions of the parties after the vote. How significant is the seat margin between party number one and party number two and between party number two and party number three? Which parties are on an upswing and which on a downswing? Who is most ready to go back to the polls and who is least ready? Which party or parties are headed toward a change of leadership? Does public opinion point to one option or another?

The Conservative strategy in this election began with the theme of the opposition conspiracy to unseat the Conservatives and collaborate in the new parliament to replace them with a coalition. According to this theory, the contempt of parliament charges were a made-up pretext for the government's defeat. This strategy may or may not prove effective. It's hard to say now what kind of seat distribution will result on May 2nd.

If the Conservatives do not win a majority their position in the House may be outwardly similar to their position in the last Parliament but it will make a difference whether they have a larger or smaller plurality and which party leads the opposition. It could also make a difference if the Liberals and NDP (in whatever order) together hold enough seats to form an effective majority in Parliament without the Bloc. (Ekos projected this might happen but others predict that splits will produce a Conservative majority.)

The range of possible outcomes is complicated enough that no party and no leader can know what circumstances they may face after the election and how they might respond. This is why it is really the Conservative spin that can be described as disingenous and dishonest. Everyone has to make uncomfortable choices in a minority situation but they can't know what choices face them until they get there.

The media gave Mr. Harper a grace period on the "coalition" issue and didn't challenge his assertions very strongly early on but a lot of the electorate seem to have decided that it is a phony issue. Whether or not Ned Franks is in the bag for the Liberals, his assertion that Mr. Harper has been talking "constitutional nonsense" is on the mark.

Mr. Harper contends that the opposition parties have a prior disposition towards a coalition but they have strong reasons to avoid coalition, alliance or formal collaboration. The trap in which the Liberal-Democrats in Britain find themselves today illustrates the dangers of coalition for a junior partner while the Liberal-NDP accord in Ontario worked out badly for the Peterson government in the end.

We live in a country with strong regional and ideological divisions. Without a political realignment and so long as Quebec remains a wild-card we will face the possibility of minority government. This election did not happen when it did because of actions of the opposition or the government alone. It happened because all parties feared the consequences of backing down now at the constitutional impasse of the contempt finding. If the only issue on the table had been the budget it’s not clear there would have been an election. Either way, both the government and the opposition had ways to avert the no confidence judgement. You could argue that the Liberals had the strongest reason for forcing an election but not based upon their poll results. The Conservatives had been advertising as though in pre-campaign mode. They would argue they were preparing for the the inevitable but they weren't necessarily looking to avoid an election, either.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 19:17:58 in reply to Comment 62719

"Mr. Ignatieff has simply described how the system works. He has been roundly criticized by the punditocracy for failing to devise some clever evasion and thus opening himself up to charges of opportunism like the ones levelled against him by Shemaptolla."

If it walks like a duck.......

Mr Ignatieff did not come back to Canada to be the Leader of the Opposition. He came back to be PM. Funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. He found himself the leader of a rump party with two strong holds in the country, neither of which is representative of the values and views of the majority of Canadians from coast to coast.

Further because Mr Harper (love him or hate him) has very successfully moved the CPC and has governed from the center, Mr Ignatieff has not been able to gain any traction there, particularly when fiscally conservative Liberals can see themselves voting for the CPC. He has thus been forced WAY left of where he is comfortable (read anything he has ever written as proof), by the lefty wing in the LPC, and has thus embarked on this ruinous course he currently finds himself on.

My thought is that the left wing has pushed Mr Ignatieff off the election plank by prodding him with thoughts of "an arrangement" with the NDP or whomever so that he may become PM. I believe their end game is much more Machiavellian however and knowing that they cannot and will not win this election, they are prepared to sacrifice Captain Harvard and send him on his way so as to annoint their boy Gerrrard ASAP.

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By cmc (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 20:29:52

Ignatieff was installed as leader by the wing of the Liberal Party that was opposed to coalition in 2008. Let's say that he did come back to Canada only to become Prime Minister and let's stipulate that he is less than happy with his progress to date. It does not follow that he is determined to achieve that goal by means of a coalition with the N.D.P.

This is a case of a minority of people embracing the Conservative spin because they want to believe in it. There's plenty about Ignatieff not to like politically but one doesn't have to accept a narrative that could have been concocted by Rush Limbaugh, or perhaps, Ezra Levant. The Conservative ads damaged Ignatieff but not fatally. The fact that he has failed to define himself politically has been much more damaging in the long run.

If the Liberals are in as much trouble as they appear to be it is because the adamant rejection of the coalition left them no ideological room to run against the Conservatives and they failed to develop a platform over the two years before the election call that would in any way give Ignatieff a distinct political profile. That's's probably some indication, as well, of Ignatieff's shortcomings as a politician and political leader.

Give Mr. Harper credit. He read the situation well and took the center away from Ignatieff. The question that remains is whether people trust Harper's "centrism" enough to give him a majority. Liberals like David Smith, Scott Reid, and probably Ignatieff himself, believe that they remain the party of Canada's destiny. They do not seem to realize that the Conservatives have changed the game, perhaps permanently, and that the injuries Harper and his circle inflict on themselves do not automatically benefit the Liberal party.

The right wing of the Liberal Party views the NDP with disdain and distaste. Because the Liberals are weak and the the electorate is fragmented they cannot rule out all forms of collaboration but Ignatieff dreams of leading a majority not a coalition. The observation about walking like a duck is silly. If I read him accurately its the academic in him that insists on discussing coalition as a constitutional matter in the midst of an election. But if you want to get down to questions of personal motivation I wouldn't want to look too closely into any political leader, including the Prime Minister.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 21:36:01

If Michael Ignatieff thinks he is going to be leading an LPC majority government before he starts collecting OAS cheques I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell him cheap. Some one in the LPC sold him a bill of goods when they convinced him to leave the safety and sanctity of Harvard to come "home" to political life. He was no doubt convinced that he would be PM by now. His ego got the better of him.

He surely knows it will not be by actually winning the most seats. When Mansbridge asked the question, he should have not even gone there, rather than opined on constitutional technicalities and procedure. With his answer he left open the door to what everyone has accused him of and at the same time given his opponents the opportunity to slam him on it.

The Liberals are in the trouble they are in because for three years they have supported the government more often than not, complaining about it all the while, and not doing the hard work required to come up with policies that resonate with Canadians outside of the Island of Montreal and downtown Toronto. That is not entirely Mr Ignatieff's fault. For 13 years under Chretien and Martin they were unopposed. They had the opportunity to do something great, something visionary. Instead we got Adscam, Shawinigate, almost lost a referendum on Quebec seperation, and oh yeah gay marriage ( great for those inclined, but I would argue not on anyone else's list of priorities then). They have what? 3 seats west of Kenora? They are a rump party at best, waxing about the good ole days of being "the natural governing party" whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. The political landscape is changing rapidly in this country and passing them by.

Having worked in Toronto for the last 21 years as a civic employee, and seen Jack Layton's political rise, and how he got there, I can honestly say I would not buy a used car from him. However, if the current trend holds he may have accomplished what no other NDP leader has done in a generation, which is make that party nationally relevant. Combine this with the apparent continued implosion of the LPC and I can see a day when many left leaning Libs migrate to the Dippers and those on the fiscal and social right of the LPC move to the Tories.

Who said this election was about nothing?

Comment edited by Shempatolla on 2011-04-26 21:39:02

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By cmc (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2011 at 23:52:22

Couple of points.

The first is that politicians are often fueled by illusion, especially leaders. They need to believe they can win somehow to sustain the discipline of total involvement politics demands of them. Nonetheless, Ignatieff won't buy your bridge.

Second, don't expect a defense of Layton here.

One last point to consider. Which result did popular wisdom consider least likely at the outset of this campaign--that the Liberals might challenge Harper for a plurality of seats in the house or that the NDP might challenge the Liberals for second spot? Word everywhere was that the NDP were stuck where they had been in the polls if they had not actually declined and that Layton would not have the energy to fight a strong campaign. Well, to borrow a hoary sports metaphor "That's why they play the games." and that's why Ignatieff might entertain hopes of stealing an election.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2011 at 23:58:47 in reply to Comment 62770

Definitely an interesting development. It will be interesting to see how well the NDP can get out the vote in Quebec with not much of an organization on the ground there. If they can, they might steal some BQ seats, which is not a bad thing.

Other than a few pockets in Ontario, I don't see them gaining seats, probably keep what they have.

BC ? Some street fights with the Tories.

Watching and reading the pundits tonight and all reports are the Libs are in batten down the hatches mode, and are scrambling to keep what they have.

Get your popcorn ready!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2011 at 04:26:15

Coalition or not? Can Iggy give an actual answer? This is our shot - we don't get to vote again a month later if we don't like how they form the government. So who do we vote for if we want a coalition, and who do we vote for if we don't? Or are we just going to be asked, once again, to "trust them"?

The NDP's problem has long been inertia. It isn't that their ideas aren't popular, but there's a real fear that if we want to "keep the conservatives out" we need to "hold our nose and vote Liberal". With a reversal in polls, everything changes. How many people would actually vote NDP if given the "chance"? And does the NDP have what it takes to run with it?

Finally, things are getting interesting.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2011 at 15:01:30

Brilliant strategy on the oppositions part to call an election now @ tax time!

Anyone notice how their income tax refund has 'disappeared' over the past 2 years? (esp. low income Canadians?) I bet people did notice, & will show their displeasure at the polls!
A handicapped senior can easily get Zero $$'s back, + the expense of filing the taxes on top of that. Thanks a bunch, Steve-O. :{

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