Coalition – Yes, No, Well maybe, If Necessary but Not Necessarily, Yes Maybe No, and No again.

The campaign has not started well for Michael Ignatieff.  Yesterday, just after the confidence vote in the House of Commons, Ignatieff came bustling out through the doors into the glare of the television lights prepared for his interview.

The first questions right off the start were regarding whether he would enter into a Parliamentary coalition with the Bloc Quebecois and NDP should the May 2 election result in yet another Minority Parliament as happened in 2004, 2006, and 2008.

Ignatieff danced.  He dodged.  He weaved.  He equivocated.  He did anything he possibly could to avoid actually answering the question:

A quick history lesson: towards the end of 2008, in a brazen case of political opportunism, the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois decided they didn’t like the results of the last election, and realized that, in our Parliamentary democracy, by working together – they thought – they could usurp power from the party that Canadians sent into Parliament to govern.

I have posted earlier that Canadians don’t elect their government; and that is still true.  Canadians elect their legislature, and the various members of that Legislature form Parliamentary coalitions within that legislative assembly – they’re called “Caucuses.”  When we elect our MPs, we know, by nature of the party to which they belong, which Caucus they will be sitting with once Parliament returns to session.

Sometimes – and this is perfectly legal and legitimate – some caucuses agree to work together and form what is known as a Parliamentary Coalition.  From the point of view of Parliament, there is no party affiliation, just caucus membership, with a label attached to that caucus for reference purposes.

That is all well and good; because the voters know, at the time of an election, what caucus their candidates will be joining.  Floor-crossing (joining a different caucus) is legitimate, but it is frowned-upon by the Canadian voters.  Members who cross the floor are very rarely re-elected.

In 2008, had the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc decided to campaign on a platform of forming a Parliamentary coalition, what they tried to do towards the end of that year would have been reasonable, since Canadians would have known it was coming, however, in the campaign of 2008, Michael Ignatieff said this:

In the election campaign of 2008, Ignatieff ruled out the idea of a coalition:

“‘Wake up, there’s no coalition with Jack Layton,’ he said. ” (click here for reference)

Later, he signed on to the coalition:

This morning, once again, he ruled out a coalition.  Again, with this tweet:

M_Ignatieff
A Liberal government will not enter into a coalition with other federalist parties http://lpc.ca/bue #cdnpoli #elxn41 #lpc
11-03-26 7:12 AM

In an arrogant and condescendingly-titled press release, Ignatieff lectures us on “The Rules of our Democracy.” In it, he rules out a formal Parliamentary coalition, explaining that he would work on an issue-by-issue basis with other parties to get legislation passed.

Which leads me to a number of points:

  1. Michael Ignatieff has changed is mind on a coalition so many times, how do we know he won’t change it again?
  2. Since Michael Ignatieff ruled out a coalition in 2008, and then signed on to one, we clearly can’t trust what he is saying about it now.
  3. Taking his comments at face value for a moment – and I want to be clear that I don’t trust his statement at all – supposing he’s telling the truth and really, truly is ruling out a coalition, then why the hell are we now in an election campaign?! Let’s look at the facts here:  At dissolution, the Liberals held 77 to the Conservatives’ 143, and a Parliamentary majority is 155 seats.  To pass the Conservatives and form the largest caucus in the House, the Liberals would have to gain 34 seats from the Conservatives, and MORE than that if they pick seats up from the NDP or Bloc while the Conservatives retain theirs.  Given the state of the polls, where the Conservatives seem to enjoy a very large lead, accomplishing that kind of a result would require three things to happen:
    1. Ignatieff and the Liberals running an absolutely PERFECT campaign.No campaign is ever perfect, however.  Ignatieff has already experienced his first gaffe, after all – before the campaign even began when he dodged and danced around the coalition question yesterday.
    2. Harper and the Conservatives running a disastrous campaign.In the year 2000, Stockwell Day and the Canadian Alliance ran, what many consider to be a disastrous campaign, and Day STILL managed to win 25% of the popular vote and raise his seat count from 60 (out of the old Reform Party) to 66.  Simply put the hope of passing the Conservatives in terms of caucus size is slim at best, none at most likely.
    3. The Liberals having an issue which actually galvanizes and engages Canadians.  The Liberals seem to be running on a platform of:
      1. Harper Bad; Ignatieff Good.Whoopie!  You know what Joe Lunchbucket Canadian says about politicians?  (I have had this said to me time and time again myself)  “They’re all the same, and they’re all as bad as each other.”
      2. Conservatives are unethical; Liberals aren’t.Joe Lunchbucket Canadian shrugs his shoulders and says, “sure.  They’re ALL unethical.”  The “scandals” the Liberals are tying to pin on the Conservatives aren’t resonating with Canadians.  First, because Canadians, by and large, don’t give a rodent’s rectum (sorry, Menzoid) about Parliamentary procedure, and second, because on the scale of scandal, these just aren’t even on the radar screen for most Canadians.
      3. We don’t like the military or the justice system.Obviously, those are my words, not the words of the Liberal Party, which prefer to use the term “jets and jails” as if alliteration makes it “cool” or something.  Obviously alliterative terms will be remembered easily, however I think Canadians, by and large, won’t bite on this issue either.  The issues I think most Canadians are worried about are economic issues – ensuring they have a job next week, and are able to make their mortgage payments, buy food and clothing, and send their kids to daycare.  When it comes to “jets and jails” most Canadians likely think, “well, we need to defend our country, and we need to put dangerous people somewhere where they’ll be kept away from my kids.”

So, without an issue to galvanize Canadians, the Liberals have, well, nothing.  Parliamentary “pseudo-scandals” and witch hunts in an obscure committee which votes along party lines to recommend Parliament find the government in contempt (and then have a non-Confidence motion prior to the government actually being formally held in contempt) is a pretty weak reason to force an election.

All this leads us to one possible conclusion:

Michael Ignatieff has forced this election simply because he wants to be Prime Minister.

Either he knows he can’t expect Canadians to engage with a platform built on “ethics”, “contempt”, and “jets and jails”, and thus he can’t expect to win the election by passing the Conservatives in terms of seat count.  So, he is planning a formal Parliamentary coalition or a formal cooperation agreement with the NDP and the Bloc.  Now, of course, he is denying it during the campaign.  This means he has a hidden agenda; or

Or, he thinks he actually can defeat Harper on issues that Canadians aren’t engaging in.  Perhaps he believes, as most Liberals seem to believe, that having the Liberals running government is the Way Things Are Done in Canada, and that it’s only an aberration that the Conservatives are in power right now.  If only the voters would see the world the way Michael Ignatieff sees it, they would flock to him in droves and propel him into the Prime Minister’s Office.

Either way, this election, as the Conservatives say, is Michael Ignatieff’s election.  He wants to be Prime Minister, and, by golly, he will force an unneeded and unwanted election to do it.

It’s all about him.  He didn’t come back for you.

About Steven Britton

Steve is a freelance programmer, partial billionaire, dad, Recovering Atheist, Conservative, and occasionally prolific blogger.