Over the last couple of weeks there has been a resurrection of the idea of a coalition government. Should the Conservative Party win another minority in a future election, the losing parties would form a “coalition”, with the Liberal Party at the helm, and take over control of government.
Coalition governments are quite common in the other commonwealth countries. In fact, the UK just recently formed a coalition government between the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats. However, they are decidedly rare in Canadian politics. So rare, that there has been only one federal coalition in the entire history of the country.
This coalition was Robert Borden’s Unionist government of 1917. After winning a majority government, Borden’s Conservative Party formed a coalition with the Liberal’s in order to present a united political front in response to World War 1. It quickly fell apart after the conclusion of the war and ended completely with Borden’s retirement in 1920.
There is one common factor that I would like to point out from my two examples above: the winning party created the coalition!
When Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, recently said “losers don’t get to form coalitions” he was correct. In a coalition government, the elected party seeks an alliance with one or more of their rivals for the purpose of strengthening the democratically elected government. This is more common with minority governments, as a coalition will usually give them a majority in parliament. However, as we saw from Borden’s example, majority governments also employ coalitions if they feel it’s warranted.
In December 2008, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois attempted to form a “coalition” government with the Liberals at the helm. They reasoned that while more Canadians had voted for Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, the majority of Canadians had not. Therefore, in their minds, they were justified in taking over leadership of the country.
There are a few glaring problems with that idea though:
1) None of the three parties involved had been elected to power. They were not trying to strengthen the existing government. They were trying to unseat it.
2) The Liberal Party leader, Stephane Dion, would have become the leader of this new government. In the recently held election, Canadians had already declared that they did not want Mr Dion to lead the country.
3) All three parties would have veto power in this coalition government. In real world application, the Liberals and NDP would regularly agree on policy. The Bloc Quebecois, however, is a separatist party and often disagrees with the other parties on key issues. Even though Liberal leader, Mr Dion, would “officially” be the leader of the opposition, in reality, Bloc leader, Gilles Duceppe would have been calling the shots. The Liberals and the NDP would have effectively handed leadership over to a party whose primary goal is to break-up the country.
I’ll take this opportunity to remind people of a legal term that isn’t often heard in modern society:
1. speech or behaviour directed against the peace of a state
2. (Law) an offence that tends to undermine the authority of a state
3. (Law) an incitement to public disorder
4. Archaic revolt
[from Latin sēditiō discord, from sēd- apart + itiō a going, from īre to go]
Dion, Duceppe and NDP leader Jack Layton were lucky not to be charged with sedition after their ill-fated coup attempt in December 2008. Will Layton and current Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff, be so fortunate if they try the same trick again?
If there is one thing that has become abundantly clear over the last several years, it’s that the Liberal Party of Canada is more interested in power than democracy. An inability to admit their mistakes, an unwillingness to listen to the people whom they represent, and an overwhelming arrogance in their own righteousness, has led to plummeting support for the Liberals.
The party is on the verge of imploding, and these ridiculous coalition attempts are nothing more than the desperate actions of desperate politicians. Rather than accepting the consequences for years of bad leadership and even worse legislation, they are grasping at straws for any chance to reclaim power.
It’s time for the Liberal Party to start listening to their constituents. Maybe then, they’ll finally realize that their problem isn’t ineffective leadership or the “evil” Stephen Harper. Their problem is a complete inability to accept that the interests of Canadians are far more important than the interests of a few elitist politicians.
I wanted to make a quick update to clear up a point of confusion in my post.
When I said that the winning party forms a coalition, I didn’t mean to state that only the winning party can form a coalition. Legally, any of the parties are allowed to form one. Tradition stands that the party with the most votes has first crack at forming a government. If they are unable to do so, then any party can step up and try.
The issue in Canada is the Bloc Quebecois. The Liberals and NDP combined still have fewer seats than the Conservatives. It would be very difficult for them to form a minority government without the Bloc, and Canadians won’t allow them to form a coalition with the Bloc.
So while it is perfectly legal for the losers to form a coalition government, with the number of parties in our political system and the presence of the Bloc, it’s virtually impossible.