Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There is an Alternative to Stephen Harper's Coalition

Tom Flanagan, who was behind Stephen Harper's rise to power, after being asked about Stephen Harper's coalition with the NDP and Bloc in 2004, said that he knew about it but wasn't in favour of the deal.
The author of Harper's Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, managed the Conservative 2004 and 2006 election campaigns. But he insisted he "wasn't a part" of a coalition proposal made by then Official Opposition leader Harper, NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in September 2004 that would have included the Bloc as a full partner.

Harper and the other two party leaders drafted a letter to the Governor General pointing out they had a majority and stating "this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options" before dissolving Parliament.

Flanagan felt that if the bloc was going to be part of a coalition, it should be taken to the voters. Stephen Harper did an about face in 2008, forgetting his own deal, or perhaps remembering it only too well.

But now we are once again raising the subject, as many progressives would like to see a coalition government. Preliminary polls show that Canadians are receptive to the idea, and that's without any campaigning on the issue.

However, I don't think we need a formal coalition, like the 2008 attempt. And certainly not one like Stephen Harper's in 2004, that "included the Bloc as full partner".

There is another option, and again we can thank Stephen Harper for this idea.

By fall Of 2005, Jack Layton had decided he was not content with forcing changes to the minority government's budget. In a meeting with other opposition leaders, he struck a deal to bring down the Paul Martin government on November 28, 2005 ...What the news media missed, as they focused on whether Canadians would stand for an election over Christmas, was the most galling element of the Harper- Layton and Duceppe gambit; November 28 was the opening day of the most important global climate negotiations in history. The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ... Worse yet, Canada was the host for those negotiations, set to take place in Montreal. With Canada's government falling on the opening day, the whole process could be derailed. (1)

Stephen Harper was able to convince the other two opposition leaders that if the Liberals were able to get Kyoto passed, it would win them favour with the public. Of course, by listening to Harper instead of the Canadian people, 5 years later, we still have no climate change plan.

But this is about today's opposition striking a pre-election deal, similar to the one agreed to by the opposition in 2005. Not based on a desire to prevent the government from looking good, but an attempt to get our democracy back and remove the neocons' hands from our money.

We are in the fight of our lives, as the wealthy corporate sector is poised to get even more of our money, we are about to buy fighter jets that are unable to get off the ground, and build more prisons for imaginary criminals.

So the opposition parties could still campaign on their own but also speak in unison on key issues. This would mean that they don't attack each other. And as the public is treated to this civility and cooperation, they may be even more accepting of some form of coalition should the need arise.

A perfectly normal and legal option in a Parliamentary system. Just ask Stephen Harper.


1. Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy, By Elizabeth May, McClelland & Stewart, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-7710-5760-1, Pg. 2-7

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