Coalitions

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According to Stephen Harper a coalition government is an evil to be avoided; he trotted it out once and it seemed to work but lately his fear-mongering hasn’t had as much traction. The fact that the Bloc Quebecois is no longer in the picture is probably a factor. An equally critical factor is that people are disgusted with him and any means to get rid of his government is just fine with most Canadians.

The Conservatives (both at home and in the UK) oppose any changes to the electoral system as well. The idea that we should tamper with first past the post and replace it with say, proportional representation, is called anti-democratic. This, despite their own constant tinkering with the electoral system and constant violations of existing laws. Of course the Conservatives hate coalitions and PR – in both cases it would mean they would be shut out of government for a decade or maybe even a generation. Not that a moderate conservative party couldn’t gain support in Canada – but not this lot of extremists.

So, how could a coalition be formed in Canada? There are lots of calls for the left to unite – coming mostly from people who have never actually been active in a political party (there are exceptions to that). Parties have their own culture and I know Liberals and New Democrats who dislike each other as much as they do the Conservatives. Merging usually means absorbing – ask the Progressive Conservatives about that. Oh, yeah, you can’t, they’re gone. Besides, there is actually a difference in policy between the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens. There is plenty of overlap but there are some real fundamental differences, too.

I have gotten to the point in my life where I no longer think majority governments are either functional or democratic. In Canada they mean government by the executive elite in the PMOs office and a refusal to compromise on the most trivial of points. They mean generally the silencing of many voices and the dominance of one. This is not new – it has simply met its epitome in the current administration.

So, a ‘unite the left’ movement is unlikely to gain traction before or after the next election but hopefully the two centre-left parties will find an accommodation after the election. A minority government is possible but I would prefer a formal coalition. Each party would have to set aside some of its platform – delivering what they already agree on and finding compromises where policy needs to be advanced but there is some disagreement.

I strongly believe that Harper can only remain Prime Minister if he gets an absolute majority of seats or if any coalition alternative would have to include the Bloc. Neither Trudeau or Mulcair would long survive as leaders if they back a Harper minority. A formal coalition combined with reform to the electoral system to entrench PR (and hence a more or less permanent centre-left coalition) would ensure both parties would survive while providing a degree of stability we haven’t seen in  a decade.

And that’s ten minutes.

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