Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Election 2015: Let's talk Coalitions

Coalitions in Canada are a hot topic lately. Canadians on the left of the spectrum want to see Harper gone, and they support a coalition should the election result in a minority situation  There has been a lot of back and forth on the matter. The Conservatives are holding the position they have had since the attempted coalition disaster of 2008. They do not believe that Canadians want a coalition of the opposition parties should the Conservatives win. They maintain that it's somehow against the rules, which it clearly isn't.

The NDP have had a variety of positions on the matter, but generally have been supportive of coalitions. Mulcair came into the NDP leadership saying that he would not participate in a coalition with the Liberals, but now is quite open about supporting the idea, probably because he knows the Liberals will oppose it for him. The Liberals are in a tight spot with this one, mostly because the coalition attempt of 2008 really hurt the party, and  Trudeau realizes that his party is better served by not entering a formal coalition, so he has repeatedly said no to a formal coalition. 

The Labour party in the UK is a good example of how coalition talk during an election can destroy a party's electoral chances. From the outset, Labour was a bit dodgy on the issue, and then finally said that they would not work with the Scottish National Party for any reason, knowing that a Labour government would be propped up by the SNP with or without a formal or even informal arrangement. And it hurt them, big time, not unlike how including the Bloc in the 2008 talks hurt the Liberals. 

Trudeau is being upfront about what he will and will not do. He says he is willing to do an informal arrangement, but doesn’t want a formal coalition. If he flat out says "no matter how people vote, we are making a coalition anyway if we can", it's hard to say how well that would go over with the majority of Canadians if the Conservatives have the most seats, but  the fact that the Liberals and the NDP alone could form an arrangement will make that more palatable.

Also, in the UK a formal coalition basically destroyed the Liberal Democrat party, as people blamed them for everything that went wrong with the Conservatives, so I can see why he wants to avoid it. The thing is that coalitions tend to benefit whichever party in in control, and not so much the supporting party. Trudeau wants his party to have the freedom to criticize the government and to maintain the leverage that comes with having the balance of power (if they end up in that position).

Trudeau doesn’t want a formal coalition, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t work with Mulcair to bring Harper down almost immediately if the Conservatives got a minority. He just wants to dictate the terms. If the current polling stands till October, his party would be in a very powerful position within Parliament. It’s possible also that he would work with a Conservative minority, but if he did it would be a massive mistake that would probably crush the Liberals. He has been consistent on the issue though. He was never into a formal coalition. Tom Mulcair was against one too when he became leader of the NDP, but how that he thinks he’d be in the driver’s seat, he’s all for it.

I’ve  always found coalition talk a bit useless and too hypothetical before we have any idea of what the result might be  How can anyone possibly know what they would do when they don’t even know what position they might be in?  Bottom line, when it comes to minority Parliaments especially, all politicians are out for their party’s interest. Surprised?

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