Which way ahead?

The end of the Coalition has left many people dissatisfied

Which way to go? The signs are confusing.

Will Canadian politics take a new road — or will it stay the same?

Victoria, BC — The demise of the NDP-Liberal Coalition Agreement has left a gaping hole in Canadian politics that may take a long time to fill.

For many Canadians, the possibility of co-operation between the Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Québéquois represented the same kind of political hope that powered Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States.

In Canada, that hope is for a more progressive and flexible political process to replace the unsatisfactory succession of secretive, autocratic governments thrown up by our antiquated, “first-past-the-post” electoral system and an élitist domination by cabinet that emasculates most MPs.

Although though Canadians don’t vote for their Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has demonstrated how a Canadian Prime Minister can be totally autocratic even with control of only a minority of seats in parliament.

Tantalising prospect of hopes fulfilled

For a few tantalising weeks, the possibility of a coalition government offered the prospect of an end to parliamentary bickering and a swift ‘goodbye’ to the repressive neo-conservativism of Stephen Harper.

But newly-crowned Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff put an end to that dream. By choosing not to evict Stephen Harper from 24 Sussex Drive, Ignatieff opted for political expediency over a vision that included a genuine concern for the plight of poor and soon-to-be poor Canadians.

Now allied with Harper’s Conservatives in supporting a mean and nasty ‘stimulus’ budget, Ignatieff is proving to be every bit as conservative in clinging to the parliamentary status quo as his erstwhile political rival.

Ignatieff’s ascension to the Liberal throne indeed reignited hope: an exclusively Liberal hope that the tattered remains left by Chretien, Martin, and Dion can be rebuilt into into its former glory as Canada’s ‘natural ruling party.’ Some hope… some ruling party.

Canada’s future is coalition politics

Canada’s political class — politicians, party faithful, and the media — have overlooked three major factors overshadowing Canadian politics:

  • ever-lower voter participation reflecting a disillusionment with the political system particularly by the younger cohorts of voters;
  • the demand for open government spurred by the growth of the Internet and best exemplified by the Obama campaign; and
  • disenchantment with ‘first-past-the-post’ elections. that skew results towards the dominant parties and exclude minority parties that represent legitimate but not yet mainstream views.

Measured against this, Ignatieff’s trashing of the Coalition looks increasingly like the desperate attempt of an failing élite to cling on to power by maintaining an unpopular system to preserve the status quo.

The way ahead is not yet clear. I’ve been advised that, as the Coalition is dead, the campaign for a coalition government is over. I acknowledge that this particular coalition agreement is now history, but I’m not prepared to give up the struggle and close down this site just yet.

Coalition politics is in Canada’s political future. Of that, there is no doubt.

Majority Coalition Canada

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