The Coalition Must Survive

“Coalition if necessary, but not necessarily coalition.”

— Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff

Victoria, BC — The newly-crowned Liberal leader’s lukewarm support for the coalition negotiated by Stéphan Dion and Jack Layton does not auger well for that agreement’s longevity.

Ignatieff’s approach is more pragmatic than that of his predecessor’s, whose over-enthusiastic idealism in promoting his Green Plan and uninspiring performance during question period in parliament lacked the gravitas of Ignatieff’s to date more deliberate demeanour.

But does Ignatieff’s ascension to the Liberal throne spell the end of the Coalition? Media pundits are already writing it off as a political abomination, without public support or the prospect of enduring. But their announcement of its imminent demise may yet prove premature.

Proved effective

The coalition already has proved its effectiveness: witness Stephen Harper’s convoluted flip-flop over federal deficits and subsidies, and finance minister Flaherty’s painful attempt at consultation. None of those would have happened without the threat of a coalition ready to overthrow the government.

Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition likely will be satisfied by the upcoming budget. After all the “consultation,” it’s going to be difficult to find fault with any set of reasonable proposals to combat the effects of what is now acknowledged to be an almost dysfunctional global economy.

Although politics may appear to be entirely reactive, the real game is played for the long term. Stephen Harper may have bought himself some time by persuading the Governor General to prorogue Canada’s parliament. But he did so at great political expense, and his persuasion of the Governor General may come back to haunt him.

Next federal election

The real issue for the coalition partners is whether they stay together to present a united front to fight the next federal election, which now looks to be likely to be held in May, 2009. That’s a long time in politics; long enough for Harper’s Conservatives to chip away at coalition solidarity and strengthen their claim to power.

It will come down to whether Ignatieff and the Liberals by that time believe they are strong enough to defeat Stephen Harper on their own, or whether it is apparent to them that only a co-ordinated coalition campaign can counter the Conservative coalition that has successfully united the Right against a fractionated centre-Left.

I believe that only a co-ordinated 2009 election campaign can defeat Stephen Harper and replace his neo-conservative government with one that reflects the more progressive views of the majority of Canadians. To act as though any one party can succeed on its own would simply repeat the failure of the last two federal elections.

Liberal hubris?

Whether Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals will succumb to hubris and try to ressurect itself as Canada’s “natural governing party,” remains to be seen. If so, it would only be a futile attempt to return to the past.

The events of the last two months are more than just another passing cloud in the stormy sky of Canadian politics. The formation of the Coalition was more than just a reaction to the political bullying of an over-controlling prime minister. What we have been witnessing is an historic watershed in Canadian politics.

With or without proportional representation, coalition politics are the way of the future. To discount the depth of feeling that has been thrown up around this issue would be to negate the desire of the vast majority of Canadians to see a genuinely representative parliamentary system replace the demockery of the past.

Coalition must survive

For all these reasons and more, the Liberal-NDP coalition must survive. It must continue its relationship with the Bloc Québécois and eventually, embrace the federal Green party. Otherwise, Canada will experience a lengthy neo-conservative era that could drive our country into the darkness of a very undemocratic future.

And that is something the majority of Canadians do not want.

Majority Coalition Canada

Posted in Canada | 2 Comments » |

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2 Responses to “The Coalition Must Survive”

  1. Angela Browne wrote:

    I am concerned that if they do call an election, the Conservatives will continue to lie to Canadians and gain a majority (because honestly, I don’t think many voters know what they are voting for when they go to the polls). For example, the Conservative candidate from our riding this past federal election once ran for the Family Coalition Party and before that, the Christian Heritage Party, both parties that like to push religion on everybody else and force others to adhere to their right-wing Christian beliefs …such a party would try to reverse abortion rights, ban birth control except for married couples, push for capital punishment and remove many of the rights and protections accused persons have gained in law over the years … well, in my riding, this guy almost got in. The NDP guy beat him only by 500 votes. We have to be very careful at this point. To me, Stephen Harper is capable of convincing these less educated Canadians that he is moderate, when he himself has a very right-wing past … goodbye medicare, will possibly use the notwithstanding clause in the Charter to reverse some key decisions, abolish the federal human rights commission, etc.

  2. KC wrote:

    Here’s a radical idea, let’s put the coalition on the next election’s ballot and see if the majority of the people vote for it.

    If so, then let it stand. If not, then let the current government do what it was mandated to do.

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