The Coalition lives!
And it’d be irresponsible of Ignatieff to discount it, says Wells:
I regret that my account of a campaign-closing 2008 interview with Stéphane Dion merely quotes the then-Liberal leader to the effect that the NDP platform was “not realistic” because of its “old-style socialist” overtones, without quoting the specific element of the platform that Dion found so unappealing. So you’ll have to take my word for it: What Dion specifically didn’t like was Jack Layton’s decision to pay for his promises by cancelling future cuts to corporate income taxes that had not yet taken place. Dion, you’ll recall, preferred to pay for his promises with a tax on carbon that was only partially compensated with income-tax cuts.
At the time, those were the two big, important, structural differences in policy — the only two, if I recall correctly, although readers are welcome to remind everyone of other differences in the reopened comment board below — between the two largest national left-of-Harper parties. …
After this weekend, those big structural policy differences between the Liberals and NDP no longer exist.
And this means…?
Ignatieff likes to step backward when you say “Boo” to his face, and that’s the result Stephen Harper achieved last autumn when he made it clear he will run against a Liberal-Bloc-NDP coalition whether the Liberal, Bloc and NDP say they want to have a coalition or not. Of course he will. One result of the Madness in 2008 was to handily polarize the electorate, sharply motivating Conservative supporters to want Harper to remain prime minister. He had no trouble recreating the same dynamic in 2009 when Ignatieff tried to force a fall election.
Of course Harper will, and of course he should — as was shown in November 2008, when six weeks after swearing up and down he would never do it, Stephane Dion signed on to a coalition with the NDP, with Bloc support.
What should Ignatieff do?
There are two possible responses to coalition talk: “Never!” and “Maybe.” “Never!” was the one Ignatieff tried last autumn. It has the advantage of drawing a sharp distinction between himself and Dion’s ruinous 2008 adventure. The disadvantage is that it’s irresponsible. If, say, 120 Conservatives, 118 Liberals and 40 New Democrats were elected (leaving 30 Bloquistes; I just pulled these numbers out of the air, any other outcome is possible), it would simply be asinine for everyone to sit around and let Stephen Harper run everything for another two or four years when a stable Liberal-NDP arrangement (with or without Bloc support) could be envisioned.
It really would be. Though I’d have so much fun watching it.
It is fair for a new leader to say he would not attempt such a rickety contraption. But he has an obligation to provide a government that corresponds to the broad will of the entire electorate, if he happens to find himself in a better position to do so than the Conservative leader after the next election. After his speech on Sunday, the odds of such an outcome just went way up.
Yeah, I think it did.
It wouldn’t be stunning to see a 130-seat Conservative plurality in the next Parliament, with 95 Liberals and 40 New Democrats.
In that case, with the Liberal-NDP forces out-numbering the Conservative forces, would it be stunning to see an Ignatieff-Layton accord to take down Harper on the opening Throne Speech of the First Session of the 41st Parliament?
Trust Harper to point this out during the next campaign; enough voters to elect a majority government wanted him as PM in 2008 — they just didn’t want him running amuck. Given the choice between that and the Coalition, they preferred Harper.
I think a stable Conservative minority government is extraordinarily unlikely in the 41st Parliament.
We will see a highly unstable parliament and a quick 42nd federal election, a stable Liberal-NDP coalition government, or a Conservative majority government.
If I had to put money down right now, I’d say it’ll be a Tory majority — but the odds aren’t overwhelming. Maybe 55-45 that it’ll happen. And my other 45% is for Prime Minister Ignatieff with Deputy Prime Minister Layton.
Instant update: My pre-spin: if Ignatieff doesn’t rule out the Coalition — if he goes all King on us — it’s legit. If he rules it out absolutely, and then pulls it — we Tories will hit the streets again. (Well, we’ll probably hit the streets either way. But only in the latter case would we be right to.)
Update again: Dead as of March 24th –
Canadians hoping for a coalition or realignment on the centre-left of Canadian politics will have to wait for Michael Ignatieff’s departure from the Liberal leadership.
“Everybody talks loosely as if we’re all on the left in the same box,” he said in an interview. “I’ve never thought that. I think a Liberal is a Liberal and an NDP is an NDP. They have related but separate political traditions and I respect that.”
I think the lede might be over-reading what Ignatieff said. But still, he didn’t correct the impression.
Okay, he’s not threading that needle.