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May 8, 2015

Will we have a Coalition Government?

Reuel S. Amdur

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Most Canadians do not want a Tory government. How can we prevent having another one?

We need to remember Michael Ignatieff’s major blunder in saddling us with Harper.  That was in spite of his international career, during which he would surely have known coalition governments in various countries.  Yet, he pulled the plug on the coalition that Stéphane Dion had put together.

Lead Now is recommending that, if no party wins a majority of seats in the next election in October, then the Liberals, NDP, and Greens should form a coalition to keep the Tories out.  Where do the parties stand on this issue?

In the Toronto Star, Donovan Vincent reports that Thomas Mulcair is prepared to take part in a coalition if necessary to keep the Conservatives out. 

Justin Trudeau is more ambiguous, indicating that a coalition with the NDP would not occur while Mulcair leads the party.  Canadian Press writer Melanie Marquis quotes Mulcair as saying, “My first priority is to get rid of Stephen Harper.  The first priority of Justin Trudeau is Justin Trudeau.”

Trudeau’s position means that, if no party has a majority of the seats in the next election and the NDP is in third place behind the Liberals, Trudeau might either need to break his word or keep Harper in power.  But wait, there is another possibility.  The Liberals could demonstrate that they had the confidence of the House, with the votes of the NDP and/or the Greens, without an actual coalition.

Elsewhere in the federal sphere, there is interest in coalition strategies.  Pontiac riding Liberal candidate Will Amos is an environmental activist who proudly proclaims, “I work with people from all parties.”  He argues that “the environment is bigger than any party.”  However, he says that it is premature to commit to a Liberal-NDP coalition.  He put out a scenario where the Liberals might be a few seats short of a majority.  Perhaps the Liberals could form a coalition with the Greens in such a case.

Then there is the position of the Greens.  Bruce Hyer, deputy leader of the party, is quite open to an anti-Harper coalition.  Lead Now has suggested that people vote strategically, plumping for whichever candidate has the best chance of defeating a Tory.  This idea is fraught with difficulty.  How does one know who would be most likely to get the most votes?  Hyer is prepared to go a step further.  He proposes that, in Conservative-held constituencies, Greens, NDPers, and Liberals hold a joint caucus to choose a single candidate.

Realistically, Hyer’s plan is apt to have little traction.  If Trudeau stands firm, and if it is the Liberals who come in second, a coalition with the NDP would require Trudeau to break his word.  However, a Liberal minority government propped up by the NDP without an actual coalition would not be out of the question.  Hyer commented on previous occasions where the NDP propped up Liberal governments.  Such governments brought in progressive legislation such as health insurance and the Canada Pension Plan.

Then there is an even more unlikely suggestion.  If Trudeau cannot imagine cooperation with Mulcair in government, perhaps there could be agreement on someone else to head a coalition. Globe and Mail letter writer David Greer puts forward another name.  Have a Liberal-NDP-Green coalition.  Make Elizabeth May the Prime Minister.

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