Saturday, January 04, 2014

Canada, want a good Deputy Prime Minister? Look for the man with the hardball in his office

Two of these men could be PM in the next 18 months
Thomas Mulcair says he and his NDP have learned from the disasterous provincial NDP election:

“It’s not enough to look at the electorate and say, ‘vote for me, I m good.’ You have to say, ‘vote for me, I’m a good person to replace the party that’s there, and the government has to be replaced for the following reasons.’

“And I don’t think they did a good enough job of defining what those reasons were.”
Mulcair, who keeps a scuffed-up hardball on a table behind his desk, said it “won’t come as a surprise to anyone that we’re going to (run) a very aggressive campaign.”

Based on current polls, the next election (scheduled for 2015 but probable in 2014) will result in a minority government. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives will poll behind the NDP, who will poll behind the Liberals.

That means the leader of the Conservatives gets a first crack at forming a new government after the election, by seeking the approval of the House for his or her Throne Speech. It a majority of MPs in the 338 seat House support the Throne Speech, the Conservative leader will have the right to form a minority government.

As long as Harper can win 50% plus 1 votes in Parliament from his own Tories and, say, some NDP MPs, he will remain as Prime Minister.

It would take the combined votes of the Liberal Party and NDP MPs to vote the Tory Prime Minister down in a vote of confidence, and then vote for the leader of the party with the highest number of MPs (the LPC) to form a replacement government.

So the next election will give Mulcair a choice:

Does he whip his MPs to vote for the Tories and keep them in power for a while, trying to better the fortunes of the NDP in public opinion polls for a further election (one would happen if Mulcair decided to vote against the Harper government on a later confidence vote);


Does he spell out the conditions under which the NDP would support the Liberal leader by joining in a vote of no-confidence in the new Harper government, triggering the Governor General turning to Justin Trudeau to attempt to form a government that has the support of 50% plus 1 MPs?

The first option is the spoiler option, designed to prevent Trudeau becoming Prime Minister of a minority government, keeping the devil the NDP knows (Harper) in power in a weak minority government, and buying time for an uptick in NDP support amongst Canadians.  The risk here is that Canadians decide to move even more to the Liberals at the next election, giving the LPC a majority and wiping out any hope of the NDP being able to bargain for measures dear to their heart as the price for their support of a minority Conservative or Liberal government.

The second option is the change option and gives Mulcair’s NDP the chance to bargain before the Throne Speech for Mulcair to be the Deputy Prime Minister of a Coalition LPC-NDP government, that would replace the Harper government when it is defeated on a no-confidence vote by the combined Liberal and NDP MPs.

Of course, such a Coalition government would govern based on a signed agreement of issues which would require NDP and LPC votes, with other issues (non-confidence matters), left to free votes by those two parties. This would be similar to the written deal between Cameron’s Conservatives and the Liberal Party in the UK.

One of those committed issues could revolutionize Canadian politics: Mulcair could decide to insist on the immediate calling of a Royal Commission to decide on two alternative types of electoral laws to replace the current non-democratic first past the post system, which would be placed before Canadians in a referendum to be held before the end of 2015. The one choice of the two systems placed before Canadians in the referendum that gained the most votes would replace the FPTP system in the next election.

Things are going to get very interesting in the next year or so.

Thank heavens we don’t have Ignatieff heading the LPC – his lack of understanding of the realities of power and the validity of coalition governments has already cost the country far too much.


  1. I'm not sure what you're describing is the most likely scenario. Liberals always poll highest when there's not an election, and to get to the scenario you describe, the Liberals would need to win an additional 70+ seats over what they have now. For a variety of reasons, I don't see that happening. The main reason is that the increase in support for the Liberals has not been seen in Quebec, where Mulcair is by far the most popular federal leader. It seems like, at this point, the LPC might win back a few seats in Montreal but don't have much hope outside of the island.

    I think a more likely scenario, and IMO a more interesting one, is that the Conservatives win the most seats but not enough for a majority, the NDP come in second, and the Liberals come in third. In which case, the LPC will have to decide between supporting a CPC gov or an NDP one. Something tells me they'll opt for supporting Harper.

  2. Your scenario (which I don't believe will happen) would throw the decision into the laps of the Liberal Party and its supporters. After the last election, Justin Trudeau remarked that if there was another minority government, the NDP and LPC would have to do some serious thinking about how to cooperate to remove Harper's minority government and replace it with a government that better reflects the wishes of the majority of voters. That issue still stands.

  3. Well if policy positions, history, and British Columbia provincial politics are any guide, the Liberals are much more likely to support a Conservative government than the NDP would be. That is why voters looking to defeat Harper should vote NDP and not take their chances with an untrustworthy Liberal Party. ;)

  4. Daniel, the best strategic choice for the NDP is to change the system to ensure their proper representation in both Parliament and in future governments - and this can only be done through some form of proportional representation, instead of the FPTP system. As a narrowly-based, protest party, the NDP clearly cannot marshall support from the majority of Canadian voters, and so should be realistic. If Mulcair does not make electoral change a precondition to supporting any minority government, he will do his party and its supporters an injustice, similar to that ill-conceived agreement that Clegg negotiated on behalf of the LibDems when they joined the UK Tories in a coalition. Clegg was outsmarted by Cameron, who played on Clegg's panting desire to be part of the government, and so agreed to a mickey mouse system of electoral change, while Cameron reserved the right to oppose it on the hustings during the referendum. This doomed the electoral change prospect.

    Will Mulcair put his own personal ambition for office ahead of his party's need for signinificant electoral change?

  5. I agree the best strategic choice for the NDP would be to switch to PR. That's why Mulcair has committed to making it a reality if elected PM (and it's also been part of the NDP platform for over 50 years). I wish it was part of the Liberal platform too. Once again, if you want a PR system, your best vote is NDP (or Green, but that's not practical for most voters).

    Your British example proves my point. There, the LibDems are the centrist party, much like the Liberals here. Much like Trudeau, to their detriment, the LibDems supported a AV system rather than a PR system.

    The ONLY way I could EVER see the NDP support a Conservative government would be if the Cons agreed to abolish the Senate, switch to a form of PR, and call an election soon thereafter. The NDP and the CPC are just too far apart to make a workable coalition, forget about "personal ambition."

  6. Daniel, I did not notice Jack Layton setting such conditions the many times he supported Harper's new Tories in confidence votes and other votes. So why would his heir suddenly act differently? Jack convinced himself that the trinkets that Harper tossed his way in return for the NDP support were worth it each time. Get ready for many more trinkets ... ala Clegg and the hapless LibDems.

  7. Nice revisionist history, but the Layton-led NDP crucially supported Harper a grand total of twice: once to bring down the sponsorship-scandal-tainted Martin government after the LPC refused an offer on PR and once to reverse the LPC's income-trust tax giveaway. Hardly many times. It was the Ignatieff-led LPC who refused to form a coalition and voted with Harper like DOZENS of times. Anyhow, once again. if you like PR, still don't see how you can justify supporting the Liberals who have been resolutely against it. At least give the NDP a chance to go against their platform/principles ;)

  8. Anyhow. This is clearly an LPC blog, and I am clearly an NDP partisan, so I'll leave this discussion with that. but I do think that having PR system is more important than partisan leanings. If Mulcair goes against his commitment to PR (as the NS and other NDP provincial governments have) than I'll gladly switch parties. Good luck convincing your party to switch its position on PR!

  9. True - I stand corrected. If in fact Layton only voted for the Tories twice on financial bills and other confidence motions.

  10. Not entirely sure of my facts on that one, but that's all I remember. there might have been something on pensions too...

  11. Everybody is counting there chickens before they're hatched. The next election is aways away and alot can happen during an election. Andrea Horwath was completely off the radar before the last Ontario election, and yet ended up the most personally popular by the end of the campaign, Jack Layton was in the low teens at the midway in 2011 election and then ended up with slightly over 30% by e day. Dix had over 50% support at one point and then his incompetant nice guy campaign lost the election. Paul Martin once had popularity levels that Justin Trudeau would envy, and we saw what Gomery did to that.

    Poll mean nothing, everything is in flux. The fundamentals are far more important then polls. Mulcair is way better in QP then Justin, to the point where he has saved QP from obscurity and made it matter to average Canadians again l, to the point where seating is so full people are being turned away from watching it in person.

    Mulcair has a long history of meaning full achievements, something Justin simply doesn't have. His fought sexual harrassment, he's changed Quebec's constitution to protect the enviroment, he's been a Minister of the Enviroment, the most progressive one in North America, he's lead both Anglo and Francophone rights groups, professional accossications, helped revise and update Manitoban law. I could go on.

    He has better ideas, like cap and trade, the unity bill that provides really clarity, energy policy that protects the enviroment and jobs for Canadians,a rep, especially in Quebec for intergity and ethics, to the point where he's just about the only politician Quebecers trust.

    And unlike Justin Mulcair isn't a hypocrit on weed, Justin says he would legalize it, but he voted with Harper to increase punishment on weed offences, while Mulcair voted against that. Mulcair would decriminalize weed and then do a scientific study on weed and only then if safe will he proceed with legalization. Not as sexy as Justin's promise, but its actually honest and backed up with the way Tom votes.

    Lastly Mulcair is in his element during debates and we've seen his skill at shredding Harper during QP. Justin on the hand is the gaffe machine, a fact he's okay with, and honestly not good at thinking on his feet. Mulcair will have Justin for lunch.

    So don't count on a Liberal victory yet, Mulcair doesn't have the last name or the connections, but he does have the ability to lead this country and the skills to win, and he running to win.

  12. Ryan, the chickens haven't crossed the road yet, I agree, but the polls show that the love affair of many Canadians with the centrist Liberal Party has been resumed - after a brief set of trial separations during the leadership of Martin, Ignatieff and Dion - under Justin Trudeau. Many Liberals have decided to return to their natural home, after flirting with Layton's NDP and Harper's CPC. I see no reason why this should not continue ...


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