|Which one, or two, of these men will lead Canada?|
Liberal and NDP supporters, meanwhile, have expressed a tepid willingness to consider each other, suggesting that a Liberal-NDP coalition may be feasible should the Conservatives pull off a minority win in 2015. Indeed, unlike in 2011, it appears now that Liberals and NDP supporters are equally likely to say they are certain to be voting. The rise of greater commitment to vote in the centre-left is also coupled with a sharp rise in support for a Liberal-led coalition. These two changed forces suggest a formidable obstacle to a fourth Harper Government.
Canadians prefer Liberal-NDP coalition to Conservative government
Finally, after all this speculation as to the feasibility of a Liberal-NDP coalition, we asked Canadians the simple question of whether they would prefer a Conservative minority government or a Liberal-led coalition with the NDP. Canadians express a striking preference for the latter, with 54 per cent (60 per cent when we exclude invalid responses) choosing coalition. This represents a distinct movement away from the days of Michael Ignatieff, when Canadians were evenly split on this issue.
Harper struck first when the coalition talk first arose some years back, falsely framing the coalition-question as one of political illegitimacy, and his attack was successful because at the time many voters had grave reservations about the gravitas of Michael Ignatieff as a prime minister.
Neither the Liberals nor the Dippers could come up with alternative framing in time to counter Harper’s framing, during the short election campaign, and the result was a Harper government.
In the years since then, the bogeyman of a coalition has been confronted by Canadians; they realize now that Harper sold them a pack of mistruths last time, and are more prepared to listen to those who know our political conventions.
Coalitions are not illegitimate.
Coalitions are not all the same.
Coalitions are valid responses if no one party has a majority of seats in Parliament.
Judging from recent polls, it is most probable right now that our next government – some time in 2015, most likely in June – will be a minority one.
If Harper ekes out a minority government, convention gives him the first crack at trying to gain the approval of the House in a vote of confidence. Convention also allows a majority of MPs to reject his request to lead the House as prime minister in such a vote. The Governor General will then be bound to turn to the leader of the party with the next highest number of seats in the House to attempt to gain the confidence of the House.
It is in such a situation that Justin Trudeau will have to weigh what to do.
He will have several choices:
· try to run a minority government, supported on an ad hoc fashion by either the NDP MPs or the Conservative MPs;
· cut a deal with the NDPs for some sort of committed support in confidence motions for some agreed time, provided the Liberal minority government includes certain agreed items in its mandate (such as introducing a modified system of proportional representation);
· or a fully fledged, reduced to writing, coalition government, with Mulcair as deputy Prime Minister and NDP cabinet ministers, governed by an agreed legislative program for an agreed period (similar to the one between David Cameron’s Conservatives and the LibDems in the UK).
One thing is for sure: if either Trudeau of Mulcair fail to replace Harper’s government by another one in 2015, they stood step down and make room for some other leader who might do a better job of giving Canadians what the majority want: a replacement government.
Things are going to be very interesting!