Friday, December 19, 2014

Mr. Trudeau: Coalitions are what you make them

Let's talk coalition ...
The recent poll showing that most Liberal and NDP supporters would rather have a new government than have a Harper one after the 2015 election, even if this means some form of a coalition, has sparked renewed talk about the possibility of a coalition.

One problem with such talk is that a lack of understanding of our constitutional laws clouds the issue, as Andrew Coyne has pointed out in an interesting article.

And in a recent interview, Justin Trudeau has added to the confusion by slipping into the Either-Or mode of thinking, which sorely limits the permissible discussion of alternatives.

It is very clear from the press reports of his interview that Trudeau does not understand the range of alternatives open to the leaders of parties in Canada, as this report shows:

Justin Trudeau on …

Coalition with the NDP

There is constant political speculation about what Trudeau will do if Harper is re-elected with a minority government. Will Trudeau topple the Tories in Parliament and form a coalition government with the NDP’s Tom Mulcair?

“There are some very, very big impediments to forming a coalition with the NDP. Which is why I am against it.” He said the two parties are miles apart on issues such as international trade and the Constitution.

“With regard to constitutional issues and Quebec, I don’t think we should be making it easier for the country to separate.”

For starters, a coalition is not by any means a merger of two parties (even though Rex Murphy has some interesting albeit incorrect views on the subject).
Mister Either-Or?

A short discussion with Bob Rae would help Justin Trudeau understand the incredible flexibility that post-election cooperation (of the formal coalition with conditions style that David Cameron’s Conservatives entered into in the UK, to the ad hoc support me if you wish and I dare you not to non-agreement type) can take.

It is not at all inconceivable that the NDP and Liberal Party could enter into a formal coalition should Harper’s Conservatives not gain a majority of seats in parliament next year, and be defeated in a confidence vote shortly after taking power.

And any such coalition could clearly spell out areas where the NDP and Liberal Party would cooperate in parliament, and areas where they would not.

For example, each party could insist that certain subjects just not be subject to any cooperation in the House, such as the two that Trudeau mentioned (constitutional issues regarding the preservation of Canada; and international trade). Each party would then vote separately on such issues.
Bob (Coalition) Rae

That’s what the UK coalition agreement set out, and it works.

A further point: any formal coalition agreement between the NDP and Liberal Party could be for a limited period, such as 24 months. There is nothing that says it has to be forever.

So, let’s not cloud the discussion with half-baked ideas of what coalitions have to be: they are infinitely flexible, and can easily reflect just what two parties wish them to reflect.

Coalitions are NOT mergers.

Let’s have a sensible discussion of the issue, rather than the simplistic nonsense that Harper spouted last time.

1 comment :

  1. Very good summary. One footnote: you say any coalition agreement "could be for a limited period, such as 24 months" as the 1985 Ontario Accord was. But it could equally be for four years, allowing long enough to implement some items in the agreement. The UK's 2010 coalition agreement was for a full five-year term. (Canadian Parliaments also run five years, although we have recently copied the American four-year term.)


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