Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Your Poli Sci Prof's Coalition

Electoral coalition proposed by Tom Flanagan was a different animal than the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition

Even as certain intellectual cowards continue to try and dodge answering for tbeir critical misrepresentation of a opinion article written by Tom Flanagan -- a misrepresentation that, as it turns out, was based on a completely inadvertent mistreatment of Flanagan's arguments by another blogger -- some individuals have pointed out that Flanagan himself was once in favour of a coalition government.

Yet for those uncritical enough to consider the coalition that Flanagan proposed to be the same as the recently-proposed coalition government, they may want to take a second look at the facts.

First off, it is true that Flanagan once supported the idea of a coalition between the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative party. This is a fact.

However, the coalition that Flanagan supported was an electoral coalition.

"For more than 75 years, large numbers of western voters have shown themselves unwilling to remain with the two old-line parties," Flanagan announced in a speech given at McGill University in 1999. The electoral coalition was one of the options being promoted by Preston Manning under his "unite the right" initiative.

"In my opinion, the formula that is most likely to 'unite the right' in Canada for any length of time would be one that has not yet been tried, that is, an electoral coalition of two or more regionally based parties that would retain their separate identities, refrain from running candidates against each other, co-operate in parliament to advance shared positions, and form a coalition government if the voters ever saw fit to endow them with enough seats," Flanagan explained.

The model that Flanagan and Manning had propsed was a strategy that would have been implemented ahead of an election. It was based on the idea that in ridings where a Reform party candidate or a Progressive Conservative candidate had come in a close second to a Liberal candidate the other party would agree to allow them to run unopposed by another conservative candidate.

The coalition would have been part of the election platform of the two parties. Citizens voting in that election would know full well that they were potentially voting for a coalition government. They would know who the partners were, and Canadian voters would be able to cast their judgement on the prospect based on that knowledge.

The situation today is very different.

During the 2008 federal election, Liberal leader Stephane Dion explicitly rejected Jack Layton's suggestion that the Liberals and NDP form a coalition government. A coalition government, he insisted, was strictly off the agenda.

When Canadians casted their ballots on October 14, 2008, a coalition government wasn't one of the possibilities they could have expected -- certainly not a coalition with a seat total smaller than the party that won a plurality of seats in that election, but merely propped up by a separatist party. Add a level of secrecy regarding the demands made by that separatist party -- a party that Canadians cannot be expected to trust -- and what emerges is something that looks very different from the coalition that Flanagan proposed.

The differences go deeper than merely the participants involved. With the electoral coalition proposed by Flanagan, Canadians would have recognized this as a possiblity -- perhaps even a probability -- and would have had their say on it during an election.

With the Liberal-NDP coalition, voters have not been allowed to have their say. This is a possibility that was explicitly rejected during the recent federal election. Voters casting their ballots in favour of at least the Liberal party couldn't have known they were voting for a possible coalition, especially considering that Stephane Dion had already said otherwise.

In other words, one is very much in keeping with the Canadian democratic norms that Flanagan cites in his recent dressing-down of the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition. The other -- the currently-proposed coalition -- is not.

One cannot help but wonder why it is that supporters of the coalition are so desperate to do an end-run around Canadian voters -- who have voiced their opposition to the proposed coalition but might elect Michael Ignatieff Prime Minister if given the opportunity to in an election.

But for those who have paid close attention to the rejection of Flanagan's normative pro-democracy argument -- and in some cases have resorted to childish tactics in order to avoid debating it -- there really seems to be one overwhelming conclusion to be drawn:

Now that the Canadian people have spoken by delivering the Conservative party a second minority government, the supporters of the coalition have decided that they don't care what voters think anymore.

Once upon a time, those who proposed coalition governments weren't so blatantly undemocratic.


  1. As usual great stuff! The left will be gnashing their teeth and rending the hair from their heads trying to come up with a credible argument against this one. Of course, we have come to expect that the words "intellectual" and "credible" are not words that we can associate with the left in any REAL sense anyway.

  2. My experience is that they won't.

    My experience has been that they'll avoid honestly debating this issue at nearly any cost.

    But not all of them. Northern BC Dipper was a pleasure to debate on the topic. When it became evident that his argument was based on a mistaken that he wasn't even to blame for, he ammended his comments and even issued an apology to Flanagan that I didn't consider necessary.

    That guy is all class. I've learned a significant degree of admiration for him.


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