Monday, September 14, 2009

Remember When Coalitions Weren't So Bad?

Michael Ignatieff decries Conservative-NDP coalition

Today NDP leader Jack Layton suggested he'll support the Conservative government, at least on a case-by-case basis.

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who took offense to the Conservative party's plans to run against the spectre of the Liberal-NDP coalition, has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper with forging a coalition with his former political blood foes.

"I find it curious that after weeks of berating the idea of a coalition, the prime minister seems to be hard at work forming one himself and with people that he referred to until this morning as socialists," Ignatieff mused. "I'm just wondering whether the prime minister could confirm his new-found love for socialism."

That's Ignatieff's recent take on the aborted Liberal-NDP coalition that finally managed to force former Liberal leader Stephane Dion out of office.

See, Ignatieff's take on the coalition is that it was a bad thing.

"Let me be very clear," Ignatieff said last week. "The Liberal party would not agree to a coalition. In January, we did not support a coalition. And we do not support a coalition today or tomorrow."

Of course, this wasn't the time when the coalition agreement was signed.

“I support the accord because it’s fiscally responsible,” Ignatieff said at the time, appearing alongside his fellow leadership candidates, Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc. “I've also made it clear that we are at one, the three of us, that the only person who can lead the country is the dually elected leader of the party, Mr Dion.”

Apparently, Ignatieff's thoughts about who could lead the country at the head of a coalition government haven't changed much. Ignatieff apparently decided that he himself couldn't lead the country at the head of a Liberal-NDP coalition.

Back then, when Dion was at the helm of the Liberal party, however, things seemed rather different. Back then the coalition was a good thing, and that only seemed to change in Ignatieff's mind when he himself became party leader in the wake of a likewise-aborted leadership contest.

It takes a particular kind of leader to think himself second in leadership ability to Stephane Dion, and not particular in a good way.

Jack Layton, on the other hand, seems to see the willingness to try to make Parliament work as the benchmark of good leadership.

"If Parliament is working, and we are getting things done ...I'm sure Canadians would prefer there would not be an election and we got results for them," Layton said.

"The [EI] announcement today appears to be a step in the right direction," he added, and noted that the Conservatives will have to keep moving in what the NDP deems the right direction in order to emjoy their support. "Make no mistake about it, we have no intention of giving this government a blank cheque like Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals did. We will be studying the bill and considering it very, very carefully."

So, despite Ignatieff's complaints, there is a world of difference between the agreement that his party struck with the NDP and whatever relationship the Conservatives have with the NDP from this point on.

As Canadians will remember, the Liberal-NDP coalition included a shared cabinet and a reckless agreement with the Bloc Quebecois. The Conservative-NDP "coalition" is being conducted on a case-by-case basis -- the NDP's support could end at any time.

Or it could never crystalize in the first place. Canadians could still be heading for an election. But whatever Jack Layton thinks he stands to gain by teasing otherwise at this point is largely unclear.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

James Bow - "The Mechanics of Losing Confidence"

Danielle Takacs - "Why the NDP Should Go Now"

The Wheatsheath - "In Praise of Socialism"


  1. Great post it explains another tactical mistake made by the Liberal Party.

    Jack will not be giving the ball or camera back to the Liberal party for a long time.

  2. I dobut Ignatieff clued into the subtext of his own remarks. For an individual who is so admirably intelligent it seems that he isn't as clever as one would expect.

  3. Nice work. I appreciate that the NDP has taken a line involving consideration and discussing things in public, instead of a knee-jerk reaction to voting against the Tories. Imagine where the Liberals polls numbers would be if they had tried to be the reasonable party!

  4. It's a welcome change.


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