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Accidental Deliberations: On partial answers

Having posted earlier on the message we should expect from our opposition leaders when it comes to ensuring change, let’s make clear exactly what Justin Trudeau has now said – and most notably, what he hasn’t said. “There are no circumstances” under which the Liberals would prop up Harper should the Tories emerge with only a narrow plurality of seats, Trudeau said Tuesday in his strongest statements to date on the possibility of a Tory minority.… NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has long maintained that his goal is to ensure Harper doesn’t win government. He has also said he would be (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On simplified procedures

Following up on this post, let’s also note how the right answer from Canada’s opposition parties could combine with the seeming agreement between the major party leaders as to the “most seats first” principle to take nearly all of the guesswork out of a post-election minority Parliament.

Again, the range of possible outcomes absent some consensus between the parties as to what should happen next would be virtually infinite. The Cons would be entitled to hang onto power without meeting Parliament for an extended period of time, and could play all kinds of games in seeking to avoid votes (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On basic questions

The National Post’s editorial board offers the latest reminder as to how confidence is won and lost in Canada’s Parliament. And it only highlights the need for our candidates – particularly those promising change – to offer a clear indication as to their post-election plans.

But while it’s worth discussing what types of agreement might be possible between various combinations of opposition parties, there’s one set of questions which doesn’t require any agreement at all. So let’s see what our opposition leaders and candidates have to say about these:

A. Will you commit to voting non-confidence in Stephen Harper at (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Juxtaposition

On the one hand, there’s what Canadian voters actually want… (N)early 60 per cent of respondents support the idea of two or more parties forming a coalition government, if no party gains a majority of seats in October’s election.

And this: By a margin of almost two-to-one, the voters of today would send Mr. Harper packing in favour of a coalition.

And this: More than two-thirds of Liberal and NDP supporters favour the idea of the parties forming a coalition in the event of a Conservative minority in the Oct. 19 election, according to a new poll by Forum Research.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On settled issues

As Dan Gardner points out, Stephen Harper is continuing to misrepresent the nature of Canada’s system of government. But he’s nonetheless made a noteworthy concession in doing so: PM: HERE’S THE QUESTION THOUGH. UM IS IT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION TO MAKE THAT WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP, IF WE’RE IN A MINORITY SITUATION, WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP WITH THE MOST SEATS SHOULD FORM THE GOVERNMENT?

SH: Yeah that’s my – that’s I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that’s – that’s my position. Obviously our view is we’re going to win and we’re going to (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On changed messages

Paul Wells highlights the major change from the Cons’ messaging in 2011 compared to today, as the party which spent years doing nothing about obsessing over (and demonizing) the possibility of a coalition has suddenly gone mum except in front of the most partisan of crowds. But it’s worth noting that there’s another factor beyond those mentioned by Wells which might explain the change – and it involves the message backfiring to some extent the first time it was used.

Wells notes – as confirmed by the polling set out here – that even at worst, roughly half of the (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On transitions

Bob Hepburn makes clear that while the Libs may still be in denial about the importance of cooperating to remove the Harper Cons from power, their best friends in the media are under no such illusions. But the most noteworthy contribution to Canada’s discussion about post-election options comes from Aaron Wherry – particularly in highlighting what factors have, and have not, been taken into account in determining who gets a chance to form government: (A) Progressive Conservative government in Ontario in 1985 was defeated in the legislature and replaced by a Liberal government that had signed a governing accord with (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On cautionary tales

I’ve previously offered my take on why all opposition parties – including the Libs – should and will ultimately vote the Harper Cons out of power when given the chance. But I’ll note that Don Lenihan’s argument toward the same conclusion actually offers a reminder why there’s reason for concern.

Whatever lesson one wants to take from C-51 and Eve Adams (among so many other stories), one can’t claim for a second that they offer examples of Justin Trudeau and company valuing the support of progressive voters over cynical measures to appease the right. And there’s been no evidence that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On trust issues

Susan Delacourt’s take on what we should expect to see happen if there’s a minority Parliament following this fall’s election covers most of the bases. But it’s worth expanding on one point: It’s true that Harper, by constitutional convention, would have first shot at forming a government if the Conservatives win the largest number of seats. But there’s a hurdle Harper has to leap first: he has to win a vote of confidence in the House of Commons.

Try as I might, I can’t imagine how that would happen.…The extra-long campaign was clearly designed to drain the bank accounts of (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On cooperative options

I’ve previously excoriated the Libs for the connection between their refusal to talk about cooperation with other parties and their complete lack of any idea what they supposedly stand for. And nothing in the campaign to date changes that analysis.

By the same token, I’ll give credit where due to Elizabeth May for being up-front about her test for support for a new government. And it’s particularly noteworthy that the conditions – most notably the repeal, rather than tweaking, of C-51 – are ones which the NDP will be far better positioned to meet than any other potential governing party.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robin Sears discusses the hubris behind the Cons’ early election call, while Tim Naumetz notes that the extended campaign is just one more issue where the Cons are offside of the vast majority of the public. And the Guardian comments on the reasons for optimism that we’re nearing the end of Stephen Harper’s stay in power.

- The Ottawa Citizen makes the case for better economic management than we’ve been able to expect from the Harper Cons. And Alan Freeman weighs in on the costly frivolity of the Cons’ latest tax credit scheme.

(Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On end goals

We can fully expect Canada’s election campaign to feature plenty more talk about possible coalition outcomes – which are favoured by the public, and may represent the best way to ensure the Cons’ replacement if Stephen Harper again tries to cling to power. And as I’ve noted before, there remains little reason to take the Libs seriously in their threats not to cooperate.

But I’ll take a moment to answer the latest excuse as to how the Libs are trying to present themselves as a party of change while needlessly ruling out what may prove to be the only way (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Change for the better

It seems so long ago when it was conventional wisdom that no party in contention for government in Canada would dare talk about cooperating to get things done, no matter how many voters wanted to see it happen.

But if there was any doubt that the NDP can change Ottawa’s underlying assumptions, we can put that to rest.

Accidental Deliberations: On cooperative priorities

As part of their new “Hope and Wild Flailing” campaign theme, plenty of Libs are looking for any pretext – however lacking in reality – to attack Tom Mulcair. And Mulcair’s latest comments on a coalition offer the latest flimsy excuse. So let’s look at how there’s still a huge difference between the NDP and the Libs when it comes to a willingness to talk about coalitions – but how Mulcair could do far better by working with the NDP’s longstanding willingness to cooperate.

To start with, let’s look at the obvious distinction between the parties’ respective stances.

Trudeau’s position (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Working across the aisle

Among the other lessons learned from Alberta’s recent election, let’s point out one more with implications for the federal scene.

While the main opposition parties recognized that they were too far apart in their general policy orientation to justify a formal coalition, both the NDP and the Wildrose Party were happy to point out some of the areas which were ripe for cooperation as part of their criticism of the governing PCs.

In other words, neither tried to pretend that there was no room to discuss post-election cooperation, nor to claim that some areas of disagreement or personal differences rendered (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Choosing the wrong side

Following up on this morning’s column, let’s note that there’s another area where the Libs are stubbornly sticking to a previous position whose underpinnings have been even more thoroughly destroyed.

The Libs have been at pains to at least offer the perception of changing their direction from nearly everything done by both Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff as leaders. But the common theme of arrogantly ruling out cooperation with other parties continues to lie at the centre of the Libs’ messaging – even though it failed miserably in both of the last two federal elections, and looks downright absurd (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On guesswork

Shorter Bob Rae: Some people actually believe voters deserve a meaningful idea what political parties plan to do before choosing between them? That’s crazy talk.

Accidental Deliberations: The democratic alternative

Some time ago, I put together this list of principles worth considering when talking about structured cooperation between political parties. And consistent with Ian Gill’s own warning about his lack of connection to party structures, his proposal for a secret pre-election pact manages to fail on nearly every front.

But while there’s some reason for question about Gill’s intended direction, the bigger issue is his presumption that we need our political parties to drag us there. So let’s clarify the options available to Canadians who want to further an “ABC” agenda in the lead up to this fall’s election.

While (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: The petulant son

Shorter Justin Trudeau: When I say I plan to do politics differently, what I mean is that I’m willing to leave Stephen Harper in power based on the most petty and frivolous excuses anybody’s ever heard.

No longer is there any pretense that a flat “no” to a coalition with the NDP is based on policy differences (however implausible). Instead, Trudeau is ruling out the possibility of cooperation based on personal hostility toward Thomas Mulcair – which of course couldn’t be further from matching the public’s perception of the NDP’s leader, particularly among people with whom Trudeau supposedly (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On transition planning

I’ve previously highlighted the need for media and citizens alike to press our opposition parties on how they’re willing to cooperate to replace the Harper Cons after the next federal election. But let’s note that there’s a similar question which still needs to be directed at Stephen Harper at every available opportunity – even if we can’t expect much more than instructive non-answers.

As Andrew Coyne notes, it’s still an open question how far Harper would go in trying to cling to power under all kinds of circumstances: As prime minister, Mr. Harper would retain a number of prerogatives (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: History repeating

2008, pre-election: Liberal bigwigs make a ridiculous spectacle of themselves proclaiming that they’ll never deign to cooperate with the likes of the NDP.

2008, post-election: Having spent the campaign echoing Stephen Harper’s desperate message that a coalition would be illegitimate, the Liberals conclude that they’re willing to cooperate after all, only to botch the job.

2011, pre-election: Liberal bigwigs make a ridiculous spectacle of themselves proclaiming that they’ll never deign to cooperate with the likes of the NDP.

2011, post-election: Having spent the campaign echoing Stephen Harper’s desperate message that a coalition would be illegitimate, the Liberals conclude that they’re (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On prospects for change

The latest round of discussion about the possibility of a coalition to offer something better than the Harper Cons seems to have taken an noteworthy turn. At this point, everybody but the Libs seems to have settled on the position that there’s no real obstacle to a coalition government – and the Libs’ spin machine has responded with little more than a plan to fabricate mistrust between themselves and the NDP.

But no matter how far that effort goes, the foreseeable outcomes of the next election feature a low probability of anybody holding a majority, and a strong prospect that (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On needless concessions

Shorter Dougald Lamont: The only way to win against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives is to let the Conservatives define both the significance of Stephen Harper, and what it means to “win”.

Accidental Deliberations: On simple questions

Gerald Caplan goes far beyond what’s necessary in proposing that the NDP and Libs develop a pre-election cooperation pact intended to lead to a party merger. But as highlighted by the conversation started by Fern Hill’s Tweet, we can take his suggestion as a starting point in discussing what we expect from Canada’s opposition parties.

Each opposition party has ample reason to include the glaring need for change from a corrupt and ineffective Con government as part of their core message. So far, only the NDP is willing to even discuss post-election cooperation to ensure a change in government, (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: On common messaging

It shouldn’t come as much surprise that the new election year is bringing out the usual, tiresome round of calls for strategic voting and candidate withdrawals.

In the past, I’ve responded by suggesting that if Canada’s opposition parties have enough common ground to cooperate, they should consider working with joint messages rather than trying to carve up the electoral map. And I’d still be curious to see how that type of arrangement would work if there was any interest in pursuing it.

But I wonder now whether the best course of action may have nothing to do with party arrangements (Read more…)