Monday, February 16, 2009

Coalition Baggage As Weak Attack Line

Last week, in response to a possible Conservative attack line against Ignatieff, using the coalition option to fear monger, I posited this hypothetical response:
"If they raise the spectre of national unity, attempting to fire up their western base, they actually play into Ignatieff'sspan> hand. Part of the rationale, in avoiding the coalition option, was entirely a consideration on national unity, Ignatieff can tell western Canadians that his stance was partially a recognition of western alienation, the belief that the coalition didn't enjoy support across the country. Ignatieff can make the argument, using the coalition, to demonstrate that he is receptive to western sentiment, and he sacrificed a real opportunity for power, because he recognized the "mood". Rather than an albatross, I think Ignatieff can pivot and turn his decision into an example that he is "listening" to the views of all Canadians, personal ambition is secondary to responsibility. If Ignatieff takes western Canada for granted, if the Liberals are primarily an eastern-centric entity, then why didn't he move forward and install himself as PM? The Ignatieff decision, the facts, actually shows a sensitivity to western sentiments, rather than the craven opportunism the Conservatives will argue. The entire coalition debate is a testament to Ignatieff's desire to bring Canadians together, to be a force for unity, part of his grand vision for the country."


Ignatieff, in an interview yesterday in Regina here:
Ignatieff also said it was the West's strong feelings about the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition, supported by the Bloc Quebecois, that contributed to his decision not to continue to pursue it.

"You are after all looking at someone who turned down the chance to become prime minister of Canada and I did so, in part, because I felt that it would divide the country," said Ignatieff. "I want to be someone who unites the country and that includes the West."

As the Conservatives argue, you can't change the coalition facts, letters and what not. Those facts work for Ignatieff, not against, so if our opponents want to raise the issue, the above sends a unequivocal, FACTUALLY based message. Turn it around, because rather than an attack on western want, Ignatieff's coalition "record" articulates his capacity to incorporate western sentiment into his decision making.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Using letters, etc... would be a prettty bad tactic but Conservatives will repeatedly ask
the following question until Ignatieff answers:
"Do you rule out a coalition with the NDP under any circumstances, no matter the election outcome?"

If he says yes: no coalition ever so long as I'm PM, Conservatives will say "Why should we believe him? Stephane Dion ruled out a coalition in the last election and look what happened."

If he says "I can't rule out a coalition, but I will say it would need to have broad representation across the country", then the Conservatives will say "give us a majority or else you'll get the 3-headed monster of the coalition"

If you were Ignatieff in the middle of the campaign how would you respond Steve?

Should he rule out the option entirely? Because he's going to be forced into a black or white answer whether we like it or not.

I'd say it would be wisest to say "I will not under any circumstances form a formal coalition with the NDP, I would govern on an issue by issue basis as the Conservatives have done".

What do you think?

Steve V said...

"I'm in this business to win a majority Liberal government. But I have to also responsibly say if we fall short of that then it might be conceivable to be in discussions with, say, the NDP. Not on a coalition basis but, 'Let's get some legislation through. How do you feel about that?' That's the normal business of Parliament and so I wouldn't exclude that. But I think we've had an interesting debate about coalition in Canada and we've decided that we're not comfortable with it," Ignatieff said in the interview."

From the same interview. If Harper really wants to press that response, then you just point to all the votes, wherein the Bloc or NDP supported Con legislation. People not be comfortable with a coalition, but they surely understand that parties need to work together in a minority situation.

Anonymous said...

Ok so he has ruled it out. Interesting...

Defnitely the smartest thing politically, but I do hope that if we fall 4 or 5 seats behind the Conservatives (with better repreesentation in Sask and Manitoba, and at least a seat or two in Alberta) in the next election that he decides a coalition with the NDP (particularly if the two parties add up to a majority of seats) would in fact now be viable.

But he obviously can't say that lest the media and Harper crucify him for it.

Anonymous said...

The weakness of the coalition was the link with the BQ and it being led by Dion - very few people (if any) were ever having panic attacks over the possibility of Judy W-L or Tom Mulcair etc.. being cabinet ministers (though people might have been having panic attacks over people like Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosanjh being cabinet ministers - but they are Liberals - remember?). Whether the NDP is actually in government or not is irrelevant - if the Liberals need BQ votes to stay in power then there will have to be deals made.

knb said...

very few people (if any) were ever having panic attacks over the possibility of Judy W-L or Tom Mulcair etc.. being cabinet ministers

Speak for yourself! ;)

Northern PoV said...

As long as the Bloc, NDP and the Green party thrive and/or survive, coalitions will be a big part of our future, with or without Count Iggy.

He may be politically expedient as you've suggested but then EVERY PARTY LEADER promised NO DEFICIT back in the latest campaign.

How did that one turn out?

Steve V said...

This angle is getting more play. I don't think Ignatieff should necessarily raise it, but it's a question which will be asked, particularly in the west, when it does, this is the response.

PoV

Grow up with the unoriginal Count Iggy stuff, it detracts from any serious point you might actually make, if that's possible. Remains to be seen, but give it a try.

Steve V said...

anon

I would agree the Bloc and Dion were the biggest obstacles. However, it was such a weak union of seats between the Libs and NDP, that it still lacked legitimacy. The NDP need a bigger share to be a credible coalition partner, that is acceptable to the mainstream. The Libs need a hell of lot more than 1/4 of the seats, lacking any semblance of regional balance, for it too fly. The only way a future coalition will have a good chance, if it's lead by the party with the most seats, supported by a strong option.

Anonymous said...

I think that if the Liberals and NDP COMBINED have more seats than the Tories - a Liberal/NDP coalition will have all the legitimacy it needs. The NDP was already willing to put a LOT of water in its wine for the sake of ousting Harper. The NDP had about 68% as many raw votes as the Liberals in the last election and they got exactly 50% as many seats. By any reasonable standard, a Liberal/NDP coalition should have had a 24 member cabinet consisting of about 15 Liberals and 9 NDPers. The NDP was very generous in being willing to settle for just six cabinet positions. They will drive a much harder bargain next time.

Steve V said...

"The NDP had about 68% as many raw votes as the Liberals in the last election"

No offence, but that's a silly stat. You're baseline is the worst showing in history, using a relative horrible number to prop up a decidedly average number.

If the Libs and NDP had more seats than the Cons it would have a chance, but it would still have optical challenge of the main party being left out. Not a problem, except people, and don't expect any sophistication here, would see that as odd. It's certainly a better scenario than this miniscule union we had as an opener.

Trevor said...

The Libs have lost 2 big fear cards going into the next election.

1) Bush is gone.

2) Harper majority fear.

If anything the Cons have been governing waaay too far to the left to be scary. Most people are probably more afraid of the NDP/Bloc guiding policy than anything you can dream up to paint Harper with. I bet a lot of 'centre' people who have voted strategically to deny the Cons a majority will take a second look at what they may end up with next time.

The problem with the Libs in the West isn't that Westerners feel they are being ignored, the problem is the the Libs policies. For the Libs to be successful they must have policies that ride the 'centre' of public opinion. Constantly blasting the Conservatives as being far right wing is silly when they are currently occupying the centre barely right.

Steve V said...

" I bet a lot of 'centre' people who have voted strategically to deny the Cons a majority will take a second look at what they may end up with next time."

Throw some cold water on your face, it might help.

Joseph said...

It would be quite a stretch of imagination to see "evidence" of growing comfort with Harper from anything that has transpired recently.

The public may not be "fearful" of Harper. What I've been hearing recently, even from conservative-leaning friends, is more like "disgust."

Mushroom said...

Iggy believing that the Grits can win a majority and cooperate with the NDP on an issue-by-issue basis fails to recognize the party's fundamental weakness.

By signing on to the coalition, the Grits have conceded that it will remain the 2nd largest party for the forseeable future. I agree with Anon 11:33 that Layton will drive a harder bargain the next time around. The NDP conceded on Cabinet roles due to the presence of Parliamentary Secretaries that will drive the agenda in the House. Having a weak Prime Minister helps too as Layton will remain a constant in the haphazard coalition that was cobbled up.

You can argue that many Dippers were hoping for the coalition to fail so they can blame Iggy for defecting. Layton knows that with his political future dependent on cooperating with the Liberals in government, he will drive a harder bargain. This means nine seats including key roles dealing with Finance and National Security matters.

Joseph said...

I don't think anyone can extrapolate what will happen in a new election at this point. I don't think signing on to the coalition indicated anything that would be valid after a new election.

I just think it's silly to be extrapolating seat calculations, or cabinet percentages on a hypothetical result on an election that has not yet even occurred.

Anonymous said...

People who talk coalition next time, haven't got the message. Most Canadians don't want a coalition government. They want minorities to work with other parties on the basis of particular legislation, not form a set coalition. And they expect whoever wins the most seats to form the government.

This is how things have worked in the past, and most people don't see that some major change is needed. Pro-coalition forces have not convinced Canadians that the way our government operates has to change.

lance said...

Steve, you told "Trevor" to throw cold water on his/her face, but didn't say anything to address the point.

Now, granted, "Trevor" was probably a cheer-leader, but what about the the Lib policies that are allergic to the West? Gun-control, Wheat-board, Energy, etc?

Words are nice, but we heard them from Martin. We decided he didn't cut the cake and the next thing we heard was Green-Shift. Not exactly confidence building, if you know what I mean.

I didn't vote CPC last time, but Dion was the anti-Christ with his unintelligible green goo-bah. I'm not adverse to the new Liberal Western thoughts but I'm quite wary given history.

Cheers,
lance

RuralSandi said...

Funny, it was the Layton/Mulcair duo that turned me off the coalition in the first place.

Ignatieff could hit back with some truths - like asking why our PM and his caucus don't understand our parliamentary/Constitution systems. He could ask - either they don't understand it and therefore shouldn't be in government or they are purposely misinforming Canadians and therefore shouldn't be in government. So, which is it Harper? You don't undersand or you are deliberatly misleading Canadians?

Anonymous said...

"If the Libs and NDP had more seats than the Cons it would have a chance, but it would still have optical challenge of the main party being left out."

In Ontario in 1985, the Tories were the biggest party and yet they were deposed by a Liberal/NDP accord government. Nobody seemed to be all that bothered by the fact that the 2nd and 3rd largest parties mamde a deal to dump the largest party and that Liberal/NDP government of 1985-1987 proved to be highly popular and in the subsequent election in 1987 - the Ontario Tories crashed to 16 seats in their worst showing in history.

Trevor said...

"Now, granted, "Trevor" was probably a cheer-leader, but what about the the Lib policies that are allergic to the West? Gun-control, Wheat-board, Energy, etc?"

If not being a Lib cheerleader = being a CPC cheerleader then I guess I am guilty. No party membership here.


"In Ontario in 1985, the Tories were the biggest party and yet they were deposed by a Liberal/NDP accord government. Nobody seemed to be all that bothered by the fact that the 2nd and 3rd largest parties mamde a deal to dump the largest party"

Couple of minor differences.
1) The Libs/NDP made up a sizeable majority.
2) The Libs had only 4 less seats than the Tories and had a higher popular vote.
3) The Libs did not have their worst showing in modern history gaining only 1/4 of the seats led by a policy platform that was soundly rejected by Canadians.

Anonymous said...

Trevor, I am not referring to the current seat distribution. I'm referring to the acceptability of a Liberal/NDP coalition after the next election when I think it is almost a certainty that the Tories will lose and that the opposition parties will gain seats. I suspect that after the next federal election we may end up with something like CPC - 115, Libs - 110, BQ - 43, NDP 40. In that case, the Liberal/NDP coalition would outnumber the Tories 150 to 115.