Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Coalition Conundrum

More ink spilled this morning on the coalition question, one column in particular a good, sober read. The gist of the thesis, damned if you, damned if you don't, or maybe a fairer representation that could be the ultimate logical evolution- nobody knows, it's all hypotheticals, so let's focus on the practical. Maher argues that Ignatieff could be haunted by the coalition, and I agree he needs to sharpen his responses. However, Maher also states that nobody will believe Ignatieff, no matter what pronouncements he makes, which is also true. If you concur, then Ignatieff is caught in an endless feedback loop, there is NO CORRECT answer that satisfies all possibilities.

It seems people search for the definitive comment, that puts it all to rest, when the fact of the matter the various scenarios never allow for something so unequivocal. At best, snappy lines that blunt the questioning, and here I admit some disappointment that our answers aren't more tailored, YET. That said, maybe that assessment is harsh, because how can you give a definitive answer to a complicated host of hypotheticals. What if Mr. Harper has 10 more seats, then what? What if you and Mr. Layton form a majority, then what? What if you and the NDP have more seats than Harper, but not enough to form a stable gov't, would you then seek agreement with the Bloc. And on, and on, and on, and none of it is reality, it's all speculation, you can't put a cute bow on it and call it a wrap.

Stories can only sustain themselves when new information is provided. In many regards, this PMO inspired in depth discussion is really a rehash of already digested scenarios. People say Ignatieff has had two years to come up with lines, which also confirms, nothing NEW has happened on this front in two years, the same questions, same scenarios, same fear mongering. Do we just keep going over this ground, or do we actually do the unthinkable- move off theoreticals to practicals, things called ISSUES. I think this story is peaking right now, if history is any guide, don't expect next week's columns to focus on this angle, primarily because there is NOTHING NEW coming down the pipeline, there is no oxygen to sustain. One wonders then, when we get down to the last week of the campaign, polls that more clearly define possible outcomes, if this issue will have the steam to resurface with a vengeance or will the PMO have played the fear card to early? Reports are going to ask the same question for a five week campaign? I guess there is a FIRST time for anything.

Maybe there is no "perfect" answer, even the "no coalition, no way" line still doesn't bring closure, as Maher so aptly points out. If you accept this reality, then maybe the best course is to just tell reporters, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, that is a STANDARD answer, used for milieu, and to great effect I might add. I would rather deal with realities, the issues, the things Canadians are concerned about. I give no thought to a coalition, I've never discussed it with the NDP, period, let's talk about things that matter to Canadians. Something of that order, that's as good as you're going to get. Reporters want more, but there isn't more, there is consistent answer to a host of conflicting scenarios. Threats that reporters will keep asking are just that, you get the same answer everyday, you look about foolish beating a dead horse. Doubt me, recall the THOUSANDS of times the Conservatives have done just that, on a host of files, some more important for that matter. If I'm wrong, this might just be the first time in history where the starting point discussion is the actual ending point focus. Day 1.

UPDATE:

And Ignatieff just released:

Statement by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff: The rules of our democracy
Posted on March 26, 2011
This election is not just an exercise in democracy, it’s about democracy. So as we begin the campaign, let’s be clear about the rules.

Whoever leads the party that wins the most seats on election day should be called on to form the government.

If that is the Liberal Party, then I will be required to rapidly seek the confidence of the newly-elected Parliament. If our government cannot win the support of the House, then Mr. Harper will be called on to form a government and face the same challenge. That is our Constitution. It is the law of the land.

If, as Leader of the Liberal Party, I am given the privilege of forming the government, these are the rules that will guide me:

■We will face Parliament with exactly the same team, platform and agenda that we bring to Canadians during this election. What Canadians see in this campaign is what Canadians will get if we are asked to form government.

■We will work with ALL parties to make Parliament work, and deliver sound policies – even the Conservative Party in opposition.

■We will not enter a coalition with other federalist parties. In our system, coalitions are a legitimate constitutional option. However, I believe that issue-by-issue collaboration with other parties is the best way for minority Parliaments to function.

■We categorically rule out a coalition or formal arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois.

■If I am facing a minority Parliament, I will work like Liberal Prime Ministers Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin did: to provide progressive government to our country, by building support issue-by-issue, and by tapping into the goodwill, generosity and common sense of Canadians across the political spectrum. These are the governments that gave Canada the Canadian Flag, Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, the Kelowna Accord and a National Daycare Plan. With the right kind of leadership another minority Parliament could strive for such heights.
That is my position. Now I have a few questions for Mr. Harper:

■Does he agree with how I have described the workings of our democratic system?

■Why does he insist on fabricating lies about an impending coalition, something he knows is false?

■Will he tell Canadians the truth about his secret hotel room meetings in 2004 with the Bloc Quebecois which resulted in a signed letter of agreement to the Governor General, proposing a Conservative-NDP-Bloc coalition?

■Will he finally acknowledge the unprecedented finding of contempt against his government yesterday in the House of Commons?

So, Ignatieff has ruled it out, which still leave Maher's "nobody will believe him" scenario. No matter, it's an answer, and a firm one at that, he's starved the issue of oxygen and we already have indication that the media will move on.

20 comments:

Sean Cummings said...

It's about time he clarified. Now we can expect that Harper will bring up Ignatieff's hidden agenda. It won't help if Layton flaps his gums about a coalition during the election, but hopefully this matter is now put to rest.

Steve V said...

Hidden agendas equate to weakness. And, history has shown just that.

Actually, a good answer by Ignatieff.

Steve V said...

Man, Duceppe just called Harper a liar on the coalition. This is not going according to plan!

Shiner said...

EXCELLENT press release. Very well done... not that, as you say, it will satisfy certain folks.

Steve V said...

People are still answering questions, but it's impossible to completely kill it. I am very impressed with this answer and am more convinced than ever that the issue will fall off now. If anything Duceppe just put Harper on the defensive. I love it!

Shiner said...

Potter's tweet on Harper's speech should become the focus of an ad:

"So was that spitting angry man really the prime minister, or was that a hobo with a shotgun?"

Printing it and putting it on my wall. Man this is going to be an interesting election.

Still thinking Harper has something up his sleeve though.

Jerry Prager said...

Check. Move on.

Fat Arse said...

Iggy's full statement addressing the red-herring canard that is "coalition" was needed and was on point. Good on him. Hope next time Iggy is asked again by the media about Harper's words that he opts to employ the line: "Fuck-off, I've already answered that!" We're all big boys and big girls here and a little spicy language would be welcome to speak truth to the Harpo & Co. fear mongers.

Frankly Canadian said...

Ditto Shiner, posting it now. Power to the people, the same people who will challenge our media to expose the truth and question the actual policies. I love these social media tools, but I do agree with you Harper probably has a new trick up his sleeve, one for each day of the campaign.

Steve V said...

Wow, this isn't going according to plan, all I see are headlines about Harper being called a liar! To funny, and entirely deserved.

ottlib said...

Liberals have to stop worrying about what Stephen Harper and what the Conservatives are going to do.

Stop being REACTIVE, be PROACTIVE.

That has been one of the problems with the Liberals during the last three elections.

This media release about the coalition is a good start. Considering how detailed and well thought out it is it was not cooked up last night. It was developed weeks ago. It hits the right notes and my only quibble is the timing of its release.

Then again, maybe the Liberals did not want to change the media story yesterday from "The Conservatives government was found in contempt of Parliament and fell" to "The Liberals rule out coalition".

Make this election about the actions and attitude of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives and the Liberals have a shot. If they let it become about them they lose.

ottlib said...

One other thought.

This statement also makes it harder for the Conservatives to release any "evil coalition" ads, which I am certain they have in the hopper.

He will force them to react and decide whether to continue pursuing this line of attack.

Gayle said...

They have already released that ad. I laughed when I heard it.

Kirk said...

Harper has provided a great clip for a Liberal attack ad this morning.

"Canadians don't care" just that, and he's said it a lot, juxtaposed with his scandals of which he has said basically "Canadians don't care"

Put the scandals in an ad and have Harper claiming "Canadians don't care" and what could have more impact?

Harper telling Canadians that they don't care about lying or election fraud is golden. And that IS the Con position on his scandals.

If people didn't care before many would after Harper tells them they "don't care" just from the natural impulse to be morally repulsed by unethical behaviour.

People believe they care, always, but those that don't find these scandals relevant come to that not from a lack of caring but from what they consider to be valid reasons to dismiss the allegations.

Canadians "don't care" now only because they don't know or they've rationalized it away as 'everybody does it' or the allegations are just 'partisan bias' etc. It's easy to rationalize away your own concerns but being told something just doesn't matter to you gets people's back up and they start to care just on principle.

Kirk said...

As for a Harper coming out with "hidden agenda"... I have a rule of thumb about such things: The first person to say something owns it but the next person to say it just looks like a poor copycat.

I've developed this after watching how the first politician to say "tax cuts/freeze" gets to own that position while the second to say "tax cuts/freeze" looks like a poseur imitating the first but not believing what they say.

Möbius said...

I thought it was a reasonable response.

Now, I would like him to get rid of these visually disturbing pressers, with the "team" surrounding him, and nodding. It looks like they're trapped in a phonebooth. At least, put the team several feet behind him. And Marlene Jennings out of frame.

They can keep my favourite Liberal MP, Martha HF up front.

Omar said...

Wow. The new look is unbelievably better. Aesthetically pleasing and far easier to read. Two big thumbs up!

Kirk said...

The white background makes it hard to read...

Steve V said...

I darkened it a bit and made the text bigger...hope that helps.

Jerry Prager said...

Kirk, I like the idea of the "Canadians don't care" ad but it needs to be ironic, humourous, an inside joke for all the voters who voted anything but Harper three elections in a row now.