Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Quebec Key To Coalition

As the coalition debate rages, in my mind, the whole premise feasibility rests with Quebec. If you look at the various scenarios, using the facts at hand, even if the Conservatives lose an election, it is unlikely that you will have a majority of Liberal and NDP MP's.

Can you still form a coalition? Sure you can, but you still need other party support and that renders the union unstable by its nature. A much, much more desirable arrangement involves an outright majority, and the only likely scenario is a decided setback for the Bloc. Canadians will never accept an arrangement with separatists, dream as you might, it's a fundamental NON STARTER in English Canada. It is also true, that the coalition concept will be an election issue, and to think the Liberals and NDP can simply say "let's leave this discussion for after the election" requires a certain naivety. If this coalition debate is on the table, a centerpiece of the election, it is shrewd to look for ways to make it an advantage, rather than constantly defending. It is here that the Bloc and the battle for Quebec could come into play.

Quebecers are relatively amenable to the coalition concept. This openness can be exploited by the Liberals and NDP on a couple fronts. The most glaring, both parties directly target the Bloc as an obstacle to getting rid of Harper. Given that the Conservatives are least popular in Quebec, the "change" sentiment most obvious, a two pronged attack might find an audience. This strategy could be solidified by the Liberals and NDP agreeing to a non-aggression pact in Quebec. The Bloc benefits from a divided "opposition" so to speak, which result in disporportionate representation, a united alternative could well prove effective. If the Liberals and NDP made an arrangement in the province, a side effect would be to further neutralize the Conservatives in Quebec, which could compound the benefit to the "federalist" opposition. A serious discussion about a coalition isn't a negative in Quebec, in fact it could well shakeup the status quo.

As long as the Bloc wins 50 odd seats, any NDP/Liberal coalition probably won't command a majority. Understanding this real obstacle, as well as the probable Conservative attack lines, means embracing the Bloc "problem" and turning the argument around, leveraging the Bloc to advantage. Rather than fear the coalition discussion, and try to skirt around it with increasing lame talking points, the forward thinking strategy looks for ways to embrace it, and in so doing possibly increase representation.


Anthony said...

The glaring question about such a deal in Quebec would be...what do we do about the NDP's ONLY seat in province. They didnt even come close in any other race. Can the LPC justify a non aggression pact with the NDP in Quebec to its members without giving the party added legitimacy? Probably not

Steve V said...


Actually, you could argue this arrangement benefits the Liberals, because of what you just stated. The end result of this arrangement could mean more Liberal MP's, so actually I see this as more a "concession", or rather a SOBER realization, on the part of the NDP. Maybe it results in a couple more NDP seats in Quebec, so in that sense it could be a win/win for both.

Tof KW said...

An interesting argument Steve, though I may not agree with your assessments all the time I like how you challenge the status quo. A great line to remember... "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

However this is one of those times I don't agree with you; and to understand why, take a look at the 2008 Quebec results on Wikipedia:

Quebec - Riding by Riding - 2008 Election

I do not feel a non-aggression pack between the LPC and the NDP within Quebec would do much good in obtaining winning results. I've gone through the province riding by riding and combined the 2008 LPC+NDP numbers into one candidate. In this scenario the Bloc would still easily coast to victory in 35 of their 49 ridings, with 8 coming into play which could be future pick-ups. Only 6 ridings would result in the combined LPC+NDP winning over the BQ.

However there were some interesting individual results.

If one combined the LPC+NDP together in Laurier—Sainte-Marie, you would be within ~6000 votes of Gilles Duceppe. That actually would put his riding into play.

Also a combined LPC+NDP candidate would reak havoc with the Conservatives, making all of those Quebec City area ridings a real 3-way race. Lawrence Canon would be history, a few other cabinet ministers would probably be gone too. Not suprisingly, Mad Max in the Beauce can deliver the only safe Quebec riding for the CPC.

My conclusion is if an election were held today with the LPC+NDP running only 1 candidate between then within Quebec, they would only manage to take maybe 8 or 9 ridings away from the Bloc - and only if things went well. The BQ would still be walking away with 40 seats. However I can see the Conservatives reduced to 2-3 MPs from la Belle; which though appealing, would still not be enough to guarantee any majority win for a combined LPC+NDP.

My own advice, Canada adopting a preferential voting (instant run-off) system would probably be the only way to assure the BQ is taken down to reflect their real numbers, with the bonus of Harper losing handily. However you would also have to kiss the concept of majority governments good-bye, and understand that coalition governments would become the norm in Canada.

Sorry, if there was an easy solution to the Quebec problem, someone much smarter than I would have figured it out by now.

Tomm said...


The first other option is the Dion option where the LPC actively allows itself to consider a non-aggression pact with the Bloc. It would certainly be exploited in English Canada, (hell, I would exploit it), but the west is already a waste land. All the Liberal leader would be saying is that there would be an open door and open dialogue with the BQ. He does not even need to say if it will go anywhere, only the invitation for dialogue if the LPC+NDP were to form a minority government.

The second option would be an aggressive anti-BQ stance. Have they done any polling in Quebec on whether a merged LPC/NDP would win back some of the BQ seats? Perhaps they just need to jump over 30 seats, not 50.

Thirdly, just hunker down and weather the storm. But they've got to start being more direct with Canadian's. If they are loud is their disapproval, they have to start voting against those things they disapprove.

Steve V said...

Good rundown KW. A couple points on the numbers. First, knocking the Bloc down to 40 seats might just be enough to achieve a combined Lib/NDP majority, so we shouldn't discount the potential significance. You also highlight potential Con losses, again something that could be crucial. I would also argue that we need to look beyond simply combining the last election results and extrapolating. It is possible that this united front brings new people into the fold, it erodes soft support from the Bloc, because my argument is you put their relevance into question. For that reason, while useful, I don't think a straight number translation tells the whole story.

Tof KW said...

"It is possible that this united front brings new people into the fold, it erodes soft support from the Bloc, because my argument is you put their relevance into question."

That is possible, and I agree the only real long-term solution to this dilemma is to continually challenge the BQ's raison d'ĂȘtre. If sovereignty is no longer a viable option in the foreseeable future, why vote for the Bloc? Really this is something that all the federalist parties should be pounding the Bloc with, as it would reward the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP in the future.

However with Harper leading the CPC, I don't see that happening. If the PCs were still around, certainly they'd be willing to defend federalism in Quebec and work with the other parties to make the BQ irrelevant. There may be other future leadership candidates in the new CPC (Bernard Lord maybe?) who could also see the advantage for federalist parties as a whole to undermine the Bloc.

But Harper? I see him going the scorched-earth route and ruining it for him and the Grits, rather than risk having the LPC gain any potential advantage in la Belle.

DL said...

The BQ is going to be a hot potato after the next election. Imagine that the Tories and the Liberals and NDP combined each have about 130 seats and the Liberals and NDP declare on election night that they will pursue and accord and try to eject Harper.

Then it means that the only way Harper survives as PM is if HE holds a summit with Duceppe and makes a deal with the BQ to get them to vote for his thrown speech. Suddenly Harper has the hot potato. What does he do? Does he hold to his campaign rhetoric and state that he refuses to "talk to separatists" and has to resign? Or does he totally reverse himself and betray his own base by making a deal with the BQ??

Tof KW said...

Interesting point DL - though the most likely scenario is that either the CPC or an Ont-1985 style coalition Lib+NDP government would at least have a few seats above the other …what if we were to end up with a tie?

Harper would be unpredictable.

Now a proper leader would step down for the good of their party and let the coalition take over. For one thing the coalition would be dependent on the BQ, even informally, to pass budget votes should the CPC wish to vote against. And let’s face it, they would. That would give the CPC a new leader (if they were smart they’d pick someone without any Reform party baggage) who could freely fight against what would be an unstable coalition which required the BQ to support them in confidence votes. That’s a no-brainer that the CPC would retake government in the following election.

But Harper? Would he try to hang on? As current PM he would be given first opportunity to keep his job.

If I were giving advice, I’d say the Libs+NDP should let him continue as PM. He’d be wounded and the CPC leadership race to replace him would be out in the open. Having him require the Bloc to push any legislation through would be priceless.

Tof KW said...

OK another scenario …hey this is all hypothetical (and fun) so why not speculate?

OK in the event of a tie and Harper steps down, the LPC+NDP should still refuse to form government. Ignatieff would inform the GG that the LPC + NDP was not an election choice and given the frail coalition they would need to forge, does not feel he could gain the confidence of the house.

That means the CPC would need to form government with an interim leader. There would be an election within 6 months to a year tops …and hope for better results.

DL said...

I wasn't implying that there would have to be an exact TIE between the Tories and the Liberals+NDP. I could be Tories 135 and Liberal/NDP 125 or it could be the reverse - but any way you slice it - if the Liberals and NDP declare their total opposition to Harper - then no one can pass a Throne Speech without the BQ.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Interesting, but one mistaken premise: one does not need a Lib-NDP majority. One only needs a Lib-NDP plurality. Largest parliamentary bloc gets 1st chance to govern. No merger needed. Simply post-election coalition, notifying Speaker that caucuses will be sitting together. Also means don't need any formal agreement with Bloc or Cons. Lib-NDP parliamentary coalition would only need support from one or the other on an ongoing basis. I suspect I know which would be more likely to support 1st throne speech and budget, but after that, things would evolve, esp. as Cons would be in leadership race, so might like to support on further confidence votes.

Important to remember: Plurality is all that's needed to avoid explicit Bloc support.

Only Question for GG: who is most likely/best able to command the confidence of the House. Largest Parliamentary Grouping is classic answer.

Steve V said...

Well, that clarification is beyond obvious. What I'm saying, if you have the electoral prospect of the Bloc still holding a certain balance of power, it works to the Cons advantage. A stable coalition is much better than a leap into the unknown, particularly when your opponent uses hysteria and fear.

DL said...

Even the Conservatives are the "largest parliamentary grouping" and have - say - 5 seats more than the Liberals and NDP - that may give them the right to take a first crack at passing a Throne Speech - but what if they then fail and the Liberals, NDP and BQ all vote NO and the government is unable to achieve confidence at all??? Then the GG would have to ask the second largest parliamentary grouping to take a stab at it.

Tof KW said...

"Then the GG would have to ask the second largest parliamentary grouping to take a stab at it.

OK, supporting Steve here ...should not the LIB+NDP also refuse to form government in this case? And for the very reason that while a LIB+NDP coalition would be favourable to Canadians, one that involves BQ cooperation would not.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but would that not result in the GG asking an interim CPC leader to form the government?

DL said...

I think that we would end up in a situation where neither the Tories nor the Liberals and NDP would be willing to "formally" include the BQ in any deal. But what if there is no "formal" deal - the BQ simply votes down the Tory Throne speech and then decides to let a Liberal/NDP throne speech pass without any deals - they simply want Harper out of power. Its true that the BQ and the Tories could then theoretically bring down the government at any time after that - but realistically, once a new Liberal/NDP government was sworn in - both the Tories and BQ would be likely to be distracted with getting new leaders etc... and would be in no hurry to force another election.

DL said...

BTW: Just as a side bar to this. The Czechs had an election last week and the Social Democrats got the largest number of votes and seats. However, the three right of centre parties are forming a coalition government that will NOT include the largest party.

Tof KW said...

It would be a real mess either way, wouldn’t it DL?

And whoever would be forming the next government, they would need the informal support of the Bloc for the throne speech and at least one budget vote to make it through a year …which the other side would politicize by charging the government is “working with separatists”.

The kicker is of course that the Bloc has not been doing a whole lot of separatin’ for over 16 years now, which questions the raison d'ĂȘtre of their party and why they are even in existence. Them seen working with federalists could actually be used to weaken the sovereignty movement.

And who’s to blame for turning a potential electoral weapon against the Bloc into a hot-potato minority nightmare scenario for the whole country?

Thanks Harper!

Your ultra-partisan rhetoric – all done to avoid a non-confidence vote and to save your own friggin’ ass – could end up screwing either party in the very real possibility of a tight election win …and scuttles an argument to reduce the BQ’s vote in Quebec.

DL said...

This all brings us back to the very sticky situation Harper will be in unless he gets a majority. If the Liberals and NDP announce that they will eject him as soon as parliament re-convenes post-election - then Harper has no choice but to either resign or crawl on his hands and knees to Duceppe. I look forward to either scenario....unless ofr course the Liberals give Harper another "get out of jail free" card decide to prop him up again - in which case all bets are off.

liberazzi said...

Sadly the egos will get in the way, and Harper will havehus way again. A Liberal that I know said have some faith, well faith is great but do the math. The Bloc are guarenteed 40 seats in Que and the Cons 60 seats in Alta, that leaves approximately 200 Seats for the Libs to gain a slim majority. Moreover, how can these MPs and or candidates afford to fight an election every two years since we are in a perpetual minority situation because of the math. Also, what about volunteer fatigue? Yes I know first hand the dirty tricks the Dips play but move on. Stop waiting for the messiah and do what's right for the country. Plus, look at the great things the Libs and Dips did together in the 60's and 70's. Instead let's have Harper destroy our country an inch at a time, but at least our pride will be in tact sitting from the sidelines. Keep the faith:p

liberazzi said...

This may be fairy-tale land, but I would take it a bit further. How bout a non-aggression pact across the country. The party that first or second in the last election would have the right to represent their party in the next election.

The result would be give or take based on the 2008 election:

145 - Libs
51 - Dips
66 - Cons
44 - Bloc
2 - Greens, including May

Like I said maybe fairy-tale land, but perhaps a win-win for all the progressive parties?

Tomm said...

If the LPC and the NDP "merge" or form some sort of pre-election alliance, they both drop support. Instead of getting 25% + 19% they get 20% + 15%. They also do it for all the wrong reasons and that will also haunt them into the future.

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