Harper must recognize that forcing the NDP to sustain his government is self-defeating; a divided NDP will allow the Liberals to consolidate more centre-left votes and potentially defeat Conservative incumbents in Ontario and the Maritimes. The Lower Mainland of B.C. is one of the few places where the NDP and Conservatives go head-to-head, but even there the Liberals remain a threat to come up the middle if the NDP vote falters.So in Steele's mind, the likely result is that the NDP will at no point back down from its record to date of voting against the Cons, meaning that Harper will have to rely on the Bloc to prop up his government. Which is an eminently reasonable theory to start with, and still probably the most likely outcome going forward.
Instead, the Conservatives can help maintain a healthy NDP protest vote (and a split on the centre-left) by finding ways to get the Bloc to abstain.
Abstentions by the BQ cost Duceppe's party nothing, allow the NDP to maintain its symbolic opposition to the Conservatives and keep the Conservatives in power, while freeing all three of those parties from losing seats against a resurgent Liberal Party in a sudden election.
The fact is that the renewed vigour of the Liberals has created a new majority coalition in the House of Commons: a Conservative-Separatist-Socialist coalition that will almost definitely secretly conspire to keep themselves in office for another year.
But if Steele is indeed of the view:
- that the NDP won't vote with the Cons under any circumstances, and
- that Harper will deal solely with the Bloc because of that fact...
... then how on earth could he even pretend that the NDP would be part of a "coalition"?
And even Steele's talk of an "understanding" fails to make the slightest bit of sense. After all, how would it serve any purpose for Harper to try to deal with the NDP - however informally - if he plans on relying on Duceppe alone to prop up his government in any event?
Of course, the likely answer to both questions is that Steele is more eager to try to turn the "socialists and separatists" language against Harper - with an added bonus of building an illusion of Con/NDP agreement - than to think through the actual implications of his theory. But it's hard to see how that leads to a message any more honest than the Cons' original bluster which Steele is impliedly criticizing.