Monday, May 17, 2010

On coalition building

It's enough of a plus that the coalition deal in the UK has led to the idea being discussed in Canada with less of the Con-fueled hysteria surrounding the last move to build a coalition in Parliament. But what's perhaps more interesting is the standard that's being set up by the party whose support for a coalition (in the absence of direct participation) might well be the deciding factor in who governs Canada after the next federal election:
Mr. Layton noted Canada can learn lessons from the U.K.

"One is that the people of the United Kingdom seemed to encourage the notion that parties should work together in the interests of everybody. That's something the New Democrats have believed for a long time."

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Que.) said that while the Bloc "was not part of the [2008] coalition, we were ready to support them." He pointed out that coalition government has become the norm across Europe, and that willing major partners are a primary ingredient of governing coalitions.

"I think [the British] are often people who act in a responsible manner, which has not been the case either for Mr. Harper or Mr. Ignatieff, and those are the only two who claim the post of Prime Minister," Mr. Duceppe said. "They need to be responsible and to have leadership."
Now, it's problematic if one sees Duceppe's comment as framing Canada's future choices in terms of only the Libs or Cons heading up a coalition government. But the statement does make for a fair assessment of where Canada has actually been, given that the NDP willingly took on the role of junior partner in order to bring the 2008 coalition together.

That said, Duceppe's comment also raises the possibility that an improvement in the prospects of a coalition might come about due to a change in which parties are seen as "major".

After all, the gap between the Libs and the NDP has been closing for a few election cycles now, and has reached the a point where it's entirely plausible that the next campaign could see more NDP seats than Liberal ones. And some scenarios have already been kicked around by political observers which would result in the NDP topping the Libs' seat total in a minority Parliament.

It's hard to see how that outcome would result in anything but a change as to which party would be considered "major" in working out a possible coalition - as well as who'd be responsible to show the leadership required of a Prime Minister. And the Libs presumably wouldn't be in much position to refuse a coalition. So if Duceppe's comment actually represents the Bloc's view of any possible alternative government, there's a straightforward way to get there, requiring only a fairly modest general shift toward the NDP as the national party most interested in cooperating in the public interest.

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