Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The working draft of history

Chantal Hebert is looking ahead toward the next chance for a progressive coalition to replace the Harper Cons in government. And while Hebert needlessly muddies the waters by combining the concept of post-election cooperation in Parliament with that of an electoral non-opposition agreement, she hardly figures to be the last to recognize the potential for a coalition to change the face of Canadian politics.

Which means that the experience of the last exercise in coalition-building figure to become rather important in the very near future. And it's worth pointing out just who it is that's managed to shape Ottawa's view of coalitions for the future.

When Brian Topp first started putting together his series of posts on the development of the progressive coalition, I'd figured that Topp's writing would lay the groundwork for a wide-ranging discussion among NDP and Lib sources as to what happened and why. In particular, some of his observations seemed to positively demand some challenge or spin from various factions of the Libs: from Stephane Dion's attempt to use the coalition to extend his stay as Lib leader, to Michael Ignatieff backers who were willing to cooperate only as long as their preferred leader was at the helm, to Ignatieff himself "huddled" with Con strategist Kory Teneycke, to Lib negotiators who were downright embarrassed to try to defend their positions when challenged.

But even as Topp's series became required reading for political junkies this month, none of his recollections seem to have been answered publicly. And while one can perhaps understand how the Libs' current power structure may be under extreme pressure to simply avoid talking about an issue which surely makes the party's current leader look bad both inside and outside the party, it's particularly telling that nobody from Dion's long-since-deposed inner circle has challenged any of Topp's accounts either.

All of which means that Topp's take on the coalition looks to have benefitted from a rare combination of ample attention and nonexistent refutation. And the fact that an NDP insider's take on the events of 2008 looks to have become the leading public account of what happened - not to mention what lessons should be drawn for any future coalition negotiations - should help make sure that the NDP's position in any future deal is strengthened by what Canadian politicos perceive about what happened last time out.

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