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Sigh, Ignatieff drops the coalition ball

September 11, 2009

Michael Ignatieff today came out and made clear his position on a possible coalition after the next election, and as many pundits and the Conservative party requested, he let us know the Liberals will not form a formal coalition.

I’m disappointed, as I’d suggested, there is a slightly more risky, but much more compelling approach which was to embrace the idea of a coalition under certain conditions as a perfectly valid outcome in our parliamentary democracy.  But it is an outcome that Mr. Ignatieff is apparently unable to accept.  At least he gave a clear answer, and stressed that co-operation between parties would indeed be necessary if not a formal coalition.  The technical difference, however, does mean that the Liberals have set their bar of success a bit higher in the next election.  In order to claim victory, they need to get more seats than the Conservatives and rule at the pleasure of the opposition parties of the house just as the Conservatives have attempted to do.

The coalition option would actually allow the Liberals to form government, with the NDP even if the Liberals get less seats than the Conservatives as long as the NDP+Liberal seats are significantly more than the number of Conservative seats.  Note that this second outcome didn’t even happen last election, which is why the Bloc would have been needed.  With this statement Mr. Ignatieff has closed the door  on forming government even if their seats rise significantly and they could combine with the NDP alone to defeat the Conservatives. A bad precedent to set I think since we may institutionally have changed as a country now to have more minority governments.  If our leaders can’t accept that they may have to really work together, and even promise they’ll work together and share some power in exchange for co-operations, then how are we ever going to have a functioning minority government.

Does Ignatieff really believe he can win a majority? Does he think Canadians really can’t understand the logic of a coalition? Can he not deal with sharing power with the NDP?

I don’t think Canadians are going to give anyone a majority for a long time.  The Conservatives are definitely not going to get one and the Liberals don’t seem strong enough yet and no one else is capable of it (sorry Jack).  So the parties need to take the message Canadians are giving them and deal with it.  Coalitions are the only short term answer to our electoral problems.*  Too bad Iggy flinched and threw is out the window again.

* The long term answer of course is electoral reform that actually represents voter wishes, in which case we may also get coalitions, but they’d make a lot more sense.

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