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Could Coalition Be Used to Get the Bloc to Stop Being Separatists?

May 19, 2010

Great point by Chrystal on Lessons on Framing – Coalition Governments

As important as the question regarding whether the Liberal Party and NDP would consider being part of a coalition government is whether the Conservative Party would.

Why are virtually all media, journalists, other writers and democratic reformers ignoring this?

Just because Canadians won’t vote in enough MPs to givea single party a majority is no reason why Canada must be stuck with perpetual minorities.

Coalition governments are majority governments.

If the Liberals and Conservatives want a majority government all they need do is be honest with Canadians and negotiate with the third- and/or fourth-place parties after an election.

This gets me to thinking how to solve the Separatist-Conundrum. So I’m going to think out loud, bear that in mind, as I’m not entirely convinced of my own point here, but I think its interesting to discuss.  The Separatist-Conundrum is, how to form a coalition if one of the members is a separatist party. Now in the UK, this was a possibility if they had ended up with a Lab-Lib rather than a Con-Dem coalition. The Lab-Lib’s would have needed more support from a few smaller nationalist parties which often talk about independence  from Scotland, Wales or maybe Northern Ireland.  In their case this wouldn’t have been a huge deal since they all have a small number of seats, the Scottish party, the largest of these, has six seats.

In Canada, the Bloc get 50-ish seats each election.  So if you make a deal with them you need to make sure they aren’t furthering their separatist agenda. But perhaps there is another approach.   How would people react to a coalition that explicitly set requirements on the Bloc to temporarily suspend all activities to bring about an independent Quebec?  This would mean, no referendums, no talking about separating or going it alone.  They can fight for Quebec’s interests of course, they area a regional party after all, but nothing that weakens Quebec’s connection to the rest of Canada.

I’m not sure how this would work, all I’m saying is, it’s possible to see a coalition offer to the Bloc from the Lib-NDP as an opportunity to shift the Bloc from being a regional separatist party to being simply a regional advocacy party.  Such a shift would be good for the entire country. It would help Quebeckers feel they have a clear voice and remove the fears of the rest of Canada that giving them that voice would enable a minority extremists to destroy our country.  But is this feasible?

Well, ok I’ll point out one major reason I can think of why its not feasible. Two words: Democratic Reform. A Lib-NDP coalition should have as one of its primary issues, progress on reforming elections so that the wishes of voters are more fairly represented in parliament.  As 308.com showed the other day (see their fantastic analysis of a what-if election scenario in Canada using proportional representation) all of the parties could potentially benefit from elections run with some form of PR, with the notable exception of the Bloc.  Even the Conservatives could be seen to benefit in that they would be the most broadly spread out party with the best claim to being a truly national party, even though they’d get less seats than they do now and would be hard pressed to stop a Lib-NDP-Green coalition from forming government.  The Bloc are the only party that would not be helped at all by PR, it would decimate their seats and turn them into a largish regional party about the same size as the current NDP. They be the same size as the Greens but with a lot more baggage.

Of course, while the Bloc may not like it, Quebeckers would benefit greatly by having PR since they’d have lots more representation in all of the other parties and thus more MPs in whichever party or coalition forms government, which is really what matters.  The current situation of the Conservatives having to choose between 2 or 3 weak candidates or to appoint someone so they can have someone from Quebec is clearly not in the interest of Quebeckers.  And a Liberal majority wouldn’t be able to do much better.

The Bloc would argue strenuously against electoral reform unless they could get some hardwired guarantee of a fixed proportion for their party, which would defeat the whole point.  So I assume they’d veto electoral reform as part of any deal, and hopefully the NDP would refuse to cooperate under such a veto. Although, given the opportunity to prove themselves in running a ministry I’m not at all confident the NDP would stick to their principles or long term interests in this regard.  But I hope they would.

So you know, its probably a pipe dream. What do you think? Is there any way a coalition government could rely on Bloc support in a reasonable manner?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. jay permalink
    May 19, 2010 6:46 pm

    The Bloc is a practical joke. We Quebecers don’t want separatists to be in charge in Quebec, so we send them to Ottawa to screw things up. I never thought the joke would last over 20 years… Someday, Quebec will have to commit to some federal party instead of fooling around.

  2. ClaudeB permalink
    May 19, 2010 6:52 pm

    I don’t ususlly comment on English blogs, but your argument is a bit naïve.

    First the PR thing. For many Quebecers, being represented in government is not what it’s cracked up to be. The cons failed to increase their seats in Quebec with this argument in 2008. Looking the current HoC standings and the polls, I’m sure conservatives MPs in the western provinces and liberals in the Toronto area would not end up winners either (many would lose their jobs).

    Second, you wrongly assume the Bloc wants to be part of a Liberal-NDP coalition. Short answer, they don’t. Bloquistes don’t want to be part of Canada’s executive branch and they’ve stated it a number of times in the past. In December 2008 (in the middle of the economic collapse), they were ready to give an 18-month respite to Dion and Layton, but it was more a truce than an alliance.

  3. ClaudeB permalink
    May 19, 2010 7:05 pm

    Jay, get out of your basement in the West Island and read something else than The Gazette. Among francophones, the Bloc and PQ get 50% of the votes.

    The Liberals are in disarray, mired by influence peddling and corruption both at the provincial and federal level (we still remember AdScam).

    The Conservatives are crypto-fascists warmongers and theocrats.

    The Dippers are nice fellows, but they’re stuck in this “national program for this, national program for that” that won’t win any vote here. They should mind their business and leave provincial jurisdictions to the provinces.

    The non-ratification of Meech Lake, 20 years ago, had consequences. The Bloc is one of them.

    • May 19, 2010 8:48 pm

      well, I’ll admit I’m naive, and I plan on staying that way
      But your characterization of the other parties is no more nuanced than the usual view of the Bloc and PQ outside Quebec.

      As for Bloc/PQ support

      Bloc got 38% in Quebec last federal election
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/story/2008/10/14/quebec-vote.html

      PQ got 35% last time, not 50%
      http://www2.electionsquebec.qc.ca/corpo/english/general-elections-provincial.asp?even=2008&mode=n5&section=resultats_gen#resul

      And about Meech Lake etc… : Really? Still that? Can we ever move on from past mistakes and issues? Half the people around don’t even remember that stuff anymore. What I want to know if there is some way to begin a constructive way forward that people in Quebec would support without assuming that such a solution is impossible because ‘politicians are all evil and corrupt’. We’ll never get anywhere if we assume that.

  4. May 20, 2010 10:57 am

    Interesting brainstorming, Mark! You might have a couple of wording choices that confused me a bit, by the way. When you say “Lib-Dem rather than a Con-Dem” with respect to a UK coalition, don’t you mean “Lab-Lib rather than Con-Lib”? When you say “Whales”, I think you mean “Wales”.

    • May 20, 2010 1:12 pm

      Thanks Jim. And thanks for the spelling corrections, I agree with two of them and have made the changes.

  5. jay permalink
    May 20, 2010 4:09 pm

    Claude: de mon appartement d’Hochelaga, je connais parfaitement la situation politique du Bloc et du PQ, merci.

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  1. Between a Bloc and a Hard Place « Pop The Stack

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