Between a Bloc and a Hard Place
A true statement in the present tense, because there isn’t one, right now. Even if Mr. Ignatieff is being coy, this is a good thing because he should not, cannot, say that there will never be a coalition. If the voters deem to give the Liberals and NDP in the next election enough seats to form a plurality, then a coalition must be considered as one of the options. If Iggy wants to make a categorical, unswervable statement that isn’t open to interpretation or attack he could try this:
There is no coalition at this time. And there will never be a coalition which includes the Bloc as a member until they renounce their stance on separatism.
— alternate universe Iggy
Oh, yes … I said it.
You and I know the Bloc won’t go for that. Of course, they also probably don’t expect to be in an official coalition. That doesn’t mean other parties can’t work with the Bloc, it just means they won’t sign a legal document with the them. During parliament, if the Bloc don’t support the policies of the NDP+Lib governing coalition then the coalition would just try to scrape through without having an election.
Note, this is exactly like the Conservatives have been doing for 5 years. They get to avoid elections even though they haven’t made an agreement with anyone. This is because enough other members either support them or abstain because they aren’t ready to go to the polls. So the Bloc would have no greater power in a NDP+Lib government than they do now.
That is to say, they’d have a fair bit of power for a regional separatist party. But it would be absolutely no different than today. This whole state of affairs won’t change until either Quebeckers start believing in one of the federalist parties again or they just decide they’d like to have some representation in cabinet.
Alternate-universe Iggy has an interesting idea though. Its risky, gutsy, but it might just work. I’ve talked before about trying to make a deal with the Bloc about their stance on separatism. But this is different, this is using an ultimatum, an ultimatum that you know will not be accepted, as a message for the rest of Canada. A Federalist party could gain a lot of traction in Ontario and the West by being simultaneously open to finding a solution to the democratic logjam we are in while simultaneously being tough on separatists.
The Liberals and/or NDP could turn this coalition argument on its head by defending the possibility of an NDP+Liberal coalition, if warrant. Meanwhile declaring it impossible that the Bloc will be a part of such a coalition unless they denounce separation. This appeals to the soft conservative voters who get angry about Quebec but don’t necessarily want social conservatives running the country either. It may even play alright in Quebec if its done with respect in an open way, appealing to Bloc voters who aren’t set on sovereignty but want a strong voice for Quebec. You can be sure that a stronger NDP/Lib coalition with Quebec MPs would have several of them in key positions. Stealing votes from the Bloc isn’t as efficient as stealing votes from the Conservatives in terms of getting power. But being seem to try to steal votes from the Bloc is actually a plus in the mind of Conservative voters so you may get some of them at the same time.
I don’t know, I’ll add this to my crazy ideas category, its becoming quite a list, I really should create one. But, something needs to change to get our democracy moving again and this is as clear an option as any. What do you think?