Tag Archives: coalitions

The Coalition that never was

It’s over. Coyne has the best analysis and Simpson is on his game as well. The key fact: everyone overplayed their hand. Badly.

Harper overplayed his hand – that’s what launched this mess.

Then there was an opportunity on the part of the opposition to not be greedy. They could have demand a better stimulus package and Harper’s resignation in exchange for not bringing down the government. I believe it was viable option. But that window is closing fast – if it is still open. Dion was too inept and, once again, proved unable to understand that he was in a position of weakness – he will now likely be remembered not as a tragic, stoic figure and more likely as simply inept and stubborn. It isn’t fair – but it is hard to see him being remembered otherwise.

Layton won’t lose his job – but his party should consider bouncing him. The NDP overplayed its hand in the same manner that Dion did. Layton’s drive for power (and relevancy) meant the NDP didn’t push for splitting Harper from his caucus and trying to just take the leader down. A Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition was always going to be tenuous – the opportunity for any party to defect in order to gain political advantage would have made it highly unstable, and unpopular. Moreover, after Layton brought down the house in 2006 I’m not sure many Liberals see Layton as someone who they can work with – further increasing any coalitions instability.

Indeed, I only thought the opposition announced they were going to bring down the house in order to achieve negotiating leverage to demand Harper’s resignation. Now I don’t know what they were thinking. I suspect that Layton, DIon and Harper could all be gone within 12 months. Each party (except the bloc) is going to need to blame someone for these series of fiascoes – given how centralized decision making has become, it’s hard to believe it won’t be the leaders. That said, I say Harper has the best odds of survival.

Finally, Simpson nails it with the fact that the Bloc are the only clear winners. There job is simple: stay relevant. Doesn’t matter who they are working with or against, as long as they have some excuse to be in Ottawa, they win. It was a big week for them.

Negotiating within a coalition – or why Liberals don't trust Jack

So the one thing I glossed over the other day about negotiating in coalitions is that you’d better have already completed your negotiations within your coalition. Reading Andrew Coyne’s blog (among others) suggests that this has not happened. This project seems to have been cooked up by Dion and foisted on the party and there are a few disgruntled MPs starting to emerge from the woodwork.

Toronto MP Jim Karygiannis said “a lot of my constituents” are saying Dion should go. He also complained that MPs had been kept out of the loop on the coalition negotiations.

Just add this on to the further stresses for the coalition. If this thing even begins to teeter, someone is going to have to wear this, and the blame game isn’t going to be pretty.

Another big problem is Jack Layton. Interestingly I think a lot of Liberals are more wary of working with Jack than with Gilles Duceppe. Gilles intentions are always very clear – he’ll do whatever is in Quebec’s interests. Layton’s motivation and history is a little more shaky. Take, for example, that Layton never had to wear the fact that he got us all into this mess three years ago when he helped bring down Paul Martin’s government.

Here was a man who was getting the goodies he wanted added to the budget and yet voted against the Liberals so that he could what… win an extra dozen seats in the house? Layton has had his opportunity to work with Liberals to advance his agenda and he instead opted to give the Conservatives the opportunity they were craving. I suspect the trust threshold between most Liberals and the NDP leadership is so low that it will take real skill to sustain a working partnership.

Again, a common threat can bring people together, but as the threat recedes (the conservatives lose power, or even more intriguing, Harper is forced to resign) then the capacity to work together becomes more important. Canadian political parties have never invested much in this capacity… can they make it work now?