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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Coalition precedent permanently stacks the deck

A lot of ink has been spilled regarding the recent shenanigans in Ottawa, and I've been tempted to just sit back & enjoy the show. However, I would like to point out a result of a Liberal-NDP coalition that should worry everyone regardless of one's position on the political spectrum. If this coalition sets a Canadian parliamentary precedent, it will permanently stack the deck in the House of Commons in favour of the Liberals and make it practically impossible to change governments unless another party gets an outright majority.

In the Westminster tradition, the party that can command the confidence of the House of Commons has the right to form a government. No quibbles there - the rule is clear. However, things get dicey in a multi-party parliament where no party commands an outright majority. Tradition dictates that the Governor-General call on the party with the most seats to form a government. It is this tradition that is at risk here, and that may result in a permanent Liberal hegemony.

In the current House there are four parties. Only one, the CPC, represents the centre-right of the political spectrum - the rest are crowded on the left. If, as in countries like Italy or Israel, the governing party has to rely on a coalition with another party, the CPC is handed a structural disadvantage. Since no other party in the House is ever, under any circumstances, willing to support the CPC and the remaining three parties are politically allied with each other, it becomes impossible for Conservatives to form a government in a minority situation even if more voters support them than any other party. Similarly, the Liberals can automatically form a government with the support of the other two parties even if their voter support is a fraction of that of the Conservatives.

I can forsee the comments already - "Them's the breaks, majority rules, more people voted AGAINST the CPC than for it". True, but voters don't vote against parties, they vote for them. They cast their ballots in Canadian elections knowing full well that the party with the most seats gets the prize even if they're shy of an outright majority. It happened to Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin, after all - the tradition holds when Stephen Harper is in the driver's seat. How many voters who chose the Liberals in the last election would have voted otherwise (especially in Quebec) if they had known that a vote for the Liberals meant that the NDP would hold six cabinet posts and the Bloc Quebecois would hold the balance of power?

Coalition governments are NOT the tradition in Canada, regardless of what goes on in other countries with parliamentary systems. Citizens of Canada do NOT vote under the assumption that minor parties will form a coalition government. In a healthy democracy, it should be relatively easy to defeat the governing party regardless of its political ideology. A coalition precedent gives the Liberals a structural advantage that now gives them power with a mere 26% of the popular vote. If we can't kick out a party that only gets a quarter of the support of the electorate, how is that democratic? If voters had been told in the last election that a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition was a likely outcome, the results would have been very different.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, it is not the party that wins the most seats that gets the first crack at forming government. Before, during and after the election the Prime Minister is the same, unless he/she resigns. He/she is the one the Governor General will call upon to form government and demonstrate that he/she has the support of the House of Commons. If that fails, or the Prime Minister resigns or their is no returning Prime Minister THEN the Governor General calls upon the party the next party with the most seats to form government and gain the confidence of the House.

Cool Blue said...

I think what will happen eventually is that it will lead to a defacto union of the opposition parties.

If a coalition is the inevitable result why bother running seperate NDP and Lib candidates?

This may actually swing more voters towards the CP.

Speaking of Canadian tradition, what concerns me is the uniquely Canadian concept of "Responsible Government".

Under this tradition it is expected that an unelected PM has to call an election as soon as possible, usually within 6 months.

This coalition government agreement however, flies in the face of this foundation of Canadian democracy by proposing to install an unelected PM for 3 years!

wilson said...

Make it law, that MPs have to pledge allegence to Canada.

Kelly said...

By signing a guarantee to support all money bills essentially makes this a unified party that no one voted for 6 weeks ago.

This BS that 62% voted against Harper as support for this, is nutz. As a westerner, this axis of evil has erased the collective vote of 10 million westerners and guaranteed access to coffers of the west to benefit Quebec. Who would stop them?

A not so hidden agenda.

Anonymous said...

Kelly,
Maybe everyone in the west, individuals and corporations alike, should just withhold all federal taxes until there is a legitimate government again. Pay the federal taxes to the provinces starting Jan 1, and the provinces could set-up trust accounts in a safe jurisdiction (like Switzerland) until there is a majority government representing all Canadians elected.
Stelmach said he had a plan 'b', could that be it??