“Coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition” : Iggy says something sensible at last ..

Jun 6th, 2010 | By | Category: In Brief
William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada 1921—1926, 1926—1930, 1935—1948 – the Canadian as she exists in the mind of Manitou.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, grandson of the leader of the Upper Canada rebellion of 1837, Prime Minister of Canada 1921—1926, 1926—1930, 1935—1948 – the Canadian as she (or he) exists in the mind of the Great Manitou of the northern lakes and forests.

Personally, I have always liked Michael Byers’s Liberal-NDP cease-fire proposal. But politics is the art of the possible. In Canada today the Liberals and the New Democrats are just not ready for even this limited form of vague alignment – and certainly not before the next federal election takes place, whenever that may be.

In “an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press,” however, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has at last come up with a position on the current Liberal-NDP coalition issue that actually makes some sense in the here and now. In the spirit of the near-great Liberal Party of Canada leader William Lyon Mackenzie King (“the Canadian as he exists in the mind of God,” as the historian Frank Underhill once put it), you might summarize the new Ignatieff position as “coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition.”

According to The Canadian Press, the Liberal leader now “says coalition governments are ‘perfectly legitimate’ and he’d be prepared to lead one if that’s the hand Canadian voters deal him in the next election … But … it would be disrespectful to voters and damaging to his party to try to strike any deals with the NDP before voters have spoken.”Â  In Mr. Ignatieff’s own words: “Co-operation between parties to produce political and electoral stability is not illegitimate. It’s never been illegitimate, it’s part of our system …But the right way to do it is to run your flag up, (opposing parties) run their flag up, you fight like crazy, you put your choices clearly to the Canadian people, they make their choices and then you play the cards that voters deal you.”

So … there will not be any Liberal-NDP “deal” before the next election. The Liberals will run as if they intend to form a government on their own, with candidates in all 308 ridings. But if the results of the next election put the two parties together in a position where they could reasonably form some sort of “coalition” or “accord”  government (without the Bloc Quebecois in any explicit role, it seems) – a government that could bring a stable progressive regime to Ottawa once again – Mr. Ignatieff will be happy to “make it work for Canadians.”

Michael Ignatieff and former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae : coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition.

Michael Ignatieff and former Ontario NDP Premier Bob Rae : coalition if necessary but not necessarily coalition.

This, it seems to me, nicely skates up the middle of various current debates on the coalition issue in an upbeat, realistic, and constructive way.  (And, as a few wise friends urged upon me the other rainy night at a local diner, this issue has lately verged on rather sad and even depressing,  at best.)  For the first time in a number of months, I at least am impressed by something Michael Ignatieff has had to say. It moves an important part of the current Canadian debate forward, without trying to push too many people in too many directions they are not yet quite prepared to go.

Whether this will boost the sagging Liberal poll numbers I have no idea. But as best as I can make out, it has put some slight new glimmer of light at the very end of the tunnel. And the Harper Conservatives’ poll numbers have not been all that impressive lately either. Michael Ignatieff might still lead the Liberal Party of Canada to its worst showing in the history of the present confederation. He has nonetheless made this seem a little less likely now than it appeared earlier this past week. And, say what you like, that’s better than no progress at all.

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