Talkin’ ’bout a coalition

The prospect of an NDP/Liberal coalition is certainly an intriguing one. For one thing, there is a lot of history to be made in parliamentary procedure. What can the Conservative government do to resist falling? How should, must, and will the Governor General act in different scenarios? If a coalition did come into being, how would it govern and how long-lasting could it be?

Given the NDP’s opposition to Stephane Dion’s ‘Green Shift’ carbon tax, it is especially unclear what sort of climate policies would emerge from a coalition government. They would be in a doubly weak position to create rules that would govern industry for years. Firstly, well-founded questions about the longevity of the coalition would make regulated industries wonder whether spending to meet new requirements makes commercial sense. In the absence of certainty about long-term climate policies, intelligent investments cannot be made. Secondly, there is uncertainty about what will happen to climate policy in the United States. How much of a priority will it be for the new Obama administration? Will Congress press forward or hold back on the issue? Will the US seek a national system, or will they try to come up with an integrated North American system as proposed by the Harper government? What will happen to the regional climate change organizations, such as the Western Climate Initiative?

These are certainly interesting times. Hopefully, the uncertainty will not serve to perpetuate inaction.

[Update: 28 January 2009] As of today’s Liberal response to yesterday’s Conservative budget, it seems the possibility of a coalition is dead, at least for now.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

26 thoughts on “Talkin’ ’bout a coalition”

  1. Dion will lead coalition

    Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion will be prime minister of an unprecedented coalition government if Parliament defeats the Conservatives next week. Liberal MPs announced the decision after a caucus meeting to review plans for the coalition, which reportedly include a pledge to pump billions of dollars into the economy The three opposition leaders are drafting a letter to Governor-General Michaëlle Jean in which they formally call on her to allow the formation of a coalition government if the Conservatives are defeated on a confidence motion Dec. 8. Liberals, NDP reach tentative deal to form coalition: Sources

    The Liberals and NDP have struck a tentative deal to defeat Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government and replace it with their own coalition government, with cabinet ministers from both parties, sources say. The Liberals would have 18 ministers in the coalition government, while six cabinet members would be drawn from the NDP, the sources said. If they succeeded in unseating the Tories, the deal would see the coalition remain in power for 30 months, relying on support from the Bloc Québécois in confidence votes in the Commons. | Experts doubtful a Liberal-NDP coalition would work

    As talk of a potential coalition government swirls through the halls of parliament, some experts in Canadian political history say the reality is it will likely never come to fruition. There’s “not a chance” that the Liberals and NDP will be able to convince Governor General Michaëlle Jean they’ll be able to form a working coalition, says Barry Cooper, a political science professor at the University of Calgary.

  2. Federal opposition parties smell blood, sign accord

    “Dion was asked at a press conference this afternoon if he, as Prime Minister, would still try to carry through the carbon tax plan he campaigned on during the election. He said no, but did have this to say: “We need an effective cap and trade program in Canada, and we need it as soon as possible, with absolute emission targets.” This comment is more aligned with what NDP leader Jack Layton campaigned for, and it is also more aligned with what President-elect Obama wants to introduce — in contrast to the intensity-based caps that the Conservatives have pushed.”

  3. The goal of the cap and trade system and the carbon tax system are the same, and they are both distinct from the goal of the intensity-based cap system.

    The first two have the goal of reducing emmisions meaningfully, and setting an example for the rest of the democratic world. The third has the goal of appearing to do the first while in reality not making any of the real sacrifices required.

    Just because two politicians disagree on a means, this does not mean they fundamentally disagree, because they disagree only about matters of fact, and in this case, it might not be that one is “correct” and one “incorrect”, because both systems can not perfectly predict all their consequences in advance.

    An election is a time for back-stabbing and ridiculing the proposals made by other parties. A coalition is the opposite – a time for respectful discourse where agreement about ends means there is a common ground on which to discuss means.

  4. I like the photo; it has a futuristic or science fiction feel to it. It looks like a sling shot that is flinging pollution into the air.

  5. The goal of the cap and trade system and the carbon tax system are the same

    It is fairer to say that both can be used to achieve the same goals: whether those goals are actually strong environmental protection, or whether they include doing favours for certain industries. Under a cap-and-trade system, you can give people free credits. Under a tax system, you can grant rebates and exceptions. The results of any particular policy have a great deal to do with the specifics of its design and implementation. You can definitely design a carbon tax with the goal of appearing to make progress, while actually making no sacrifices. Quebec’s carbon tax could be considered an example of that.

    they are both distinct from the goal of the intensity-based cap system.

    True, though the Conservatives have promised absolute reductions in emissions by 2012 and a cut to 20% below 2006 emissions by 2020.

    An election is a time for back-stabbing and ridiculing the proposals made by other parties. A coalition is the opposite – a time for respectful discourse where agreement about ends means there is a common ground on which to discuss means.

    Personally, I think it is more likely than not that a coalition would be even more discordant, superficial, and uncoordinated than an election campaign. This is especially true in the context of the financial crises, where everyone will be seeking to bail out their favourite constituencies while avoiding blame for whatever goes wrong.

  6. Tories take to airwaves; Greens back coalition

    Conservatives roll out radio ads as first wave of PR war; May discusses possible Senate appointment with Dion; Governor-General cuts European trip short


    Globe and Mail Update

    December 2, 2008 at 12:20 PM EST

    Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are rolling out radio ads suggesting it’s un-Canadian for the Liberal NDP coalition to replace them in government. It’s the first stage of a Tory hearts-and-minds campaign to win over public support for remaining in power.

    And Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is endorsing the proposed coalition government and says she has spoken with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion about the possibility of her being appointed to the Senate.

  7. This will not be good news for the climate.

    Under Martin, the Liberals started building themselves a little popsicle-stick house of a climate policy. Then, the Tories came in and blew that all away.

    In the years they have been in power, the Tories have started building a little popsicle-stick house of their own. The construction came less naturally out of their ideology, but they were more pressed by the overall sweep of history.

    An NDP-Liberal coalition would blow away their little house. They would then be in an even worse position to build one, given their internal disagreements and the precarious situation the coalition might exist in.

    In short, the best we can do is hope for Obama to create strong new policies in the US and for their effects to trickle northward.

  8. Queers uniting around Liberal-NDP coalition
    POLITICS / Best hope for progress, activists say; rallies planned across Canada
    Dale Smith / National / Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    With a signed agreement between the Liberals and the NDP to form a coalition government under the leadership of Stéphane Dion, with the support of the Bloc Quebecois, progressives across the country are moving to show their support for the union.

    Ottawa activist Ariel Troster is rallying support for the coalition.

    “In terms of any possibility of making gains for our community, a coalition government is the best way to go,” says Troster.

    Toronto activist and Spa Excess owner Peter Bochove is moving to organize his network to get involved online.

    “I’m delighted,” Bochove says of the coalition. “I want to see as many people as possible speaking out in light of the massive public relations campaign the other side is financing.”

  9. Harper’s Options

    Andrew Steele, today at 1:41 PM EST

    1. Preemptively Remove Michaëlle Jean
    2. Reschedule the Vote Again
    3. Appoint opposition MPs to the Senate
    4. Caretaker Prime Minister
    5. Prorogue
    6. Apologize, fire Flaherty and reach across the aisle
    7. Request an election
    8. Convince Opposition MPs to Support the Government
    9. Seduce the Bloc to Support Conservatives
    10. Step Down as Conservative Leader

  10. I like the photo as well. Can it still be considered ‘a photo’ if it is so heavily modified? It’s almost an animation at this point.

    Anyways, I like the composition a lot. And the wee dog with the perky ears looking pertly out into the distance.

    The foreboding colour scheme and the glowing hull of that ship make a playful magical contrast.

    I think Margaret might like it as inspiration for one of her coming dystopias.

  11. “True, though the Conservatives have promised absolute reductions in emissions by 2012 and a cut to 20% below 2006 emissions by 2020.”

    What I meant was, the goal of an intensity based cap system is to not take global warming seriously, to give just the mere appearence that it is being taken seriously.

  12. Can it still be considered ‘a photo’ if it is so heavily modified? It’s almost an animation at this point.

    It’s mostly just the Photoshop ‘Diffuse Glow’ filter, but perhaps not.

    There were problems with the exposure in the original image. Photoshop filters are useful for keeping the basic composition, while hiding the flaws.

  13. 1975 Australian constitutional crisis

    Constitutional precedent had long established that the Governor-General was expected to take no action except upon ‘advice’ (de facto direction) received from the Prime Minister, and Whitlam confidently assumed this would be the case during the crisis. However, according to the Australian Constitution, and in accordance with established practice in other Westminster style constitutional monarchies, the Governor-General still possessed wide ranging reserve powers to dissolve parliament and sack the government on his own initiative, in certain limited circumstances. These reserve powers had not been carried out by any monarch since King William IV in 1834, and it was a matter of academic and legal debate as to whether they still existed in reality.

  14. Tristan,

    It is also worth stressing that the existing 20% target for 2020 is based on a 2006 baseline.

    Canada’s 2006 emissions were 721 million tonnes (megatonnes, MT) of carbon dioxide, compared with in 596 MT 1990. As such, cutting 2006 emissions by 20% leaves Canada emitting about 577 MT per year in 2020: about 3.2% below our 1990 level.

  15. This is horrifying. Charles 1 (the fellow we executed for his unconstitutional disrespect of parliament) used to persistently prorogue Parliament so that the executive could continue their activities without interference from an elected body that would not support them. Without Parliament, there is no adequate scrutiny or accountability of the executive & it tends to increase executive power (cos they argue things need to be done & MPs aren’t around to consult). One only has the right to govern as an executive if one can command a majority for confidence motions in the house – this decision by the GG is shocking and frankly puts paid to the notion that anything remotely equivalent to an independent role is being played. I would watch VERY carefully to see the sort of unpublicized executive decisions which emerge in the meantime.
    Further, are MPs getting paid during the interim? If so (and it seems likely), then I think that’s a scandal – way to waste public money on giving yourself a really long holiday while everyone else is in fear of losing their jobs.

  16. Do you think you would feel the same way if a right-wing coalition was trying to replace a Liberal minority government?

  17. Largely, I think, yes – this is a basic constitutional issue & it utterly shames the GG. However, I am naturally more suspicious about anti-democratic moves when they come from elitist parties who are beholden to major corporate interests.
    Regardless of my personal opinions about monarchs, the Queen’s advisors have always provided analytical & stringently non-partisan advice for such disputes in the UK. Had it happened there I feel almost certain that they would have refused to prorogue (in fact, I don’t think anyone would even have seriously suggested it), the minority government would have fallen & the leader of the second largest party would have been invited to form a government. Indeed, that is the advice that has been provided in the past (in anticipation of a close results in 1992) were a Conservative minority government to lose a confidence vote.

  18. It seems the Guardian correspondent shares my opinion:

    “The governor general’s decision may or may not have been cowardly, but it was certainly a poor one – one that disrespects parliamentary democracy, disregards the will of a majority of MPs, and puts government on hold at this time of economic and financial crisis. Either Jean should have dissolved Parliament and called an election, or she should have given the coalition the opportunity to govern. Instead, in granting Harper’s request, she has given the Conservatives exactly what they want, including a decisive advantage in the campaign to come. Basically, she has saved Harper’s sorry bacon, evidently putting his interests before the interests of the country.
    It is a sad, sad day for Canada.”

  19. What are the odds of the coalition holding together until the January 27th budget?

  20. Tories put on probation; coalition declared dead
    To Layton’s chagrin, Ignatieff says he is prepared to ‘swallow hard’ and support budget so long as Harper releases regular economic status reports


    Globe and Mail Update

    January 28, 2009 at 12:49 PM EST

    OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party is prepared to “swallow hard” and support the Conservative government, provided they agree to table regular updates outlining how they are living up to their commitments outlined in the federal budget.

  21. Coalition would have deeply divided Canadians: Ignatieff


    The Canadian Press

    May 10, 2009 at 7:14 PM EDT

    MONTREAL — If the proposed coalition of opposition parties had come to power last year it would have deeply and enduringly divided Canadians, says Michael Ignatieff.

    In Montreal on Sunday to promote his most recent book, the federal Liberal Leader also said the coalition came at a time when the party’s right to govern would have been called into question after one of the worst election results in its history.

    The party lost 19 seats and captured just 26 per cent of the vote in last October’s federal election.

    “I’m in politics to unify people, not to divide them,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

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