Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coalition comments came too late to be a mistake

From Rex Murphy:

And so the reopening of this coalition business may have been a deliberate flash of post-election strategy: a needful airing before he puts in play a gambit that some might believe he’d completely ruled out. I read his wandering into this territory as a signal that Mr. Ignatieff is casting about for some strategy that might still see him as — at a great long-shot — Prime Minister.

That may be the Liberals’ thinking. What the public may have picked up from these last few days, however, is something different. They may have sensed the weakness behind the shift, have sensed that the Liberals are beginning to look very worried. And with the NDP — the NDP! — leading even the Bloc in Quebec, where, oh where, is the silver lining for Liberals in any of this?

Hence the return to the talk of combinations and coalitions and agreements and trips to the Governor-General. These are the musings and imaginings of a man and a party looking for some path past the grim anticipation of a bad showing.

I finally figured out what doesn't sit right with me about a Coalition taking power in that way.  And make no mistake, it is TAKING power. That power is not being granted by the electorate until the question is specifically put to the electorate.

Canadians understand the difference between "legal" and "legitimate".  God knows we've heard enough pointy headed professors on the subject of the former, without necessarily commenting on the latter.  Fair comment - those professors believe that legal and legitimate are the same thing.  The unfortunate thing for the Coalition of Sore Socialist Losers is that the Canadian electorate doesn't necessarily think that way, and herein lies their problem.

While all 4 parties of that side of the spectrum have spent this election attempting to pummel Mr. Harper with his authoritarian tendencies, and again there may be some fair comment on that.  Mr. Harper DOES seem to centralize as much power as his predecessors in the Prime Minister's Office, and he does seem to rule his caucus with an iron fist.  The reason for each is evidenced by the type of government he presides over - in a minority situation, ANY slip up can be fatal.  ANY caucus member getting a swelled head or shooting their mouth off could potentially be fatal to a minority government - especially a minority Conservative one.  Mr. Harper has no doubt studied the defeats of Mssrs. Clark, Mulroney and Diefenbaker, and has forged a strategy which relies on keeping his caucus under control and relatively mistake free.

The problem with authoritarianism, is that it isn't just Mr. Harper who has exhibited those qualities.  Before I continue, it would be useful to define authoritarianism (per wikipedia):

Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is opposed to individualism and democracy. In politics, an authoritarian government is one in which political power is concentrated in a leader or leaders, typically unelected by the people, who possess exclusive, unaccountable, and arbitrary power. Authoritarianism differs from totalitarianism in that social and economic institutions exist that are not under the government's control.
Emphasis mine.  It has been no secret over the past decade or so that the Canadian people prefer open and accountable government.  They don't like backroom deals, and they want a say in what happens.  To that end, the Conservative Party took a queue from the Reform and Canadian Alliance parties in that it elects its leaders through a direct democracy.  One member, one vote.  The NDP, also to their credit, elects their leader by the same method.  The Liberal party, generally has elected its leader through backroom deals and the so-called "kingmaker" method - that is failed leadership candidates negotiate the delivery of their delegates to other candidates in order to crown an eventual successor.

By the same method, the Liberal party attempted to crown a Prime Minister, and the effects of that attempted coronation are being felt to this day.  As I said before, Canadians don't like backroom deals.  They want their say in anything that goes on.  As a result, while it is technically LEGAL that a coalition of opposition parties can band together and seize power, Canadians viewed that tactic of using a backroom deal to gain power as illegitimate.  They viewed it as authoritarian.  And even though the opposition leaders don't think that most Canadians know what that word means, they sure know it when they see it.

If the Coalition partners truly wanted to lend legitimacy to their endeavour, they would put it to a referendum question or fight an election as a single unit with a single platform.  Until they do so, they need to remember that even 1/3 of their own supporters don't explicitly support such a path to power. 

1 comment:

  1. Democracy is an experiment, and the right of the majority to rule is no more inherent than the right of the minority to rule; and unless the majority represents sane, righteous, unselfish public sentiment, it has no inherent right. ~William Allen White