The rules of parliamentary government are pretty clear. The house can be controlled by any party that is capable of getting the majority support of the house and not simply the party that has the most seats. So it is more than a passing curiosity why the liberals have not publicly talked about forming the government. Given there are not any legal barriers to this possibility it begs for some speculation on the political barriers. I can think of three reasons.
The first was raised by Darwin O’Connor over at the the PEF blog: the liberals are leaderless.
[The Liberals] have the power to take over the government. I expect the other opposition parties would cooperate. They just have to sort themselves out and place the good of Canada ahead of their petty leadership problems.
To which I responded that there was also significant acrimony between the three parties on the center left. The Bloc and the liberals are almost mortal enemies and the relationship between the NDP and the Liberals is almost as bad. Liberals love to argue that the NDP is incapable of leadership at the federal level. So it is not in their interest to form a coalition with the NDP in which the NDP would have to be given some key Cabinet posts.
The recent dropping of the provincial writ in Quebec adds a further wrinkle. The Charest is arguing that he must have a majority in tough economic times. If the federal liberals were to publicly inquire about the possibility of a grand center left coalition at the federal level they would be explicitly undercutting federalist forces inside Quebec. For it would be hard to argue that a minority / coalition government was fine for the federal government but not good enough for Quebec.
Thus given the bad political blood between the three parties, a leaderless liberal party, and the election in Quebec I think it is safe to say that even the possibility of grand center left coalition will have to wait until after the Quebec election and after the Liberal leadership convention in may 2009. So for the next 7 months it is a basically a conservative majority.
But even then there is all that bad blood.