Should the liberals try to form a minority gov?

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.

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8 thoughts on “Should the liberals try to form a minority gov?

  1. Frankly these are all petty reason.

    “Charest is arguing that he must have a majority in tough economic times.” I don’t think this argument will go any further then it did for the federal Conservatives.

    For the good of the country the Liberals should act. For party whose reason d’etre is to take party, they should have too much trouble making the necessary compromises.

  2. I do not think we fundamentally disagree it just that I think petty often drives politics. But I would ask you this: What is the fundamental difference between the Cons and the Liberals? Is it really on economic policy? My answer would be that economic policy is where there is the least difference except that Dion wanted to smuggle in a flat tax under the guise of a carbon tax and oddly the Cons were against it. So just what is that we hope a liberal minority would do different that a Con minority?

  3. I suspect people (mainly small-l liberals) are remembering the socially progressive side of the Liberal Party, comparing it to the social policies and ideology of the Conservatives and, quite rightly, finding it wanting (ie the Conservatives are not enacting social legislation “for the good of the country” but “selfishly” “for ideological reasons”; interesting how liberalism sees itself as normal, no?). They tend to ignore or elide the economic aspects of liberalism.

  4. I think a willingness to deal with climate change is a big enough difference to justify supporting the Liberal over the Conservatives.

    I admit the difference between a Conservative majority and a Liberal majority may not be big, but we a talking about the difference between a unchallenged Conservative minority and a Liberal minority needing NDP and Bloc support. The NDP was able to influence the Liberals positively before. They could do it again.

  5. For all that it’d be nice to see the Bloc do something against the Tories, I’d be surprised if they did: what, seriously, do they care if English Canada’s parliament gets uglier as it moves rightward? It’s one more reason for seperation.

  6. Not to mention the fact that the Bloc (sovereigntists) represents a huge ideological cross section with nationalism being the only common denominator. Ever wonder why Duceppe pledged zero deficits during the election? It was direct pandering to the republican (in the non-American sense of the word) wing of the nationalist camp which is a large chunk of the nationalist base.

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