Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On Coalition Government and Legitimacy

Since the HarperCon$ have been running about trying to claim that a Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition is somehow "undemocratic", it's worth spending a few minutes to debunk those talking points.

(1) In the October election, Canadians returned a minority government. The Con$ervatives won 143 seats, with the remaining 165 seats split between the Liberals, NDP and BQ.

(2) Based on voter turnout, and popular vote percentages, the Conservatives aren't exactly in a place to assert that they got more than a plurality of seats - sort of.

Conservative Popular Vote: 37.7%
Voter Turnout: 59.1%

So...37.7% of 59.1% is 22.3% of Canada's eligible voters actually voted for the Conservatives.

Comparatively speaking, 54.4% of those who voted marked their ballots for one of the Liberals, Bloc or NDP. Which means that 32.2% of Canada's eligible voters voted for the parties now threatening to form a coalition.

Let's be clear about this - Canadians did not grant the Con$ervatives a majority of the seats in the house, nor would anyone be able to claim that this is a ringing endorsement of Stephen Harper as a leader, either.

(3) We don't elect our Prime Minister. He is just the leader of the party that is able to control the most seats in the house.

(4) In a minority parliament, the governing party is always obliged to get at least some of its support from among the opposition members, especially anything that is a confidence vote. (money votes are always confidence votes)

(5) So, the difference between Harper's minority and a Liberal/Bloc/NDP coalition is merely that there is an agreement between party leaders to collaborate. Harper has made it clear that he's quite unwilling to collaborate with anyone - including his own party.

Is a coalition "undemocratic"? Not really. It's actually the first sign in a long time of the parties in the House of Commons actually trying to make it work at all. Canadians need to remember that we sent back a rather 'checkered' parliament this last election, and we told them to find a way to make it work. That doesn't mean it has to work with Harper sitting in the PMO.

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