In America, elections have consequences. In Canada … not so much. Despite losing the last national elections to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the other three parties have agreed on a ruling coalition that will wrest control of Canadian government from the party with a plurality of seats for the first time in its history. Canadian voters who thought they’d endorsed Harper may discover that they’ve gotten a bait-and-switch:
The Liberals and New Democrats signed an agreement on Monday to form an unprecedented coalition government, with a written pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois, if they are successful in ousting the minority Conservative government in a coming confidence vote.
The accord between parties led by Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe came just hours after Liberal caucus members agreed unanimously that Dion would stay on to lead the Liberal-NDP coalition, with support in the House of Commons from Bloc MPs.
The six-point accord includes a description of the role of the Liberal and NDP caucuses, which would meet separately and sit next to each other on the government benches in the House of Commons, Dion told a news conference alongside Layton and Duceppe.
Dion said he has advised Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean in a letter that he has the confidence of the Commons to form the government should Stephen Harper’s Conservatives be defeated in a confidence vote.
Well, the one thing you can say about parliamentary systems is that they’re never dull. Normally a no-confidence vote would result in another election. However, the Conservatives didn’t get a majority, and that leaves them vulnerable for this kind of attack. In a parliamentary system, this is perfectly legal.
However, it’s a little mystifying. Not only will the three parties combine to give Canadian voters what they clearly didn’t want, they’re going to yank control from Harper just when the economy is tanking. A wiser opposition would allow Harper to stumble for a while, then call a national election and take the issue to the voters. Instead, the opposition wants to take charge now — and potentially all of the blame for what follows. In fact, they’ll also take the blame for taking control of the government and throwing its economic plans into turmoil.
Small wonder these guys lose elections. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Harper smiling at being taken off the hook in such a manner, and at the prospects of voter backlash when it falls apart.
Update: A Canadian ex-pat, Alex B, tells me that this is the second time in Canadian history that this has happened, assuming they can pull this off. In 1925, the Liberals and Progressives took control over the plurality of Conservatives in Parliament. Mackenzie King governed as Prime Minister for that coalition.