The possibility of a coalition government feels vaguely familiar
On May 2, for the fourth time in just over a decade, Canadians will once again have the opportunity to cast their ballot in a federal election.
On March 21, a report done by a committee of Members of Parliament found that the Conservative government was in contempt of parliament. The report cited the government’s failure to produce all requested documents or provide a satisfactory explanation for withholding them and concluded that the Conservative government’s actions impeded the ability of MPs to carry out their duties, and were therefore in contempt of Parliament.
On March 25, the Conservative Party’s government was defeated in a confidence vote. The motion, which was tabled by the Liberals and supported by the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party, was carried with 156 MPs in favour of the motion and 145 against. The following day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Governor General David Johnston’s residence to officially dissolve Canada’s 40th Parliament.
Stephen Harper has insisted for weeks that – with Canada’s economy still recovering and with a number of new conflicts potentially arising around the globe – a Canadian federal election is not a priority for most Canadians. Yet, on Saturday, March 26, Harper told journalists that Canada must elect a majority Conservative government or risk instability.
Additionally, a day later, at a rally in Brampton, Ont., with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Harper and Kenney repeated that Canada needs a strong, stable Conservative government and warned against the coalition they swear the Liberals, the Bloc Quebecois, and the New Democrat Party intend to form.
“Unless Stephen Harper is re-elected with a strengthened majority mandate, the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois will re-form their coalition. They did it before, they’ll do it again, and make no mistake – we will all pay the price,” Kenney said. “Never before has the choice been so clear.”
Interestingly enough, as many political pundits have recently brought up, in 2004, then-Leader of the Opposition Harper signed a letter – along with Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP Leader Jack Layton – to then-Governor General Adrienne Clarkson asking her to consider all options and to consult the opposition parties if then-Prime Minister Paul Martin asked her to dissolve Parliament.
Not surprisingly, at his rally in Brampton last Sunday, Harper denied the notion that he aspired to form a coalition government in 2004.
“I wasn’t trying to bring the Martin government down. I wasn’t even tabling a confidence motion [in 2004],” the Prime Minister said. “When we tabled a confidence motion, it was for one purpose, we did it in 2005, and that was to defeat the government so we could go to an election and get our own mandate.”
Layton, the leader of the New Democrat Party, refuted Harper’s claims at a campaign event in Surrey, British Columbia last weekend.
“What Mr. Harper was intending to do – it is absolutely crystal clear to me – was to attempt to become prime minister even though he had not received the most seats in the House. And that letter was designed to illustrate that such an option is legitimate in Canadian constitutional traditions,” Layton said. “And there was no question about it; I was in the meetings where this was discussed.”
On March 26, in response to Harper deeming a potential coalition government as both unstable and “reckless”, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff addressed those concerns to reporters; saying that the Liberals had no intention of forming a coalition government.
“This is about a Liberal government and not a coalition government. This is an election about democracy. I feel I owe it to the Canadian people to be perfectly clear so they know what they are doing when they vote for the Liberal Party.”
Although the intentions of any of the nation’s political parties are at this point unknown, it is now clear that Canadians will, on May 2, have the opportunity to take to the polls and cast their ballots in a federal election.