Let's try another C word

'The price for NDP support was quite modest compared to the cost of an unnecessary election.'

By Alex Binkley
True North Perspective

The first weekend of the May 2 election campaign was dominated by a lot of vacuous talk about a coalition of opposition parties that would unseat a Conservative minority government.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to use the bogus threat of a coalition to appeal for a majority. At the same time, he tried to wiggle out of his role in discussions about a 2004 pact with the other opposition parties to replace the minority Martin government even as former aide Tom Flanagan undermined his claims.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff tried to squelch the palaver in the news media by denying he was interested in forming a coalition with the NDP and BQ. What he should have done is gone on to say that if he won a minority, he would work cooperatively with the other parties to get legislation through Parliament.

That's the tack that NDP Leader Jack Layton came up with in a scrum with reporters in B.C. in what was the most sensible contribution to the debate. Once he got past the unlikely scenario of the NDP forming a majority government, he said, "If it turns out to be a minority situation, well, then I will work with other parties and members of Parliament that are interested in building a stronger Canada. And there are many ways that could happen. It could happen on a case-by-case basis. It could happen on the basis of various formal arrangements."

Voters would benefit the most if the party leaders could be drawn into a discussion on how to make minority Parliament work as that's by the far the most likely outcome of May 2. Hopefully, no one thinks the last five years of dysfunctional Parliament is the way to go.

The leaders should be talking about working cooperatively or developing a consensus among the four and possibly even five parties, which, after all, are a reflection of Canadian society. That has to better than the governing party using threats and coercion and copious amounts of spending to get its way.

Occasionally, the Harper government showed it could listen and respond to the opposition but the May 22 budget demonstrated its lack of interest in actually working with the opposition. The price for NDP support was quite modest compared to the cost of an unnecessary election.

Many Canadians complain Parliament seems irrelevant. That's because MPs are so tightly controlled and scripted. Making cooperation and consensus important would start to correct that.


So true, Alex. Harper backed Ignatieff into a corner, and the latter should have refused to bend. He should have done what Jack Layton did and said that of course he would work cooperatively with several other parties. How else can anyone get anything done?


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