What is This Liberal-NDP Coalition Really About?

Television and radio are great for relaying the highlights of a breaking story, but newspapers are where one finds the juicy details. I've calmed down from the excitement of yesterday's news about a Liberal-NDP coalition to govern Canada and am ready to learn about what this means for the economy and for the Bloc Québécois.

The Toronto Star has several stories on the coalition and a summary of the deal.

The Coalition

The coalition is actually between the Liberal party and the NDP party only.
As the leader of the larger party and the Official Opposition, Stéphane Dion will lead the coalition and become Prime Minister. The Liberals will have sole say on who becomes Finance Minister, but the NDP will have six members in cabinet, while the Liberals will have eighteen. If the coalition decides to increase the size of the cabinet, the proportion between NDP and Liberal will remain the same. The deal ends in July 2011. This time frame is similar to the coalition between Bob Rae and David Peterson in the 1980s in Ontario when the Conservatives lost their minority government hold on Queen's Park to that Liberal-NDP coalition. Conservatives really suck at running minorities, don't they?

The Bloc Québécois' Real Role

The BQ will hold no cabinet seats; in fact their only role is to guarantee backing of confidence motions until July 2010. The coalition did not agree to recognize
Québec as a nation, and that is why the BQ is not part of the coalition and agreed only to support it for eighteen months.

Their role is actually no different than usual, or even during times when Stephen Harper, as leader of the Conservatives, asked for their support in Parliamentary votes against the Liberals, except that they have changed their maybe to a guarantee. Frankly, I don't understand how this aids the separatist agenda beyond what Harper as Prime Minister has already done. And as much as people say the BQ holds the balance of power, without the NDP, there would be no coalition. Without the Liberal leadership contenders coming onside, there would be no coalition. Without Harper screwing up royally, there would be no credible reason for a coalition. Every MP voted into that House theoretically has an equal say in how it runs, including those belonging to the BQ. Power is wielded when a bunch of MPs work together. Usually, it's as members of one party; with minority governments, it's as members of two parties and often the BQ has sided with Harper's Conservatives or the Liberals; in this case, it's as members of two, with a third saying they won't rock the boat for 18 months.

Some people have averred that the BQ are only making this guarantee because they'll get pots of moolah for
Québec. Well, hate to break it to you folks, but Québec has been getting pots of moolah and increasing powers for decades under successive governments. They've just been real quiet about it, and the English media have been mostly mum on this issue too. I love too how talk radio suddenly exploded into self-righteous wrath these past few days over the BQ receiving funding from us the taxpayers, yet it's been going on for five years ever since Prime Minister Jean Chrétien changed the party funding rules in order to reduce the influence of corporations and organized labour on party policy -- and to screw the Liberal Party for backstabbing him. And in all that time, CFRB or the MSM have not been drumming the pulpit about this so-called egregious situation. If it really was that bad and that harmful to our country, then they ought to have been bringing up this topic regularly. So enough of that red herring.


The Conservatives traditionally criticize profligate Liberal spending while racking up great deficits when they're in power, yet only the
Chrétien government turned the deficit into a surplus. True to form Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as a Conservative, has quickly slayed the surplus by racking up spending and reducing taxes. Given the current economic climate and the massive loss of good-paying jobs -- which means a sharp downturn in revenues from lost income taxes, one assumes -- few believe Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's rosy picture of barely there surpluses.

Still, the coalition priming us for four years of deficits does not impress me much. Governments have a habit of becoming addicted to deficits, and so their promise of returning to surpluses in four years makes me wonder how they will do that, and if the provinces and Toronto will once again be downloaded upon as a crutch to making that happen.

Economic Stimulus

Harper poo-poohed Dion's economic plan during the election and promptly adopted it for the most part upon regaining power. He started talking about what he would do for Canada, including spending on infrastructure, something that is badly needed across this country anyway, not just for its employment stimulus. We were hopeful that, FINALLY, Harper got it. Ha! I don't think I was alone in being shocked that nary a word on infrastructure spending passed Flaherty's lips last week.

During the election, Harper had particularly ridiculed Dion's plan to strike an advisory committee to come up with a plan in 30 days to stimulate the economy. Barack Obama just did that, and I guess Harper finally decided it was a good idea -- last night. But instead of announcing a panel, they have just one name, as if one person can assess and solve this huge problem. But that's what happens when you're a johnny come lately and react instead of act.

Meanwhile, the coalition, in four days no less, is putting together an advisory panel of more than one man. They're asking former Finance Minister Paul Martin and the highly respected Frank McKenna. Hopefully, they'll see fit to include the other 52% of the population in their panel.

As for what they'll spend on, the coalition will put money towards infrastructure and urban reconstruction. Eighty percent of us live in urban areas, so this will affect us big time for the better. They will also aid the decades-long- and sorely-neglected forestry sector, the auto sector, and manufacturers. My one concern is that the British model of supporting the auto sector doesn't bode well for the effectiveness of straight subsidies and that we have a burgeoning all-Canadian auto manufacturer who is not receiving the same support. I'd like to see more creativity and thought put into this part, but Harper has violined away the last 6 weeks, and the coalition is on amphetamine speed. We'll discover the details of the whole package in the next few weeks.

Economic Policy

There are a bunch of reforms included here, all in aid of getting the unemployed back to work and the retired to hold onto what's left of their depleted stock assets.

Arts and Green

They will reverse those hated Harper arts cuts (the west will not be happy), and they will pursue a North American cap-and-trade program on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (again, not a happy west, which puzzles me as Alberta is ahead of others in wind farms). I believe Harper had already made mewling noises on this towards Obama once he saw where the winds were blowing. I think I would have preferred the carbon tax as a more effective method of reducing emissions, but whatever. At least, we just may get some serious action on this pressing issue.

And so there you have it, Bob Rae has done it again. This man likes to topple Conservative governments, first with Joe Clark in 1979, then with Frank Miller in Ontario in 1985, and now with Stephen Harper, as he was the first leadership contender to jump publicly behind Dion,
ensuring the coalition would go through while showing up Michael Ignatieff as a chump. Nothing like hitting two rival birds with one shot.


Mark Dowling said…
"We will have influence in coalition, Greens say
from The Globe and Mail by BILL CURRY
May throws support behind Liberal-NDP deal, confirms she's had discussions with Dion about possible Senate appointment"

Well done Stephane Dion. Obviously he had second thoughts and needed to find a way to blow up the deal without actually backing out himself. This should do it nicely.

However, that brings up another issue - will Harper appoint a swathe of Tories to the many vacant Senate seats to deny them to Dion?
Man, I cannot keep up with the moment-to-moment changes and chess moves! I bet cpac has never had so many viewers in their entire history, and newspapers must be having a bonanza in sales.
Anonymous said…
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