Why Ignatieff Doesn't Want to Lead a Coalition Government

Ah, the classic decision dodge: strike up a panel. Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave Liberal Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff a get-out-of-jail free card. Harper looks progressive, in agreeing to study Employment Insurance (EI) reform; Ignatieff gets to look like an action man. And neither has to call an election in the summer and piss off the entire nation. Oh brother. Such courage.

In all of this election talk, there is one thing missing: the possibility of a coalition. A coalition would force Ignatieff to work with the NDP, like he or Harper don't already when it suits them, but it would make him the Prime Minister, the one job he covets. He could then make those EI reforms, do something about isotopes, bring down that deficit rising like yeast out of control. Real action. But for some reason he's anti. Rather puzzling.

It could be he saw what happened in Ontario and fears it'll happen on the national level. Basically, the Liberals rose to power by forming a coalition government with the NDP. Real action happened. It was exciting times. The Liberals got heady on hegemony after 40 years of being in the political wilderness and called an election. But us Ontarians were fed up with the fat-cats holding majority governments, and we saw the Liberals weren't all that clean (or bright). As well, it may have been all Tory in Ontario for 40 years, but we had seen what Liberals did nationally and could extrapolate to the provincial level. Most importantly though, the coalition showed us that the NDP weren't opposition flakes after all; they had forced the Liberals to govern. The NDP won.

That could happen nationally, with one bonus: NDP Leader Jack Layton will have learnt from Bob Rae's mistake and be prepared to govern with prudence and with all Canadians in mind. The worst thing for Ignatieff is for the country to see that there really is a third choice, that we really aren't stuck with alternating Liberal and Conservative governments in perpetuity, that we do have power at the ballot box. And so Ignatieff talks tough, Harper strikes a panel, and Canadians remain leaderless and ungoverned.