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Can the Conservatives be defeated by a coaltion of parties? Doubt it.

This Magazine Staff

Judy Rebick’s piece in today’s Globe and Mail raises the troubling possibility that this election will not be democratic. For it to be democratic, the thoughts and feelings of Canadians would have to be represented by their government. “More than two-thirds of Canadians”, Rebick says, support “strong action on climate change; government intervention to create jobs and defend ordinary Canadians against the impact of the global economic crisis; an end to the war in Afghanistan; public support for the arts; implementation of at least the Kelowna Accord to raise the standard of living for aboriginal people; and a national child-care program that includes the creation of thousands of new child-care spaces.” And still, the Conservatives may just eke out a win, even a majority. How representative would that be?
Her suggestion is that the Liberal Party, the NDP, the Green Party, and the Bloc Quebecois establish an alliance in the event of a Conservative minority government. As a majority-of-minorities they can overwhelm the Conservatives with their concerted effort to push progressive policies.
I like the sentiment behind this proposed tactic: it would be nice to see our representatives cast differences aside for the greater good. But things might not work out as smoothly as Rebick hopes. She describes the events unfolding like this: “With such agreement, they can defeat the government and go to the Governor-General with an offer to form a new government. They don’t have to agree on everything, and they don’t need to form a full coalition government. They just have to agree on some key points, and whoever has the most seats can form the government with a written promise to bring in the policies agreed on.”

Well and good. But I can’t help but think this is a little idealistic. This sounds a lot like the power-sharing of proportional representation and we’ve seen how that’s worked in other countries. In Italy, for example, the Prime Minister’s office has been occupied 37 times, sometimes by the same man, like the the current PM, Silvio Berlusconi, who is serving his third and inconsecutive term. It’s the constant coaltion-building and power-sharing that causes all this instability. Alliances of parties that are still, let’s not forget, in competition with one another are inherently unstable. The various parties in Italy simply realized they have as good a reason to dissent from even the most noble coaltion as they do to cooperate.
Canadian political parties are not above all that, in my opinion.

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