Saturday, September 26, 2009

More on the AR Poll

Aside from giving the NDP three more points, this Angus-Reid poll is a virtual mirror of the EKOS poll released on Thursday. However, it also isn't much different from an Angus-Reid poll taken between September 11 and September 13. That poll had the Conservatives at 36%, the Liberals at 29%, and the NDP at 17%.

Regionally, there are a few interesting spots. British Columbia isn't one of them, as the results are within what we've seen lately. The Conservatives lead at 37%, which is weak for them, with the Liberals (26%) and NDP (23%) behind. The Greens posted 14%, a good result.

Alberta has the Liberals and NDP at strong 18% and 17% results, respectively. The Tories lead with 61%. The Prairies is another one within the norm, with the Conservatives at 47%, the Liberals at 22%, and the NDP at 18%.

Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada are of interest, however. In Ontario, the Conservatives have an amazing 14-point lead. They're at 44%, with the Liberals at 30%. This puts the Tories two points higher than the EKOS poll, not out of the ordinary, but the Liberals five points lower. The NDP are at 15% and the Greens 10%.

In Quebec, the Bloc leads with 35%, slightly down. The Liberals are at 26%, also slightly down. The Conservatives had 21%, one of their highest results since the election - and it actually matches their 2008 election result. The NDP are relatively strong as well at 12%.

In Atlantic Canada, the small sample size yielded a 57% result for the Liberals. The Tories are at 22% and the NDP at 21%, which isn't exactly out of the ordinary. The 1% result for the Greens, however, is. The Liberals are clearly ahead in Atlantic Canada, though, so we can just leave it at that.

This poll would result in the following seat totals:

Conservatives - 147
Liberals - 89
Bloc Quebecois - 47
New Democrats - 25

Suffice to say, 37% in British Columbia, 21% in Quebec, and 22% in Atlantic Canada is not enough to give the Tories a majority - but they're close.

The poll also had leadership questions. On who would make the best Prime Minister, Stephen Harper led with 27%, followed by Michael Ignatieff at 16% and Jack Layton at 12%. "None of these" got 22%. This pushes Harper's "Best PM" number on this site down one to 30%. Ignatieff is down three to 19% and Layton down one to 12%.

Harper got his best number in Alberta (38%) and his worst in Quebec (16%). Ignatieff's best came in Atlantic Canada (34%) and his worst in the Prairies (10%). Layton's best was 17% in British Columbia and Quebec, his worst was in Ontario (8%).

On the economy, Harper was considered best to manage it with 33%. Ignatieff was second with 23% and Layton third with 9%. Gilles Duceppe got 6%.

On the environment, Layton got 27% and Harper and Ignatieff got 16%. On health care, it was Harper at 23%, Layton at 22%, and Ignatieff at 16%. On crime, Harper was well ahead at 38% to Ignatieff's 12% and Layton's 10%.

Ignatieff, however, gets top marks for foreign affairs. This is perhaps a result of his advertisements talking about India and China and his recent foreign policy speech. He received 30% on this issue, compared to Harper at 28% and Layton at 6%.

So, all in all, nothing to make the Liberals want to go to the polls. But election campaigns can change everything, as we saw in 2005-2006.

41 comments:

  1. I don't even know how to begin analyzing the implications of an election in which BOTH Harper and Ignatieff "win".

    Depending on the spin and the fall out coming up short of a majority could be very bad for Harper, even if he's expanded his minority.

    Only gaining a handfull of seats in a "dead cat bounce" fashion could really damage Ignatieff as well, perhaps costing him the leadership.

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  2. The Liberals are going to have to pick and stick with a leader eventually. Ignatieff seems as good as any other, there's no one waiting in the wings who is assured to do any better.

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  3. Why will it be bad if we don't get a majority government. All the experts say it is impossible for either the libs or PMSH to get one.
    As long as the ndp/libs don't get more seats than us, and will need the Bloc for a coalition, things will be great.

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  4. I'm not so sure about that. What if we had an election and had the EXACT same results as the last election and Harper presented a Throne Speech and it was voted down instantly. What if Ignatieff then tries to form a government with the NDP and he gets "passive" support from the BQ (just like Harper did last week). What then?

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  5. What DL is saying is what i'm worried about maryT. I feel like its majority or bust, unless Harper can somehow hang on until those expanded suburban seats are added to BC, Alberta, and Ontario in a few years.

    There's a lot of debate about what might happen around a take over. First off would the Bloc and NDP even be willing to give passive support ?

    NDP would definetly want cabinet seats.

    Its questionable whether the GG would accept a government without some kind of memo of support from the Bloc. Passive support from the Bloc might not be viewed as stable enough.

    So I think without a doubt you'd have some kind of formal coalition agreement between the three opposition parties, happening after an election in which Ignatieff will lie through his teeth in denying that he wants to form a coalition.

    Either that or the Bloc deliberately denies support to the Libs and forces another election to prove some kind of point about how Canadian federalism is dysfunctional and Quebec should seperate.

    I'm guessing you'd see every Conservative MP resign their seat in protest if an opposition government was set up to force an election or you might see Harper going directly to the Queen to over rule the GG.

    No matter how it shakes out, anything less than a majority for Stephen Harper could mean lasting damage to this country.

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  6. Let's not be dramatic.

    First of all, I have a lot of difficulty seeing the Liberals signing another agreement with the NDP that included the Bloc. That is why I think it is virtually impossible that we'll see a coalition unless the NDP and Liberals hold more seats than the Conservatives. And I really only see it possible if the NDP and the Liberals hold an outright majority.

    Secondly, the Bloc is not so cynical as to force an election to make a "point about how Canadian federalism is dysfunctional and Quebec should seperate". Above all else, the provincial Liberals are in power and will be until 2013, so there is no possibility of a referendum call until 2014 at the very, very earliest. And Gilles Duceppe is smart enough to know that if he did something like this, he would lose credibility as the only party looking out for Quebec's interests. The Bloc would be hit hard in the polls. Quebecers elect Bloc MPs because they are good MPs. This sort of move would be absolutely idiotic, and Duceppe is smarter than that.

    Thirdly, the Conservative Party wouldn't resign en masse. If such a move was even suggested, you'd likely see a large part of the Conservative caucus break-off to stay in Parliament. Let's not forget the ridiculous suggestion that MPs are looking out for their pensions first and foremost.

    Fourthly, it is the realm of science fiction to imagine Harper being rebuffed by the GG and then going straight to the Queen. That would not be seen as legitimate to Canadians, and is probably not even legal. And if you think Queen Elizabeth would get involved in such a mess, you're dreaming.

    Fifthly, Harper is very unlikely to get a majority and it is very unlikely that getting a minority will cause lasting damage to the country - unless, of course, those with ulterior motives turn this into something it isn't.

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  7. Eric, do you not remember the Liberals promise to do away with the GST? Do you not remember Dion ridiculing the notion of an NDP coalition - "Mr. Layton already has his coalition, I understand. He has a coalition with the nudist party, a coalition with the marijuana party."

    Nothing is impossible in politics and promises are meaningless. And Ignatieff strikes me as arrogant to the point that he will take power one way or another, just to have PM of Canada on his resume.

    As for Duceppe, he doesn't have to be obvious about it at all. Simply vote NO on Conservative's throne speech and then NO on Liberal's throne speech. He could suggest a Conservative-Liberal coalition as the solution. No backlash but a point has been made.

    Conservative's resigning en masse, that has already been floated as an idea. Reporters asked Harper about it before he prorogued parliement. Its still an option. There might be a few self serving stragglers who stay behind but they would be blacklisted and kicked out of the party.

    The fourth point about the Queen is actually very possible. Read up on the 1975 constitutional crisis in Australia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Australian_constitutional_crisis

    When the GG used his reserve powers to dismiss the Prime Minister the first thing the PM said was that he was going to call the palace to have the GG fired before he could fire him.

    But the GG had forseen that the Queen could intervene and had already informed her that the PM was fired, without telling the PM ahead of time, which is highly unusual because the GG is supposed to only act on the advice of the PM.

    On the fifth point, I agree that unless new seats are added to parliement (like the current plan to go from 308 to 340) Harper probably will not get a majority.

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  8. Sorry bad link.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_Australian_constitutional_crisis

    Its fascinating reading. Unless or until the Monarchy is abolished in Canada it has very real powers.

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  9. The coaligtion agreement signed is in effect till 2011, so saying they would not sign another one is a non issue. They have never formally cancelled it,so as far as I, and many others are concerned, it is still in play. For a while the members of said coalition are playing musical chairs as to who will vote with PMSH, to try and get the coalition out of the news.
    Will there be a motion of no confidence next week, and are the members of the coalition hoping the GG will give them a chance. It will backfire big time on all of them except the Bloc.
    What will be the result if Cauchon loses again, like he did to Brian years ago. Will he go back to being a butler.

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  10. Jesse,

    I'm not banking my view on promises - they're virtually meaningless - but on my own analysis of the situation. It is clear that Ignatieff was not in favour of the coalition agreement with the NDP, but he signed it (last) for party solidarity.

    Based on my observation of Ignatieff's behaviour since January, I do not believe he will enter into a coalition with the NDP unless they have a majority together. Anything else would be very, very risky and if Ignatieff has just lost an election he will not be very likely to take on a huge risk like that.

    --- "Ignatieff strikes me as arrogant to the point that he will take power one way or another, just to have PM of Canada on his resume."

    I seriously doubt that the Liberal Party will allow their leader to do such a thing for the sake of his ego.

    --- "As for Duceppe, he doesn't have to be obvious about it at all. Simply vote NO on Conservative's throne speech and then NO on Liberal's throne speech. He could suggest a Conservative-Liberal coalition as the solution. No backlash but a point has been made."

    Duceppe would not put the Bloc at risk for such a potentially useless move. In such a case, his argument that Canada doesn't work would be easily refuted by pointing out that he was the problem. I'm afraid you're speculating a little too fancifully.

    The resignation of the Conservative caucus would not mean the downfall of the government, especially considering if resigning those MPs formed a minority. Such a tactic would not be appreciated by Canadians (who would just want parliament to function already) and certainly not by the GG, who has already given the Prime Minister a break.

    I'm sorry, but 1975 and Australia is not 2010 and Canada. Jean's decision would be followed, both by the opposition and by the Prime Minister.

    And if Harper threatened to fire the hugely popular Mme. Jean because he did not get his way, Canadians would certainly not look kindly on that.

    I'm sorry, you're way out on a limb. I like that you guys are having debates on my site, and I don't mind the partisan posting, but if you step out of line of the plausible I'm going to step in. There is too much misinformation and sensationalism in Canadian politics.

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  11. MaryT,

    The coalition agreement is a dead letter. Period. It doesn't matter until when it was in effect, it was written by Layton and Dion, and Ignatieff would not want to be tied to it.

    That it was never formally canceled is irrelevant.

    It is extraordinarily obvious that the Liberals are preparing for an election if the government falls next week.

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  12. Eric, politicians everywhere have been doing crazy stunts since the creation of democracy. I'm afraid your view that cooler heads will prevail and that fear of public admonishment will keep parliement working smoothly is just as speculative as our speculation. I appreciate you want to encourage a more informed understanding of our politics and topics like the role of the Bloc Quebecois in Ottawa but none of what's been discussed hasn't been raised elsewhere already, especially during the days of the coalition.

    I followed one of the links to a liberal blog you provided on your site and one of the recent posts seemed to reflect DL's thinking on a coalition. I've heard it elsewhere as well - a certain segment of the Liberal base is hellbent on getting a coalition and getting rid of Harper.

    Now I believe Bob Rae was and is seen as the most supportive of a Liberal-NDP coalition.

    It was Bob Rae who recently got Ignatieff to back down and allow Martin Cauchon to run in Outremont.

    He's certainly a power player in the Liberal party and could easily threaten Ignatieff's leadership.

    I think Ignatieff might face a scenario where he doesn't personally want a coalition (I think he would but following your thinking) but is basically forced into it by the base of his party.

    This is just one of many different scenarios in play that could result in a coalition. Its just too soon to say that the coalition is dead, despite Mr. Ignatieff's protestations.

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  13. "Based on my observation of Ignatieff's behaviour since January, I do not believe he will enter into a coalition with the NDP unless they have a majority together. Anything else would be very, very risky and if Ignatieff has just lost an election he will not be very likely to take on a huge risk like that."

    Risky in what way? If Ignatieff comes in second and fails to narrow the gap with the Tories significantly, the riskiest step he can take is to let Harper stay in power by having the Liberals support his Throne Speech. If that happens then Ignatieff would almost certainly be forced to quit as Liberal leader and all his political ambitions would be dead. Period. Talk about risk.

    If on the other hand, the opposition parties all vote down Harper at the very first opportunity after the election, then he doesn't need to break his promise of "no coalition". A "coalition" (look it up in any dictionary) is when two or more parties jointly govern and share seats at the cabinet table. What if its a Liberal minority government that is "tolerated" by the NDP and BQ in exchange for some policy concessions. Then how is it any different from a Conservative minority government that is propped up by whichever opposition party loses the "chicken game" that week?

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  14. Jesse wrote initially:

    "might see Harper going directly to the Queen to over rule the GG".

    This cannot happen directly. The power to grant or refuse dissolution has been delegated from the Queen to the GG, as her personal representative. The Queen cannot simply "overrule" a decision by the sitting GG.

    As in the 1975 Australian case, the only theoretical option would be for the PM to advise the Queen to remove the sitting GG and appoint a new one.

    While theoretically possible, this is almost impossible to imagine in the circumstances under discussion.

    As unpalatable as it may be to many, this type of opposition take-over of the reins of government is permitted within our Constitutional framework. Whether such is wise is another matter and would be up to the GG.

    But for the Queen to remove the GG under such circumstances would take some sort of mammoth, tangible evidence of incompetence or corruption.

    It simply will not happen.

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  15. DL Wrote
    --If on the other hand, the opposition parties all vote down Harper at the very first opportunity after the election, then he doesn't need to break his promise of "no coalition". A "coalition" (look it up in any dictionary) is when two or more -parties jointly govern and share seats at the cabinet table. What if its a Liberal minority government that is "tolerated" by the NDP and BQ in exchange for some policy concessions. Then how is it any different from a Conservative minority government that is propped up by whichever opposition party loses the "chicken game" that week?

    Right now, the Tories can survive if only one of the three opposition parties vote for them, allowing them to play the grits, Bloc and NDP off against one another (as they've done with more or less success for the past three years). In that scenario, the Grits would need to support of the Bloc and the NDP on every single issue to hold the government. The likelihood of such a government suriving for more than a few months is almost nil, or if it did it would be because the Liberals were selling out their own policies (which in many critical respects differ sharply from those of the NDP and the Bloc. Indeed the polices of the Bloc and the NDP are in critical respects contradictory). Moreover, right now the Tories can survive if only a handful of opposition MP's don't show up for parliament (meaning the opposition parties can let the government survive without voting for them).

    But this had a couple of implications. First, the Liberals may risk their "brand" if they end up caving to the NDP and the Bloc on issues. Caving to the latter does nothing to encourage Quebec voters to vote for the Liberals, and caving to the former will only encourage left-wing Liberal voters to vote for the NDP. Moreover, despite their rhetoric, the Liberals have always effectively governed from the center-right (much as the conservatives are doing now). Shifting to the left to appease the NDP and the Bloc risks alienating center-right Liberals in English Canada and risk losing them to the Tories. It may put the Liberals in office for a few months, but if it comes a the cost of beeing slaughtered in the next election (which election is unlikely to be more than a few months away), it's not worth it. Moreover, the less popular the Liberals become, the more the Bloc and NDP will extract from them for their continued support.

    Second, notwithstanding the constitutional validity of bringing down the government on a confidence motion and appointing a new government with far fewer seats, as a practical matter it would likely cause an uproar amongst the voting public (as the coalition discussion did last December). Apart from the reality that this would cause permanent damage to the Liberals in those provinces where the Tories are heavily represented (i.e., the west, who will go on about alienation), there is a huge risk that the legitimacy of a Liberal governmetn with, say, only 100 seats (more than some recent predictions suggest they'll get) will be questioned. Indeed, as a starting point, there's not guarantee that the GG would even give Iggy a change to form a minority government with that few seats. She probably should, but one could make the argument that without some indication of support from the opposition parties, she should just dissolve parliament again and call another election (certainly that would be the easy way out for her). Again, in that scenario the Liberal party might find itself slaughtered in the next general election.

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  16. Martin says that the Queen removing the GG while theoretically possible "is almost impossible to imagine in the circumstances under discussion."

    I disagree. The GG serves at the pleasure of the Queen. The GG can be removed for ANY reason or no reason at all.

    The GG is not somehow entrenched, there are no standards with which to qualify for removal. The power and the decision is the Monarch's alone.

    In the 1975 case the PM was planning to call the palace and put in a request that the GG be removed. If this request was recieved first then it would take precedence over the GG removing the PM from office.

    Its generally believed that the Queen did NOT approve of the PM's removal from office and believed the GG acted rashly.

    This was after a prolonged constitutional crisis mind you.

    That leads one to believe that a PM has wide latitude to act and is given a long period of time by the current Monarch with which to find a solution to a problem of this nature.

    If anything like this happens again and the PM has reason to not trust our GG I think its very possible he'd ask for her removal or even ask the Queen of Canada to fly here ASAP for an extended visit and make these decisions herself.

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  17. And she would, of course, decline the invitation. The Queen doesn't make any decisions anymore.

    Considering that polls are showing Canadians are more than open to abolishing the monarchy, she would be a fool to do something like this.

    There is zero chance she would want to get involved.

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  18. DL wrote:

    "or even ask the Queen of Canada to fly here ASAP for an extended visit and make these decisions herself"

    Incorrect. Those powers have been delegated; the Queen cannot substitute herself as the decision maker at will. To do so would require revoking the Letters Patent of 1947.

    "The GG is not somehow entrenched, there are no standards with which to qualify for removal. The power and the decision is the Monarch's alone."

    That is technically true. However, it would be unusual in the extreme for a GG (in her role as Constitutional referee) to be removed for arbitrary, politicized reasons. Barring an exceptional circumstance that led to a public outcry against the GG, it is really impossible to see the Queen agreeing to such a request from the PM. Indeed, it's impossible to imagine Mr. Harper even making such a request.

    Also, consider the timing problems involved.

    If the government is defeated, the PM can visit the GG to ask for a dissolution. If she declines and the PM does not immediately resign, then he will be dismissed. The moment he is no longer Prime Minister, he no longer has the authority to advise either the GG or the Queen.

    "In the 1975 case [Australian] the PM was planning to call the palace and put in a request that the GG be removed. If this request was recieved first then it would take precedence over the GG removing the PM from office."

    It is not quite so simple. The request in itself does not contitute any official result. Firstly, it is not at all clear that the Queen would have agreed to the request. Secondly, between when the request is made and official documents are issued revoking the GG's appointment, the sitting GG would have remained in his post, free to exercise the Royal Prerogative.

    "Its generally believed that the Queen did NOT approve of the PM's removal from office and believed the GG acted rashly."

    I don't believe that any such thing is "generally believed".

    But even if Her Majesty privately disagreed with the Australian GG's decision, it does not follow that she would have been in favour of replacing him at the PM's urging.

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  19. Martin, we'll have to agree to disagree because this is clearly a matter of opinion.

    It should be pointed out that there is no one expert opinion on these matters - beyond agreeing that the Monarch/GG have broad powers constitutional scholars fall into seperate camps on what is proper and what is likely in these matters.

    I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens if something like this occurs.

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  20. Eric,

    The Queen has a number of advisors and takes her role as the Queen of Canada very seriously.

    Also, your conclusion doesn't nessecarily follow from your premise. Isn't it possible that the Queen is MORE likely to act to avoid slipping further and further into irrelevance ?

    I think that support for abolishing the monarchy is high because the Queen is seen by many as useless and having no real role.

    Getting involved would turn certain people off but have a re-inforcing effect for others.

    Flexing her muscles, so to speak, is not nessecarily foolish.

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  21. While no one is doubting that her Majesty takes her role seriously, the likelihood of her interfering in a decision of the GG in the context of anything short of gross misconduct/corruption/clearly abusive behaviour is nil.

    Furthermore, in the absence of such conduct the likelihood of a sitting PM (or formerly sitting PM) whining directly to her Majesty about the decisions of her Governor General is so small as to be non-existent.

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  22. Hey Anon,

    if a GG overturned the results of a Canadian election for the first time in history to reward the party that appointed her I think that does qualify as gross misconduct/corruption/clearly abusive behaviour.

    If you don't think the Queen would have stepped in to prevent Prime Minister Dion you're crazy.

    If the GG had turned Harper away and denied his request for prorogation the first call he would have made would be to the Queen.

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  23. Ridiculous. Canadian elections don't choose Prime Ministers, if the Governor-General had chosen the coalition, no election would have been overturned, no rule would have been broken.

    The Queen would have done nothing, as is her role.

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  24. Jesse,

    You mentioned earlier about "expert opinion" making competing claims.

    But we have more than that.

    Firstly, we have 16 countries where the Queen is head-of-state and a combined hundreds and hundreds of years of historical events.

    I don't believe there is even a single precedent where what you are contemplating has occurred.

    Secondly, we have the words of the Queen's Private Secretary during the 1975 Australian crisis after the Speaker wrote asking that the GG be overruled:

    "As we understand the situation here, the Australian Constitution firmly places the prerogative powers of the Crown in the hands of the Governor-General as the representative of the Queen of Australia. The only person competent to commission an Australian Prime Minister is the Governor-General, and The Queen has no part in the decisions which the Governor-General must take in accordance with the Constitution. Her Majesty, as Queen of Australia, is watching events in Canberra with close interest and attention, but it would not be proper for her to intervene in person in matters which are so clearly placed within the jurisdiction of the Governor-General by the Constitution Act"

    While this quotation does not speak to the removal of a GG, it certainly does speak to "overruling" of one.

    Thirdly, I don't think that it is reasonable in the slightest to refer to the GG discharging her constitutional responsibility as "gross misconduct/corruption/clearly abusive behaviour".

    What I was referring to when I spoke of "mammoth, tangible evidence of incompetence or corruption" were infirmities like dementia or corruption such as if the GG were being blackmailed.

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  25. Jesse,

    I'm sorry, your wrong. We know exactly what the GG will do, because there is historical precedent for it.

    In the King-Byng affair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King-Byng_Affair), the Liberals managed to form a government (despite having fewer votes than the Conservatievs) with the implict support of the progressives. A few months later, after a corruption scandal erupted, the government fell and the GG of the day asked the Arthur Meighens conservatives to form the government, which they did, briefly, although they fell at the first confidence vote. (Less controversially, one could look at the Rae-Peterson accord in Ontario in 1985, where the re-elected conservatives fell at the first confidence motion after an election, and the LG asked David Peterson to form the government). Given these precedents (and there are no doubt other from Canada and I know there are many similar precedents in the English Parliament) it would be entirely appropriate for the GG to ask the official opposition to try to form a government (not, as I've said, that I think that would be a particularly bright idea for the Liberals) and there is no way the Queen would second guess that decision (or, frankly, that Stephen Harper would ask her to).

    In any event, you're under the mistaken impression that Canadians choose our government. We don't, and never have. We choose our members of parliament. Our government is appointed by the GG on behalf of the Queen and serves at her pleasure. The only condition is that the government must retain the confidence of the House of Commons. If an opposition party can bring down the government and get the confidence of the house without an election, that is perfectly acceptable within our constitutional framework (and, indeed, was common practice in the English Parliament for centuries).

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  26. Anonymous wrote,

    I don't disagree with the essence of your comments but they deserve some qualification.

    While last December's proposed coalition was in no way illegal or unconstitutional, it would have been quite unusual. The crux of the problem is that if the Conservatives had been defeated and Mr. Harper had advised the GG to hold a fresh election, the opposition was hoping for the very unusual step of the GG declining the PM's advice.

    I'll comment in turn on 1) Ontario 1985 2) King-Byng and 3) other

    1) There are some important differences with the Ontario 1985 situation.

    Firstly, although in the 1985 provincial election the Liberals won slightly fewer seats (48) than the Tories (52), the Liberals actually won a higher share of the popular vote. While this is not a determinative factor, the perceived legitimacy of the replacement government is undoubtedly going to be a factor that the Queen's viceroy considers.

    Secondly, and most importantly, the defeated Ontario Premier, Frank Miller did not ask for a dissolution of the legislature -- so there was no conflict. In fact, as his last act, Mr. Miller ADVISED the LG to ask Mr. Rae to form a government.

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  27. 2) On the King-Byng situation.

    Firstly, Mr. King's government was not actually defeated. A motion of censure was under debate in the Commons and Mr. King asked the GG for a dissolution and a fresh election to avoid a vote on the motion.

    The GG was reluctant to dissolve Parliament before the House had had opportunity to speak its mind. Mr. King resigned in a snit, refusing even to co-operate in a transition. The GG had no choice but to appoint another government.

    Mr. King's resignation forced a transfer of power. The issue in that case was that the Liberals claimed the GG should have automatically accepted the PM's request for an election.

    Part of the fallout from these events was that the Liberals spent decades villifying Byng for his decision and it was thought for a long time that this would make all future GG's more reluctant to go against a PM's request for an election.

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  28. 3) Other situations

    The refusal of a request for dissolution is actually quite rare.

    In the United Kingdom I don't believe this has happened since the reforms of the early 19th century (one case is arguable).

    In other Commonwealth Realms, it has occurred, but very rarely in the post-Colonial era.

    ===

    As I said earlier, such a refusal of advice is possible and constitutionally legitimate but one must be careful to not portray it as commonplace.

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  29. Martin,

    I take your points. My only point was that the notion of the Queen overriding a decision of the GG to ask the official opposition to form a government (as she is entitled to do and as there is precedent for) in just a non-starter absent clear evidence of fraud/corruption/etc.

    In any event, it may be a moot point, since unless Liberal polling numbers improve significantly over the next few months, I don't see the Liberals forcing an election any time soon, or if they do, winning enough seats to even consider forcing another confidence vote.

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  30. To the comments above,

    Unless the parties actually run as a coalition or declare themselves open to the possibility then it is fraud of the highest order for them to turn around and form one.

    Yes coalitions are technically legal and possible, just as the GG and Queen doing whatever they wish is also technically possible - once again, agree to disagree this is a matter of opinion what could/should happen.

    I am simply asserting that a Prime Minister Dion who very publically and very forcefully ridiculed the notion of a coalition with the NDP during the election would not have been legitimate. Just as Ignatieff will not be legitimate unless he comes out and tells us that he's open to the concept.

    Then there is the idea of having a mandate. Canadian PM's have traditionally been understood to need a mandate from the people to rule effectively. The Liberal party is at historical lows in support - not much of a mandate there.

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  31. Governments always break promises they made during election campaigns, yet it doesn't make them illegitimate. A coalition would be no different.

    So, no, it would not be "fraud of the highest order". We elect our MPs to make decisions as issues come up. If one of those issues is the downfall of the government and the creation of a coalition, so be it.

    As to a mandate, is 36% really all that greater than 30%, especially when you consider about 60% of people actually vote? At that point, we're only talking about 22% against 18%.

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  32. Eric,

    did you see Harper's jump in the polls shortly after the coalition was suggested ? They were some of his largest numbers ever. Looking at those numbers is more precise than looking at 36 v 30, which were pre-coalition numbers.

    And I think the issues is much, much more more fundemental than the usual broken promises about certain topics.

    Its an existential issue that made people question our democracy. Legitimacy is not a legal concept, its one that is open to interpretation and defined by the population.

    I don't know if people in the east felt the rage out west. A Dion government would have prompted calls for seperation - it very well could have split the country in half down the middle.

    It felt like a coup, it felt like something was being stolen. Yes, yes I remember the pundits saying how uneducated Canadians were and how coalitions are perfectly normal and proper. Maybe in the Ottawa bubble but that doesn't connect to the mainstream.

    Coalitions are a new and unfamiliar concept. If they are going to happen they need to happen out in the open. Leaders need to be judged during a campaign on the issue and state whether they would or would not be open to entering one.

    Only then will people feel like they've had a chance to participate and had a say on the issue.

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  33. Eric,

    don't know if you caught the recent German elections but the five or so major parties declared ahead of time who they were open to joining up with.

    That's how things are done in a democracy. Out in the open with people getting a voice and a say.

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  34. I'm not sure where these 36 and 30 numbers are coming from.

    In the election the Conservatives won 37.7% of the vote while the Liberals garnered only 26.3%.

    Mr. Harper's party earned more than 43% more votes than Mr. Dion's party.

    No matter how you slice it, that is a substantial difference.

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  35. -- "It felt like a coup, it felt like something was being stolen."

    But it was neither of these things. It is how our system works. That this sort of thing felt this way was because people don't understand how our democracy works. The government would have been legitimate because it would have had the support of the House of Commons.

    Period.

    If the electorate was unhappy, they could punish the government in the next election.

    Is it underhanded to say "no coalition" and then enter one? Yes, but it is perfectly legal and no different than Chretien going back on his GST promise.

    Promises you make on Day 15 of an electoral campaign can become obsolete by Day 100 of a government.

    As to announcing coalition intentions, the Liberals and the Tories don't want a coalition. They'd much rather rule on their own. But if one of them said, for a second, that they'd be open to it depending on the political situation, the other party would jump all over that and fan the flames of Canadian ignorance. And yes, Canadians are ignorant of the way our system works, as polls have shown.

    -- "I'm not sure where these 36 and 30 numbers are coming from."

    I'm talking about the current support levels.

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  36. I have to agree with at least part of what Jesse said.

    Dion's broken promise was much more than simply a broken promise about some miscellaneous policy plank. It was about the very conditions under which executive power would be claimed.

    That is a much more serious matter and I believe it did harm the perceived legitimacy of the proposed coalition.

    While it would not have been enough for the GG to reject the coalition out-of-hand, it would certainly have been in the "points against" column as she considered her decision.

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  37. Eric,

    you're putting forward a very technical legal arguement that has little to do with our personal experience of democracy and thus, as we saw, had little resonance with Canadians.

    "The government would have been legitimate because it would have had the support of the House of Commons" is circular.

    Yes, in a scorched earth sort of hard power way Dion could very easily have become Prime Minister. I could call myself the King of Canada - both would be more or less meaningless.

    What i'm saying is that legitimacy and proper democracy are more fundemental and of deeper importance than technicalities.

    This goes to the core of whether or not the Prime Minister rules with the consent of the governed.

    How can Canadians be ignorant of their own system when they are the body politic and they are within whom power lies ?

    It is a contradiction in terms to say that Canadians are ignorant of their own democracy when they themselves are democracy.

    The elite, the scholars, the politicians, and even our state controlled media might tell people that something is proper and legal but if there is a disconnect with what they are saying and the reality on the ground outside of Ottawa then there has been a fundemental breach in the functioning of our democracy.

    It is up to politicians to first discuss and inform Canadians about coalition governance and to establish its legitimacy before just jumping into it.

    The arguement that it would harm a party in an election is not a good one. If people are rejecting something shouldn't that be sending a signal that maybe a coalition is not a good idea in the first place ?? If you have to pull something over on people, to lie to them, then it is hard to claim legitimacy.

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  38. So when polls show that a majority of Canadians are dissatisfied with the government and that it should be replaced, does that mean it is illegitimate?

    It doesn't matter what the public thinks is legitimate or not. The Dion government would've made the laws and collected taxes and that would've been that.

    I mean, it's not as if any of us were fooled by the Conservative staffers posing as protestors with signs, right? (or the Liberal staffers when Layton was going to that meeting with Harper)

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  39. "So when polls show that a majority of Canadians are dissatisfied with the government and that it should be replaced, does that mean it is illegitimate?"

    We have elections for that. They are not new to our experience of democracy and we all agree to follow their outcome even if we don't like them.

    This coalition thing was very new, very unfamiliar, and not at all explained ahead of time.

    "It doesn't matter what the public thinks is legitimate or not. The Dion government would've made the laws and collected taxes and that would've been that."

    Really? That rage would have just gone away? I'm not suggesting anything like the FLQ would have happened but it seems quite possible that Alberta would have been hurtling towards a referendum...

    "I mean, it's not as if any of us were fooled by the Conservative staffers posing as protestors with signs, right?"

    How are they "posing"? One expects that Conservative staffers are also Conservative voters and are also Canadians with opinions.

    I'm perplexed at this notion that somehow they don't count or that a couple of them in a crowd somehow makes that whole crowd not count. That whole "gotcha" actually made me roll my eyes because it was so meaningless.

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  40. -- "We have elections for that. They are not new to our experience of democracy and we all agree to follow their outcome even if we don't like them. This coalition thing was very new, very unfamiliar, and not at all explained ahead of time."

    Granted, but the election created a Parliament where a coalition was possible. The Liberal and NDP voters certainly wanted their parties to form government, and Canadians familiar with their own democratic system should have known it was possible.

    -- "Really? That rage would have just gone away?"

    No, but I don't see them burning down the Parliament buildings.

    -- "I'm not suggesting anything like the FLQ would have happened but it seems quite possible that Alberta would have been hurtling towards a referendum..."

    So the PC government under Stelmach would have called a referendum on independence because Dion would be the PM for a few months? Not a chance. Come on.

    -- "How are they "posing"? One expects that Conservative staffers are also Conservative voters and are also Canadians with opinions."

    When they are paid and organised by a party to be angry, they are posing.

    -- "I'm perplexed at this notion that somehow they don't count or that a couple of them in a crowd somehow makes that whole crowd not count."

    They certainly count as Conservative staffers pretending to be regular Canadians protesting. They don't count as a legitimate representation of Canadian rage. It was all done for the cameras. You know that.

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  41. "Granted, but the election created a Parliament where a coalition was possible."

    The terms of the election matter. Its seems obvious that voting patterns would have changed significantly if voters were informed of the coalition ahead of time. People like big ideas and big changes to be discussed ahead of time and get a chance to make the decision during an election.

    Here in BC the provincial Liberals just announced an HST and didn't say a word about it during the recent provincial election. There's been rallies, petitions, and talk of recalls.

    "So the PC government under Stelmach would have called a referendum on independence because Dion would be the PM for a few months? Not a chance. Come on."

    It would have nothing to do with Stelmach, it would be much more grass roots and do lasting damage to national unity. Imagine the fall out from Trudeau's national energy policy and magnify it by ten.

    I'm not saying Alberta would actually split, they'd just be angry as heck for a long time which isn't a good way to run a country.

    "It was all done for the cameras. You know that."

    The back and forth rallies? Yes, they were more or less for show. I don't think you'd have seen grass roots organic taking to the streets until Dion was about to be sworn in.


    Basically what this all boils down to is that just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. I just don't think the damage to the country would have been worth it just so Dion could be PM.

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