Friday, October 1, 2010

Big drop for NDP in latest EKOS poll

Yesterday's EKOS poll shows that the New Democrats have lost a significant amount of support over the last two weeks, with all other parties making gains at their expense.The Conservatives are still in the lead with 33.1% support, however, up 0.7 points from EKOS's last poll two weeks ago. The Liberals are up a full point to 29.9%, but the NDP has dropped 3.1 points to 13.5%. That is a huge drop, especially for an EKOS poll where changes are rarely this large at the national level.

The Greens are up 0.2 points to 10.9% while the Bloc Québécois is up 1.2 points to 10.1%.

Aside from the losses sustained by Jack Layton's party, the demographic breakdown paints an interesting picture of Conservative and Liberal support. The Tories still lead among men, with a 36.4% to 28.5% edge over the Liberals. But the Liberals are ahead 31.3% to 30.0% among women. When it comes to education, the Conservatives are ahead among high school graduates with 34.3% to the Liberals' 22.5%, but the Liberals are ahead among university graduates, 39.8% to 26.1%.

The Conservatives lead in Ontario with 37% support, up two points from two weeks ago. The Liberals are at 36.5%, up one point and very competitive. The NDP is unchanged at 13.8%, while the Greens are down two to 10.7%. The Liberals lead in Toronto with 43.3% and Ottawa with 42.5%. The Conservatives trail in both cities with 34% and 39.8%, respectively.

The Bloc has gained five points and leads with 40.8% support in Quebec, followed by the Liberals at 24.4% (up one). The Tories are down seven big points to 14.1%, indicating that the effects of the arena funding in Quebec City may have gone up in smoke. The NDP is down three points to 8.7%, actually ranking behind the Greens who are at 8.9%. The Bloc leads with 38.3% in Montreal, followed by the Liberals at 25%.

The Conservatives are up eight points in British Columbia, and lead with 35.3%. The Liberals are up one to 27.6% while the NDP has dropped eight points to 23.2%. The Greens are also down, with a drop of four points to 10.9%. The Conservatives dominate in Vancouver with 47.4%, with the NDP at a distant second with 20.7%.

The Liberals are up eight points in Atlantic Canada, and lead with 41.1%. The Conservatives are down seven to 26.2% while the NDP is also down seven, to 14.8%. The Greens have moved into third here with 16.6%.

In Alberta, the Conservatives have gained five points and lead with 56.5%. The Liberals follow with 15.3%, down eight.

The Conservatives are up eight points in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and lead with 50.2%. The Liberals are second with 26.7% (up five) while the NDP is down 15 points to 9%, running fourth behind the Greens who are at 11.6%.

With this poll, the Conservatives would win 68 seats in the West and North, 48 in Ontario, seven in Atlantic Canada, and five in Quebec for a total of 128.

The Liberals would win 47 seats in Ontario, 23 in Atlantic Canada, 19 in the West and North, and 16 in Quebec for a total of 105.

The Bloc would win 54 seats in Quebec.

The NDP would win 11 seats in Ontario, eight in the West, and two in Atlantic Canada for a total of 21.

EKOS also took a look at support for a coalition between the Liberals and NDP, vis-a-vis the Conservatives. Interestingly, in such a situation the imagined Coalition would get 41% support, while the Conservatives would run a close second with 39%. Taking out the "don't knows" or "none of the aboves", that would be a 51% to 49% split in favour of the Coalition.

Again, taking out the non-committal respondents, the Coalition would win 55% support in British Columbia, 62% in Quebec, and 59% in Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives would win with 70% in Alberta, 60% in the Prairies, and 51% in Ontario in a face-to-face contest. Interesting stuff.

The poll also found that 26% of Canadians want a Conservative majority, 10% want a Conservative minority, 16% want a Liberal minority, and 22% want a Liberal majority. That means 38% want a Liberal government of some kind compared to 36% who want a Conservative government of some time. Extrapolating this to say that 48% want a majority government, however, misses the point as most of the support for a Liberal or Conservative majority comes only from within those parties. In other words, Conservatives don't want a Liberal majority and Liberals don't want a Conservative majority. So it isn't about the form of government but rather who is in it.

But to return to voting intentions, if this trouble for the NDP continue, it will really make things a bit more clear cut for the two main parties. The Liberals (and Bloc Québécois) really do seem to have made some gains at the expense of the NDP, which is generally the scenario the Conservatives are trying to avoid. But, as in all things political, it could change very quickly.

89 comments:

  1. I'd be interested in knowing the demographics of those who actually vote. Are those with higher educcations more likely to vote? If say 70% of university educated people vote comapred to say 40% of high schools grads could this mean that the Liberals could really benefit at the polling booths?

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  2. The one clear thing from EKOS is that there will be NO majority Govt in the near future.

    If Eric's seat numbers are taken as correct then the odds of a Lib-NDP "arrangement" happening are very good. With Bloc support on the key money bills they can easily control the House. Sorry Stephen.

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  3. The narrative in this poll is the support level of the NDP at 13.5% - a drop of 3.1%. Since NDP support is already at relatively low levels, that's a HUGE drop. It re-inforces the Ipsos poll with the NDP at 12%.

    OTOH, ARS has the NDP at a much higher 18% level, 50% higher than Ipsos. And that begs the question - Which polls are the outliers and if the NDP is actually trending downward, what are the reasons behind same?

    I highly doubt that the long gun registry is the real reason.

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  4. Peter:

    You're right, it doesn't look like either the Lib or CPC can get a majority based on these polls.

    However this latest poll doesn't support an arrangement between the Liberals and NDP on any level in my opinion - at least according to Eric's projections.

    CPC - 128
    Lib + NDP - 126 (105+21)

    It would be incredibly difficult for anyone to govern the country in this type of Parliament, in my opinion.

    I don't think that a Lib/NDP government could be considered legitimate (or accepted by the majority of Canadians - again my own speculation) if together they don't even have as many seats as the Conservative Party.

    I understand that any person who can command the confidence of the majority of Parliament can be PM - but just because something is permissible doesn't mean the people will accept it as legitimate.

    I'm a Liberal voter. No matter what is said about coalitions that will not change. But I am deeply uneasy about any arrangement that vests power in a coalition government that doesn't even have as many seats in Parliament as the Conservative Party on its own.

    Regardless of who ultimately holds power if these results happened then Parliament would be non-functional.

    Of particular interest in these projections is the NDP would not be able to prop up the CPC government in such a Parliament. Therefore if the Liberals take on the actual role of Official Opposition and opposed all CPC bills in this projected Parliament the only way the Conservatives could pass ANY legislation would be with the help of.... The Bloc Quebecois.

    I think that would make for a riveting session with potential crisis around every corner.

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  5. It doesn't really matter whether the Liberal and NDP combined have a few seats more or a few seats less than the Tories - but i have to say that I do like the narrative. It used to be that everyone was fixated on which single party was the largest - now no one talks about that anymore. The "new math" is who has more seats - the Tories or the Liberal/NDP. I like this new narrative because it helps reinforce the fact that if you want to get rid of Harper - makes no difference whether your riding elects a Liberal or a New Democrat since all that matters is the COMBINED Liberal+NDP tally.

    Anyway, you slice it - the BQ will have the balance of power after the next election. Harper is actually right when he says the election is a choice between a Tory majority or a "coalition". He knows that unless he gets a majority - his government is toast.

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  6. Well with 3 of the last 4 polls showing NDP support @ record lows and evev AR showing a drop, they are in serious trouble.It looks like Harpers LG strategy of keeping Layton from supporting an election this fall is working.This strategy is supported by the low % of Cons who want a fall election. The thing is, NDP supporters are the most eager for one now.Two things I noticed in the poll breakdown-BC is the most polarized men support the tories 2to1 over women, and youth support the greens as their #1 party in many parts of the country. The NDP needs to win them back- Unless the libs can win some of them over.. The genie is out of the bottle

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  7. The NDP is not going to decide whether to push for an election or not based on the weekly ebb and flows of polls...The polls that came out one week before the writ was dropped in 2008 had the NDP at 13/14 percent and in the end it was quite a successful election.

    I would guess that all things being equal - the NDP would just as soon wait until spring because right now they are tied up with municipal elections in Ontario and Manitoba and I think that five or six months from now Layton will have gone from 90% recovered from his cancer treatment to 100%. That being said - if an election has to happen this fall - bring it on!!

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  8. I decided to look at the NDP data for BC and am wondering - Is the Ekos data corrupted?

    [65+] [36 sample] [NDP 15%]
    [45 - 64] [69 sample] [NDP 21.2%]
    [25 - 44] [41 sample] [NDP 20.3%]
    [<25] [4 sample] [NDP 75.5%]

    Firstly, with only a 4 sample size for the <25 demographic, one has chosen the CPC and another has chosen the Greens, leaving 2 for the NDP. Yet Ekos shows a 75.5% support for the NDP - it should be 50%.

    I any event, with 15%, 21.2%, and 20.3% for the remaining 146/150 sample, how can Ekos arrive at 23.2% support for the NDP in BC?

    By my reckoning, it should be below 20%. Again, corrupted data?

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  9. Éric: Yesterday's EKOS poll shows that the New Democrats have lost a significant amount of support over the last two weeks...

    As always, the EKOS trend chart on page 2 of their report gives the best insight, and the Dippers haven't been dropping for two weeks; they peaked in late July and have been drifting down since then. This suggests that the long gun registry isn't their main problem.

    The "real" EKOS NDP number should be somewhat above the reported 13.5%. In fact, they're sitting roughly where they were last summer. A few months later Ignatieff proclaimed, "Your time is up!" and Layton's feet felt the fall chill.

    I'll nudge down my expectations of a late fall election. For all his bravado, these numbers may--once again--give Jack Layton the vapours.

    On the other hand, if Stephen Harper lobs a grenade out of overconfidence or just pure nastiness, a trip to the polls is likely. Éric's seat projection is still a win for the NDP, even if they lose nearly half their caucus. They'd be in power, something that's never happened in the life of the party.

    Under these circumstances, Layton would be wise to negotiate a healthy share of coalition power as his price for defeating the government. Not in public perhaps, but before the plug is pulled.

    For those who focus on the seat count in such a minority parliament--don't. Look at the popular vote instead. The Conservative 33.1% would be far less legitimate than the Liberal+NDP 43.4%. If Greens are elected and join the coalition, an actual majority of voters would be represented on the governing benches. That hasn't happened on the Hill for a long time.

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  10. When Ekos releases two polls at once like this, is there a reason why you ignore one of them when talking about changes?

    You compared the September 28 numbers to those of two weeks ago, but there are September 21 numbers right there we could use to tell a more detailed story.

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  11. Jonny Quest: I decided to look at the NDP data for BC and am wondering - Is the Ekos data corrupted?

    Nope, they adjust for demographics such as sex, location (urban, rural) and education to better match the population. With minute sample sizes, the results have a significant snigger factor.

    That BC under-25 result based on four respondents is about as reliable as your morning horoscope. Probably less. But EKOS gives fair warning: they list the margin of error as 49.0%.

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  12. Éric: Extrapolating this to say that 48% want a majority government, however, misses the point as most of the support for a Liberal or Conservative majority comes only from within those parties. In other words, Conservatives don't want a Liberal majority and Liberals don't want a Conservative majority. So it isn't about the form of government but rather who is in it.

    Golly, how things have changed since July 2009. (See the bottom of the table on page 10.)

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  13. johnsmith 1234 said: "Of particular interest in these projections is the NDP would not be able to prop up the CPC government in such a Parliament. Therefore if the Liberals take on the actual role of Official Opposition and opposed all CPC bills in this projected Parliament the only way the Conservatives could pass ANY legislation would be with the help of.... The Bloc Quebecois."

    Well that would be no different from the state of affairs in2006-2008. The problem the Liberals have is that they can't reflexively oppose everything the Tories do because, on many issues there isn't much to distinguish between their policies and those of the Tories. Reflexively opposing Tory policies will inevitable mean pissing off their own supporters (and more importantly the swing voters who expect their politicians to govern rather than to make nuissances of themselves). There's a reason (other than incompetence) why Dion and Iggy haven't done that.

    I realize this is a heresy for party partisans (of all stripes), but that doesn't make it less true. If you look at the policy diferences that divide the Liberal and Conservative parties, they're the marginal differences around the edge.

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  14. "For those who focus on the seat count in such a minority parliament--don't. Look at the popular vote instead. The Conservative 33.1% would be far less legitimate than the Liberal+NDP 43.4%."

    Except we know from this poll that Tory numbers would shoot up by 5% (mostly from the Liberals) If people knew a coalition was in the works.

    This is why Harper is wise to make sure everyone knows the choice is Harper majority or coalition.


    Do the math and you get 38% CPC, 38% LPC + NDP.

    Tie goes to CPC with most seats in parliament.

    The public would no doubt be on their side.

    Even though it would be morally wrong, unpopular, and stupid a coalition is still technically legal if the government loses the throne speech.

    However, I don't expect questions of popular opinion to stop Ignatieff's goal to become PM. He IS a politician after all, the will to power exists in those types to a considerable degree.

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  15. DL Said: "Anyway, you slice it - the BQ will have the balance of power after the next election. Harper is actually right when he says the election is a choice between a Tory majority or a "coalition". He knows that unless he gets a majority - his government is toast."

    Well, you just described the status quo, and yet, somehow, Harper's government isn't toast.

    There are really two scenarios under which the Tories don't form (or maintain) a government after the next election:

    (1) the Liberals win more seats; or
    (2) the Liberals campaign on a platform of possibly forming a coalition with another party (or more) and those parties win more seats than the Tories.

    (1) is a given, I think we all accept that. Then again, it's also extremely unlikely given the latest polling. That could change, of course, but for now I think we can disregard that possibility.

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  16. (cont)
    So that leaves us with (2). The problem here is that Iggy has being telling every and anyone who will listen that he doesn't intend to form a coalition. And he has a good reason for doing so. If a Liberal/NDP coalition looks likely, Iggy risks losing voters on both the right of his party (to the Tories) and the left of his party (to the NDP/Greens).

    As Shadow points out, that's a clear conclusion from the latest Ekos data. Faced with the prospect of a Tory government versus and NDP/Liberal coalition, Tory support seems to go up 6 points. Ok, it's less popular than the hypothetical NDP/Liberal coalition, but since supporters of that would be split between (at least) two parties, that probably translates into, if not a Tory majority, than a least a hefty Tory plurality. And, I suspect that number would change drastically if you were to toss the Bloc into the mix.

    Indeed, the polling data is telling as to why the Tories are doing their damndest to push the possibility of a coalition into voter consciousness. Faced with the prospect of an NDP/Liberal coalition, they would retain most of their voters, while 12% of Liberal voters and 17% of NDP voters would vote for them. (And, as an aside, the Coalition support is likely overstated as it includes a number of green and bloc voters. That makes sense if they were forced to choose between the Tories and the NDP/LIberal coalition, as they were in this question, but in the real world, they'd also have the choice of voting for their preferred party, the Bloc or the Greens).

    So that explains why Iggy is vehemently denying that he'll form a coalition (and Harper is equally vehemently insisting that he will). But that raises a problem for Iggy if, after an election, when he as fewer seats than the Tories, the first thing he does is try to go out an form a coalition with the NDP (much less the Bloc). Even if he has the numbers (which would almost certainly require the support of the Bloc), the political blowback would be disastrous for the Liberals.

    Now, you might say, that's fine, but so long as they command a majority of the seats, they can try to live-out the blowback. That may be true (though how long can a government propped up by the Bloc expect to last?), but it ignores a couple of relevant points. First, while I realize there is no precedent for saying this, I wonder if, in that situation, the governor general wouldn't tell iggy to go back to the polls and get a mandate. Because I can see a governor general being reluctant to make Iggy the prime minister in a coalition government when he just finished campaigning on the basis that he wouldn't form a coalition government. And I could see the GG saying, "sell it to the voters". Moreover to the point, even if Iggy gets the support of the GG, if his government is to achieve anything, he has to get his legislation through the Tory-controlled Senate. In practice, that means that a coalition wouldn't be able to get anything done. Now, traditionally, the Senate hasn't blocked bills that a government campaigned on. But of course, if Iggy has to modify his policies to win over the support of the NDP (much less the Bloc), as he surely would, that would give the Tories the excuse to bloc any and everything coming out of the house. Since the only way to deal with that is to have an election, and run on those policies, that means that an iggy-lead coalition isn't likely to live long-enough to
    get past the political blow-back of forming a coalition after committing not to. So that makes option (2) unlikely unless Iggy is willing to commit to possibly forming a coalition.

    So we're left with two scenarios, (1) which is unlikely and (2) which Iggy is publicly rejecting. Given that, I wouldn't be planning the end of the Harper government any time soon.

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  17. My, my Shadow does like to "spin it" let alone use Dimitri "Talking Points".

    Of course he is completely incorrect but that has to be a given with Shadow.

    The Govt. has to have the "confidence" of the House. That's all, nothing more.

    Thus a Liberal minority can govern even if it doesn't have the majority of seats. All it needs is the support of the Bloc to control. Get used to the fact NO formal Coalition or Agreement is necessary.

    All that is required is support on "Confidence" bills which are primarily money bills. Learn the rules folks.

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  18. "Even though it would be morally wrong, unpopular, and stupid a coalition is still technically legal if the government loses the throne speech."

    Peter want part of "technically legal" don't you understand ?

    If Ignatieff wants to lie during an entire campaign, deny a coalition, and then attempt to form one anyways that's his option.

    (Heck Dion did it.)

    However, in a democracy the "rules" are sometimes less important than the verdict of public opinion.

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  19. Carl:

    It's a different discussion then it was in 2006 because it was pre-coalition days.

    And they CAN just oppose things. I have watched opposition parties do it my entire life.

    How many times did Harper's conservative opposition vote with Martin's minority government? It has nothing to do with similar policies - otherwise the reverse would be true.

    The official opposition opposes. That is their role. Their job is to oppose the government and propose alternatives to the government's ideas. If they agree on a bunch of things they say "gee it is a lot better bill than I thought it would be, but if it was us we'd make these changes."

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  20. Exactly, and on top of that the Senate is not allowed to reject any money bills and if they reject a government bill, they can only do so twice and then House overrides them. In a year or two a few Tory senators will die or retire and the Liberals would have a majority again anyways. In any case, if there is one thing we have learned over the last 4.5 years of Tory minority government - its that 99% of what a government does has nothing to do with passing legislation. The Tories have barely passed anything apart from an annual budget and a few crime bills. They have had a remarkably thin legislative agenda. I think that after the next election, the Tory throne speech will be voted down and the GG will have no choice but to ask the leader of the second largest party to form a government. The Liberals don't any coalition or any agreement - they can simply form a minority government just like the Tories have now. The BQ and the NDP will have little choice but to let the Liberal throne speech pass since neither will want an election.

    End of story

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  21. Peter I think it is you doing the spinning and furiously so. There is, in this latest EKOS poll, a disparity of 23 seats between the CPC and LPOC. Now let's assume that this were the outcome of the next Federal election. Let's assume that the CPC meets the HOC and is defeated. It seems to me that in the absence of a formal coalition agreement the GG would be hard pressed to call upon the LPOC to try and form a government when they have at least 23 seats less than the CPC. A more realistic outcome would be to throw the question back to the voters. Use Australia as your example where it was clear that if no party could command a majority through agreement with independents that another election would have ensued.

    Simply because you hunger for another government doesn't mean it will happen. "Get used to it!" to quote you. Your logic and knowledge is flawed.

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  22. DL i'm with Earl on the fact that the GG won't offer Ignatieff the government after Harper's defeat on a throne speech UNLESS there is a formal pledge of support from a majority of the HOC for at least a year.

    BTW not sure if you saw but on the previous thread I corrected your factual error.

    Columbia free trade deal has already passsed, its the Panama free trade deal the NDP is currently blocking.

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  23. "Thus a Liberal minority can govern even if it doesn't have the majority of seats. All it needs is the support of the Bloc to control. Get used to the fact NO formal Coalition or Agreement is necessary.
    All that is required is support on "Confidence" bills which are primarily money bills. Learn the rules folks."



    And what is the price of that support? I can't believe that another party would support based on "those guys are nicer". There must be a tradeoff.... even if it doesn't get put into a formal coalition agreement.

    I know the rules.... I want you to learn about the politics. "not Harper, not right wing" isn't an argument that (according to this poll) 50% or so of people are willing to accept. When it comes to the list of things they want... I doubt the Bloc will either.

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  24. Earl and Shadow:

    Can't you guys read??

    It is perfectly within the rules for the governing party to have less seats than the opposition party in a minority Govt.

    There is no need for a formal coalition agreement. All that is required is the "confidence" of the house.

    Shadow you cite Australia where the governing party currently has fewer seats than the Opposition. Do your due diligence next time before you accept a Dimitri quote !!

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  25. "the GG would be hard pressed to call upon the LPOC to try and form a government when they have at least 23 seats less than the CPC"

    says who?? After an election, the sitting PM is essentially just a caretaker and has very limited powers. He does have the right (as the incumbent) to try to survive and propose a Throne Speech. If that Throne Speech is defeated, he must resign. The GG then asks the leader of the second largest party to try to form a government. It would be nice for cosmetic purposes for that person to have some formal proof that he will get a majority of MPs to vote for him - in the same way as it would be "nice" if Harper could get the BQ or the Liberals or the NDP to formally enter into an agreement with him to get his legislation passed - but it is not essential.

    Keep in mind also that in the next election, Harper will go on ad nauseum about how either there will be a Tory majority or else the opposition will take power. Well, we will take him at his word - there will be no Tory majority - therefore he lost the election and must make way for the opposition.

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  26. "And what is the price of that (BQ) support? I can't believe that another party would support based on "those guys are nicer". There must be a tradeoff.... even if it doesn't get put into a formal coalition agreement."

    The BQ supported the first two Tory budgets in 2006 and 2007 and they supported the Tories on several other measures as well. I can't believe that Duceppe did that because he thought Harper was "nicer" either. What WERE the tradeoffs?? What secret side deals did Harper give the BQ in exchange for their support. Did it involve a promise to recognize Quebec as a nation a few months later? The book has yet to be written on how Harper sold Canada out to the BQ to retain power.

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  27. All,

    The wild card in the electoral mix -- at least in my neck of the woods, is the secret funding agreement reached for the Quebec City amphitheatre. The deal is just about done and will respect the obligation of having a private sector funding component.

    Conservatives will get it in place -- just in case the government falls on a confidence motion.

    Big money is headed for the Quebec City region ridings in the next election -- particularly Louis-Hébert which is viewed in the PMO as an essential pickup. They will also do their damndest in ridings on both sides of the Saint Lawrence river in hopes of picking up as many as possible. That will be a tough sell -- but an extremely well financed one courtesy of the CPC warchest.

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  28. Peter before you start asking people if they can read, it would be helpful to make sure you haven't made any reading errors yourself.

    I did not cite Australia as an example of anything (that was Earl).

    And drop the Dimitri thing (it sounds idiotic when you constantly accuse others of being hand fed quotes - btw Kory was director of comms during the coalition crisis).

    "It is perfectly within the rules for the governing party to have less seats than the opposition party in a minority Govt."

    If they head a coalition that has a majority of seats.

    "There is no need for a formal coalition agreement. All that is required is the "confidence" of the house."

    Depends whether you're the incumbent government or not. PM's always get to meet the house and don't need coalitions.

    However, a GG won't overthrow a sitting government unless the opposition pledges they have a majority of seats ahead of time.

    "Shadow you cite Australia where the governing party currently has fewer seats than the Opposition."

    Actually the governing Labour party has the most seats in the HOC, followed by the Liberal party, followed by the National party, followed by the Green party.

    Labour and Greens are in a coalition that has 43 seats, as are the Liberals and the Nationals with 43 seats as well. 3 of the 4 indies pledged supply in the government.

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  29. All,

    Geez. Wow, what an incredible coincidence...: (from Facebook)

    Steven Blaney Je vous invite à venir me rejoindre demain à 10h45 dans le parking du Centre des congrès de Levis pour venir à La Marche Bleue sur les Plaines. À demain! Steven

    Uh huh.

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  30. DL said: "Exactly, and on top of that the Senate is not allowed to reject any money bills and if they reject a government bill, they can only do so twice and then House overrides them. In a year or two a few Tory senators will die or retire and the Liberals would have a majority again anyways."

    DL, what on earth are you talking about? You are clearly not familiar with Canada's constitution or the powers of the Senate. Is this reflective of what Canadians think they know about our system of government? God help us!

    The Senate can't INITIATE money bills (that would be section 53 of the Constitution Act, 1867), they certainly can reject them (you will recall Brian Mulroney stacked the Senate to keep the Liberal controlled Senate from stopping the GST, and the Harper government was told in no uncertain terms back in 2008 that bill C-10 (a bunch of technical amendments to the income tax act that had been floating around since 2000) would not be passed in its then current form).

    And (unlike Australia) there is no formal tie-breaker rule in Canada for dealing with disagreements between the houses of parliament. In theory, we can have a permanent legislative gridlock between the Senate and the House of Commons. In practice, we have a customary mechanism for breaking such deadlocks, because by custom the Senate will not block legislation that a government ran an election on (part of the reason for the timing of the 1988 election was that the free-trade implementing legislation was going to be tied up by the Liberal controlled Senate). But, that only works if you call an election.

    And while you're right that the government doesn't have to pass a lot of legislation, it does have to pass a budget and corresponding appropriation bills every year, unless its going to shut down the government. Hard to do that if faced with a Senate veto. And, while, yes, a number of Senators are going to be retiring (or dying) over the next few years, remembers that a disproportionate number of them are going to be Liberals. So Iggy may be able to appoint Senators, but won't be able to retake the Senate.

    These are the sort of things that proponents of a coalition need to be thinking about.

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  31. DL said: "What WERE the tradeoffs?? What secret side deals did Harper give the BQ in exchange for their support. Did it involve a promise to recognize Quebec as a nation a few months later?"

    Nice try, except the tradeoff was well know, the Tories would address the purported "fiscal imbalance" between Ottawa and Quebec (which Jean Charest had been yapping about). That was the trade off (and one which served Jean Charest well). It wasn't secret (except, perhaps, for those who can't be bothered to read the paper). How could the Bloc vote against that?

    As for the suggestion that there was a deal to support a Quebec nation resolution, that displays a shocking ignorance of recent Canadian political history. The Quebec "nation" resolution originated from Michael Ignatieff during the 2006 Liberal leadership race and was embraced by the Quebec wing of the LIberal party. The Bloc got the idea from them and planned to use it to embarrass the federalist parties in Quebec. It was Stephen Harper (with help, it should be said, from Stephane Dion) who managed to hoist the Bloc on their own petard by rephrasing it (slightly) then forcing the Bloc to vote on the revised motion.

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  32. Yes, it is theoretically possible for a party to form a government despite having (a) fewer seats than another party and (b) roughly 33& of the seats in the house.

    But a theoretical possibility doesn't translate into a practical possibility. Such an arrangement would be inherently unstable, particularly if the Tories had more seats than the Liberals and NDP combined (since such a government would need the active support from the Bloc, instead of having the Bloc abstain or not show up - as it did frequently between 2006-08).

    And in the long-run such an arrangement might cause serious damage to the Liberal brand. They just can't be seen as being in the pockets of the Bloc or the NDP.

    Moreover, if you were the Liberals, why would you want to catch flack while leading an exceedingly weak government (and being blocked in the Senate) when you let the Tories catch flack while leading an exceedingly weak government, which the Liberals can control.

    I mean, the reality is that, if the Tories ended up with 128 seats or so, they'd be at the mercy of the Liberals and the Bloc. Why wouldn't the Liberals choose to give the government the choice of introducing THEIR policies or cutting a deal with the Bloc. That allows the Liberals to claim credit for getting their agenda implemented, while letting the Tories catch flack for anything that goes wrong. That's what the Liberals should have done in 2006-2008 if they hadn't been so poorly led and organized, instead of just rolling over for the government.

    ReplyDelete
  33. John says,

    "For those who focus on the seat count in such a minority parliament--don't. Look at the popular vote instead. The Conservative 33.1% would be far less legitimate than the Liberal+NDP 43.4%."

    I'll never understand this tortured logic. How can you be impressed with the combined lib/ndp vote being 10 points higher then the cpc?

    They get to run twice as many candidates, and get to spend twice as much money.

    I guess if you throw in the Greens you get to run three times as many, and spend three times as much.

    That's a leftie view of a fair fight I guess, and shows their weakness, not their strength.

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  34. DL

    After an election, the sitting PM is essentially just a caretaker and has very limited powers.

    Well written Dl and absolutely correct. Now when the sitting Govt. is defeated is also quite important. Should the Throne Speech be defeated the GG would be very loath to grant another election and would certainly talk to the Leader of the party with the next highest number of seats.

    If that Leader is willing to try then the GG will give him a period of time to come back with an agreement with other parties or some positive indication of support.

    Given that the Leader would then become the new PM.

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  35. Carl,

    Funny story. That motion actually said the "Quebecois is a nation in a united Canada".

    I thought this was rather clever wording.

    The "Quebec Nation" wasn't offically recognized by parliament, until they passed an incredibly stupid motion last week, in regard to the Macleans cover.


    Way to sell out Canada, to pander to separatist anger.

    Our parliament is full of spineless monkeys.

    This motion really pisses me off. Let's give away the queen, just over a stupid magazine cover.

    What a disgrace.

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  36. There doesn't have to be some secret backroom deal to get a party to support legislation in a minority situation - even without a formal agreement.

    If the government wants to pass a bill they can call up the leaders of the other parties as ask them what the bill needs to look like to get their support. If it's an enviro bill maybe the NDP or Greens (if they had MPs next time) would ask that penalties would be tougher for violators as an example. There is nothing wrong with that - that's what is supposed to happen in a minority Parliament - parties working together.

    One problem is it takes a lot more effort to get anything done because you will need to negotiate on every thing you want to pass - but some may argue that is a good thing.

    The bigger problem - at least for the Liberal Party - is that I don't think the NDP will accept an arrangement like that this time (assuming they elect enough MPs to have the balance of power in a minority situation). The NDP was very very close to cabinet last year. I can't imagine that if they have BOP they would walk away without getting there this time... it would be a huge step backwards for them if they found themselves in the exact situation they are hoping for and walk away empty handed.

    ReplyDelete
  37. "And they CAN just oppose things. I have watched opposition parties do it my entire life."

    And typically they do so in circumstances where their vote doesn't matter (i.e., majority governments). Hardly the same circumstances.

    "How many times did Harper's conservative opposition vote with Martin's minority government? It has nothing to do with similar policies - otherwise the reverse would be true."

    Actually, you will recall that the Tories originally proposed to support Martin's 2005 budget, and actually voted for it on first reading (and described it as being in line conservative policies). It was only after some of the more damaging testimony came out during the Gomery inquiry that the Tories announced they weren't going to vote for the budget.

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  38. A few points:

    1. The most damaging thing to the "Liberal brand" is being out of power. We have seen in the past 4 years that being PM and being government is incredibly important. A Minority Liberal government would be no weaker than the Tories were 2006-2008

    2. I hate to say it - but as much as the NDP would like to be in a coalition etc...I think that the Liberals would have a big upper hand in the game of "chicken" post election. The NDP and the BQ and the Liberals all loathe Harper personally to such a degree that it goes without saying that they would all vote down his Throne Speech regardless of what it contained. Then Ignatieff would bring in a Throne speech and he would just say to the NDP and BQ "take it or leave it"! I suspect they will both take it rather than face another election.

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  39. Peter, DL, John Smith you don't seem to understand that a formal agreement of supply from a majority of the house is a precondition to replacing the PM with an opposition leader with fewer seats.

    Only incumbent governemnts get the option of playing it by ear.

    When you say the GG asks the opposition leader if he can form government this is true.

    However, the opposition leader needs to PROVE it. They need to have some sort of agreement they can show the GG BEFORE being sworn in as PM.

    Otherwise there is a risk of the new PM being defeated. Stable governemnt is the job of the GG.

    If a fresh election has the chance of providing more stability it will always be the choice, unless the opposition leader has an alternative government put together with majority support in the HOC.

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  40. AJR79 I wouldn't get too bothered over the Macleans motion.

    It was wrong not because it recognized the "Quebec nation" but because in almost all circumstances parliament should not criticize the work of an independent press.

    The Queen has not been given away.

    This motion has no legal effect on Quebec's status.

    Its a motion that should be out of order (after Artur's objection the speaker should have bounced it, you can't re-introduce something that's been rejected only moments ago.)

    Its only passed by one house of parliament, not the senate. It has not been given royal assent.

    It has a symbolic effect to be sure but nobody really believes parliament just sold out the queen.

    A couple days later they were gathered for the swearing in of a new GG and Harper was celebrating the concept of monarchy in a speech.

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  41. However, the opposition leader needs to PROVE it. They need to have some sort of agreement they can show the GG BEFORE being sworn in as PM.

    My you do get it wrong !! Pearson had, nor did he need, any formal agreement with Douglas !!

    There is absolutely no need for any formal agreement!! PERIOD

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  42. Interesting piece by Tom Friedman in todays NY Times about a third party in the USA. Be interesting to watch for that.

    Link

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  43. DL:

    A simple question. If the opposition all hate Harper so much and if they are prepared to act in concert as you suggest then why are they waiting? Do it now and accept the bet that Harper won't get a majority. That seems a fair bet.

    There must be a reason they're not defeating the government and taking the reins of power. What is it?

    Peter we will only know if the GG would ignore a Prime Minister's request for dissolution and a new election and ask a party with 30 or seats less to form a government without formal support support from other parties when and if it happens. In fact the GG could once the government is defeated ask any MP in Parliament to try and form a government. You are absolutely correct. Would they? That is the question. You presuppose that that GG would would disregard the wishes of the sitting PM and call upon a party with not just a few less seats but 30 seats less to form a government. I don't think so. It is legal and possible? Yes. Is it likely? Not IMO. Only time may tell.

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  44. Earl there is one other factor at play here that everybody seems to want to ignore and that is time.

    Let's play with a scenario.

    There is an election in the Spring. Harper comes back with a reduced minority, say 135 seats.

    The House meets, the Throne Speech is presented and the House rejects the speech.

    Harper asks for a new election. Will the GG grant it? IMO he won't but will approach another party to see if they can form a Govt. Nobody wants an election every three months.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Eric are you going to be able to overview those four or five byelections scheduled for Nov. 9 ?

    ReplyDelete
  46. "However, the opposition leader needs to PROVE it. They need to have some sort of agreement they can show the GG BEFORE being sworn in as PM. "

    That is 100% FALSE. Harper was the opposition leader in 2006 and Paul Martin was the incumbent. I don't recall Harper needing to "prove" that he could govern by producing a formal agreement with the BQ or the Liberals.

    The way you PROVE you can govern is by passing a Throne Speech. Period. If after the next election Harper's Throne Speech is voted down, then its Ignatieff's turn to be invited to form a government and to propose a Throne Speech. If it passes, he is PM for the following several years.

    I really wish people would stop trying to invent non-existent laws.

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  47. Shadow,

    I appriciate your attempt to minimize the impact of the motion. I wish it were so. Saying that it shouldn't have passed is shoulda-woulda-coulda thinking.

    I agree with you that the legal implications are minimal; but then again I'm one who thinks that "distinct society" wouldn't have big a big deal leagally either.

    Nonetheless this is one for the history books. Part of the Harper legacy, if you will.

    When I refer to, "giving away the queen", I am talking about the 30+ year chess game we have been playing with the separatists. As with so many other things, I depart from Tory orthodoxy when it comes to the monarchy, and think that Canadians would be better served by a Republic.

    I know that you will just think I am being hyperboloic as usual, but if you think on it a bit I think you will feel a great tragedy has occured for federalisim.

    I was once under the delusion that Stephen Harper may have been "The One" to get Quebec to ratify.

    I could not have been more wrong.

    I just saw him allow a huge bargining chip to be given away.

    It's a chump move, from an amateur hour parliament.

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  48. Actually of all the craven and stupid things I've seen out of Ottawa, I think this ranks highly.

    I'll need a bit more time to digest it, as I still can't really believe this happened.

    Give me a couple weeks to tell for sure; but I think this ranks as a perfect 10 on the BS, pandering, fuck-up-o-meter.

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  49. "That is 100% FALSE. Harper was the opposition leader in 2006 and Paul Martin was the incumbent. I don't recall Harper needing to "prove" that he could govern by producing a formal agreement with the BQ or the Liberals."

    DL I think you missed the last part of my statement:

    "...a precondition to replacing the PM with an opposition leader with fewer seats."

    FEWER SEATS.


    A PM is sworn in. Ministers are sworn in. The government is handed over.

    They're in power for usually weeks (actually up to one year according to the consitution) before they are obligated to recall the commons and test for confidence.

    The GG is not going to throw someone in and let them take a gamble on holding the house.

    They need to line up the votes BEFORE they are given power.

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  50. "They need to line up the votes BEFORE they are given power."

    Show me where that's written in the constitution! You're just making up self-serving fantasy "laws" that do not exist.

    If we were to start demanding PROOF of being able to govern in a minority situation - then there should be no double standard - and the party with the largest number of seats should have to prove they can form a government. That means that after the next election, if Harper wants to survive, he better start sucking up to Gilles Duceppe and get him to pledge his undying support for a third Tory minority government - otherwise Harper is politically DEAD.

    After the next election, the Tory Throne speech will be defeated and the GG will ask the leader of the opposition to form a government. If that government also gets its Throne Speech defeated - we will have another election - or maybe the GG will ask the leader of the next largest party to try to form a government - since that will likely be Duceppe, i expect he will decline the offer. Then I guess Layton gets a turn at trying to form a government. That would be fun - an NDP minority government dependent on shifting combinations of support! If that fails too - then we have another election and hopefully the Tories get a leader who isn't solely motivated by HATRED (and it shows)

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  51. Peter said:

    "Earl there is one other factor at play here that everybody seems to want to ignore and that is time."

    Ok, yes, it is different to bring down a government in the middle of a term than right after an election. But we already know what Iggy will do in that scenario, because he already did it before in January 1999, i.e., demand minimal concessions from the government so as to be given an excuse not to bring down the government. Why would he do anything different after the next election?

    I think those of you who are counting on Iggy to bring down a Tory government after an election when the Tories have more seats than the NDP and Liberals combined (as they do now) are fooling yourselfs. What was Einstein's definition of insany? "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

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  52. "I agree with you that the legal implications are minimal; but then again I'm one who thinks that "distinct society" wouldn't have big a big deal leagally either."

    You weren't fussed about "distinct society", but the nation motion bothers you? How do you square that circle. The "nation" motions are symbolic, but otherwise meaningless. The distinct society clause, however, would have been an interpretive provision of the constitution. It might have been symbolic, but it would also have had legal effect.

    In any event, if you're going to give the reference to the "Quebec nation" in the MaCleans motion any meaning, that meaning should be derived from the previous "nation" motion which recognized Quebec as being a nation within a united Canada. The second motion is in no ways in consistent with the first.

    In any event, the real complaint shouldn't be about the reference to Quebec as a nation, but to the fact that Parliament is wasting its time condemning Macleans. Doesn't parliament have more important things to do?

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  53. You're just making up self-serving fantasy "laws" that do not exist.

    But he always does DL. It's one of his stock in trade.

    Reality and accuracy go by the board if he can twist something into supporting the CPC. He's very much a troll.

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  54. Peter,

    I'm not sure either you or DL should be getting too self-righteous about the practice of "making up" laws. That is unless DL wants to provide references to the purported statutory provisions which form the basis for this claim:

    DL said: "Exactly, and on top of that the Senate is not allowed to reject any money bills and if they reject a government bill, they can only do so twice and then House overrides them."

    In any event, when it comes to appointing governments, there is no law (indeed, it fall within the realm of matters which are non-judiciable), except that it is done at the pleasure of her majesty. There is, however, a great deal of custom behind the practice, which custom a GG is unlikely to deviate from.

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  55. Carl said:

    "Ok, yes, it is different to bring down a government in the middle of a term than right after an election. But we already know what Iggy will do in that scenario, because he already did it before in January 1999, i.e., demand minimal concessions from the government so as to be given an excuse not to bring down the government. Why would he do anything different after the next election?"

    Ummm....because after the next election Ignatieff will have two options - to become PM or to tossed into the garbage can of history. In Jan. 2009, Iggy was not even leader yet and he deluded himself into thinking that he could win a majority all by himself. After the next election, either he finds a way to be PM or he leaves. Its as simple as that. The Liberals have no patience for more years in opposition. They will make it happen.

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  56. Shadow: They need to line up the votes BEFORE they are given power.

    Disproof by counter-example: our old friend, the King-Byng Affair. Meighen clearly didn't have the votes lined up because he immediately lost a confidence motion.

    (Yes, King' Liberals had fewer seats than Meighen's Conservatives, even though he'd been governing for over half a year. This is irrelevant with respect to the statement quoted above.)

    Vehement assertions IN GREAT BIG CAPITAL LETTERS do not make facts. Sorry, but that's reality.

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  57. "In Jan. 2009, Iggy was not even leader yet and he deluded himself into thinking that he could win a majority all by himself."

    DL, DL, DL, what are we going to do with you? Iggy was named the interim leader of the Liberal party on December 10th, 2008, after Bob Rae pulled out and threw his support behind him. At that point his ratification at the leadership convention was just a formality.

    In any event, to deal with your specific claim, that Iggy will either have to bring down Harper or resign, that makes no sense. If Iggy picks up 25 seats (as Eric suggests he would, based on the latest polls) there isn't going to be any pressure on him to resign.

    Moreover, if the Tory government is a weak one (say, 130 seats or less), Iggy and his followers will know that they can bring him down at any time they want (assuming, as you do, that neither the Bloc nor the NDP will prop the Tories up). So the question is, will they allow themselves to be stampeded into forming a government that will be short-lived, impotent, and held hostage by the Bloc, the NDP and the TOries (through their control of the Senate - as an aside, by the end of the year, the Tories will have 54 of the 105 Senators, and only 1 of the next 6 senators up for retirements is a Conservative. 4 are grits and one is a PC (Lowell Murray). That's make it very difficult for Iggy to make gains in the Senate much before July 2012). Or will they bide their time and wait to bring down the government at a time that is most advantageous to them?

    Maybe I have a better opinion of Liberal intellect than you do, but I'd bet on the latter.

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  58. That is unless DL wants to provide references to the purported statutory provisions which form the basis for this claim

    That is entirely up to DL. As for myself the second part of your post is correct. Very little if any law but enormous amount of custom and tradition. That's why we have objected to Shadow's pseudo-righteous nonsense.

    At times he sounds like the Liberals of old with his "natural governing" approach.

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  59. Carl,

    I square that circle quite easily since Quebec would have signed the constitution, in trade for "distinct society".

    That trade would have been more then worth it, as we could have bandaged Canadas gaping wound.

    Instead we have given Quebec everything they were offered at Meech, and more, for nothing in return.

    Now that capitulation is complete, moving beyond the, "Qebecois nation", carefully worded language, and recognizing the "Quebec nation".

    Think about the history behind this, and you'll understand why it is upsetting.

    I agree with both Shadow and yourself, that there are freedom of the press issues around this, and that it is a waste of parliaments time.


    By far the worst part about this motion thou is that the Canadian government has now recognized the Quebec nation, and there now is really no incentive for them to ever ratify.

    This has been something the separatists have been after for over 30 years, we just give it away, and the country mostly shrugs it's shoulders.

    Why will they ever buy the cow, when we keep tossing them all the cream they could want.

    Maybe you can explain to me why this doesn't upset you. Do you like seeing all the federal parties line up, to cave in to the separatists? Does that not anger you?

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  60. "After the next election, either he finds a way to be PM or he leaves. Its as simple as that."

    Yes I think you are quite correct. But all he has to do is resign as Leader.

    Leadership Convention and then we move on.

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  61. Carl,

    I would like to see where you got the idea that "distinct society" would have had a major legal effect.

    Former Chief justice of the SCC, Brian Dickson, disagrees with your assesment.

    ReplyDelete
  62. I think the Liberals have had it with "biding their time". They know that there is no substitute for being in power and they will find way to make it happen. The fact is that in this era of permanent minority government - ANY government is going "held hostage" at least to some extent by the other parties.

    The reality is that none of the parties (other than the Tories) can afford to have an election every six months. Ignatieff will simply form a minority government and dare the other parties to force an early election - he will probably have a fair amount of time to play with since there is a good chance that all the other parties will be choosing new leaders in the wake of the next election and will be in disarray for a year or two.

    I think the opposition parties all regard Harper as a bit of hate-filled psychopath - and they will all be united in wanting to excise the Harperite cancer before it spreads further through our body politic.

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  63. AJR79

    There is a legal presumption that legislative provisions are not meaningless. So anytime parliament adds provisions to the constitution, you should proceed on the assumption that the courts will (correctly) try to give meaning to parliament's legislative intent.

    I don't know what CJ Dickson said, but I suspect that it's probably similar to Peter Hogg's take (Hogg is probably the pre-eminent constitutional scholar in Canada) which was that the distinct society clause in and of itself wouldn't have any impact, but that it could affect the interpretation of the other provisions of the Constitution (although he thought that, in practice, the interpretative effect of that provisions wouldn't be significant).

    Maybe Hogg is right as to the practical effect of a distinct society clause, but I note that the judicial history of other "meaningless" constitutional clauses doesn't support that conclusion. For example, section 27 of the Charter of rights and freedoms (which Hogg described as "more of a rhetorical flourish than an operative provision") has been cited in a number of appelant level (CA or SCC) cases and, for example, has been used (by CJ Bryan Dickson, as it happens) as a justification for, in part, limiting free speech rights.

    Parliamentary motions are meaningless. Amendments to the supreme law of Canada, inherently, are not.

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  64. AJR79,

    If you think Quebec would ever ratify the constitution in exchange for mere recognition as a nation, you're nuts.

    What Quebec wanted (and, incidentally, how Robert Bourassa interpreted the Distinct society clause - which, given that he, unlike Peter Hogg and Bryan Dickson was a party to the Meech lake accord, should be given some significant weight) was a provision of the constitution which affected how it would be interpreted.

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  65. Carl,

    Mulroney was also at Meech Lake, and he claimed that it would have no practicable effect. I can't recall Bourassa ever claiming that it would. I'm pretty sure Robert Burassa was a federalist.

    What Hogg is saying doesn't seem to be out of line with what Dickson was saying. If Meech could've passed we'd have beeen a better, stronger Country today with minimal change to the law of the land.

    IMO distinct society was more about respect then anything else.

    I'd actually be very interested to hear Eric's opinion on the matter, if he could find time.

    Was this a fairly major sell out by the federalist politicians, and a victory for the Bloc, or am I overblowing this?

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  66. "Maybe you can explain to me why this doesn't upset you. Do you like seeing all the federal parties line up, to cave in to the separatists? Does that not anger you?"

    It's too dinky a matter to get agree about. It annoys me, but not because parliament called a nation. Heck, they could call Quebec a watermelon for all the difference it makes. It annoys me that parliament feels the need to appease Quebecers (especially to condemn Macleans for saying something that, as it turns out, a lot of Quebecers agree with). But, I understand the real world that politicians work in, and that this sort of stuff happens all the time (and, in fairness, not just with Quebec). Given that this didn't cost me anything, it's a pretty minor annoyance.

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  67. Carl,

    And they should never, ever get that.

    If any provision is ever added to the constitution at Quebec's behest, it needs to be followed immediately by a reinteration that all the provinces are equal and that any power given to one is given to all.

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  68. John I don't think you understand the difference between facts and opinions.

    Nobody is disputing the vast powers of the GG to appoint Glen Pearson as PM after the next election but that doesn't make it likely or right.

    Each of us is describing what we believe to be best practices based on our understanding of the GG's job to provide stability to the nation.

    The "King-Byng Affair" maintains an air of scandal because many, including myself, believe it to have been the wrong decision.

    The right decision, on the other hand, was in 2006 when a fresh election was granted to Paul Martin instead of having Harper become leader.

    "Vehement assertions IN GREAT BIG CAPITAL LETTERS do not make facts. Sorry, but that's reality."

    Unfortunate condescension coupled with lecturing undermines the strength of your argument.

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  69. "The right decision, on the other hand, was in 2006 when a fresh election was granted to Paul Martin instead of having Harper become leader."

    There is no comparison whatsoever between a dissolution of parliament after the fall of a minority government that had been in office for 18 months - and a government having its throne speech voted down immediately after an election during that interregnum when Canada has a caretaker government and no one actually has established "confidence".

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  70. Carl,

    "Mulroney was also at Meech Lake, and he claimed that it would have no practicable effect. I can't recall Bourassa ever claiming that it would. I'm pretty sure Robert Burassa was a federalist."

    Mulroney has said a lot of things (not all of them, in retrospect, entirely truthful). Keep in mind, Mulroney's dismissal of the distinct society clause (reported in Peter Newman's book) was IN PRIVATE to Clyde Wells (who he was trying to pursuade to ratify Meach Lake). In that context, it should be taken with a particularly hefty grain of salt.

    And Bourassa WAS a federalist. So was Trudeau, but he shared my interpretation of the distinct society clause: "when you deliberately do not put "distinct society" into a preamble, but into an interpretive clause, that can mean only one thing – you are giving to the government of that distinct society powers that it did not have before". Trudeau may have been many things, but he was no fool.

    In any event, the fact that the distinct society clause was so vague as to have been (plausibly) subject to such contradictory interpretations by knowledgeable people just emphasizes how dangerous it potentially was.

    Still, my own view (not surpringly) is that my interpretation is the better one. Think about it, imagine a court trying to figure out the meaning of the distinct society clause. One the one hand, they are told that a key piece of a constitutional compromise that induced Quebec to ratify the constitution (i.e., the distinct society clause) was intended to be nothing more than meaningless words (your view). And on the other hand, they are told that it was intended to be given some weight in interpreting the constitution (my view). Its hard to see how a court could find that a key compoentent of a constitutional compromise could be "meaningless".

    And note, what Hogg is saying isn't different than what I'm saying (or what Trudeau said). That the distinct society clause could have effect by altering the interpretation of the other provisions of the constitution. Where Hogg disagrees with me (and Trudeau) is on the practical effect of that. He thought it was small, I'm saying, in light of the application of other interpretive provisions of the Charter (and I gave section 27, another provision that Hogg dismisses, as an example), it likely would have been more significant. Certainly, it could have provided a basis for re-weighting s.1 analyses in charter litigation (which is what Dickson did with section 27 of the Charter). It could also have come into play in interpreting the division of powers in section 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Those aren't minor risks.

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  71. Shadow: Each of us is describing what we believe to be best practices based on our understanding of the GG's job to provide stability to the nation.

    The original statement said nothing about opinion or best practices. It said,

    They need to line up the votes BEFORE they are given power.

    The problem with recasting positions in a context like ThreeHundredEight is that the original comments are still there for all to see. Any credibility goes to hell in a handbasket.

    However, the quoted explanation was helpful. In future, others can presumably take Shadow simple declarative statements as opinions only, not to be taken at face value or having any basis in reality.

    Unfortunate condescension coupled with lecturing undermines the strength of your argument.

    To some, undoubtedly. Others strongly believe in working from evidence. I will continue to call out those whose pronouncements are based on imagination, however fertile.

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  72. John unfortunately your penchant for calling people out is hopelessly one sided, to the point that you betray the lack of fair mindedness you believe you have.

    The context of our conversation justifies my interpretation and disqualifies yours.

    Let's go back and look at DL's statements:

    "GG will have no choice but to ask the leader of the second largest party to form a government."

    Oh really ??

    But its within her power to appoint Glen Pearson as PM. She clearly does have a CHOICE.

    What is obvious here is that DL, as I was doing, is describing what he believes to be the proper course of action for the GG.

    You greet the notion that we are each presenting our own opinions with surprise.

    Weird. Isn't that obvious ?

    I never made mention or reference to any hard and fast laws. I said what I believed the GG should do to maintain stability.

    "In future, others can presumably take Shadow simple declarative statements as opinions only, not to be taken at face value or having any basis in reality."

    Setting aside the unfortunate condescension (again?) I have to say this should be obvious to anyone who isn't a fool. I have no problem with this statement.

    In fact remove the name Shadow and replace it with John or anyone else and its equally true.

    1) Everything we say on here is our opinion.

    2) Declarative statements we make are what we believe to be true, however, our perceptions of reality and reality itself don't necessarily match up.

    3) Nothing should be taken at face value but I would hope we could each accept that we are acting in good faith here.

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  73. Carl,

    If that quote were from Bourassa it would be damning to my point of view.

    I seriously wish you would have quoted Preston Manning, or Stephen Harper at me, then PET.

    Coming out of retirement to speak out against Meech is the one thing that I can never forgive him for. You may see a strong federalist defender, I see an ego driven old man who put his pride, before the good of his country. I think he was out there because he couldn't stand to see someone succeed where he had failed.

    Maybe he actually talked himself into believing what he was saying, but he was not at Meech, and had a vested interest at not seeing it succeed.

    I'm not a big SCC buff so I'm not sure what Dickson case you were refering to. Please provide a link as I'd be interested to take a look.

    I'd also look at anything you have in regard to distinct society having an impact on sections 91 and 92 of the Constitution Act 1867

    I have yet to see a convincing argument from the Trudeau camp as to what exactly the big fear was, or what exactly in Meech that they wouldn't have given.

    More like a bunch of fearmongering, and feading off populist anger. It's shameful that a former PM would act that way IMO.

    The reality on the ground today is that Quebec has gotten more then they were offered at Meech, and had to give up almost nothing to get it.

    I hate to say it, but if it wasn't for Dion, we'd really be up the river.

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  74. Why are we all assuming that the Bloc will bring down a Tory government?

    Ok, they would have voted to do so in 2008/09, but that was in exchange for getting a veto on coalition policies from Dion and Layton. Anyone think that will be on offer again next time (or the half-life of Iggy's political career if it is)? The Bloc is going to have to get something to vote for the Liberals (and they will have to vote FOR the Liberals(unlike, say, from 2006-08 when the Tories only needed the Bloc or the Grits to be conveniently absent).

    Otherwise, they may well figure that they're better off with the Tories in power. What's that you say, the Tories are deeply unpopular in Quebec? Maybe (though recent polls are all-over the place), but if you're a separatist is that a bad thing? They would presumably square off against a government with little or no representation in Quebec than give the reigns of power (and the perks that go with it) to the Liberal party (who, historically, at least, have been their greatest threat in Quebec).

    The same holds true on the policy side, will the Bloc rather be voting for a one-sized fits all federal day-care, pharma-care, elder care etc. plan (or are the Liberals and NDP going to slit their own throats by imposing federal plans on the rest of Canada while leaving a carve-out for Quebec)? Indeed, in that light, if they can shake down the Tories and Liberals equally (since they'd be a swing voting bloc between them), it would be less costly to "support" the Tories (since they can keep the government afloat without voting for it).

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  75. Also, coming back to the Liberal perspective, the most likely scenario that the Liberals will follow is Stephen Harper circa 2004. Remember, the Tories didn't continuously threaten to bring down the government, nor did they vote against the speech from the throne, rather they proposed an amendment to the speech from the throne that, with some finagling the Liberals managed to sign onto (they also originally proposed to support the Liberal budget, until the sponsorship scandal blew up). Essentially, the Tories gave the Liberals an offer they couldn't refuse. (As an aside, the Liberal's failure to take similar actions over the past 5 years is a testament to their ineptitude).

    Remember, at that time, Harper was in the same position that Eric suggests Iggy will be in if an election were held today. But bringing down the government in October 2004 would have been a disaster for him (I don' think anyone disagrees with that), so why do people think it would be a good think for Iggy? As it turned out, things worked out pretty well for Harper, by waiting a year, he gave the Liberals time to fatally torpedo themselves with the sponsorship scandal(which analysis should hold equally true if you think the Tories are a disaster), while giving him an extra year to smooth out the edges of his party (which the current Liberal party stil badly needs).

    The only reason he wouldn't do this is if he's so besotten by a lust to be PM that he'll throw away any and every tactical advantage for a shot at governing for a few months a-la Joe Clarke. It would also make sense if you think that 100-odd seats are the best that the Liberals can ever expect to attain (though, in that case, the Liberals have much bigger problems on their hands). I don't think either of those propositions are true (or at least with respect to the second one, I doubt the Liberals think it is true).

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  76. DL and Peter:

    You are entitled to your opinions. It is my opinion the the GG would not make new precedent and call upon a smaller party where more than a few seats seperated the two top parties to form a government absent a formal agreement.

    That formal agreement acknowledges that the smaller party can in fact command the support of the HOC. There is simply no precedent for what you are proposing.

    Peter in the 1960's when Pearson governed he was the head of the largest party and was for the most part close to a majority of seats. There was no separatist party in the mix. The comparison you attempt to make between today's situation and Pearson's time in government simply does not exist. That is unless Iggy wins the most seats or comes within a few of the CPC.

    In Australia, the negotiations went on fot two weeks while the governing party and the main oppisition tried to persuade the independents to swing behind their party. In the end Labour was able to cling to power because they had the support of enough independeants to produce a bare majority of seats. Both parties as well as the independents said clearly that if negotiations failed they saw another election as the only solution.

    Finally do you think that the Liberals and NDP want to take the risk that the GG would be willing to break precedent and call upon them singularly or together to form a goverment that could only survive with Bloc support. The GG if he followed convention would acede to the PM's request for a new election. Voters would most likely decide to punish either the governing party or the opposition for forcing a new election. If the Throne speech were reasonable in tone one would expect the opposition to feel the wrath of the voters.

    It would be at the least a dangerous political calulation to defeat the government on its first Throne Speech simply to try and take power. There is a political calculation here of the most delicate kind.

    When you talk of the powers of the GG you do so as if custom and convention did not exist. It does in fact. Canada has been subject to these unwritten laws and conventions since its inception. You both act as if they didn't exist. In fact they are as powerful as written law, as the SOC showed when it ruled that the Federal Government had a duty to consult with and reach a deal with the provinces over the patriation of the Constitution in 1982.

    Good luck but I think you are streching.

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  77. "Finally do you think that the Liberals and NDP want to take the risk that the GG would be willing to break precedent and call upon them singularly or together to form a goverment that could only survive with Bloc support. The GG if he followed convention would acede to the PM's request for a new election."

    What you don't seem to understand is that after an election and before anyone has established confidence by passing a Throne Speech - the PM has virtually no powers. He is a caretaker with very very strictly limited powers. If he cannot gain the confidence of the House on a Throne speech - he must resign. Period. If he tried to ask for a new election, he would be laughed out of Rideau Hall.

    You talk about precedent - there is one precedent in Canada. In the King-Byng affair - the Tories won 116 seats in the 1925 election and the Liberals had 99 - yet the Liberals formed a minority government that lasted a year with support from the Progressives (no formal agreement, no coalition).

    There was no controversy at all over the fact that the Liberals governed even though they were the second biggest arty. The crisis happened when King wanted a snap election and the GG refused and insisted on giving the Tories a chance to govern. They promptly lost a confidence vote by one vote and then an election was called. Many observers thing the GG should instead have reappointed King as PM.

    The overriding principle that Harper better to learn to live with is that you cannot keep having election after election until you get the result you want.

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  78. Harper's road to a majority:

    http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/10/04/don-martin-harperland-a-potential-guidebook-to-conservative-majority/

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  79. Earl: It is my opinion the the GG would not make new precedent and call upon a smaller party where more than a few seats seperated the two top parties to form a government absent a formal agreement.

    Fortunately, no precedent-setting would be required: there's already the King Liberal government of 1925. The Liberals, with 99 seats to the Conservatives' 116, were propped up for over half a year by the Progressives. It wasn't a formal coalition and the Progressives had no cabinet seats.

    Byng didn't have to make a decision here; King was Prime Minister going into the election and until he was defeated on a confidence motion, he simply continued to govern. However, the legitimacy of a government without a plurality was accepted, so David Johnston wouldn't be blazing a new path.

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  80. John:

    You are, IMO, opinion completely misreading King - Byng. Every government has the right to meet the house aqfter an election. The GG has nothing to say about it.

    When the GG did step in and IGNORE King's advice to dissolve the house and call elections the electorate repudiated the decision of the GG to ignore the PM in the subsequent election. After the King/Byng incident it was convention that the GG should act not on his own but only on the wishes of the PM as long as the PM was acting within the bounds of Canada's written and unwritten law.

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  81. DL:

    "The overriding principle that Harper better to learn to live with is that you cannot keep having election after election until you get the result you want."

    The oposition will be calling the shots in regard to the timing of an election and what happens afterward. Harper is content to govern until defeated or it time for an election.

    Once again you are afraid to run on the idea of a coalition.

    In any event I've made my points about what I believe is the legality of what you are proposing. I'll leave it at that as we are not likely to agree. The best solution would be a majority government, Liberal or Conservative.

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  82. Maybe Harper should start acknowledging that if he fails to win a majority - the only way he can stay in power is if he forms a coalition with the BQ or the Liberals or the NDP.

    What makes the most sense is a Conservative-Liberal "grand coalition". The two parties agree on almost everything anyways and it would mirror the coalition government in the UK.

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  83. DL if Harper gets the same result as 2008 I see no threat to his minority status.

    Polls are down somewhat but money and organizaton are still strong.

    Its likely they can bully/scare/bribe enough Liberals out of an Ignatieff-NDP-BQ coaltion and then continue to divide and rule as they've done since 2006.

    It wouldn't surprise me to see Ignatieff, Layton, Duceppe, and a string of veteran MPs retire after the next election.

    Attrition, by-election victories, and new seats in BC/AB/ON could make a Harper majority inevitable the election after the next.

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  84. DL said:

    "What makes the most sense is a Conservative-Liberal "grand coalition". The two parties agree on almost everything anyways and it would mirror the coalition government in the UK".

    Which is basically what we've had since 1996, with the Liberals consistently supporting (or abstaining) to keep the government in power (the only time they've tried to bring down the government, in almost 5 years, was last fall. And a good thing for Iggy that they didn't succeed ).

    That's precisely why the Liberals aren't going to be in a rush to bring down a Tory minority government after the next election. They know the fulcrum of the Canadian political spectrum lies between them and the Tories. Being pulled to the left by the NDP or the Bloc can only hurt them. The only way the Liberals take over as the next government is if the Tories emerge from an election sufficiently weakened that they can't fight an election for another year or more(say, if Harper resigns and they need a new leader, or if they take a pounding in the polls. Losing 10 or 15 seats isn't going to get do that). In all likelihood that isn't going to happen unless the Grits end up with more seats than the Tories.

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  85. That "Grand Coalition", while a great idea, isn't going to happen as long as the Liberal braintrust honestly believes that Stephen Harper is evil...

    ...and they do.

    It's not productive.

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  86. "That "Grand Coalition", while a great idea, isn't going to happen as long as the Liberal braintrust honestly believes that Stephen Harper is evil..."

    Well, they don't think he's so evil to have voted down his government in any one of a number of confidence votes over the last 5 years (including last spring's budget). Why would we expect them to change after an election if maintains the status quo?

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  87. Earl: You are, IMO, opinion completely misreading King - Byng. Every government has the right to meet the house aqfter an election. The GG has nothing to say about it.

    Your second and third sentences are absolutely correct. I differ on your first, though. The precedent set by King's continued government after the 1925 election was at most a peripheral prelude to the King-Byng affair in 1926.

    Had the King government not fallen in 1926, the precedent would still have been set: a government does not need a plurality or a coalition. Therefore, I'm not misreading the central drama of King-Byng; I'm ignoring it entirely as irrelevant to the matter.

    The counter-argument might be that a continuing government doesn't need a plurality but a new one does. However, it's not clear why or how that distinction could be relevant. Precedents from here or elsewhere are invited. Hard evidence is always persuasive.

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  88. "Which is basically what we've had since 2006, with the Liberals consistently supporting (or abstaining) to keep the government in power (the only time they've tried to bring down the government, in almost 5 years, was last fall. And a good thing for Iggy that they didn't succeed )."

    Right now the Liberals have the worst of both worlds. They are propping up Harper (because they secretely agree with most of his policies), but they are stuck cooling their heels in opposition - no cabinet posts, no limos, no share of the patronage spoils - nothing, nada. If I was a Liberal, I'd say what's the point of backing a Tory minority government in exchange for nothing when we can form a coalition get Iggy the title of Deputy PM and then a dozen Liberals can sit in the Harper cabinet and hire all those unemployed Liberal lackeys to the staffs.

    If you're a Liberal, what's not to like??

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  89. "Right now the Liberals have the worst of both worlds. They are propping up Harper (because they secretely agree with most of his policies), but they are stuck cooling their heels in opposition - no cabinet posts, no limos, no share of the patronage spoils - nothing, nada. If I was a Liberal, I'd say what's the point of backing a Tory minority government in exchange for nothing when we can form a coalition get Iggy the title of Deputy PM and then a dozen Liberals can sit in the Harper cabinet and hire all those unemployed Liberal lackeys to the staffs.

    If you're a Liberal, what's not to like??"

    Sure, that would be a great idea if the Liberals could form a government and rule with the support of the Tories. But that isn't an option. The only alternative to the status quo is coalition with the NDP and the Bloc. True, that would get the Liberals all the perks of government, for a time, but at the expense of (a) having to implement policies that they don't agree with and (b) risking being blown out of the water within the year when that coalition inevitably falls apart. Moroever, if it gives the perks of government to the Liberals, it also gives a boost to the profiles of the NDP and the Bloc - not something the Grits want to encourage.

    You're right though, that the status quo doesn't do much for the Liberals, because they end up propping up the government while getting nothing in return. But there is middle-ground between those two extremes, namely being in opposition but actually making (reasonable) demands from the government on policy.

    That's how the Liberals should have been playing this game for the past few years. On every budget or confidence vote, or what have you, they should be proposing modest, but reasonable, amendments, which amendments the government wouldn't dare fight an election over.

    The NDP knows how to play this game, that's how they managed to extract EI concessions from the Tories last year (while Iggy was impotently shaking his fist and telling Harper his time was up) and, come to think of it, that's how they got concessions from Paul Martin in the 2005 budget. For whatever reason (*cough* incompetence *cough*) the Liberals haven't been able to do this. On the few occasions when they have extracted any concessions, the concessions have invariably been meaningless and/or backfired on them (the quarterly reports Iggy "got" from Harper in exchange for supporting the 2009 budget? Harper used those as an excuse to distribute all sorts of government funded propaganda (while crediting Iggy). The EI committee Iggy "extracted" from Harper in the spring of 2009? It did nothing and Harper promptly outflanked Iggy later that fall by compromising with the NDP - Had Iggy made that ask in the spring of 2009 he probably would have gotten it).

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