The Conservative Party, clearly alarmed that the idea of a coalition government appears to be gathering momentum, have tried to derail things with the revelation that the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois were in talks about forming a coalition to bring down the government before the whole kerfuffle over the fiscal update materialized. Somehow, the fact that these talks were happening makes the actions of the three parties suspect.
How, I’m not exactly sure.
I really don’t see what sort of sinister import this revelation is supposed to impart. All I see is two opposition parties (and, note, the Liberals are conspicuous by their absence as a party in this transcript) keeping the lines of communication open, ensuring that they are prepared to act should something happen and the Conservative government be brought down.
That’s not sinister, that’s being prepared.
In fact, I would have to say that I’m even more pleased that this coalition might be taking over, since they appear to think through their actions, rather than stubbornly shoehorn in politically divisive policies and language into a economic update in spite of the advice of one’s own MPs, with no clear idea of what to do if all three opposition parties suddenly decided to grow a spine. I know who I’d rather have managing the economy, thankyouverymuch.
Some supporters are saying, “but they’re thwarting the will of the electorate by doing this!” Well, no, they are not. The Conservatives won a stronger mandate to govern in the previous election, but it was not rock solid. Never forget that. Never forget the fact that we elect parliaments, not governments, and that nobody in this country votes directly for the prime minister, save for the 308 members of parliament that we elect to represent our views, riding per riding.
Stephen Harper could not count on the support of the majority of those members of parliament, who have the absolute right to vote how they see fit on any issue. The majority of those members of parliament were given a mandate by the voters in their ridings to support different party leaders for the position of prime minister. It was up to the government to reach out to opposition MPs to try and find common ground that could ensure the current prime minister retained the confidence of the house. He didn’t.
And, indeed, over the past two years, the current prime minister has exhibited a pattern of behaviour which eschews such conciliation. He then opportunistically called an election — breaking his own election date law in doing so — specifically to try and put the opposition at a political and financial disadvantage. He won a stronger mandate to govern, yes, but not a majority one.
Don’t you think the opposition parties, witnessing this pattern of behaviour, and having gone through an election which could conceivably have made certain members of the governing party somewhat… cocky… would wonder at the likelihood of the current prime minister reaching out and making those conciliatory moves that are supposed to happen in making a minority parliament work?
No. So, is it really a surprise that the possibility of forming a coalition to govern in the event the current government fell was taken seriously, and prepared for?
Not to me it isn’t. And it’s to the credit of the NDP and the Bloc that they did.
Update: On the Ethics of Conservative MP Mike Allen
(Update: Note Correction Below)
While the (duh-duh-DUH!!) revelation of the NDP caucus transcript does little to impugn the integrity, for me, of either the New Democrats or the Bloc Quebecois being prepared to bring down the government and govern in its stead, and while I think the whole revelation is a controversy the Conservatives are trying to manufacture in order to save their sorry selves, I would like to comment on the revelation of who it was who taped the meeting, and what it says about that individual.
The people at Democratic Space have uncovered some details, and it appears that an honest mistake on the part of the NDP allowed a Conservative MP (in this case Mike Allen) to listen into the NDP caucus meeting:
It appears an easy mistake lead the NDP to accidentally give Conservative MP Mike Allen (Tobique-Mactaquac) the coordinates for their private caucus meeting. Parliament emails take the form of LastName.FirstInitial@parl.gc.ca. But there are two people who would normally have Allen.M@parl.gc.ca — Mike Allen and Malcolm Allen (NDP, Welland), who was assigned Allen.Ma@parl.gc.ca. It appears the NDP accidentally sent the coordinates to Allen.M@parl.gc.ca instead of Allen.Ma@parl.gc.ca. It seems like a simple mistake.
The real question here is why Mike Allen (or his representatives) proceeded to attend the call, knowing full well he did not belong in an NDP caucus meeting.
Now, if I were Mike Allen, and I received details on how to listen in on a private caucus meeting of a caucus I wasn’t a member of, I’d contact the nearest representative of the NDP and I’d say, “I received this e-mail by mistake. Can you explain why?” But then, it appears that I have more integrity than Mike Allen.
What sort of mind decides to take this erroneously sent e-mail, and use it as an opportunity to do a little spying? What sort of mind looks for these sorts of cheap shots to lob at one’s political opponents?
The answer, as far as I can see, is the sort of political mind that has been precisely part of the problem with the Conservative government these past two years. It is the Harper mindset in a nutshell: antagonistic, partisan, blinkered, power hungry, arrogant and, worst of all, cheap.
It is precisely the reason why these Conservatives have to be spanked into their opposition benches, now.
Update: Tuesday 1:08 a.m.
It should be noted that the above paragraphs about Conservative MP Mike Allen are, at this point, still speculation and have not been confirmed. We’ll see how this plays out, whether it’s a question of ethics, or a more substantial goof on the part of somebody in the New Democrats’ office. Either way, I still do not think that this detracts from my original point: the presence of these talks at the beginning of this mandate is in no way sinister, in my opinion. It’s entirely appropriate behaviour for opposition parties considering their options in a minority mandate.
Update: Tuesday, 11:55 p.m.
And note Greg Morrow’s comment below. Apparently the misdirected e-mail went not to Mike Allen, but to John Duncan. Therefore, I apologize to Mr. Mike Allen for perpetuating this mistake and impugning his integrity.