As we draw closer to the next federal election in October, most of the political conversation in the nation is now focused on how to defeat the Harper Conservatives, who will be vying for their fourth consecutive mandate. One of the more radical ideas concerns a progressive alliance between the NDP and the Liberals, in which they would run together as a single entity. However, this kind of government is unlikely to happen.
At first glance, the idea makes a lot of sense. After all, it was the successful union of the Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance that led to Stephen Harper’s first electoral victory in 2006. Furthermore, a united left would have led to the loss of the Conservative majority in the last election, assuming that all Canadians voted the same way. So why, then, is this proposed coalition such a poor plan?
For starters, there’s a problem of ego. As the Leader of the Opposition, it would be assumed that Tom Mulcair would be the head of the coalition, but with more popular support in the polls, it is unlikely that Trudeau would yield the first seat. Trudeau also rejected a coalition plan less than a year ago when proposed by Mulcair, stating that he plans “to pursue a winning Liberal strategy [. . .] for 2015.” Because both want the Prime Minister’s job, it appears unlikely that these two men will be able to put aside their differences and unite the left.
It seems unlikely that two parties would be able to put aside their differences and unite the left.
Additionally, one has to take into consideration how difficult it is to unite two parties, even ones who share similar political viewpoints. Currently, we have less than nine months before we head to the polls — not a lot of time to bring together two parties and choose a leader. Uniting the right was an idea that was first talked about in the late ‘90s, and took until 2003 to become a reality. Even then, it was not until the following year that Harper was chosen to be the party’s leader. The Liberals and NDP simply do not have the time to make this change happen.
In any case, one also has to question whether this proposed coalition is the right choice for our country. Coalition governments are notoriously unstable, simply because the two parties that form the government often do not see eye to eye on every issue. As is the case with a minority government, coalitions often have difficulties getting things done, and a failure of the government to pass a bill can be embarrassing in the least. This could lead to the dissolution of the government, and a new election, if the vote happens to be on a confidence issue.
Finally, it may still be too soon to utter the word ‘coalition’ in Canadian political circles. The last time there was a serious proposal of a coalition between the NDP and the Liberals was mere weeks after the Conservatives had won their second minority in the 2008 election, and then-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion had allied with the late Jack Layton and the Bloc Québécois with the intention to go to the Governor General and have themselves declared the government.
This was little more than a vain effort to gain through backroom deals what the parties could not win in an election, and it continues to leave a sour taste in the mouth of many Canadians when they hear talk of a coalition. October’s contest will be a three-way race.