Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Election 2006: the beginning of the end?

Interlocutor from Civilization as We Knew It makes four seriously freakish predictions about the outcome of the January election. The most "out there" of the four include "at least two federal elections in 2006" and the prospect of there never again being a majority government "unless Quebec separates, the Bloc disbands, or the electoral system is significantly reformed." The most unnerving thing is that he may well be right--I can't fault his reasoning, anyway. And if he is, then this last minority government was just the beginning of a really major shakeup of federal political culture in Canada. Scary.

On the bright (although seriously weird) side, if Interlocutor is right, then we may well be able to gain support for some form of proportional representation on the grounds that endless minority governments are too unstable. Since, after all, proportional electoral systems tend to solve the minority instability problem by encouraging stable coalition governments. How's that for turning an anti-PR argument on its head?


Hishighness said...


I've still yet to hear an answer to my concern. But that's ok, You PR supporters have glossed over it for a while now.

Hishighness said...

I'm sorry, add the word "acceptable" between 'an' and 'answer'

Anonymous said...

I think what we'll eventually get is proportional representation - it's about flipping time!

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

his highness,

I believe I addressed all of your concerns and more in my FAQ. If there's anything I've missed, please let me know and I'll absolutely add it.


Hear, hear!

Hishighness said...

I see what your saying there, so if there was some sort of law that was passed with PR that required a coalition to be formed in the case of a minority government before the government could begin passing legislation then I'd be closer to getting behind it. The voluntary system doesn't appeal to me, and face it if it were not required by law why wouldn't the NDP hijack parliament like they did this last time around?

The only thing I can't think of is what would the punishment be for the party that didn't co-operate? An election could end up being punishment for the party with the most seats.

I loathe Coalition governments as much as I loathe Minority governments, but I am willing to be open in the interest of fairness.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


The reason why a minority party doesn't "hijack parliament" in a coalition is that it ruins the coalition--and when the coalition explodes, so does the government. It's in both parties' best interest to keep the coalition strong and amiable, since, after all, they want to keep governing. The "punishment," then, is not getting to govern anymore. That's an awfully big punishment!

Coalitions really function entirely differently from what you're imagining. If you don't believe me, have a look at some of the countries that have had the same stable coalition government over many, many years. It's not the exception; it's the rule. No law is needed.

Hishighness said...

Ok, you're talking after the coalition is formed, I'm talking before it is formed.

I'm saying why would the NDP join a coalition where their power would be diminshed when they could hijack the Liberals and get equal power? Some sence of morality? I think not.

So, all I'm asking for is a protection against that possibility.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Okay, wait. You think if the Liberals offered the NDP a chance to be part of a coalition, sit on the government side of the aisle, have a couple of cabinet ministers, and help run the country, that they would instead turn it down and opt to sit in opposition, forcing a minority situation?

Now you're just being silly.

Hishighness said...

No, actually I'm not.

I think if the Liberals offered the NDP a chance to sit in the government benches and the NDP saw that because the Conservatives aren't going to support the Liberals and neither are the Bloc they could hold the government hostage and get EVERYTHING they want instead of comprimising and only getting some of the things they want they'd do it.

They've already proven this.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Since when did the NDP get "EVERYTHING they wanted"? They got a few very vague commitments on a couple of fronts. If the NDP had gotten everything they wanted, we wouldn't be having an election. For that matter, we wouldn't be having this conversation, because there would already be proportional representation.

The NDP did what you do when you're in opposition in a minority government situation: push as hard as you can to implement some of your ideas. They made--from their perspective--the best of a bad situation. But any one of them would tell you that it was still a bad situation. If you're not in government, you don't get to make the decisions, you just get to encourage somebody else to make them. You don't get to hang around to supervise the implementation. You just get to push and push and push in the hopes that the rock will budge a little.

If they were in government, things would be quite different. Yes, they would have to compromise, but that would be a small price to pay for being able to govern. They could contribute to making the country better not just in fits and starts, but as a part of a continuous, stable presence. And things would be one hell of a lot less antagonistic, too.

TonyGuitar said...

You may have seen this before, but
it's timely:

A young man named Paul bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100.00. The
farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day. When the farmer drove up
the next day, he said, "Sorry son, but I have some bad news...the donkey is
on my truck, but he's dead." Paul replied, "Well then, just give me my
money back." The farmer said, "I Can't do that. I went and spent it
already." Paul said, "OK then, just unload the donkey anyway". The farmer
asked, "What are ya gonna do with him?" Paul said, "I'm going to raffle him
off." To which the farmer exclaimed, "You can't raffle off a dead donkey!"
But Paul, with a big smile on his face, said, "Sure I can. Watch me. I
just won't tell anybody that he's dead."

A month later the farmer met up with Paul and asked, "What happened with
that dead donkey?" Paul said, "I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at
two dollars a piece and made a profit of $698.00." Totally amazed, the
farmer asked, "Didn't anyone complain that you had stolen their money
because you lied about the donkey being dead?" And Paul replied, "The only
guy who found out about the donkey being dead was the raffle winner, when
he came to claim his prize. So I gave him his $2 back plus $200 extra,
which is double the going value of a donkey, so he thought I was a great
guy." Paul grew up and eventually became the Prime Minister of Canada, and
no matter how many times he lied or how much money he stole from Canadian
voters, as long as he gave them back some of the stolen money, most of them
thought he was a great guy.


Or, run *Scamslist in Google and see what you get, or

Hishighness said...

They didn't get everything they wanted because they didn't combine for a majority, under PR they would have. I said: they could hold the government hostage. As they did last time.

All I want is some sort of assurance that they can't do that.

If your noble NDP would enter in to a coalition anyway then what the Hell is the difference if there is a law stating a coalition would have to be achieved before governing could begin? Why is that so damn hard for you to accept? Is it because you're an NDP supporter and don't want to see the option of obtaining power that they would never obtain legitimately from the electorate denied?

I'm not tryin to be a dick here I just can't see any other reason why you'd be so opposed to such a basic safeguard.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


What you're talking about is making minority governments illegal. I'm not a fan of minority governments, either, but I'm not in favour of making them illegal. There are at least a few situations where a minority government--even under a proportional representation system--would actually be the most palatable option, and making that option illegal would tie the winning party's hands unreasonably.

Imagine a situation where the Liberals and the NDP together didn't add up to a majority. The only halfway palatable option for a third coalition partner is a hard-left Communist-style party, but both the Liberals and the NDP are understandably reluctant to invite them to join. Under your proposed system, the Liberals and the NDP would be required to ask this hard-left party to join them, even if the other parties were amenable to a Liberal-NDP coalition minority government. That's not in anybody's best interests, except maybe those of the hypothetical hard-left party. And if you think this situation is ridiculous, it's actually happened in one federal state in Germany. It's rare that a minority government occurs under a PR electoral system, but it can happen in exceptional circumstances.

I suppose my other objection is that I'm interested in seeing an electoral system installed in Canada that already functions well in other countries, not in coming up with random laws that have never been tested anywhere else. As far as I know, there isn't a parliamentary democracy in the world that has made minority governments illegal. And you can call me conservative in this respect, but I'd be much more comfortable with a tried-and-true system than I would be with something brand new that we've never seen the effects of anywhere and might have unforeseen consequences.

I'm having a really hard time understanding why you think the NDP wouldn't want to be part of a genuine coalition with the Liberals. I mean, you're a Liberal--do all Liberal MPs agree on every issue? Do even all cabinet members agree on every issue? Absolutely not--it's a broad-spectrum centrist party that includes everyone from near-left-wingers to social conservatives. But they sit down at a table together and hash things out, and manage to reach an agreement on an agenda. And once that agenda is out there, it's in the best interest of the party as a whole to present a united front. It's the same thing, essentially, in a coalition.

Maybe one way for you to think of a coalition is as a temporarily merged party that's made up of multiple parties. For the duration of the government, they agree to negotiate hash things out until they come to an agreement, just like any other party, and everybody involved agrees to abide by the policies the group comes up with. Then, when that government is either voted out or dissolved for any reason, the parties go their separate ways and become single entities again.

Hishighness said...

No, No, No. I never say anywhere that certain parties are required to join, All I said was there has to be a coaltion before governing can occur. It'd be up to the parties to decide which of them is in the coalition.

Ok, what would you suggest to placate me? I would accept nothing less than a guarentee hijacking couldn't occur, if you can think of a way to make that happen without using "the honor system" I'll be on board, other than that this argument is really mute.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I get the feeling that we're talking past each other. Are you saying that you're not proposing to make minority governments illegal, then? How would you propose to deal with the scenario I brought up in my last comment, then?

Hishighness said...

My ultimate goals are:

#1 Parties having the amount of influence in government that is equal to the percentage of votes recieved. NOT seats, influence. There is a huge difference as evidenced by the past parliament. There should be some mechanism that ensures this happens and hijacking can NOT occur.

#2 Government should be stable, there shouldn't be an election every 6,12,18, or 24 months. Now, I love elections, but most people don't and the Canadian people are already way too turned off to the political process.

#3 The rights of the smaller parties to have fair representation should be respected, but not at the expense of the larger party's rights.

#4 The voting system should be fair.

Now, however this is done: whether it be requiring coalitions (I wouldn't be opposed to having all parties represented in cabinet proportional to the percentage of vote they have) or creating a weighted vote system in the house, or whatever.

JG said...


Your goals include several unspecified assumptions. What are the "rights" of larger parties versus smaller ones? What exactly is the difference from a party exercising "influence" and "hijacking" Parliament?

NDPers, and many others, would say that the NDP was able to exercise influence in the last Parliament - to negotiate in order to obtain some movement on issues important to the party. It is not "hijacking" for a party to bargain with tht government for support on a budget. It's called parliamentary democracy. Parties will not necessarily have "influence" equal to the percentage of votes they received. Influence has to do with leadership abilities and the dynamics of certain issues and certain votes - you will never get some sort of one-to-one correspondance between voting percentages and "influence" on a day-to-day basis.

So, your goals seem on one hand untenable and on the other ill-defined.

Hishighness said...

Well, judging from your statement I can see you don't give a shit about the rights of larger parties, but just in case you actually do:

The "rights" of larger parties vs smaller ones are: If they get more votes they should get more power, unlike the idiocy we saw in the last parliament where the NDP get just over half of the support of the Liberal yet were able to exert equal power.

And I'm sure there is some mathematical way to create the checks and balances I seek, just because you and I aren't smart enough to figure one out doesn't mean there isn't one.

Of course you and all the smaller parties want us to just blindly accept PR because they know that under these systems they would be in a far more likely position to wield far more power than they would ever legitimately get under a fair system. They don't want Canadians to actually look at the system because they'd realize how inept it is.

But like it or not the NDP is going to have to get the support of at least one other party to get PR through, I'd rather see Martin drop another writ the first day back in to session than to doom us with this half-assed system.

That being said I feel I'm more receptive than most Liberals, as we all know we'd lose because of it. But I'm willing to negotiate, if the NDP isn't then no skin off our backs, we'll keep with the system that is advantageous to us.

JG said...

BS, how did the NDP exert "equal power" by obtaining a budget amendment amounting to $4.6bn over *two years*, only about one percent of total annual expenditures. Last time I checked, the Liberals controlled all the cabinet positions, and could make just about an Order-in-Council decision or appointment without consulting Parliament.

How by any stretch of the imagination was the NDP's power "equal" to that? Your objections are nothing short of disingenuous and obfuscatory. I see no reason to take them seriously, given that you continue to insist that, effectively, larger parties should have all the power, and smaller parties should have none.

Am I misinterpreting? Well, you're certainly giving cause, given that you are ridiculously claiming that the NDP exercised "equal" power as the *governing* Liberals. It's complete BS.

Hishighness said...

Egh, It's no use arguing with someone who has his head so clearly up Jack Layton's ass.

JG said...

Funny, I was thinking that it's no use arguing with someone who refuses to respond to well-deserved criticisms. Make all the unsubstantiated and ridiculous claims you want - it means nothing.