Sunday, January 11, 2009

Another thought

If a coalition government is illegitimate because not broadly supported by the populace in opinion polling, despite being in accordance with all relevant laws and precedents, does it follow that any government not supported by the populace in polling is immediately defeated? If not, why not? Selective appeals to polls are arbitrary and unprincipled; either opinion polls (as contrasted with elections) rule everything -- including both the formation and the dissolution of a government -- or they rule nothing.


janfromthebruce said...

And I agree with that. People pick and choose which polls are relevant and thus say well public opinion is against that so it lacks legitimacy.

It's a red herring. Beyond the fact that some polls are push polling, some polls ask leading questions, and so on. It's all bogus and used for political cover or an alternate strategy.

Trent said...

I wouldn't call a coalition government illegitimate, nor would anyone else, if Jack Layton and Stephane Dion had stated during the election that the intended to form one rather than outright denying they would ever form a coalition under any circumstance. A few weeks later, everything changes. I know, I know, they all do that, but you have to deal with the reprecussions, no matter what party you're in.

Unfortunately there will probably be another election very soon and if at that time the Liberals and the NDP promise to form a governing coalition with the support of the Bloc, and the Canadian people vote in such away as to make that happen, more power to ya.

ADHR said...


I think what I find frustrating is how arbitrary it all is. Surely the only poll that matters is the election poll. That elected a Parliament. Beyond that, any poll can be gamed by the pollster.


I don't recall Layton ever saying he wouldn't form a coalition. And Dion isn't the leader any more. I don't recall Ignatieff even being asked. So, that's irrelevant.

On top of that, of course everyone campaigns intending to form the government on their own. The fact that no one managed to win enough seats to do that -- not the Cons, not the Libs, not the NDP, not the Bloc -- changes things sufficiently to make a coalition a reasonable possibility. Changes in situations clearly justify changing positions. Anything else is favouring ideology over reality.

Finally, to stay in power, Harper needs either an implicit or an explicit agreement from at least one other party. As far as I recall, he didn't campaign on either possibility. So, by your argument, Harper has no legitimacy either. Indeed, if we have another election and he doesn't campaign on the possibility of either a consensus or coalition government, then it would seem to follow that, unless he gets a majority, we need to have another election.

Trent said...

"I don't recall Layton ever saying he wouldn't form a coalition." Your right. I looked it up and he never ruled it out. I should have checked before I wrote.

Dion on had this to say about a coalition.

But apparently when the people of Canada are faced with the possibility of the NDP that close to power they don't like it, as the polls are reflecting. Either way another election is inevitable and the people can choose to elect a NDP majority if that is what they so choose.

BTW, the Libs and the NDP don't have a majority of seats; they actually have fewer than the CPC. If they had a 160 seats between them I think it would be viewed differently.

ADHR said...

I'm not sure the relevance of that video; again, Dion isn't leader any more.

I don't see your point about the NDP either. The NDP is at its highest point since Broadbent in '88 -- Layton's led them to a point only 6 seats shy, and that's their second-best showing ever.

I also don't see your point about who has a majority or not. Libs + NDP in a coalition plus BQ in a consensus = majority. CPC plus anyone in either coalition or consensus = majority. If your argument is supposed to be that only majority governments are legitimate, then shouldn't we have already had another election? If parties have to explicitly declare that they will form a coalition here or enter into consensus there, then doesn't that mean the CPC is as illegitimate a government as the coalition?

Trent said...

My point is that the polls show the people of Canada do not want a NDP/Liberal B loc supported coalition government, whether it is in the rules or not.

As far as elections, I do think that Canada is going to be in for several elections over the next decade until finally one party forms a majority or two or more parties run on the coalition platform and are elected.

ADHR said...

And my point, the one you were replying to originally, was that if you go to the polls, then the populace demonstrates even less support for the Conservatives. So, your appeal to the opinion polls is unprincipled and arbitrary unless you also say that the Conservatives should not form the government.

I can't make sense of your rejection of the "rules" -- the rules determine what is or is not a legitimate government. If we're going to toss out the rules, then what test for legitimacy is left?

"Running on a coalition platform" makes no sense. Parties run to govern. Depending on how the election pans out, they may need to work together. "Running on a coalition platform" is bafflegab.