Would Canadians support an NDP-Conservative coalition?

August 14, 2015

Almost all polls indicate the likelihood of a narrow margin separating the three contending parties in the upcoming election. Most writers speculate that the two progressive parties, the NDP and the Liberals, would be under pressure from their members to form a coalition to prevent another Harper Conservative government. But what if we take Justin Trudeau at his word when he refuses to work with the NDP because of the Sherbrooke Declaration which supports the premise that a 50% vote plus one would be enough to begin the breakup of Canada?

Has anyone given any thought to Stephen Harper as a coalition partner for Thomas Mulcair after the vote on October 19th? After all, in 2005 Harper signed a coalition letter to the Governor General with then-NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe in an attempt to overturn Paul Martin’s Liberal government. While Harper condemned his opponents as “traitors” when they tried the same thing on December 1st, 2008, and prorogued the House of Commons to prevent defeat, no doubt he mentally justified the flip-flop with his catch phrase, “Canadians don’t care about that kind of thing.”

Stephen Harper has already demonstrated his willingness to compromise Conservative principles to maintain a grip on power.

About a year later the Conservatives brought out three attack ads against Stephane Dion in the campaign. Then came the famous attack ad against Michael Ignatieff. Apparently any Liberal leader is a common enemy of the NDP and the Conservatives, or maybe Layton and later Mulcair were just happy to go along if the Conservatives paid.

The ad campaign of the last two years against Justin Trudeau has also seemed designed to benefit the Conservatives and the NDP alike by reducing Trudeau’s standing in the minds of Canadians.

Harper and Mulcair alike have made some questionable moves to woo the separatist vote in Quebec, with Harper declaring “The Quebec Nation within Canada” in a motion in the House of Commons on November 22, 2006, and Mulcair reaffirming his support for the Sherbrooke Declaration on June 23, 2015.

If it came to a hung Parliament, I would suggest that Thomas Mulcair would find more in common with Stephen Harper than either would find with Justin Trudeau. Trudeau seems unwilling to compromise his Federalist, pro-constitution, pro-charter of rights position. This may leave him in a strong position as leader of the opposition against the strange bedfellows across the aisle in the next parliament.

But would 63% of Canadians still support a coalition if it involved Stephen Harper’s Conservatives?

Perhaps more to the point at this juncture of the campaign: will Mulcair’s cooperation in Harper’s boycott of the national debates cause him trouble with his supporters?

According to the August 14th Ekos poll, 81% of NDP supporters stand firmly in favour of more large-scale debates, televised nationally with all four national leaders in attendance.

Thomas Mulcair may have to decide whether it’s better to forsake Stephen Harper and face Liz May, Justin Trudeau, and an empty chair in debate rather than to risk the loss of the university graduates, that critical 14% of his support which this spring parachuted in from the Trudeau camp during the height of the attack ad campaign. If he slips up, these activist voters can just as easily return to the Red Tent and carry election victory with them.

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