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Iggy Coalition Climbdown Watch: Ding!

Posted by padams under Election 2011, Election 2011 Campaign strategy, Election 2011 Media commentary, Media Commentary, Political Strategy

Paul Adams

That didn’t take long: just one day longer that it should have. As I predicted yesterday, Ignatieff’s views on a coalition have “evolved” under withering pressure from the media, some Liberal commentators, and the government. There was no reason why this shouldn’t have happened yesterday other than political naivete.

As Stephen Harper walked into Rideau Hall this morning, Michael Ignatieff issued a release saying that, “We will not enter a coalition with other federalist parties”. (Before you panic, the statement also says, “We categorically rule out a coalition or formal arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois.”)

Ignatieff and his advisors have made the tactical judgement that his continued obscurantism was going to dog him through the campaign, and help the Harper Conservatives to fully realize the coalition bogeyman. They cleverly released the statement just moments before Harper’s prepared remarks that went heavily on the coalition that Ignatieff has now flatly disavowed.

So they think this is what is best for the Liberal campaign.

But is it good for the country?

The continued strength of the BQ is going to make it hard for any party to get a majority in the near future. Minority governments are likely to be a much more regular feature of our political landscape in this century than they were in the last.

By renouncing the idea of a formal coalition, Ignatieff removes as an option one of the most common arrangements used by democratic parties around the world to secure stable government and parliamentary cooperation.

Moreover, he reinforces in the public’s mind the unfounded notion that there is something illegitimate about coalitions.

If, as is almost certain, Ignatieff emerges from the election with less than a Liberal majority, he will not  have served either his party or his country well.

Paul Adams is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton. He is a former Parliament Hill reporter and worked in the polling industry. You can follow him on Twitter @padams29