Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chantal Hébert Is Wrong

That's something I don't say often, but her article in yesterday's Toronto Star is just plain wrong.

From their website:

Former prime minister Jean Chrétien feels a Liberal/NDP coalition is a concept worth exploring. “If it’s doable, let’s do it” he told CBC television last week. Former NDP premier Roy Romanow agrees. In an interview on the same network this week, he said the two parties should at least be “bold” enough to discuss the notion...

... There is as much private and public speculation about an eventual rapprochement between the Liberals and the NDP as ever, but increasingly it revolves around schemes that would see Ignatieff out of the picture.

And while many of the Liberals who look favourably on new arrangements between their party and the NDP are resigned to having Ignatieff first run a campaign on his own terms, their ranks have been shrinking.

Part of Ignatieff’s problem is that the rationale for shutting down talk of a coalition seems based on little else than fear of Conservative spin. Looking at the party’s less-than-stellar standing in the polls, it is hard to see what he has left to lose by venturing out of the box.

For months now, the Liberals have been stuck within the margin of error of their dismal 2008 election score in the public opinion polls.

After a year as leader, Ignatieff has yet to either breathe down the neck of the first-place Conservatives or, short of that, make a dent in NDP and Bloc Québécois support."

I believe on this point, Hébert is blowing wind in the completely wrong direction; not only does she leave out the many views outside of simple "Conservative spin" about why the coalition is a non-starter of an idea, but she glosses over all the other various factors which are involved with the idea of a coalition. As much as I respect all of them, Chrétien, Romanow and Rae are far from good reasons to consider a coalition. Hébert makes no mention of the organizational, ideological, mathematical and policy questions inherent to the idea of a coalition.

Is it truly beneficial to start these discussions and moves, so long before we have another election or even a platform? It seems like people are telling us to throw in the towel when we've yet to have a knockout blow landed on us. We're rebuilding ourselves, slowly but surely, and it'll take a while yet until we'll be in the best fighting shape, yet people seem to want to abandon that, call it quits, and find a short-term solution to a long-term problem. It needs to stop; we need to pull together and work with what we've got and who we've got (just to clarify, that means Iggy + DonOLO + the Liberal caucus), use our respective talents and ideas to build this party up, get it moving again, and work within the context that we, one of the most successful political brands in the Western world, are a party which, yes, can work with our fellow parties and MPs, but can do so on the terms we create - not on the terms dictated in an alliance with a party that does not share many of our ideals.

No one ever said rebuilding the party would be easy, but it certainly doesn't help that we defeat ourselves from within and ask for a coalition, a merger or anything else, with a party that we are simply not sympatico with, just because, oh, the maths might be in our favour one day. I've only been in this party since 2008, yet I've yet to give up hope and wave the white flag of surrender yet. It's time everyone rolled up their sleeves and got to work, instead of trying to find the easy way out.

So once again: Chantal Hérbet is wrong, and Iggy should stick to his guns and say a resounding "no" to the coalition, damned what others say. Only his resolve will ensure the Liberal Party's continued process of rebuilding and reinvigoration, instead of leading us down the road towards defeatism and destruction.

PS: I am starting to agree with some sentiments coming from a couple of Western bloggers, CalgaryLiberal and WesternGrit. The subsidy may be the best bet we have of landing a good blow. Spending caps is a more controversial and debatable idea, but one much more productive than coalition talk.


  1. It's utter folly to completely dismiss an option that may pop up as a scenario post next election.

    The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have shown how you go about it in the UK; you state during the election campaign that you're running to win a majority, and that scenarios can be dealt with after the election.. and when the scenario of a hung parliament occurred.. you at least enter talks to see if an option like that is viable.

    Some Liberals are being utterly pig-headed for trying to remove this as an option.

  2. I never said that it should not be considered an option, or that it should be dismissed out of hand - however I don't feel the talks are heading in this direction. Everyone is staking out positions and holding ground, as is obvious. It's either we do this or we don't. Nothing highlights this more than Chretien's words.

    If you want to talk about the possibilities, that's different. Possibilities are endless. We could even discuss forming a Grand Coalition, like what existed in Germany and the Netherlands, with the Conservatives. We'd certainly make an impact that way.

    But, "discussion" is not what we're doing. If you'd like to do that, I'd more than welcome the opportunity, Scott.

  3. I am not generally a Liberal supporter, but then again I am not really a big fan of Jack Layton either. But I have been just amazed at the inability of the Liberals to do anything for the last few years and I am shocked at the talk of coalition. Not because a coalition is a bad idea per se but because it is as though the LPC has nothing left to say. If there is the political will to talk of a coalition, why is there no will or leadership in the LPC to actually create something of itself? What became of this once great party? Why does the leadership just sit around doing nothing or at best haphazardly react to the Conservatives? It as though people are talking about a coalition simply because there is no actual leadership in the Liberal Party so they are trying to do anything to create a anti-conservative force out of pure desperation. The whole thing is totally amazing and will surely go down in Political Science text books as one of the most remarkable instances of a powerful political party petering out to nothing. And yet they can generate all this excitement in a few days over discussions of a coalition. Why not actually recreate the Party with radically new plans for changing the government of Canada which includes new policies about more representative government and coalitions etc.? Regardless of one's politics this is surely one of the most amazing instances of failure of political leadership we have ever seen.

  4. I'll have to agree, unfortunately, kirby. I wouldn't necessarily fault the leadership completely, but the troops are far from inspired or confident at this point. Coalition talk gives them a ray of hope. And frankly, I don't want to say people are lazy, but most seem content to take the easy way out, rather than working to rebuild the party. We should absolutely discuss the possibility of a coalition - but only after we get our own house in order.