From the Canadian Press:
Michael Ignatieff says coalition governments are "perfectly legitimate" and he'd be prepared to lead one if that's the hand Canadian voters deal him in the next election.
But the Liberal leader says it would be disrespectful to voters and damaging to his party to try to strike any deals with the NDP before voters have spoken.
In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Ignatieff dismissed talk of a merger or any sort of election non-compete agreement with the NDP as "absurd."..
In his first extensive comments on the issue, Ignatieff said he has no problem with the principle of coalition governments.
"Co-operation between parties to produce political and electoral stability is not illegitimate. It's never been illegitimate, it's part of our system," he said, noting that coalitions have been formed in parliamentary democracies around the globe.
"But the right way to do it is to run your flag up, (opposing parties) run their flag up, you fight like crazy, you put your choices clearly to the Canadian people, they make their choices and then you play the cards that voters deal you."
Ignatieff insisted he still believes the Liberals can win the next election. But should no party win a majority and the numbers make it feasible for a Liberal-led coalition to provide "progressive, stable, compassionate, good government," Ignatieff said he'd "make it work for Canadians."
"I can make all kinds of electoral arrangements work and people should have confidence that I can. I'm a unifier, I'm not a divider."
The bolded parts are words and phrases which need to come more from Ignatieff - they're the best buzzwords in the current political climate. The idea that it is the results of Canadians choices in the next election which dictates what happens, not backroom (and quite desperate) deals, is showing that we respect the voter's voice; and adding the fact that no matter what, we'll campaign to be representative of that voice ourselves, NDP be damned, shows strength and resolve that Ignatieff needs to show much more often than he does.
The second part is even more important: "I'm a unifier, I'm not a divider." People hear this all the time from politicians, but in this hyper-partisan climate, it might actually hold some weight. Politicos are happy about partisan blows and pushes, but the average Canadian only sees dysfunction and often times, just plain nastiness. Harper has clearly staked out his position as a divider; Layton knows he can't actually be a unifier simply because he's the leader of the fourth party; Iggy is the Opposition Leader, in a unique position to not only say, but demonstrate his abilities to co-operate and "unify" the Opposition. He needs to demonstrate this more, or his "unifier" status really will just be hollow words, and who will listen to him on the coalition then?
Iggy also, with an unqualified response, said an outright "no" to a merger. A good, if obvious, position. The idea that a merger would even be feasible is nothing but media fantasy, but its still important to say unequivocally that a merger is not wanted, will never happen, and is just a bad idea overall. That also goes for the "non-compete" agreement talk.
All in all, Iggy's got a good position on the coalition. But, as I said, it is still a little vague. Will he create a coalition with the NDP even if he's still the Opposition? Will he do a coalition if he's got a strong minority? Because parliamentary math is impossible without them, where does the Bloc figure into this? I know it might be a bit early to say, but given the chance that we'll most likely have an election this fall, Iggy needs to clarify these questions sooner rather than later.