Canadian Party Leaders battle over Coalition

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    Mar 26, 2011 4:56 PM GMT
    Leaders battle over 'coalition'

    CBC News

    Posted: Mar 26, 2011 12:18 PM ET

    Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe holds up a copy of a 2004 letter he said Stephen Harper signed to replace Paul Martin's minority government with a Conservative-led coalition. (CBC)

    Ignatieff swears off coalition

    Stephen Harper clearly tried to seize power after coming second to Paul Martin's Liberals in 2004, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe charged Saturday at the start of Canada's 41st federal election campaign.

    Duceppe held up the letter to the Governor General he said Harper signed as Official Opposition leader to Martin's government.

    Duceppe and Layton say they got together with Harper and drafted the letter to tell then-governor general Adrienne Clarkson that Harper was prepared to form a government if Martin lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

    "He finished second in that election," Duceppe said in French. "If he says that's undemocratic, well, that's exactly what he was asking for. So let's not play games with history. He has to take responsibility."

    Harper has been hitting the opposition leaders hard over what he says is a plan to form a coalition government, a message he repeated outside Rideau Hall Saturday morning.

    Harper said that on May 2 Canadians will make a choice between a "stable majority" Conservative government or a "reckless coalition."

    He was adamant that if Canadians don't elect a Conservative government, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff would form a coalition government with the other parties, including the Bloc Quebecois.

    "That is a risk that our country cannot afford," he said.

    Harper said the only thing those parties would agree on is raising taxes and spending more money.

    Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff painted it as a choice Canadians have between a Liberal party devoted to people or a Conservative party contemptuous of democracy.

    Standing with a group of Liberal MPs just outside the Parliament buildings on a frigid day in Ottawa, Ignatieff challenged the idea Canadians don't care about what happens inside the House of Commons.

    "We are here because yesterday, something happened that had never happened in the history of our democracy," he said.

    "The prime minister lost the confidence of the House because he was found to be guilty of contempt for our parliamentary institutions. And that's why we're having an election.

    "The Harper winter will soon be over."

    Ignatieff tried to take the focus off the question of whether he would form a coalition after the election. He released a written statement before Harper could announce the writ drop. He said he won't try to form a coalition with the Bloc Québécois or with any of the federalist parties.

    Harper was having none of it though, insisting at his press conference earlier that Ignatieff would go ahead with a coalition anyway and accusing Ignatieff of having a "hidden agenda."

    Ignatieff says he's been clear all week.

    "I want to completely rule out a coalition," he said.

    P"This is an election about democracy. The Canadian people are owed clarity, clarity of purpose on this. I made it clear all last week I want to form a Liberal government ... Mr. Harper thinks I don't understand the rules of democratic life, I understand them better than he does."

    Ignatieff also lashed out at Conservative policies on fighter jets, corporate tax cuts and prisons, a trio of items voters can expect to hear repeatedly through the Liberal campaign. Ignatieff says he'll raise corporate tax rates back up to 18 per cent, the level prior to a January cut.

    "That rate is already competitive on a global scale," he said, adding the party would use the money to pay down the deficit, fund support for family care givers and put cash into education and training.

    "That is our choice and it makes a clear contrast with the current government which wants to give goodies to the corporations, buy $30-billion in fighter jets and build prisons that will cost billions of dollars. We will not increase taxes for ordinary Canadians," Ignatieff said.

    At NDP Leader Jack Layton's first rally of the campaign, he didn't use the word "coaltion" but made it clear that his party is willing to work with the others.

    "I'm asking for a mandate to lead the next government. And if that turns out to be a minority government, as prime minister you can count on me to reach out to all members of parliament who believe in building a better Canada," Layton said with a crowd of supporters cheering behind him and waving small Canadian flags.

    "And together, we will provide an alternative to a Harper-led government, whether its in a case-by-case basis ... or more stable arrangements. I will work with the mandate you give me."

    Although he spoke about working with the other parties, Layton still took shots at his political opponents in his bid to Canadian voters. Stephen Harper must be replaced as prime minister, not just prevented from getting a majority government, Layton said, and he doesn't blame traditional Liberal voters for having doubts about Ignatieff, he said.

    "Mr. Ignatieff saying one thing and doing another is not Canadian leadership," Layton said, without giving examples. Layton pledged to fix what he says is broken in Ottawa and bring an end to divisive politics.

    Green Party Leader Elizabeth May launched her party's campaign in the Vancouver Island riding she hopes to win.

    "Canadians look at Parliament and what they think is, we have had enough," she said. "We've had enough of a culture of endless negativity. Enough of the abuse of our traditions.

    "We cannot stand by and let our government, our democracy, be abused."

    May is running in Saanitch-Gulf Islands, a B.C. riding she hopes to wrest from Conservative minister Gary Lunn.

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    Mar 26, 2011 5:02 PM GMT
    436 reader comments followed the above story:

    A few are pro Conservative - the majority are suggest8ing a Coaliton government is more democratic anyway.

    Why doesn't the opposition coalition come right out and say that they will try to form a government if the opportunity arises and let the chips fall where they may? It would be the honest thing to do..
    The answer to your question is in your last sentence - "honest".!

    So, it can't and won't happen.

    Furthermore, it was fine when the libs attacked Harper on his supposed "hidden agenda" - now that the tables are turned, they are squirming and extremely uncomfortable. They can dish it out but can't take it - typical liberals!Rating
    -1Agree with comment (2
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    people disagree)ReplyPolicyReport abuse (0)LeftTheWeststandard
    at 1:34 PM ETWhat's to talk about? It's part of our parliamentary democracy. DO Conservatives really believe that Canadians didn't SEE what the brits did? Do they think IQ's have dropped sharply?

    If they don't come up with something other than fear, I hope they get tossed from the hill.

    I also hope there's a coalition, just so I can see Conservative heads explode when the other side works TOGETHER the way they are supposed to.Rating
    8Agree with comment (11
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    people disagree)ReplyPolicyReport abuse (0)Al Manacstandard
    at 1:33 PM ETHow true. Linda Keen is a case in point.Rating
    1Agree with comment (1
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    people disagree)ReplyPolicyReport abuse (0)Alectostandard
    at 1:32 PM ETNow tell me, what wrong with a coalition?

    A coalltion is peole working togehter to get the best result possible that recognizes all parties invoved. It's not dangerous, it's common sense.

    What's dangerous is one party, pretending to speak for all, be in control alone. In absolute majorities the rights of the minority always get trampled.

    In the real world we always compromise and work together, that's what we tell our kids, that's what we practice at home, at work and everywhere else.

    So why not in politics?
    13Agree with comment (17
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    people disagree)ReplyPolicyReport abuse (0)MarkFornatarostandard
    at 1:32 PM ETIf Mr Ignatieff is ruling out a coalition with the relatively progressive NDP and Bloc then it seems to me -given the polls- that he is actually a de facto ally of the so-called Conservatives; too bad things didn't work out with Stephane Dion who was quite progressive on the paramount issue of the environment.Rating
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    read more comments here:

    Again read theses with the caveat that the CBC newssite tends to attract the more left wing voters (right wing prefers the Sun newspapers with a Page 6 girl), Canadians are not buying into fear of a coalition.