A Coalition of Nonsense

“It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be plausible and it strikes me as plausible.”

This statement was made back in September of 2009 by Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political scientist and former adviser to Stephen Harper, in reference to the sudden resurgence of the “C” word from within the Conservative caucus.

It seems as though each time the Conservatives find themselves in a position of vulnerability, thePMO issues talking points for Conservative members to trumpet. Repeatedly. In front of as many cameras as possible.
It’s through this very tactic that the idea of a ‘coalition’ once again becomes the focal point of political conversation, whether or not it has anything to do with the topic being discussed.

The ‘coalition’ bogeyman has proven to be a favorite tool of the Conservative’s, because simply suggesting such a possibility requires no facts, evidence, or substance to back it up. As Tom Flanagan said, “it doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be plausible”. Simply raising the prospect of a coalition, tossing in a “separatist”, a “socialist” and a “power grab”, and the scheme to create an atmosphere of unrest or chaos is complete.

The irony is, Stephen Harper himself headed an ‘unholy coalition with the separatists and socialists’ in 2004 in an effort to bring down Paul Martin’s minority government. Once again demonstrating that the phony outrage and fear-mongering over ‘power grabs’ and ‘overturning elections’ is nothing short of Harpocrisy, – a unique kind of hypocrisy – where it’s perfectly fine if Stephen Harper does it.

It is, however, important that the record on the past coalition be set straight.
First of all, Michael Ignatieff was NOT the man who sought to form the 2008 coalition. That man was Stephan Dion, the leader of the Liberal Party. The media even pointed out Ignatieff’s clear distaste for a coalition, and commented about his silence on the matter.

In December 2008 on CTV’s Question Period , Ignatieff informed Jane Taber that he was not privy to the discussions being held between Dion, Layton and Duceppe, and had no first hand knowledge what options were being discussed. When the letter to the Governor General was signed at that memorable press conference, it was not Michael Ignatieff at the table; it was Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Stephane Dion. It wasn’t until Ignatieff replaced Dion as the party leader that he had any formal involvement in the 2008 coalition, and even then did so reluctantly.

It’s Ignatieff’s words from 2008 that Pierre Poilievre is so fond of (partially) quoting, repeating how Ignatieff said he was “prepared to form a coalition government and to lead that government”. Of course, Poilievre doesn’t bother to repeat the entire quote, for fear the public will realize the true context and intent of what was said. For that, you must go back to the December 10, 2008 press conference with Ignatieff, following his temporary appointment to replace Stephane Dion, THIS is what Michael Ignatieff said:

I told caucus I will vote non-confidence in this government. I am prepared to enter into a coalition government if that is what the Governor General asks me to do…I also made it clear to the caucus, no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote against a budget it hasn’t even read.”


Jump ahead to September 2009 when the Conservatives found themselves once again facing the possibility of a vote of non-confidence. They eagerly rolled out the talk of another coalition in the works, despite clear indications that the allegation was not based in reality. When directly asked about the possibility of another coalition, Ignatieff unequivocally killed the very notion. In a press conference on December 11 2009, Ignatieff stated:

“Stephen Harper believes he’s entitled to a majority government. But in order to get that majority, he’s going around saying that the Liberal party would enter into a coalition government. Let me be very clear. The Liberal Party would not agree to a coalition. In January (2009) we did not support a coalition, and we do not support a coalition today or tomorrow.

So, that’s that. End of story. Case closed. Time to talk about issues, Right? Not as long as the Conservatives could keep the fantasy going.
Noted conservative political columnist Don Martin even dedicated an article to the willful ignorance being demonstrated by the Conservatives, and their insistence on keeping the idea of a coalition alive.
In the end, though, there was no election and the coalition talk once again disappeared.

Fast forward to January 2010, and the Conservatives once again find themselves sliding in the polls, embattled in prorogation backlash, tangled in torture allegations, and subjected to international scorn. Cue the coalition propaganda!

On January 25, members of the Conservative Party took to the airwaves, simultaneously pushing the coalition nonsense on Canada’s two political shows: CBC’s Power & Politics, and CTV’s Powerplay.
On CTV, Rick Dykstra was hard at work playing up threat of a coalition, as Pierre Poilievre was subjecting the viewers of CBC to his repetitious talking points. If that wasn’t enough, the official Conservative website was being updated with coalition fear-mongering, stating among other things, that “Bob Rae is trying to re-write history” and “Canadians won’t forget how Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals tried to overturn the results of the last election through their Coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois”.

It’s shameful that the Conservatives think so little of the collective intelligence of Canadians that they believe repeating disproven accusations and political nonsense about an imaginary coalition, which exists only in the convoluted Conservative psyche, will draw support at the polls. That atmosphere of political unease and confusion is exactly what the Conservatives rely on to get elected.
Thankfully, Canadians are far smarter than Stephen Harper gives them credit for. They’re not buying in to his “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” tactics. Canadians are fed up with Republican style political games and Conservative propaganda straight out of the Karl Rove playbook.

It’s time for all Canadians, including the Canadian media to actively call out the lies as they happen. In order to have an honest political debate, politicians must debate honestly.

Canadians are fed up with tuning into political talk shows, only to see the Conservatives dodge questions with threats of ‘evil coalitions’ and ‘secret back-room deals to usurp the Conservative government’. When given a platform, the Conservatives will throw around the threat of a ‘coalition’ like Rudy Giuliani does the tragedy of ‘9/11’.

It’s time, for once and for all, to put an end to this nonsense.
There is no coalition, there will not be a coalition, and every time a Conservative rolls out the ‘coalition’ threat, it simply serves as an indication that the’d rather not answer the question, discuss the topic, or verify the information put before them.

8 responses

  1. And completely ignoring the original fact that the Bloc Quebecois were not a part of the coalition agreement. They merely agreed to support the coalition for a short period.

  2. The use of “coalition” at election time is a ploy perfected by Ralph Klein in Alberta. Run your election against something or someone NOT on the ballot. Klein ran against Chretien and the federal Liberals. If people disagree they can’t vote for Chretien since he isn’t running.

    When the media buys into the ploy they continue with the false alternative, short changing the real opposition’s opportunity for exposure and in-depth consideration.

    In Harper’s case, he knows that Canadians were polarized on the coalition in 2008. Throwing the opposition parties into the ‘coalition’ bag together, Harper anticipates they will peck each other’s eyes out. When parties and leaders show lack of trust for each other, Harper’s minority of supporters just need to show up. In Harper’s best case scenario, the supporters of the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc are disgusted by their own leaders and don’t vote, opening the possibility for a majority victory. In any event if they don’t agree with Harper, they are given no image, direction or leader that Harper has empowered by acknowledgment.

    Many of the Republican communication strategies are versions of this one. Don’t acknowledge the issue, don’t mention it, show no sign of respect or recognition. Create a new reality, flesh it out, breathe life into it, never let it die, continue after proven false, illegal, impossible or highly improbable.

    If this were just a marketing game between widget co. and gadgets corp., it would be interesting. It isn’t, Harper’s games do not respect democratic institutions, rule of law or the importance of reputation to Canada’s health, success and economy. While putting your head in the sand can make life simpler, in the meantime Harper, has not been open to new information, relationships and solutions. Harper does not model the skills needed to be globally competitive. Harper’s communication strategy about a ‘coalition’ is only an opening to a rabbit hole that leads to a nonsensical world of political illusions and deceptions.

  3. Oh yes, very well written. Nothing annoys me more than hearing the words “I didn’t vote for a coalition” when high school civics provides all the information that anyone will ever need to understand how governments are formed in Canada.

    It is very much an “Americanization” – not of the system, only of the way people think. (FTR, Harper did try the terrorist threat thing too, no one paid any mind to it)

    I’d love to see Elections Canada setting the record straight, though if they tried Harper would probably sue them again. It hurts my brain.

    I hope you are right when you say, It’s shameful that the Conservatives think so little of the collective intelligence of Canadians that they believe repeating disproven accusations and political nonsense about an imaginary coalition, which exists only in the convoluted Conservative psyche, will draw support at the polls.

    I sincerely hope you are right.

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