Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coalition making

As a nerd who specializes his geekdom in areas of political history, I am very interested in the current matters of confidence and coalition in Ottawa.

First I must point out to my friends in the media that in their coverage, they've missed the most recent example of coalition in Canada - the NDP-Liberal coalition in Saskatchewan formed in 1999. Also, I'm surprised they've not referred to the long lasting Liberal-Conservative coalitions in BC from the 30s into the 50s or the Liberal-Progressive coalitions of Manitoba. There is lots of precedent for coalition in Canada at the provincial level. However, there is little precedent for the situation before us today.

The most analagous Canadian example is the King-Byng affair of 1926 but it is still not a very good example. In that case, the incumbent Liberals won less seats than the Conservatives in the 1925 election but neither had a majority, the second largest party - the Liberals - continued in office with the support of the third-party Progressives. When that government was on the verge of falling - it had not actually fallen - Prime Minister King went to the GG and asked for an election. The GG's correct response was that the government had not fallen, the election had been only 9 months earlier, and a larger single party was willing to form a government.

In the situation before us today, the party with the most seats would be defeated and a coalition of two parties who, even taken together, have considerably fewer seats, would propose to govern. That is quite a different situation. Moreover, Harper's last minority began with 124 seats and, in terms of share of seats in the commons, it was the smallest majority ever. The Liberal-NDP coalition minority would beat that record having only 114 seats or 37% of the total.

I've not researched it, but the only comparable example I can think of would be the 1975 dismisal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia. In that case, Whitlam's budget had been defeated in the Senate and the opposition argued that that was an expression of non-confidence, while Whitlam said only the House could weigh in on a matter of confidence. Whitlam refused to resign or call for elections as, in his view, he enjoyed the confidence of parliament due to his support in the lower house. The GG disagreed, fired Whitlam and named the opposition leader as PM. As Whitlam had a majority in the lower house, the new PM's first act was to call for an election.
That doesnt quite map on to the situation before us, but it is the closest example I can think of.

Anyway, all that aside, due to the unprecedented proximity of the potential loss of confidence to the last election, the GG would likely have to give the Liberal-NDP coalition a shot despite its lack of historical precedent either for or against.

On to the make up of the coalition itself, I think that there is a fairly easy way to iron out a coalition agreement without getting bogged down in details.

There should be a cabinet of 30 - 20 of whom are Liberals, including the PM, and 10 of whom are New Democrats. Portfolios should be chosen by the parties in order with the NDP chosing the first portfolio and the Liberals picking the next two and continuing until the 29 non-prime ministerial posts are assigned.

An agreement should be made that ministers would enjoy their regular authority over matters of administration but that decisions of the cabinet would require a formal vote with a 2/3s majority in favour. This would prevent the need for policy matters to be totally hashed out in advance as the government would need some degree of consensus between the two partners going forward.

This sort of agreement would allow the parties to focus on their response to the economic situation, including measures that would allow for the Bloc to support the measure and subsequently the government on and on subsequent matters of confidence without having the agreement fall apart on the details.

Monday, November 24, 2008


From Canadian Press:
Paul Martin says Rae Ignatieff rivalry won't divide Liberal party

Former prime minister Paul Martin says he's confident the Liberal party will emerge united despite sparring between its two principal leadership hopefuls.

Martin, whose own acrimonious relationship with former prime minister Jean Chretien eventually drove him from his post as finance minister, says front-runners Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae won't divide the party.

He says the Liberal party has learned its lesson and he's sure that once the new leader is chosen the party will be united.

Memories of past confrontations surfaced last week when Rae boycotted the party's closed-door, all-candidates' forum because chief rival Ignatieff wouldn't agree to lift the veil of secrecy.

That was the first public spat between candidates vying to replace Stephane Dion as leader after a disastrous defeat in last month's election.

It disappointed many in the party, who had hoped to avoid the kind of sniping that characterized the hard-fought campaign in which Dion came up the middle to win as a compromise candidate in the 2006 leadership race.

Neither Rae nor Ignatieff could take a clear majority last time around.

On Monday, Martin said all the candidates were ``outstanding'' but declined to endorse any one of them, saying he will remain a spectator.

New Brunswick's Dominic LeBlanc is also up for the party's top job.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

I'll be heading out soon to a local Remembrance Day ceremony, I hope you're doing the same.

A few things to think about:
  • 28% of all eligible Canadians fought in World War I
  • 36% of all eligible Canadians fought in World War II
  • almost all of these were volunteers
  • would you put your life on the line to help our neighbour, let alone an idea, to survive?
  • would you like to live under a Nazi dictatorship?
To all those Canadians and other citizens of the world who risked or gave their lives in these and other wars, including the one they're fighting today, thank you.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins

At 9:11 p.m. Atlantic standard time, based on the NBC and ABC calls* in the state of Pennsylvania, I am prepared to call the election for Senator Obama of Illinois.

I do not foresee a scenario where Senator McCain of Arizona can lose xxx and win a majority of electoral votes.

* - CNN and CBS still haven't called it, but I am unconvinced that McCain can win without Pennsylvania.

A bit tight

A little tighter than I expected in the early results, but time will tell. CBS is calling New Hampshire for Obama which makes a McCain win very difficult. He would have to sweep the remaining seven of my eight swing states and pick up Nevada.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow's watching guide tonight!

Quite interestingly there are four swing states whose polls close early. The results in these states, which close at 8 p.m. Atlantic time, could predict the election. They are:
  • New Hampshire
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
With the possible exception of New Hampshire, it is very unlikely that the networks will be able to call any of these states based on exit polls alone.

If Obama wins either North Carolina or Florida, he has almost certainly won the election. If he wins them both, he has won the election, probably in a landslide.

If McCain holds those two southern states and wins one of New Hampshire and Virginia, he has a small chance to win. If he wins all four stay tuned for a long night.

My read of the map shows Obama with 266 electoral votes in the bag, meaning McCain has to win all of the states in play (8 by my reading) to win the election.

Here is my take of the map:

McCain is likely to win some of these states, particularly West Virginia and to a lesser extent Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina. However, he must win them all to win the election.

It is also possible that Obama may win some of the states coloured red but, should he win any of them, he'll likely win all of the swing states as well and be headed to a landslide in the neighbourhood of 400 electoral votes.

It is also possible that McCain may win some of the states coloured blue, i.e. Nevada and Virginia (and if his campaign schedule is to be believed and the polls discarded Iowa). However, if he wins any of those states, I will expect him to have run the table with these and they'll be gravy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

U.S. election prediction

Back in April, I drew up six potential electoral maps. These were my predictions for the likely, best and worst case scenarios in McCain-Clinton and McCain-Obama match ups.

As I mentioned in my post the other day, McCain has badly fumbled the campaign and I forsee the best case scenario coming for Barack Obama.

My April scenario for Obama included him picking up Alaska in the best case, which is not going to happen thanks to Palin being on the ticket. So rather than the 325-213 win I thought would be his best case, I'll make it 322-216.

Obama will hold all Kerry states plus pick up: Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.