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'Coalition is not a dirty word'

Political science professor Paddy Kaye on whether we really need another federal election



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Pique: Is Canada broken politically? Given how polarized politics are in this country, is it time to hold regular elections and get rid of confidence votes?


PS: That would involve such fundamental changes. I don't think most Canadians would like to reopen the constitutional file, because we would have to get rid of Parliamentary government and go to a republican form of government with an executive branch that's totally separate from the legislative branch - as they do in the U.S.


I think a lot of Canadians might agree with the first part of the question and say "yes, Canada's broken," but when you tell them the answer most people wouldn't say turning ourselves into the American form of government is where they want to go. The nature of Parliamentary systems is very simple, the government can only govern when they have the confidence of the House and confidence votes are always available to governments when they need them. And minority governments do come up from time-to-time. The average life of a minority government is two years and this one lasted two-and-a-half years.


But folks sitting in Burnaby and Whistler don't have a lot of influence over folks' politics in Quebec, and as long as the Bloc gets two-thirds in Quebec it will make forming a national majority quite a bit harder.


Some people vote strategically or hold their nose to vote to prevent one party from getting elected, but for the most part Canadians go out and vote for their political conscience. As a democrat it's hard to say it's broken - but we're also moving to our fourth minority government and we've never hard four in a row. It means politics are changing, but not necessarily that it's broken. Canadians are not averse to the idea of a minority government, and both (Liberal and Conservative) parties have had experience governing with a minority.


In Britain they had the same situation, before they produced a coalition. For some reason Canadians, unlike most democracies - Germany, Britain, Israel; lots of countries have coalitions - don't like coalitions. The Harper government has turned "coalition" into a dirty word. Coalition is not a dirty word, and we need to address that as long as the Bloc keeps getting 50 seats.


Pique: If all politics are local, what are some of the issues that should be of importance to British Columbians in the next federal election?


PS: In his first visit here (of the election cycle) Mr. (Jack) Layton (NDP) played the HST card, and played the whole federal side of it knowing that it's at least very unpopular. Whether the conservatives get a majority or not we'll find out, but it will be a pretty close vote. The fact that (Layton) saw the HST as grounds for whacking away at conservative members of Parliament that voted for the HST was a way to get an advantage.

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