Canadians can’t always get what they want


A wise British philosopher once observed: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

And so it is with Canadians and the possibility of a federal election in 2011.

The prime minister has said that he does not want to fight an election this year and he believes — correctly – that Canadians do not want to trudge to the polls for an election that probably would not crown a majority government for either the Conservatives or the Liberals.

But while none of Parliament’s lackluster opposition leaders is suitable to lead the government, that’s precisely the reason Prime Minister Stephen Harper is likely to have an itchy trigger finger. Never mind that he has already broken his legislated promise to hold off calling an election until Oct. 15, 2012, it’s likely that he will try to ram through some poison bill that would force the opposition to defeat the government on a vote of confidence — that or the “coalition” boogeyman that the prime minister has created to pull out from under the bed to try to flummox the new Governor General.

Our own MP has conjured up the same specter of a coalition boogeyman to try to scare Canadians back under the covers, referring to the “coalition” several times in a recent column.

Now, the MP for Wetaskiwin spends more time in Ottawa than the rest of us so I’ll allow him his political fears, but really, in a minority Parliament, the Conservative party must coalesce with the opposition parties on every bill if they are to continue governing. It’s OK to form a coalition to stay in power but it’s evil and undemocratic for the parties who represent the majority of Canadians to do the same to offer an alternative to the Governor General?

Successful or at least acceptable coalition governments are common in other Commonwealth nations and in other countries. Why are Canadians being told they are undemocratic or worse — illegal?

That we have had a succession of minority governments says more about the political parties’ inability or disregard for the complexity that is Canada. The same old message, the same old politics, doesn’t work for Canada in the third millennium. Old-style right wing conservatives and left wing liberals or socialists are not being created at a rate likely to elect a majority government anytime soon. These parties must adopt new policies and new personae if they are to appeal to voters in regions where they are traditionally underrepresented.

Harper has one more kick at the can before his own party will tire of his machinations and punt him in a leadership campaign. How many chances should he have to win a majority government from the Liberals, still in the political wilderness from the scandals of the last decade?