As God as my witness, I didn't think they were that stupid

In the span of 72 hours, Canada has suddenly found itself no longer in the grip of an economic crisis (the Bank of Canada having refused to play the game Jack Layton had intended them to play when the 3rd quarter report showed our economy doing that... what's it called? oh, growing), so instead the Liberals and NDP were quick to create a constitutional crisis.

Understand that by the time BlogRolling and Technoratti add this post to their feeds, this might all be old news, but here's my thoughts on the on-going issue as is.

First, as everybody and their dog now knows, this is because of Harper's threat to cut the $1.95 funding to all political parties: his party would lose more cash, but everybody else would lose all their budgets. Of particular risk is the BQ, who is forced to fundraise in Quebec where there is no longer anybody left with money: all chased away by the very political battles that the BQ was created to fight, ironically enough.

Secondly, as a friend indicated today, Harper should have known what happens when you put a desperate hungry animal into a "fight or flight" position: they do something desperate and hungry. Make no mistake about it, this is a really really really dumb thing for them to do.

Am I sure about that? Yes, let's do a quick check of the fundamentals:

  • This is a minority government, the third consecutive in tightly fought elections.
  • In politics there is a simple rule about any action your government or opposition wishes to take: either your plan has to bring in more new voters than the number of old voters you lose, or else you had such a glut of old voters you could afford to lose them.
  • The Liberals particularly are not in this second camp. The coalition as a whole is even moreso not able to chose the latter option. Votes are tight, because this is a minority government.
  • We must accept that there is some percentage of Liberal voters, lets denote it x, who will not be happy with the current course of action and will not be voting Liberal in the next election. x might be 0%, which I doubt. It might be 10%, or even 15-20%, we can argue about its size all we like, but that number exists.
  • Now bear in mind there is also some percentage, which we shall call y, of voters who voted NDP on October 14th and will no longer vote for the NDP in the next election because of this stunt. I suspect its larger than x but no guarantee of this fact will be necessary for the calculation to follow.
  • Let us suppose, with good reason, that the people who will not vote for the Liberals because of this will not vote for the NDP as they have made themselves peas in a pod. We can assume the reverse is true for the NDP voters. They are highly unlikely to oppose this action by "their" party and then approve it in the next. Remember that just six weeks ago, a potential Liberal voter chose the NDP because he didn't want the Liberals in power (or opposition). A potential NDP voter chose the Liberals because there was something about Layton or his party that he didn't like.
  • Now with this in mind, the coalition as a whole (I am ignoring the Bloc and making this English-provinces only calculation for semi-obvious reasons) stands to lose x + y votes in the next election. Again, we don't know how many voters this number represents, but it does represent a proportion. The end question has to be, as mentioned above, how many new votes for the coalition do Dion and Layton expect to get? For the electoral calculus on this move to make sense, they have to get a number greater than x+y to decide to switch to either of their parties. The problem is that this just isn't going to happen! Conservative supporters (even tenuous ones) aren't going to support one of the two parties they just finished voting against! They might siphon a few Green voters (more on this later), but I thought the whole deal with the Greens is that their voters weren't voting for political expediency and therefore won't be strategically switching votes. Did the LibDips expect that they were going to get a lot of undecided voters? Even the earliest reaction to their plan indicated that such a scenario wasn't about to happen. Maybe a few months into the mandate it might have worked, but not now before Harper has really even done anything.
  • In the end what we are looking at is a situation where the LibDips are guaranteed to lose votes at the next election. The NDP was a bit of a rising star, so I'm perplexed that Taliban Jack was so desperate to keep Harper out of power. Harper's tenure as PM is the reason that the NDP got such a strong showing, with all the nation's good progressives mobilized to help Jack keep Stephen "W." Harper in check. Now he's got a situation where a group of his supporters will go away in some nonzero number, and nowhere to bring new ones in since he allied with the Liberals.
  • I hear Liz May has endorsed the coalition. Is she on airplane glue too? Did Parliament Hill's plumbing systemtake the plume part too seriously? Opposing this coalition by saying that its too close to the election and that disrupting Parliament over this silly issue is too crass and politically opportunistic (despite her belief Harper is a bad but democratically elected leader) is her best chance to increase the stature for her own party. Remember that x+y block of voters? Well I guess they have no reason to angrily defect to the Greens, do they? Looks like they will be staying home.
  • RallyForCanada.ca is a new website planning a massive rally against the Coalition power-grab on Saturday. In Edmonton it will punk Linda Duncan's office: exactly what I've been wanting to do since October 15th! (I myself will likely not go, as I'm too Albertan to 'rally for Canada') Meanwhile the NDPers are planning a protest [leftists? protesting? You could knock me over with a feather right now! -ed] Saturday evening at Winston Churchill Square. With the pro-Harper rally at noon, and the anti-Harper rally at 6pm, the former could decide to go march against the latter. It's official: we've become Thailand.
  • Western alienation cannot be underestimated at this point: callers to Rutherford were outraged earlier today. Approximately 20% of my own company's workforce is planning to be at that Saturday rally, and half of them spent more time today asking me about Albertan Independence than actually working (sorry boss!) The same guys who just weeks earlier were asking if I felt like a traitor to Canada for my beliefs were today hoping that Ed Stelmach cut off the oil pipes back east and declared Alberta to be a separate entity by lunchtime tomorrow. Tying back to the x+y bit, it sure doesn't seem like the "coup" is engendering a lot of support. Except the hardcore partisans, who would declare Bush "greatest President ever" if Jack Layton took him on as a senior advisor.
To reiterate: The coup is opposed by huge numbers of Canadians, including NDP and Liberal voters. The coup is supported only by NDP and Liberal voters. As somebody at the National Post said, this arrangement gives the keys to 24 Sussex to Stephane Dion for a single Christmas. Besides that short-term benefit to the party, and the long-term detriment to the country, what on earth is gained? This is a dumb move, and hopefully by December 8th even the Liberals and Dippers have figured this out.

Okay technically its a constitutional convention crisis, as the actual Constitution Act doesn't bother to mention what to do when the Prime Minister loses the support of the House: partly because it doesn't mention the phrase "Prime Minister" at all.