Senior federal Liberal MP Bob Rae sounds nostalgic for those heady days 25 years ago when he signed, as leader of the New Democrats, the Liberal-NDP Accord in Ontario that unseated the Progressive Conservatives who had just formed a minority government. The PCs did meet the House and brought in a Throne Speech, but were defeated soon after and replaced by the second place Liberals, who had a signed 2-year agreement with Mr. Rae’s New Democrats.
This, of course, was much different than the aborted coalition in December 2008 when the federal Liberals and NDP agreed to govern as a coalition with the formal backing of the Bloc Québécois. In 2008 the Liberals and the New Democrats together had less seats than the Tories who were the winner of the election that year, and had to rely on a third (separatist) party, which was not a member of the coalition, to keep them in office.
In the case of the Liberal-NDP Accord in Ontario, the Tories had won the 1985 election with 50 seats, but the Liberals had 45 and the NDP 25, giving their Accord 70 seats—a clear majority in the House and every right to defeat the Tories and seek to form the government.
I believe Mr. Rae’s memoir is intended to remind Canadians of the constitutionality of that Accord and to assure them that should the current federal Liberals and New Democrats form a new coalition, voters should have no fear of its legality. Mr. Rae remembers all too well how upset Canadians were at the prospect of a coalition backed by the separatists. He understands the need to go slowly and allow Canadians to get used to the idea.
We can, I believe, expect to hear musings of this sort as part of the soft-sell for a future unite-the-left coalition to unseat the Tories. I can’t wait to hear Michael Ignatieff’s take on the increasing speculation of a future arrangement between his Grits and Jack Layton’s Dippers.