Now that federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff (pictured with leadership hopeful MP Bob Rae in background) has declared that his party will not form a coalition with the socialists and separatists, we can relax and get on with the campaign. Or can we? If the Liberals lose the election, most pundits seem convinced Mr. Ignatieff will resign or otherwise lose his position as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. So does his ban on coalition also bind a future Grit leader? I doubt it does.
Put Bob Rae in charge of the Liberal Party of Canada and he may go Stéphane Dion one better and, rather than a coalition, go for full merger of the federal Grits and Dippers. Just saying.
Assuming, though, that the left-wing parties do not merge, a loss in the May 2 election just may light a match that could ignite the unite-the-left embers still smoldering after Liberal and NDP insiders were reported to be in talks back in the summer of 2010. May be not merger, but how about a strategic alliance of some kind that combined with support of the Bloc Québécois could see the Grits oust the Tories from power.
Making promises during election campaigns and breaking them after Canadians have voted has many precedents, to wit:
- In the 1974 election, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau opposed wage and price controls. Once he had been elected, however, he announced a policy of wage and price controls. Go figure.
- During the 1993 election former prime minister Jean Chrétien promised to replace the GST and reneged on his promise after the election.
- During the 1993 election campaign, former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps promised that she would resign if the GST was not abolished by the Liberal Party. After a poll indicated she would win her riding in a by-election, Ms. Copps resigned her Hamilton East seat and promptly ran again in the ensuing by-election. Now most of us don’t resign a position and immediately re-apply for it—that does not meet most people’s smell test—so I’ll count that as a broken promise.
- During the 1993 election former prime minister Jean Chrétien promised to renegotiate the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement and never fulfilled that promise.
- In the run-up to the Ontario Liberals’ 2003 election victory, Premier Dalton McGuinty pledged not to raise provincial taxes, but he very famously reneged by introducing a whopping $2.6-billion health tax. I won’t bore you with the several other pre-election promises Mr. McGuinty broke, but here’s a link to a list of 50, if you want to see for yourself.
And, frankly, I don’t care how many promises other party leaders have broken. My point is that Mr. Ignatieff will say just about anything to get the coalition monkey off his back. After all, if he loses this election, his prospects for retaining his party’s leadership are pretty slim. Facing the music for broken promises will be left to his successor who’ll have the excuse: it was Ignatieff’s promise, not mine.