Coalition government is democratic

A coalition government made up of the three opposition parties who received 62% of the vote, with added counsel from the Greens, is perfectly legal and democratic.

The popular vote shows who Canadian voters actually gave their vote to. When the Conservative minority government, who only received 37% of the vote, do not have the confidence of the House, it is perfectly clear that the opposing parties with 62% of the vote and a wish to govern, must be allowed to do so. This is quite clear.

Stephen Harper’s claim of having received a mandate by the people to govern is utterly false. The Conservative vote went down by over 165,000 and what they received is support to form a minority government, and no more, while keeping the confidence of the House. He has proven unable to do this.

Negotiations are a part of every family. I do not know of any family member who gets exactly what they want, when they want, without negotiating. If such is the case in families, why would it not be the case respecting elected officials? It is a coalition government, not another election, that must be approved.

2 responses to “Coalition government is democratic”

  1. John Richardson writes:

    “A coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a misunderstood coalition”

    Sharon, thanks for this post and for your contribution to the community by standing as the Green Party candidate in the October election.

    You are commenting on what is surely the most important political issue of 2008. The guts of your post are:

    “A coalition government made up of the three opposition parties who received 62% of the vote, with added counsel from the Greens, is perfectly legal and democratic.”

    This is a very important conclusion and needs to be explored.

    There are many different kinds of democracies.

    Under Canada’s form of Westminster Parliamentary democracy, coalitions are legal. But, the fact that something is legal does not make it moral. There is rarely a relationship between legality and morality.

    A coalition government in Canada may or may not be democratic and may or may not be moral. It really depends on what definition of democracy that you accept.

    On January 23, 2009 the Toronto Star published an interesting article which attempts to explain what democracy means in Canada. I commend it to all. The article purports to be written by a number of constitutional scholars and begins as follows:

    “In light of the recent events, it has become clear that many Canadians are unfamiliar with some of the basic rules of our constitutional democracy. In a recent Ipsos Reid poll, 51 per cent of participants mistakenly thought Canadians directly elect their prime minister. We feel it is our duty, as constitutional scholars, to clarify the rules governing the appointment of government.”

    The article goes on to say that:

    1. Canadians elect their local MPs which form the House of Commons;
    2. What is important is that the government (in this case the Conservatives) has the support NOT of the electorate, but of the individual MPs.

    Now, those who argue that a coalition is democratic are arguing as follows:


    1. Canada is a democracy.
    2. In Canada the formation of coalitions is allowable.


    Therefore, a coalition government in Canada is democratic.

    This conclusion is valid. But, it is not sound.

    The fact that a government calls itself a democracy does NOT make it so. Think of the old days of East Germany – the DDR – the Deutsche Democratic Republic.

    I suggest that we need to dig a little deeper.

    The most important part of the article in the Star is the statement that 51% of Canadians thought that Canadians directly elect their prime minister. This means that 51% of Canadians did not contemplate the possibility of a coalition when they vote. We know that voter turnout was low. Although we don’t know what those who voted were actually thinking, it is likely that they did NOT contemplate a coalition!

    I suggest that the minimum characteristic of a democracy is that:

    1. People know what their actual voting options are. (I.e. in this case, they should vote with the knowledge that a coalition government is possible. For example, they should know that: the leaders of the NDP, Liberals and Bloc can decide to form a government simply by forcing their MPs to vote in this way (whipping the vote).)
    2. People should not have a form of government imposed on them that they never considered to be an option.

    In the Canadian context, the fact that decisions are made by the Governor General, (who is nothing but a political appointee) is extremely problematic. For some interesting comments on this problem see Professor Tom Flanagan’s article in the Globe.


    It may be that Canadians are woefully ignorant of how their democracy works. But, rather than impose a coalition on Canadians the proper course of conduct in this particular democracy would be to:

    First, call an election.

    Second, during that election, teach people how Canadian democracy works (a coalition is a possible option).

    Third, encourage all candidates to specify whether they would support a coalition.

    I believe, as others may, that democracy requires that voters understand their possible outcomes. It seems to me that knowledge of the outcomes, is the moral foundation of a democracy – a democracy that does more than call itself a democracy.

    “A coalition if understood, but not necessarily a misunderstood coalition!”

    Once again, thanks for posting on this issue!

    John Richardson – Independent Candidate – Toronto, Danforth

  2. Sharon Howarth writes:

    Very nice to hear from you John. Thank you for your comments.

    Your title is, “A coalition if necessary, but not necessarily a misunderstood coalition”.

    When rallies took place in Toronto in Dec, the Pro-Coalition Rally at City Hall attracted approximately 8,000 and the Anti-Coalition Rally at Queens Park which attracted 1,000 to maybe 2,000. It is clear that voters want political parties to WORK IT OUT. They do not want to go to the polls so soon.

    In the Star article you attach, there is a statement that says a ‘poll’ shows 51% of Canadians thought that Canadians directly elect their prime minister, meaning that 51% of Canadians did not contemplate the possibility of a coalition when they voted. Poll results are often inaccurate and, in any event, the Star is drawing a conclusion. During the October election the opposition parties ‘also’ did not contemplate…..

    –that Harper was going to show himself to be such a dictator and have no economic stimulus with such a dismal employment picture

    –that Harper would loose the confidence of the House

    –that there would be a need to discuss forming a coaltion.

    It just happened. This is how events unfolded.

    Being in a time of recession and having just paid for a federal election, to be spending on another one is not what Canadians wanted. Since Harper did what he did, I believe the opposition parties with the support of the Greens, made a good decision. Not everything can be predicted or can be solved by returning to the polls immediately. The only guarantee is “change”. It will come about in various ways but it will come.

    In all our families, no one gets whatever they want, whenever they want. All must negotiate. If we must negotiate in our own families, why would it not be the case for the political parties who make up government? How can we not allow dictators in our families yet have them heading political parties or in government running our country? This is what a coalition is about–negotiating. They are in many parts of the world. It’s time for them to be here.

    We know that a Proportional Voting System is what is really needed, where there are no wasted votes and “every vote will count”. This is the next and necessary ‘change’.

    Yes, the times they are a changing. What I often say is we are “On The ROAD to Democracy”.

    Thank you again for your comments.


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