Yesterday, representatives of the New Democratic and Liberal parties announced their intention to vote against an upcoming Conservative fiscal motion. The Liberals also said that they would introduce a 'no confidence' motion on the upcoming 'Opposition Day' in Parliament. Either the defeat of the Conservative motion or the passing of the no confidence motion would result in the fall of current government (less than two months old).
The really interesting aspect of this is that the Liberals and NDP have suggested that if the government did fall, that they would jointly approach the Governor-General and suggest that, instead of holding another election, that a Liberal/NDP coalition (with silent support from the Bloc Quebecois) would form the next government of Canada. While this is an unusual state of affairs, it is fully legal for this to take place.
For those of you uncertain about Canadian politics, here's a brief overview. The Conservative party, led by Stephen Harper, holds 143 of 308 seats in Parliament. Their policies are extremely right-wing from a Canadian perspective, and Harper is known for his fawning support of George W. Bush. The Liberals, currently led by Stephane Dion, are traditionally a centre-left party. Their 'Green Shift' policy, occurring at the same time as record-high gasoline prices, caused them some losses in the election, but also some gains. They hold 77 seats. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is somewhat 'left' and 'labour' oriented, but not in a way that any European would regard as excessive. They did much better than expected, getting 37 seats in the election, including one in the heart of Conservative Alberta, which is like having a Communist win in Texas. Finally, the Bloc Quebecois hold 49 seats. It may seem strange to have a party dedicated to the breakup of Canada running in Parliament, but it's a Canadian thing. For awhile, they were 'Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition" which proves once and for all that Canada is the Land of Irony. The Bloc have stated that they will not take part in any coalition, but will support it as long as they get some concessions for Quebec (notably the forestry and industrial sectors). There are also two independents holding seats. To hold a majority in Parliament, the Liberals and NDP need the support of at least some Bloc members.
Harper announced that he was going to put in a number of unpopular policies in the upcoming Parliament. The most controversial was one that would remove federal funding from political candidates. Previously, all parties that garnered a sufficiently high number of votes got some federal funding, as parties can no longer accept donations from corporate entities or unions. This would work to the disadvantage of all parties except the Conservatives, who for some reason have a lot of individual donors. Another unpopular policy relates to copyrights. The copyright bill, among other things, would consider a parody to be in violation of copyright unless done with the express permission of the copyright holder. In a country known for its political satire, this was widely seen as unacceptable.
At present, there seem to be five options on the table.
1. Another election. Nobody wants this as it would be expensive, time consuming, and likely not change things much.
2. A Conservative/NDP coalition. Stephen Harper mentioned the possibility this morning. Extremely unlikely unless Jack Layton (NDP head) is taken over by zombies and Ed Broadbent (former NDP leader, working behind the scenes with former Liberal leader Jean Chretien) has lost his zombie-killing shotgun.
3. Endless wrangling and negotiating to trim policies until they are able to be passed by some combination of members. This is unlikely to last for a long time, given Harper's famous intransigence and the wide ideological divide between Harper's Conservatives and everyone else.
4. A Liberal/NDP coalition, with the Bloc as somewhat silent partner. It would be unusual, and possibly frighten a few people, but I think we'd get used to it.
5. Behind the scenes wrangling in which sitting members are pressured or bribed to change party affiliation. It's happened before (Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae was once a member of the NDP) but is usually regarded as unethical.
It's going to be an interesting Winter Solstice, no matter what happens.