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.
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.
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.