Bob Rae hints at Liberal-NDP accord
Bob Rae says there’s no rule preventing the Liberals and the NDP from ganging up and toppling a newly elected Tory government: He’s done it before and now he’s hinting it may happen again.
In a brief memoir posted this week on his website, the former Ontario NDP leader and premier delivers a shot across the bow as he looks back 25 years to an agreement he negotiated with the Liberals at Queen’s Park.
“This week marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Liberal-NDP Accord in Ontario. The election in early May of 1985 had elected a minority Parliament, with the Conservatives at 50 [seats], the Liberals at 45 and the NDP at 25. The vote split was roughly 37/37/25 [per cent],” the Liberal MP writes.
“On the night of the election the commentators (and the Conservatives under Frank Miller) went to bed thinking it was a Conservative minority. That was the way it had been in 1975 and 1977 when Bill Davis had used the rivalry between the NDP and the Liberals to stay in power.
“My own thoughts were different. I went to bed disappointed that the provincial NDP (of which I was then the leader) had not gained more seats, but convinced that politics could not just go on as before.”
Mr. Rae’s musings about Liberals and New Democrats working together come as polling numbers show the federal Conservatives remain comfortably in first place but that the combined support for the Liberals and the NDP is greater than the support for the Tories.
Coalition talk is also in the air after Canadians watched the British Conservatives form a coalition government with the third-place Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats had also negotiated with the second-place Labour Party, which led critics to attack the failed proposal as a “coalition of losers.”
Conservatives here are already warning that there are signs the Liberals are making nice again with the NDP.
In his web post, Mr. Rae describes how he and then-Ontario Liberal leader David Peterson consulted their caucus members and constitutional experts to craft an accord between the two parties that allowed the Liberals to govern without fear of “Russian roulette” threats of snap confidence votes. In exchange, they adopted some NDP policies in what Mr. Rae describes as a “working partnership,” rather than a formal coalition.
The arrangement in 1985 has been raised often in recent years in light of the pressure on the Governor-General to sort out minority-Parliament issues in Ottawa. Constitutional experts point out that the 1985 example showed the Lieutenant-Governor in that case did choose to allow another party to form a government, rather that require another election, after the governing party faced defeat on a confidence vote.
In the final sentence, Mr. Rae delivers a thinly-veiled hint that his web post is more than a simple stroll down memory lane.
“In a Parliamentary system elections produce a Parliament, and Parliament makes a government. That was the lesson learned in 1985. Prattle about ‘winning a mandate’ with less than a majority in Parliament is just that – partisan spin, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is a lesson worth remembering.”