The recent debate over the coalition government in waiting has three distinct issues that cannot be confused with each other.
For one, the debate for and against the coalition is largely split along lines of partisan politics. It is only fair that Conservative sympathizers would condemn the coalition and vice-versa for Liberal and NDP supporters. But let us not confuse partisan opinion with the considerations of legitimacy and mandate.
We elect local members of parliament. But we do not elect a government. Just last year, the editorial in this newspaper argued against proportional representation and in favour of directly electing our local representative. You cannot now reverse that position and claim that the vote for a member of parliament is a proxy vote for the prime minister. We do not use the electoral college method of electing a US president. Each citizen must integrate his/her choice of a member, a party, a platform, and a leader into one vote. The motivations of all the voters are as varied as the issues.
The fundamental principal of democracy is majority rule. The MPs form a government with the majority support of the House of Commons. When a party wins an absolute majority of seats in the House, then forming a government is easy. But a minority government can ONLY operate with the support of another party to form a majority on votes of confidence. We saw Pearson, Trudeau, Clark, Martin, and Harper govern with enough support from other parties to govern for some time. Call this support, coalition, alliance, or whatever. We are accustomed to it and it works. It is legal and moral.
When support in the House falls below a majority, then the government falls. The governor general then has two options, call an election, or form an alternative government with majority support in the House. Those are the rules of our democracy. They are non-partisan, fair, and honourable. When Harper commits to using all legal means to retain power, then it is equally moral for other Parties to use all legal means to obtain power. One of those legal means includes the formation of a coalition that would place an alternate government in power. Harper signed a letter in 2004 with Layton and Duceppe, informing the GG that they could form an alternative government without the need for an election. Harper knew that this was legal and honourable as much as the Dion-Layton coalition is legal and honourable.
The third consideration is the electoral mandate. When a citizen votes, it is clear that the vote is a mandate for the MP to form a government by all legal means. Why else would we vote? That is the only reason. By casting our vote, we also know that the MP can only accomplish this by participating in a majority alliance in the House, either a single Party with a majority of seats, or a coalition of parties with majority support. Yes, the voters supporting the Liberals, the NDP, and the Bloc gave them a clear mandate to form, support, or influence a coalition government.
The absence of a collation during an election is irrelevant. We are a representative democracy. We send an MP do what he/she can to represent us, to exert power, and then come back after the term to be held accountable. When the Reform Party changed its name and mandate to the Alliance, we did not ask their MPs to resign before the next election. When the Alliance and PC Parties merged, we did not ask their MPs to resign. When a prime minister or a party leader resigns, we do not expect their MPs to resign and call another election. That is all because we do not vote for a prime minister or a party, we vote for an MP. It is as simple as that!
The only immoral act committed in Ottawa in the last two weeks was by Stephen Harper. He turned his personal fight for power into an unnecessary and despicable crisis of national unity.