Gilles Duceppe Offers a Win-Win Alternative to Quebec Voters

06/18/2015 08:13 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
AFP via Getty Images
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative Party, (L) talks with Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe during a photo op before the French language debate at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, October 1, 2008. Canadians are set to go to the polls in a national election October 14, 2008. AFP PHOTO/Geoff Robins (Photo credit should read GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

Quebecers are tired of being excluded from the government but also face a dilemma in not having a clear alternative with which to replace the Tories who have been in office for the last nice years. This ''anything but'' movement excludes a priori the Bloc Québécois as a potential choice for the obvious reason that winning districts against the NDP or the Liberal Party doesn't contribute to whipping Harper and the Conservatives out of office. The conquest of Quebec is a necessary but not sufficient condition for both the NDP and the LPC to form the government. This is not the case for the incumbent government, as the last elections showed.

Now that Gilles Duceppe is back and has declared his willingness to support a coalition that would offer an alternative to the Conservatives and which is in Quebec's interest, the dilemma for voters in the province changes dramatically. The reason is simple: from now on, the Bloc Québécois would be part of the equation for the ''anything but'' option. There is thus no reason to exclude the Bloc as an alternative to replace the Conservatives.

It may feel like déjà vu, recalling that in 2008, a coalition lead by Stephane Dion and supported by Jack Layton as well as Gilles Duceppe threatened the minority government in office. So what's new? The most likely outcome is that the NDP -- rather than the LPC -- would have the high ground during negotiations. Thus, this coalition would be more left-leaning than the one previously proposed to the ex-general governor in 2008. It would also make it easier for the Bloc to provide support to a hypothetical government lead by Thomas Mulcair. Indeed, the Bloc is ideologically very flexible on economic issues depending of its impact on the province of Quebec, but certainly has closer ties to the NDP than the Liberals on social issues.

The norm in most established democracies is to govern in coalition with more than two parties. Even the Tories in the United-Kingdom, where elections are conducted with the same winner-takes-all electoral system as in Canada, accepted to govern with the Liberal-Democrats -- a tier party -- and government during a full five-year mandate. Contrary to this example, it is likely that leaders of both the NDP and the LPC will open the door to a coalition before or during the election -- even if they continue to say it may not be needed -- and thus give more legitimacy to this form of governance. Political scientists often call the Liberal Party of Canada the ''natural party of governance in Canada'' due to its dominance during the twentieth century. It may well be time for the Liberals and Justin Trudeau to show Canadians the natural way to govern in democracy: with consensus. This brings us back to the fundamental of the idea of a coalition: the ''anything but Harper'' movement.

Of course, a coalition would exclude the possibility that the NDP or the Liberal Party win a majority of seats, which in itself would be good news for the country. According to the available data from the 2008, 2006 and 2004 Canadian Elections study (CES), citizens prefer a minority government. Quebecers can thus conclude that Duceppe now proposes a win-win alternative to Quebec voters: the possibility of replacing the Tories without giving a free ticket to a majority government formed either by the NDP or the Liberals.


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