A key advisor to Stephen Harper during his days as Opposition leader says the “co-opposition” arrangement Mr. Harper negotiated with NDP leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe in September 2004 was seen by Conservatives at the time as a potential avenue to a Harper-led minority government — without seeking Canadians’ approval in an election. ...
[Tom] Flanagan’s comments are significant because they raise further questions about Mr. Harper’s interpretation of the episode and, perhaps, his current election strategy of branding Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a would-be coalition leader — even if he finishes second behind the Conservatives in the May 2 election — willing to strike a deal with Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe to trump a Mr. Harper minority and become prime minister.
Although Mr. Ignatieff explicitly ruled out forming a so-called “coalition of losers” on the first day of the campaign on Saturday, Mr. Harper has continued to make it the central thrust of his message to voters, casting the election as a choice between a “stable,” majority Conservative government or a “reckless,” Ignatieff-led alliance of also-rans — the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc.
But Mr. Harper’s strong denunciations of coalition-making in the current political context have led to pointed questions about his own actions in 2004, when the then-Opposition leader co-signed a letter with Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe urging Adrienne Clarkson — Canada’s governor general at the time — to “consider all of your options” before allowing Mr. Martin to call another general election.
“We respectfully point out,” read the letter, “that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise, this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.”
At a news conference in September of that year, Mr. Harper sat next to Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe as he elaborated on the message sent to Ms. Clarkson.
“There has been some informal chitter-chatter around the Hill that if a prime minister were weakened by his own party or defeated in the House, that he could just automatically call an election,” Mr. Harper said at the time. “That’s not our understanding of how the constitutional system works, particularly in a minority Parliament.”
On the day in October 2004 when Mr. Martin’s government delivered its throne speech, CTV journalist Mike Duffy — later appointed by Mr. Harper as a Conservative senator — reported that some Conservatives saw the Liberals’ troubles as a chance to make Mr. Harper prime minister.
“It is possible that you could change prime minister without having an election,” Mr. Duffy said on CTV on Oct. 5, 2004. “If you could put Stephen Harper — and this is some of the thinking of Conservatives — in 24 Sussex Drive, even for five or six months without an election, it would make the Conservative option much more palatable to Canadians because they’d see that they don’t have horns and a tail.”
Mr. Harper is striking a very different tone during this campaign....
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Ex-advisor says Harper had coalition plan in 2004
Ex-advisor says Harper had coalition plan in 2004: