Let me start off by saying that, despite my partisan preferences, I have some serious reservations about the idea of this coalition of parties deposing Harper. Not that I'll be sorry to see Harper go if he does, but this really is unprecedented in the Canadian small-c constitution. (Think conventions, not text.) Generally, I'm wary of things that can be accurately described as "unprecedented" when they have to do with our structure of government.
Basically, all three political parties ran on the implicit, and sometimes explicit idea that there would be no coalition. This isn't just a Tory talking point -- the voters endorsed a Parliament where the Tories would have a minority and the opposition were divided. None of us know what it would be like if Dion hadn't ruled out a coalition during the campaign.
All of that said, Harper really has no one to blame but himself. Attacking the public funding of political parties was nothing less than a declaration of war against the opposition. It follows that the opposition would react as strongly as possible, and it further follows that the opposition simply cannot trust the government from here on out.
But I think we're beyond the question of the public financing by now. This is pure speculation on my part, but I think the Liberals and NDP were both surprised to discover how willing each party was to form a coalition. This was the kind of thing that until about 9pm Thursday nobody was even talking about, that's how unlikely it was. Then suddenly by about noon yesterday it was practically a done deal. With power seemingly within their grasp, why would the left back down -- aside from the fact that we always do?
Well, there's one good reason: only an idiot would want to be responsible for the state of the economy right now. Not only is the coalition taking over at the beginning of a recession, they're explicitly claiming the mantle of financial responsibility. This seems to me worse than buying the rope to hang yourself with -- you're buying the rope at a premium.
Then there's the fact that this will be a really fragile coalition. What happens if some blue Liberals or Bloquistes defect? Admittedly there aren't too many of the former left, and I don't know how many of the latter there are, but it wouldn't take much to bring the coalition down.
So the next week is going to be a raging shitstorm of anger on the right, and probably some relative timidity on the left. And I don't blame the right for being angry -- it looks like they're going to lose power in an unprecedented fashion. But there's nothing illegal or unconstitutional about what's happening, and it wouldn't have come to this if their leader could have been even moderately less offensive and partisan in the middle of a crisis. This is the first time that I've thought the Harper-Bush comparison was really apt: Harper, like Bush/Rove, saw an opportunity to eviscerate his partisan opponents, policy or necessity be damned. And he went for it. The problem is he isn't a President, and the opposition is actually stronger than he is.
Which is why you don't do shit like this in Canada. Steve, this country took Mulroney and reduced the Tories to 2 seats in the Commons. You think we're gonna be really that upset to see the last of you? Before you answer, remember that more than 60% of the country voted for another dude or dudette.
One last point of seriousness: I am concerned that this is basically going to look like (fuck it, it's going to be) an Ontario/Quebec plot to keep Alberta from running things for too long. I have substantial policy differences with the current Conservatives, but given that Albertans are still bitching about the NEP, I suspect if this happens I'll be hearing it until I die...