"Coalition clause" in Liberal platform
One tiny item in today's Liberal platform leaps out (at least to me): a Liberal government would convene regular, face-to-face meetings of all party leaders in the House of Commons, to "take stock of the tone of Parliamentary debate, productivity in the conduct of people's business and the mandates for in-depth work by standing committees."
Upon further inquiry, Liberals said they envision monthly gatherings of all leaders if they are elected.
You may wonder: why would a political party have to promise this? Surely there are conversations held all the time in Parliament between the party leaders.
Well, uh, no, there are not. There used to be such meetings, informally, I gather, and it was generally understood that behind all the public sparring for the cameras, politicians of all stripes generally respected each other and chatted from time to time. Not now. In the hyper-partisan, minority Parliaments of the past seven years, everyone's an enemy and to fraternize with them is to admit a weakness. This isn't what folks are taught at leadership schools in the private sector, where working with others is a strength.... but that's another world, apparently.
Frankly, Stephen Harper's greatest show of leadership skills along these lines took place before he became prime minister, when, shortly after the 2004 election, he spent the summer talking to Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton and figuring out whether they could work together. The product of that negotiation was the now-famous letter to the Governor-General, which is now a tool in the hands of Harper's rivals, just as the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement of 2008 is a tool in the hands of Harper and the Conservatives.
Because working together is wrong. That's how mixed up things are in our wee tiny dysfunctional world of Parliament Hill. No wonder no one understands politics.
But back to the "coalition clause" in the Liberal platform. The whole document is framed as an appeal to those who might be tempted to support other parties too -- take a look at the Green-friendly and NDP-friendly policies within it. Last year, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that his answer to all the coalition talk would be the reply: "Liberals *are* the coalition." This platform is his attempt to cast the party in that light, and should probably be measured that way. It would be interesting if all the political platforms were assessed for promises of co-operation, actually. So far, we only have one, and I'm not sure that we are demanding this of our politicians.