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Norman Spector

A coalition it is not Add to ...

I know it's hard for opposition critics and even for some journalists to resist hoisting Mr. Harper on his own socialist-separatist petard. But let's be clear on one thing.

In coalition government, cabinet portfolios are allocated to more than one party. Which is why it was accurate last fall to refer to a Liberal-NDP coalition. And why it was false for the Conservatives to allege that the Bloc, though it had signed the political accord and would have supported the proposed coalition, was part of it too.

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It's equally false after the events of the past week to allege that Mr. Harper is governing in a coalition with the NDP and/or the Bloc. In renouncing coalition government, as he recently did, is Michael Ignatieff saying that he would not seek the support of other parties - as both Mr. Pearson and Mr. Trudeau did - if he's returned with a minority government after the next election? I think not.

What's now happening is that the House of Commons is returning to the situation that prevailed after the 2006 election. Specifically, the minority Conservative government will have to seek the support of at least one other party to enact legislation and to maintain the confidence of the House.

Then it was the Bloc that kept the Conservatives alive, now it appears more likely that the NDP will keep them in business. What's more important is that the first Conservative minority government was one of the longest in our history. And it could have survived longer had Mr. Harper not violated his law fixing the election date.

The reason for the longevity of that government was that, unlike the Paul Martin minority of 2004, no single party held the balance of power. And, as we've just seen, that dynamic continues to apply, which bodes well for those not hot to trot to the polls in the near future.

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