The horses have left the corral: An election has been called.
Governor General Michaelle Jean has seemingly had to swallow the fact that 15 months after she signed into law fixed election dates, her first minister has decided to do exactly what the law was supposed to prevent. Namely, enabling a sitting Prime Minister to control the timing of elections for pure political advantage.
But what now? The well financed Team Harper (which is really Team Harris with a new captain) has the right side of the field all to itself - roughly between 30 and 36 per cent of voters depending on what day it is.
The opposition parties crowd the left but their combined support represents a resounding majority of Canadians. What to do? How's this: let's forget about strategic voting.
When opposition candidates knock on your door try this one on them: coalition government. Tell your thick-necked candidates to forget about the bloodsport on embarassing display each and every day the House of Commons sits. If the next election results in another minority parliament, tell them to get the boss of their political gang to sit down with the boss of the other gang and friggin work together for Canadians.
Other than oversized egos and playground immaturity there is no good reason that the Libs, NDP and, possibly, the Bloc and the Greens (if they elect someone) could not cobble a working - hell, an exciting - government that really does represent the majority of Canadians.
Ah, imagine how things would look today had the opposition parties set aside their own self interest and presented a coalition to the Governor General at any time over the last two years.
- We'd likely have a national daycare program instead of the $100 monthly per kid under six which doesn't cover a week of daycare in most facilities.
- We'd have the Kelowna Accord and a direction for First Nations communities that its leadership buy into.
- We'd have had concrete action on a whole host of environmental issues.
- And we's likely not be running a federal defecit because, contrary to the enduring myth that right-wing governments are fiscally prudent, a left of centre coalition government would have listened to every economist in the land who declared in unison that cutting points off the GST was idiotic.
So why didn't a coalition happen?
"The major parties are always angling for majority governments," says U of T political science prof Nelson Wiseman. "They see minority government as an abberation."
When I ask federal NDP spokesperson Brad Lavigne if there was ever talk among the opposition parties in this parliament about a coalition he says no. He says that in fact the Harper government was operating as a defacto coalition the whole time.
"Over the last two years Harper has been able to govern like he had a majority because at different times there was either a Bloc-Conservative coalition or a Liberal-Conservative one," he says. "But it was hard to see what either party got in return for their support. I don't know what went on in those closed door meetings but it looked like the Liberals did not leverage anything,"
He points out that when the NDP supported the budget of Paul Martin's minority government in June 2005 they were able to reroute billions of dollars in corporate taxes towards social spending.
OK. Got it. But this isn't what I mean by coalition governent. I'm talking about parties forming governments together. PM Dion, Layton as minister of finance, Environment Minister Elizabeth May (not sure what to do with Duceppe). All has an interesting, exciting, kind of social democratic European flair to it huh?
But here is the cool thing: a coalition made up of the left would more accurately represent the direction the majority of Canadians want to see. Instead opposition parties seem content to spill each others blood while the wrong side sneaks in the back door.
U of T's Wiseman thinks that might start to change. "If we have another one or two minorities then we may start to see coalitions," he says.