Fear of a Coalition Planet

The success with which Stephen Harper has wielded fear of a “coalition” government in Canada is really remarkable. Of the Canadian political parties, Harper’s is the most right-wing. He’s also never been able to secure a majority of votes or a majority of seats in parliament. Under the circumstances, it seems natural that a center-left coalition would present itself as an alternative. But it keeps not happening, and the accusation that the opposition Liberals are secretly plotting a coalition is so powerful that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is formally ruling it out before the election. How this all came about is a bit strange, but there’s an excellent discussion of it here in the Crooked Timber comments.

I’d also note that from a south of the border perspective, Canada seems to have managed to park itself in a state of affairs where overall government spending as a share of GDP is lower than in the states, but where the welfare state is simultaneously more generous and more effective. This reflects well both on Harper and his immediate Liberal predecessors, and not so well on the past ten years’ worth of legislating in the United States.