The summer of 2004

Gilles Duceppe again offers his version of events.

“When he says only the party that received the most votes can form a government, he said the opposite in this letter. He lied this morning.” The Bloc Leader said there was a key meeting in a Montreal hotel where the subject of the opposition parties banding together against Mr. Martin was thrashed out. “He (Mr. Harper) came to my office and said: ‘What do you want in the speech from the throne’?” Mr. Duceppe said.

Furthermore, via Twitter, Mr. Duceppe says that Mr. Harper “definitely talked about a coalition” when they met seven years ago. Add that to the accumulated testimony and evidence collected to date.

For whatever it is worth, here is what William Johnson wrote in his biography of Mr. Harper about the immediate aftermath of the 2004 election.

Right after the elections, Harper announced that he would be considering his future. But he soon found that his position as party leader was secure—until the next election—and so he announced that he would stay on. And then he disconcerted journalists once again by disappearing for the summer. He was not inactive. He met several times with Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton to establish a kind of common front facing the Liberals. The three party leaders signed a joint letter to Governor General Adrienne Clarkson asking that she not dissolve Parliament at the request of the prime minister without first consulting them. Presumably, Harper envisaged attempting to form a government long enough to get some legislation passed before elections that were agreed to by the three opposition parties. Harper also feared that Martin wanted to precipitate an early election to regain a majority.

He was also determined that the Liberals, elected with a minority of the seats as well as a minority of the vote, would not have the moral or political authority to govern as though their program had received the assent of the voters. He would change the way of doing things in the Commons. The Liberals would be forced to recognize that a majority of the elected members were not Liberals, and that the majority’s views and interests must be taken into account in the legislation that would be passed in the coming session. The Liberals, as government, would have the initiative for introducing public bills. But when the bills were studied in committee before being returned to the Commons, the opposition MPs would have a majority on the committees; that meant that whenever the three opposition parties could agree by advance negotiation, they could shape legislation in a way that Paul Martin had never anticipated when he made “fixing the democratic deficit” his major plank for winning Liberal backbenchers to his standard against Jean Chretien. Then, he was promising power in the Commons to the Liberal peons. Now, he would be delivering it in large measure to the opposition MPs. The new Parliament promised to be an interesting place.

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