What he was trying to say

Stephen Harper was apparently asked today about his comments in 1997 about a future “coalition or working alliance” among parties in Parliament.

“This clip was a clip of me discussing uniting the right,” Mr. Harper told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t think it was any secret we were trying to bring together the Progressive Conservatives, the Reform Alliance and the Democratic Representatives. We were very clear we were looking for mechanisms to bring us together – and we did create a merger as you know.”

He stressed: “I have never attempted to take office without winning an election. The other guys did.”

The TVO interview seems to have occurred shortly after Mr. Harper resigned in 1997 and, as Paul notes, the Democratic Representative Caucus wouldn’t come into existence for another four years. (When Mr. Harper spoke, five parties existed: the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Reform.)

That aside, his specific comments in 1997 about the future arrangement of our parliamentary democracy seemed to exceed both a simple merger of the PCs and Reform and his contention now that only the party that wins the most seats can form government.

The way the Liberals, I think, are eventually going to lose office, whether it’s in this election or the next one, is they’re going to fail to win a majority. They’ve basically lost Quebec and without Quebec the Liberal party has never been a majority party in this country. And that’s where I think you’re going to face, someday, a minority parliament, with the Liberals maybe having the largest number of seats, and what will be the test is whether there’s then any party in opposition that’s able to form a coalition or working alliance with the others. And I think we have a political system that’s going to continue to have three or four different parties, or five different parties, and so I think parties that want to form government are going to eventually have to learn to work together.

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