Coalition monkey? Yes, coalition monkey? It was so hot it was a key twitter theme http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23coalitionmonkey).
I do understand what Ignatieff is saying--don't waste your votes on parties that cannot get a majority, vote for the Liberals. Why? Because the Conservatives suck, but Iggy cannot explain why the Liberals would suck less. But if there are no coalitions, then voting for the Greens, Bloc or NDP would be wasting their votes. So, vote Liberal. On the other hand, if coalitions are fair game, then vote Green or NDP (nobody will form a coalition with the Bloc--sorry*). Which would guarantee that the Liberals do not gain a majority. But the funny thing is that there is no way that the Liberals will win a majority. Iggy is just not that popular nor is his party. Perhaps the calculation is that, in a first-past-the-post system, voting for smaller parties might mean that the Conservatives win enough seats to gain a majority whereas voting strategically (voting Liberal and not wasting votes) might mean another minority government and, perhaps, a coalition.
* Ok, I am not sorry. I do not want to see the Bloc have more influence. Perhaps if they stood for stuff that I liked, but they don't. And I do get it why parties at the federal level would find it anathema to coalesce with a party that seeks to secede.
The Conservatives are trying to tie Iggy to the old threatened coalition of Liberals, NDP and Bloc, but I don't see why a coalition of Liberals and NDP or Liberals, NDP and Greens would not be possible. Sure, exclude the Bloc, but there might be math that works for the others.
I tweeted when I heard that Ignatieff had ruled out a coalition that he was a lousy political scientist. That he was causing folks to think that "those who can, do; those who cannot, teach." But, to be fair:
a) he is not a political scientist but an historian as far as I can tell. He has taught in multidisciplinary programs, but his training is as an historian.The problem with opposing coalitions now is that it will reduce/eliminate his options when (not if, but when) the Liberals fall short as will the Conservatives. If he tries to form a coalition after the election, he will be accused of being a liar.
b) opposing a coalition, as I suggested above, may not be entirely bad politics now. He wants Canadians to vote strategically by voting for whichever party will doom the Conservatives. The reality is that this varies from riding to riding (district to district). In some ridings, the best chance to deny the Conservatives a win would be to vote NDP or to vote Green or to vote Bloc Quebecois. In many, the best chance is to vote Liberal, but not all of them. If Ignatieff was really a strategic political scientist, he would not run Liberals in ridings where Liberals would likely lose AND where their votes might otherwise go to parties might beat the Conservatives. Or he would at least only send out weak candidates with weak support to these places. Indeed, he might be doing the latter, but I have no idea (interesting question for enterprising political scientists who study Canadian politics).
Which gets to the core question: given what we know about the polls, the ONLY chance for Liberals to get into power after the election would be to form a coalition beforehand with the NDP and perhaps the Greens and coordinate their campaigns (agree who will run where and bargain about the issues ahead of time). This is what parties do elsewhere. Sure, it is new to Westminister systems, but coalitions are not so new to such systems anymore (see NZ, Australia and now the UK). Wake up and smell the coalition coffee!
So, my view, as a non-Canadianist, is that this is the last election that Ignatieff will have worry about, as he will lose and then go back to the academy. Not a great outcome since we have too few jobs as it is. But the bright side is that failing folks seem to get heaps of media time these days (Cheney, Palin, etc.).
Oh, if I am wrong about how this election plays out, then I promise that I will stop speculating about Canadian elections. Until the next time.