It was quite a sight to see – Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe, putting aside all of their previous hostilities and signing a formal agreement that will see the Liberals and NDP form a coalition government with the support of the Bloc, that will last at least eighteen months. Indeed, the agreement states that the Liberals and NDP would stay united until June 30, 2011, while the Bloc would give support until June 30, 2010. It was remarked by one person yesterday that Stephen Harper may have united the right, but now it appears he's also united the left.
The coalition would see Stéphane Dion lead a government as Prime Minister until his successor is chosen in May. He would head a cabinet of twenty-four ministers, six of them NDP members. (I've also heard in places that it would also include six NDP Ministers of State, but I haven't found any confirmation of that). The three Liberal leadership candidates have all set aside their own respective agendas and agreed that Dion is the duly elected leader of the party, and therefore he will be the one to lead the coalition until one of them can step forward and take over.
Each party gave up something to make this happen. The NDP gave up on the plans to roll back the $50 billion in corporate tax cuts that they wanted so desperately to be rid of. The Liberals have given up on the Green Shift, and will instead focus on a cap-and-trade mechanism. There is agreement on all three sides that there will be absolute Greenhouse Gas reductions with 1990 as the baseline level, and that there will be changes made to Employment Insurance and stimulus for the manufacturing and forestry sectors. And the Bloc has decided to put aside their concerns about recognition of the Québec nation for the duration of the eighteen months that they've signed on for, saying that the economy matters most at this time.
As for what the new cabinet will look like, we're not sure yet, but it will likely be unveiled over the coming week, along with more concrete plans for their economic plans. Should the Conservative government fall next week, and should Her Excellency decide to give the opposition coalition a chance rather than plunging us back into another election, then they promise to move swiftly. But that is going to mean another round of swearing-in ceremonies plus a new Throne Speech, six days of debate on it before they can get down to the business of governing. With a little less than two weeks left before Parliament is due to rise for the Christmas break, one has to wonder if they'll call the House back early in January to get the ball rolling sooner, lest the Conservatives complain that it's taken them just as long as it would have for them to put out their budget the day after the House was due to return.
Incidentally, I think we're guaranteed that Scott Brison will get a cabinet post, and I don't think it's unlikely to suggest that Libby Davies would either, given their respective positions in each party, and Davies' role in getting this coalition together.
As for Harper, well, he can either take this gracefully, or he can try to fight tooth-and-nail to keep a claw-grip on power, potentially proroguing the House before Monday's confidence vote. Of course, that will both show just how desperate he really is at this point, but it will also delay things once again in January, meaning yet another Speech From the Throne to get things started again – and being as prorogation is supposed to signal the end of a government's agenda with accomplishments to show for it, there doesn't seem to be any reason for Her Excellency to grant him that either.
I'm looking forward to what today's developments will bring.