Mr. Harper pushed his campaign team to put the majority-or-coalition issue front-and-centre, according to someone close to the campaign, because he personally believes those are the only possible outcomes. Polls show that most voters oppose the idea of a so-called “coalition of losers,” or of any party governing with the consent of the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois.
The problem, of course, is that he called a meeting and signed a letter which undermines his two arguments against a coalition. First, he proposed changing governments without having an election. He suggested that then Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, consider "all of your options;" and he noted that "the opposition parties, which together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation." Second, he did not possess a majority of seats in the House. When the Liberals faced a non-confidence motion, they occupied 135 seats, the Conservatives 98 and the NDP 20.
Together Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton could only muster 118 votes. They needed at least some of the Bloc Quebecios votes to pass legislation. The non-confiedence motion failed by one vote, because a former member of Mr. Harper's party -- who ran and won as an independent -- voted with the government.
Now Mr. Harper claims that governments can only change after an election; and that the party with the second largest number of seats cannot form a coalition. His problem, of course, is that the two men he "consulted" with in 2004 are still on the scene to set the record straight. Mr. Duceppe now waves the letter in public, points to Harper's signature, and says:
"When Mr. Harper says the party that finishes second can’t be prime minister, he’s lying,” the Bloc Québécois Leader said on the campaign trail Sunday. “When he says it’s anti-democratic, it’s the opposite of what he wrote in 2004. He’s trying to build his majority on a lie."
Mr. Layton backs up Mr. Duceppe. A coalition, Layton says, "certainly was one of the options that was discussed around the table." A leader firmly grounded in reality could have seen this coming. The letter to Ms. Clarkson has been in the public domain for a long time. But Mr. Harper is like that anonymous adviser to George W. Bush who told the journalist Ron Suskind:
the reality based community believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality. But that's not the way the world works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.
The real world came down around George W. Bush's ears in November, 2008 -- just as Stephen Harper won his second minority mandate. Since then, certain that Canadians didn't want to go to the polls any time soon -- and, therefore, believing that the opposition parties would not bring his government down -- he has governed as if he had a majority. The opposition parties have now called his bluff. Unfortunately, Mr. Harper still believes that -- like Jean Luc Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise -- he can bark, "Make it so!" and everything -- reality included -- will fall into place.
The Prime Minister is clearly delusional. The question we now face is, "Do Canadians buy his delusion?"