16 December 2013

Germany's Grand Coalition—a lesson for Canada?

Germany now has a government that represents a solid majority of the German people. With three-quarters of Social Democrat party members voting to join a coalition with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, the chancellor and her cabinet will now be sworn in.

In September's national election, the Christian Democrats got 41.5 per cent of the vote and the Social Democrats 25.7 per cent. The Grosse Koalition will therefore represent over two-thirds of the electorate. Polls have indicated that the German people expected and wanted the coalition. And why wouldn't any democracy-loving people want, indeed demand, a government that represents most of them?

The answer, it appears, is Canadians. Perversely, we blithely accept governments that most of us don't vote for. Our current federal government, for example, didn't even get the support of 40 per cent of us.

In 2008, when a coalition government was in the works, we almost seemed to panic. The proposed
coalition between the Liberals and the NDP was supported by both the Bloc Québécois and the Green Party. In other words, it was supported by all our elected representatives except the Conservatives. Nonetheless, the very idea of a coalition sent many Canadians into a tizzy and Parliament was subsequently prorogued by the Governor-General.

Coalitions not only ensure that most citizens are represented in their government, they bring a much broader range of ideas to bear on issues, something we clearly need in this country. If we have a 2008 situation after our next election, and it's looking entirely possible at the moment, we might take a more rational approach to a coalition. The Germans can show us how it's done.

In the meantime, they will enjoy something we don't—a government for all, or at least most, of their people. It must be nice.

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