'I thought it was a very 'progressive; thing that occurred.'

Union, Liberal activists rally to support coalition


Michaëlle Jean's decision to prorogue Parliament may have taken some of the wind out of their sails, but a handful of union members and Liberal activists gathered Dec. 4 to denounce the Conservative government and promote the idea of a Liberal-NDP coalition.

Jean, the Governor General, granted a request from Prime Minister Stephen Harper Dec. 4 to prorogue Parliament, suspending it until late January.

That allowed Harper to avoid a no-confidence vote set for Dec. 8 that was all but certain to topple his Conservatives and see the formation of a Liberal-New Democratic coalition government, backed by the Bloc Quebecois, with then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion as prime minister.

Instead, on Dec. 8, the embattled Dion announced he'd step down as Liberal leader. Then, both Dominic LeBlanc and Bob Rae, two contenders for the Liberal leadership, announced they were pulling out of the race, effectively handing the job to Toronto MP and former academic Michael Ignatieff, who is cool to the idea of a coalition.

But Doug Workman, president of the Nunavut Employees Union, said that even with Parliament's forced break, a left-of-centre coalition is a good idea.

"I thought it was a very progressive thing that occurred, people thinking outside the box," he said.

Workman said the economic update tabled by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did little to help the ailing Canadian economy. Some of its elements, such as the elimination of public funds for political parties, and a temporary ban on strikes by federal civil servants, were totally unacceptable, Workman said.

Jack Anawak, the former Liberal MP for Nunavut, criticized current MP Leona Aglukkaq, also the federal health minister, for likening the would-be coalition to a third-world coup. He then quipped that Germany and the Netherlands, both long governed by coalitions must also be third-world countries.

Anawak also lambasted Harper for his references to a "separatist coalition." Conservative talking points criticized the coalition's proposal to consult the Bloc on legislation if it took power.

"I think the Prime Minister has done more to raise the stakes in Quebec than anyone has ever done," Anawak said.

There were also demonstrations across the country in support of the Conservative government, though not in Nunavut.

Al Hayward, a local Conservative party member, said the seven weeks until the next sitting of Parliament will "give people a chance to reflect on the wrongness of the situation." The coalition, he said, was a product of sour grapes among parties who lost the October federal election.

But Hayward also admitted that all four parties should have been able to work together in the intervening weeks to help Canadians deal with the growing recession.

The political chaos of the last few makes made all four parties look bad, he said.

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