A coalition government would be "legitimate" says Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, but it's not an option he's willing to consider until voters determine who should govern the country after the next election.
"A coalition is legitimate, but my intention, my plan is to form a Liberal government," Mr. Ignatieff said during a news conference after a meeting with Quebec party members. "I will play the cards the Canadian voters deal. I'm not going to deal with those cards until they are dealt, until they are on the table."
During his closing remarks to about 200 delegates, Mr. Ignatieff tackled the issue of forming a coalition government with the New Democratic Party by putting to rest any possibility of considering such an option before the next election.
What I want to do is go to voters in the next election, whenever that is, and say, vote Liberal…That's the message. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff
"We aren't here to propose a coalition to anyone. We are here to propose a Liberal alternative," Mr. Ignatieff said, triggering a loud round of applause from the delegates. But he didn't close the door to considering such an option after an election where the Conservatives would once again form a minority government.
Recent public opinion polls indicate the Liberals have been unable to draw enough voter support to convince themselves that Stephen Harper's Conservatives will be chased from power in the next election. The disappointing numbers have raised the prospect of a possible Liberal-NDP coalition government.
During the news conference, Mr. Ignatieff alluded to the need to adopt more progressive policies that reflect what he considers to be mainstream Canadian values. And that may involve working with other parties to achieve that objective.
"What I want to do is go to voters in the next election, whenever that is, and say, vote Liberal. … That's the message. It's clear. It's my plan A, my plan B, my plan C," he said. "Then when the voters decide. … I'll play the cards that are dealt and we will see what we can do to give Canada a compassionate, progressive, fiscally responsible government."
In the past, Mr. Ignatieff had misgivings about supporting a coalition when his predecessor, Stéphane Dion, proposed "a viable alternative government" in late 2008 with the support of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois. Mr. Ignatieff reluctantly signed the petition sent to Governor-General Michaëlle Jean that said the Liberals had the support of Parliament to defeat the Conservatives and form a minority government.
Shortly after becoming Leader, Mr. Ignatieff turned his back on the coalition and later remarked that it would have "profoundly, profoundly divided the country."
Recently, former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien expressed support for either a formal or an informal coalition with the NDP as perhaps the only way to defeat Mr. Harper's Conservatives. Mr. Chrétien along with former NDP leader Ed Broadbent were among the backroom negotiators during the 2008 coalition attempt.
Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez noted on Sunday that the new coalition government in Britain, headed by the Conservatives in alliance with the Liberal Democrats, has given the option credibility with voters in Canada.