"Cooperative Government"

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Malcolm Malcolm's picture
"Cooperative Government"

I note that the Liberal - NDP agreement refers to it as a "Cooperative Government."


The only other use of that phrase that I am aware of in Canadian parliamentary history was in reference to the coalition government in Saskatchewan from 1929 - 1935.


There are several unsavoury aspects to that history, and I have no doubt that every New Democrat, Bloc and Liberal MP would disavow any connection to that earlier Cooperative Government's connections to the Ku Klux Klan, to the worst elements of the Orange Order, to anti-rFench and anti-Catholic bigotry &c.


Given that history, I can only think of two possible reasons for resurrecting the name.


The first, ignorance, is easily dismissed.  Both Allan Blakeney and Roy Romanow, former Saskatchewan premiers, have been deeply involved in the current negotiations and are well aware of the historical significant of the Cooperative Government of Dr. J.T.M. Anderson.  Similarly, NDP federal secretary Dick Proctor's deep roots in the Saskatchewan NDP preclude him missing the significance of the name.  Liberal MP Ralph Goodale would similarly know the story of the Cooperative Government.


Clearly, therefore, this nomenclatural hat tip to a discredited regime from eight decades ago was deliberate.


Of course, the creation of the Anderson coalition closely paralleles the present circumstances.  In the 1929 election, the Liberal Party under Jimmy Gardiner was returned with a minority (28/63).  Within a short time, it bacame obvious that Gardiner had lost (if indeed he ever had) the confidence of the House.  Gardiner asked Lieutenant-Governor Newlands to dissolve the Legislature and issue a writ of election.  This advice was declined, and Dr. Anderson was asked to form a government.  He quickly negotiated an agreement among his Conservative Party (24), the Progressive Party (5) and all the independent MLAs (6), creating a working majority of 35 seats.


In fact, the 1929 change of government in Saskatchewan is the single strongest (and almost certainly irrefutable) precedent in favour of the present arrangement.


So, given the involvement of four eager students of Saskatchewan political history (Blakeney, Romanow, Proctor, Goodale) in the current agreement, is the use of "Cooperative Government" a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the precedent which best favours their venture?




NB, the Cooperative Government did have some things right.  It created Saskatchewan's first Crown Corporation (SaskPower).


I also note that the Saskatchewan Cooperative Government was a coalition of the Official Opposition Party, the Progressive Party and the independents, whereas the present Cooperative Government (in waiting) is a coalition of the Official Opposition Party, the progressive party and the independantistes.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Is there any point to this thread, other than to show off your knowledge of Saskatchewan parliamentary history?


Actually I enjoyed Malcolm's history lesson - I was not aware of this situation and I think it is a very good example to use to help convince a wary public about the logic of the coalition

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Calm yourself, M.  In the end, it's actually a serious question.  Was the title "Cooperative Government" chosen deliberately to draw an allusion to the best available precedent?

Parkdale High Park

It doesn't  fit perfectly for one reason (same as 1985) - Frank Miller and Jimmy Gardiner accepted the outcome and did not request dissolution. Harper, it seems, is requesting dissolution. 


Wilf Day

Good pick-up on the 1929 nomenclature.

Would another reason for the name be to sound familiar to the west generally? The Co-operative movement is largely a western phenomenon, although we still have some co-ops in Ontario, plus the Co-op-based Co-operators' Insurance.

Plus it had to be a generic title: neither a Coalition nor an Accord, but one attached to the other, it needs an umbrella category.  Canada pioneers again.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Quebec (as well as Ontario) has housing co-ops, and banking co-ops (Desjardins). When I lived in Toronto, I lived in a housing co-op, and was a member of the 519 food co-op.


As well Wilf the co-op movement has a long and important history in the Acadian community in the Maritimes. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ A Sight to See: Harpo Hoisted on His Own Petard

Malcolm Malcolm's picture

Parkdale High Park wrote:

It doesn't  fit perfectly for one reason (same as 1985) - Frank Miller and Jimmy Gardiner accepted the outcome and did not request dissolution. Harper, it seems, is requesting dissolution. 


Gardiner had asked for a dissolution, which the LG refused.


Harper is entitled to ASK for a dissolution.

aka Mycroft

It's always annoying when the right appropriates left wing terms like co-operative, socialism, reform, progressive...

Wilf Day

While we're discussing terminology, I just met a new word. A commentator elsewhere said "For the NDP, given their first chance to serve in a federal cabinet, theirs will be the same baptism by fire that the Greens underwent in the Schroder government in Germany. They will too will have to become staatsfahig, showing themselves capable of administering departments and acting responsibly."

Staatsfahig? Literally "able for the state," ready to govern.