OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of one of Canada’s two leading opposition parties said on Tuesday he is willing to form a coalition in order to take power after the next election, even as the other party leader, Liberal Justin Trudeau, played down the idea.
The possibility of a coalition would have implications for whether Conservative Stephen Harper can stay on as prime minister after the 2015 election in the event he loses his current majority.
Trudeau’s Liberals now hold just 36 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. But polls suggest the party could win the most seats in the election scheduled for October 2015, while falling short of a majority.
“We’ve always said we’re ready to work with other parties. We’re a progressive party. We want to get results,” New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters when asked if he was willing to form a coalition with Trudeau after the election.
He pointed out that he was part of the NDP team that proposed in 2008 to oust Harper - who then had only a minority of seats - by forming a coalition with the Liberal Party, backed with an agreement of support from the separatist Bloc Quebecois.
“We even were willing to make Stephane Dion prime minister of Canada,” he said, referring to the then-Liberal leader. “It’s the type of water we were willing to put in our wine.”
Minutes later, Trudeau told reporters he opposed any formal arrangement with the NDP. Trudeau has battled hard for voters to the left of the Conservatives but has viewed some of the NDP economic ideas as too interventionist.
Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, became Liberal leader in 2013.
“I made very clear during my leadership (campaign) that I was not interested in any of those options, and the fact is I got a very strong mandate from Liberals to pursue a winning Liberal strategy ... for 2015,” he said.
The idea of an NDP/Liberal coalition idea was brought up by the Conservatives in the 2011 campaign in a effort to win votes. Harper won that election with 40 percent of the vote, but his party now has about 10 percentage points less in popular support.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Jonathan Oatis