Trying to pick a winner or a loser from Tuesday night's federal leaders' debate is not a clearcut business. None offered any "wow" moments, as all seemed to stick to their rehearsed scripts.
Conservative leader Stephen Harper, for the most part, achieved his goal of surviving the exercise without suffering any major blows. His disrespect for democracy was pointed out several times by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP_leader Jack Layton, while Harper dismissed the criticism as "political bickering." He said most Canadians are not interested, and sadly, he might be right.
The truth is that Canadians have grown fatigued from four federal elections in the last seven years, the result of three consecutive minority governments. Unfortunately, minority governments will continue to be the norm until one of two things happens: the Liberals and NDP merge like the Conservatives and Canadian Alliance did a few years ago, or the Bloc Quebecois is wiped from the political landscape. Neither appear to be likely anytime soon.
In that case, the only alternative to a Conservative minority will be a coalition government. You know, like the one Stephen Harper proposed in 2004, should Paul Martin's government fall. Coalition governments are a viable option in any parliamentary democracy and have worked in countries such as Great Britain, New Zealand and Israel. It also worked in Canada during the First World War, although the divide it created between Quebec and the rest of the country has yet to be recovered from.
While the Conservatives have effectively demonized the idea of coalition governments in Canada, that effort has been simply to preserve their hold on power. Canadians need to give all options consideration as more and more move away from supporting the traditional two parties.
What we need is a willingness to co-operate and a coalition could provide that. It would certainly beat having an election every two years.