06.07.2010 09:26 AM

HT: Conservatives acknowledge unification of parties on left could be ‘formidable force’

“[Conservative strategist Tim]Powers said, however, that’s there’s no question a unification of the federal parties on the left could be a “formidable force.”

An Angus Reid poll released last week revealed that a Liberal-NDP coalition led by Mr. Ignatieff would be defeated by Mr. Harper in an election campaign, 40-34 per cent. If the new entity was led by Grit MP Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Ont.) it would be tied in public support, and if NDP Leader Jack Layton (Toronto-Dunforth, Ont.) was the leader it would defeat the Conservatives 43-37 per cent.

According to numbers from the poll released exclusively to the Globe and Mail, support for a full merger between the two parties was supported by 54 per cent of Liberals, compared with 40 per cent of NDP supporters. Both parties registered high levels of support for a shared power scenario, however, with 72 per cent of Liberals, and 70 per cent of New Democrats.”

UPDATE: Wells on it, here. Always worth a gander.


  1. e says:

    both parties prefer cooperation over merger… collaboration and cooperation is a positive

    • Michael Watkins says:

      Actually, support for a merger is pretty high then, given the historical comparison with the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties, circa 2002, about a year before they would ultimately merge.

      An IPSOS-Reid CTV/Globe poll conducted in August 2002 indicated that regular Canadians were supportive, but not overwhelmingly so, of a merger between the CA and PC parties. 44 percent said they would consider voting for such a party. Quebeckers offered the least support for a potential union with only 28 percent indicating they’d consider voting for some new colour of blue. True, polling self-declared supporters of each party showed more support for the notion of a merger, but we can look at better data than what IPSOS offered for a real look at attitudes circa 2002.

      In 2002 there were two major political events on the calendars of the country’s conservatives – the CA leadership race, and the PC National Convention with its dual focus on leader the pending retirement of Joe Clark, and fight to remain a “301” riding national party. Better than a random poll sample, we can look at actual voting results for these issues that really mattered to conservatives, one year prior to the merger being secretly discussed and consummated.

      In 2002 during the CA leadership selection race there were clear differences between the candidates on the subject of “unity” within the right. Two candidates were dubbed the “unity candidates” – Ablonczy and Hill. Diane Ablonczy in addition to preaching moderation and dropping ideological rigidity in order to win politically had been openly in favour of continuing to try to reach out to the PC Party. Grant Hill was also steadfast in his support for reunification.

      Then you had Stockwell Day and his supporters – about 1/3 of the party at that point – who shouldn’t even have run as he’d just resigned as leader but was on a mission of his own to redeem himself. Day was not seen as a unity candidate by any serious observer.

      Finally we turn to Harper, who had appeared again on the Reform/UA/CA scene. He didn’t dwell on unity but instead launched an all out policy driven campaign. If Harper harboured thoughts of architecting a merger in the future he kept such musings to himself.

      In the vote, the Canadian Alliance should go-it-on-our-own candidates, Day and Harper, grabbed 92.5% of the votes. The unity candidates were barely noticed.

      Remember this was not a delegated convention, it was a mail in ballot, one member, one vote, spanning the entire membership, which was very substantial even then in the many tens of thousands. What they voted for speaks more strongly than any random poll of Canadians.

      Also in 2002, at the PC National Convention in Edmonton Progressive Conservatives voted solidly in favour of continuing to run candidates in every riding. There had been, had always been, a steady stream of voices calling for some sort of rapprochement with the Western right, be it a non-compete agreement in certain ridings or something much more. But a determined majority of active voices fought for the 301 motion along side party elders like John “no truck nor trade with the morticians of the Alliance” Crosbie. PC Party loyalists were able to successfully block attempts at what we viewed was a prelude to dismantling the party. I was one of those who fought for the 301 motion and was elated that a very clear majority voted in favour of continuing our independence. At that same convention the race for the next leader also began.

      So there you have it – two parties with even closer genealogical and policy matches – were far more steadfast than the Lib-NDP poll referenced above in denying a merger was even remotely feasible, just one year before it took place.

      In hindsight it is easy to pin the start of the terminal decline of the PC Party on that very summer’s day in 2002. Canada had moved on without us and there was not going to be a second chance for the PC Party as it stood. The on-going regional split in the political spectrum had seen to it, much as I believe we are witnessing with the LPC. Again in hindsight what we should have been doing is working harder at reconciliation with western Conservatives long before they became self-sustaining as a political power on their own.

      We thought we’d be better off waiting until we were again in a position of strength and then be able to deal aggressively. Unsaid, for many that meant “and then we’d be able to protect our fiefdoms”. The PC Party waited too long. It took me a few years to awaken to that reality even though it is now plain to see.

      The parallels with today’s Liberal party seem obvious. The PC’s under Mulroney had been enormously successful in bringing the regions of the country together, but when the cracks formed on regional lines, they would never be repaired. LPC support is similarly fractured on a regional basis and this situation has been worsening over years.

      Mr. Chretien’s political finance reforms ironically may help Harper force the issue for Liberals, and if they wait too long and carry on the same tragic trajectory as the PC Party, they’ll be weak at the knees at the eventual time of unification, rather than a party which still retains actual residual strength. Today. Probably not following the next electoral contest which will pit two people Canadians are uncomfortable with, Harper and Ignatieff. Michael will lose if for no other reason that Canadians are far more likely to pick the uncomfortable devil they know.

      It is true that the hard core activists within the NDP and Liberal parties are often on very different pages, but the membership and and voters for each are much closer to each other than the party insiders are.

      I hope that the voices of the many leaders within each party will figure out a way to make a serious attempt at unification. Canadians love compromise. They’ll vote for unity of purpose if only the kids will stop fighting over the same sandbox and let them.

  2. William M says:

    The right would love an LPC-NDP marriage, hoping the fiscal Liberals would bolt.

    Sorry Tim,the LPC is here to stay.

    Maybe Tim can get out that 2004 letter to the GG from Emperor Steve asking to form a government without a mandate.

    • Kursk says:

      I think you had better take a look at that letter again,William.It says nothing of the sort.

      • The Dude says:

        Stop pretending it doesn’t say anything about a coalition. He carefully made sure to leave the word out. It’s the ultimate in hypocrisy. If teh tides were reversed, the conservatives would have made an attack ad about it. You’re not fooling anyone except yourself

  3. James Bowie says:

    I’m with you Warren. I think a merger is the way to go. I wonder though, now that MI has spoken out against it, maybe it’s time for we bloggers to give it up?

    • Warren says:

      Pas moi. Besides, he said he isn’t against getting together in some fashion, just the timing of it.

      Discussion is good. And I was happy that he didn’t say the discussion had to end.

      • Matt says:

        To be fair he was quoted as saying the idea of a merger was ‘absurd’, in part because it was an insult to the grassroots of the party. I agree with that position. It was a coalition AFTER an election that he did not close the door on. My fear is that Harper will talk about the secret coalition during the election and it will prevent people from the NDP who want to get rid of Harper from voting Liberal. It will also make it look like Liberals have something to hide, instead of the Conservatives. The line from LPC should be “We have no intention of entering any kind of coalition with any party, however, we are always looking for ways to cooperate with other parties in the House of Commons on an issue by issue basis to advance a socially progressive and fiscally conservative agenda.”

        This leaves the door open to pursue a coalition, if necessary, after the next election (assuming we win the most seats) because we could easily say we’ve sorted out the issues in advance and agreed on how to handle them, which is pretty much what happened in Britain.

  4. Marc L says:

    Since when does the Liberal Party describe itself as a party of the left? Chretien was certainly no leftie. Neither was Martin. neither is Ignatieff. Nor for that manner are prospective leaders like Frank McKenna or John Manley. Redefining your party to team up with the lefty loonies of the NDP looks pretty desperate. Is power all you care about — power at any cost?

    • smelter rat says:

      ‘lefty loonies”?? Is that today’s talking point?

      • Jan says:

        They’re warming up to using ‘commies’.

      • Marc L says:

        Just FYI, I am not a member of any party and am certainly not a fan of Harper. But I think Layton and his crowd are dangerous — just go take a look at their economic policies, corporate bashing and all. Why is it that you have to assume that I support Harper just because I don’t like the idea of Layton having a say on how economic policy is run in this country? How about coming up with a platform of your own; that way you won’t have to borrow Jack’s.

        • smelter rat says:

          How about you drop the hyperbole?

          • Marc L says:

            Why? See Michel Bussiere’s post just below. Similar things have happened to me. Layton’s crowd are nowhere near the centre and there are extreme left factions in the party. Not saying Layton is there, but significant swaths of the grassroots are quite far left. That’s one of the reasons Layton and others go on corporate bashing — they are playing to their grassroots. Do you really want to identify yourselves with these people?

        • Cam says:

          I don’t think they’re dangerous so much as very vocal.

          By contrast, are you a big fan of BP?

          There should be some countervailing power to such a global corporation.

          • Marc L says:

            How can you be a “fan” of BP? Of course there should be some countervailing power. It’s government and the laws governments put into place, What’s your point?

  5. Michael Bussiere says:

    I remember one campaign worker coming to my door and chastising me for having a Liberal lawn sign. When I asked him to leave, he threw NDP materials onto my lawn and yanked the sign out. When I threatened to call his candidate’s campaign office, he called me a fascist.

    What happened to being a Liberal because it is the party of the centre? SO, how about a unification of 2 parties in the centre? Why swing left to ingratiate ourselves with them? And while we’re at it, how about a call to all the Red Tories out there (Joe, Flora, hell even Mulroney) to work to reconstitute the Progressive Conservatives?

    Regardless, bottom line: cooperation, not merger. Positive vs. ass-kissing the self-righteous.

    • Michael Watkins says:

      Most former Progressive Conservative members or voters who did not support the merger drifted off to either the Liberal Party, or stopped following politics. I’m sure many of them play the strategic voting game at election time. A few no doubt went to the greens – the PC’s had a small environmental contingent – and no doubt there were some protest-types that went NDP. David Orchard’s supporters would have largely gone Liberal on Mr. Orchard’s “suggestion”, at least in prior elections.

      The Progressive Conservatives are dead. They won’t be coming back. Overwhelmingly the membership of the old PC Party voted for the merger. People who has not participated in years came out to vote in favour, as did a majority of the members who has stuck with the party.

      Why? They wanted to win again.

      Yes, there are a few lone voices still trying to carry on and resurrect the Progressive Conservative party or its tradition. You can find a handful of them carrying on as the “Progressive Canadian Party” (“PC Party” on the handful of ballots they manage to get candidates for), http://www.progressivecanadian.ca/, a duly registered federal party. I’m friendly with them too, but I can’t today find it within myself to support their goal “to bring back the party of Sir John A MacDonald” as it’ll never, ever, happen.

      Despite years of trying, the few remaining PC Party luminaries who have not cast their lot with the Conservative Party – folks like Joe Clark, the independent Progressive Conservative senators – have never seen fit to throw their support with the Progressive Canadian party.

      The diaspora have already scattered and it hasn’t/isn’t helping Liberal fortunes, is it?

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        Yours truly voted against the merger and was told to have my head examined. Then yours truly decided to stick it out and play the waiting game until Harper was consigned to the history books. Ditto. Finally, yours truly left the Conservatives over the political taxpayer subsidy. That’s when they called me Liberal-Lite, rather than the “unofficially” derogatory term of Red Tory.

        And now, I’m only lukewarm to the prospect of the next coalition. Can’t wait to see how my view of the world turns out!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Do you live in Alberta?

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:


        I assume you mean me. No, not that lucky to be in the Conservative heartland! Quebec City, la capitale nationale du Bloc Québécois…

  6. JH says:

    Mr. Watkins
    Please – the posts are too long – I’ve given up and am now skipping over them – others may be too. Don’t doubt the sincerity of the message but on blogs like this you have to be brief.

  7. Steve says:

    As a Liberal, I hope for a Liberal majority first, and in the alternative, a coalition after the numbers are in following a general election.

    Having said that, I truly hope – PLEASE!!!!!-that somebody with a large public voice reminds the HarperCons that 65% of Canadians are not “Losers” because they STILL don’t want a HarperCon regime running Canada.

  8. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I prefer the qualifier of truly enlightened.

  9. nastyboy says:

    four years in the doghouse and the LCP and all we see is panic and desperation? How about some leadership and an attempt to connect with Canadians again? A merger with the NDP from a point of weakness would be the death of the LPC as we know it. And I know many Liberals who would rather vote CPC or not at all then have aything to do with the NDP.

  10. nastyboy says:

    I meant “four years in the doghouse and all we see is panic and desperation?” I hate proof-reading.

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