08.29.2011 09:21 PM

What Harper fears most


“But Harper’s biggest asset is not the void created by Layton’s passing.

The top ace up his prime ministerial sleeve was always a divided opposition. That is as true today as it was before the untimely death of his NDP rival.

Jean Chrétien held the same card for the duration of his three majority mandates.

Going forward though, the unravelling of the sovereignty movement makes a divided opposition less of a certainty.

With the Bloc out of the federal mix, the possible payoff for uniting the country’s progressive forces under a single federalist banner has become bigger…

If the Layton-related political testimonies of the past week have demonstrated anything, it is that where there are five federal parties, there are really only two political tribes in the larger ideological sense of the word.

In the recent past, many in the Liberal and NDP establishments have been wilfully blind to that reality.

Former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was one of those. But on his Facebook page on the day of Layton’s funeral, he wrote about his party and the NDP: “The words we care about — generosity, justice, hope — they care about them, too. We don’t own these words and they don’t own them either. These values are bigger than all of us, bigger than our divisions and our arguments. It was good to put the past behind us for an afternoon and imagine what the future of our country might look like if we put those values first.”


  1. Ted says:

    I have to admit, even I have been more open to the idea in the last month. And I’m not the only one who strongly rejects the idea of merger who has begun to ponder the possibility or other alternatives.

  2. Mike London says:

    For hardcore partisans, it’s hard to imagine a merger. They will talk about party histories, traditions, and the like. To 95% of voters, they don’t care, they just want a governing alternative to the Conservatives.

    Martha Hall-Findlay, who I quite like, even said today on PnP, “I’d quit the party.”

    Numerous New Democrats would say the same type of thing. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to whether people prefer nostalgia or toppling the Conservatives.

  3. James Curran says:

    In the meantime, perhaps we should consider reforming the Liberal Party itself. You know. Just in case no merger takes place. Just sayin’.

  4. SF Thomas says:

    While I may not be as against the idea of a merger or working agreement with the NDP as some liberal leaning people I don’t think it will happen any time soon and I have grown tired of the media attempts to keep bringing it back up. Both sides are too busy trying to figure out where they want to take their own parties. The liberals with trying to rebuild the party infrastructure and the NDP with their upcoming leadership contest and how to keep their party together without Layton. I would add the NDP base is for from being consolidated at this point and there is at least a good 5 to 10% of a swing vote which could grow tired of the conservatives after 4 years of their majority and 9 years of that party being in power. In my opinion this is actually one of the least likely times for such an agreement to come about because there is so much uncertainty about the future political situation. While it may seem advantageous there is nothing to truly push the two parties together at this moment either. What it would take is probably a longer period out of power for both sides or a large amount of public will and support for the move. With something akin to under 40% of each party truly being for such a thing and no major outcry from the Canadian public at large that public support definitely isn’t there.

  5. Rick Thomson says:

    If a merger happens their will be Liberals who are close to the centre that will move over to the Conservatives. Martha Hall-Findlay may be one of them. She made it quite clear on Power and Ploitics that she would quit the Liberal Party if it merged with the NDP.

    • nic coivert says:

      and then she’d join the new liberal democrat party. i can’t see martha hall-findlay supporting harper and his oily gang.

  6. Steve T says:

    Want to alienate every voter in Canada? Try putting forward the idea that “generosity, justice, and hope” are trademarked by the left, but foreign to Conservatives. Iggy’s words are fine as a tribute to Layton, but very dangerous as a party platform – unified or not.

    • Pat says:

      What are Conservatives generous with? Pork-barreling money? Nonsensical justice policy? What has Stephen Harper given me to hope for?

      I’ve never been an NDP supporter, but I have a huge respect for the way Jack spoke of what we could be as a country, rather than how we should get back to where we should be. Neither Harper and the CPC or the LPC have ever given such a vision. The LPC hasn’t seemed to have a vision for about 5 years, and the CPC just releases totally random policies to buy votes (look at our tax policy, it is a joke – everyone has a different tax break they can tap into… I wonder how much money we waste administering so many different ones…).

      I’m relatively young, and while I can’t speak for everyone around my age, my experience has always been that younger voters want to vote for someone who has a vision, tells people what their vision is, and believes that vision to their core. Jack did that, and he connected with younger people (he was also left wing, which helps, but isn’t everything). If Stephen Harper or yet unnamed Liberal leader could tell me where they see the country going, what it could be if we worked at it, then I would be more inclined to listen. Jack could never have supported mandatory minimums, or harsher sentencing, or bigger prisons because without any basis in fact he could never believe in it. Jack did everything with conviction, and I think that the other leaders could learn a lot from him.

  7. Bruce M says:

    The Liberal-NDP divide is not the Reform-PC divide: That was a family spat by comparison. This? This is something much more profound and it will devastate the Liberal part of the equation. The NDP is an unruly conglomeration of protest votes, dreamers, far-left ideologues and central planners. Profit and globalization are anathema to these people. The idea that a Paul Martin, Pierre Trudeau or Jean Chretien could ever be welcome in their ranks is lunacy.

    If the Liberals join (with) the NDP, every soldier of the party, every fiscally responsible voter, every centrist Canadian will be cast adrift, jilted by their former affiliation.

    • Pat says:

      Marriages happen all the time.

    • Ted says:

      “The NDP is an unruly conglomeration of protest votes, dreamers, far-left ideologues and central planners.”

      I think that is why I’m not as opposed as I once was: they are no longer that stereotype. Look at the powers that be in the party now and you’ll see many holdovers, but the Topps, Mulclairs, etc. these people come from moderate progressive governing parties (Topp in the Saskatchewan in a governement that was the first province to balance its budget in the 1990s; Mulclair from the Quebec Liberals). Even Jack long ago abandoned anything remotely close to real socialism.

      Frankly, the federal NDP is the party that Bob Rae said the NDP should become after he left it, as he wrote in one of his books. They, like Rae suggested, needed to recognize the importance of prosperity to sustaining social justice and a just society. I think they have come that far along in their thinking. Lots of leftovers, even with lots of power, but it is not the direction the party is leaning or leading toward anymore.

  8. George says:

    yeah. This lady said the same thing Iggy did on his Tory blog.

  9. Jim Hanna says:

    I have to agree with Bruce M; and disagree with Warren. There are three tribes, not two. The Liberals have been at their best when they’ve taken from both “sides” of the political spectrum and adopted polices that were good government and good sense. I can’t see a merged party fused with NDP support being able to do what Chretien and Martin did in the ’90s in putting our finances back in order (and it was that foundation that allowed us to weather the past few years of economic turmoil, but the brighter lights of the last campaign decided to cede that to Harper).

    If the parties merged, it would mean the NDP would have to formalize its move to the centre; something I can’t see a significant chunk of it supporters accepting. They will fraction and create a new “left” party; and its impossible to say what impact that would have on the electoral calculus. Similarly a lot of centrist Liberals who support socially progressive programs, but in a sustainable way, could abandon a party that gets too heavy on left wing/anti business policies. Therefore a merged but permanently and structurally weaker “left wing” party. This has been Harper’s plan from Day 1 and its been the goal of the Canadian Right for decades.

  10. Nuna D. Above says:

    When Liberals talk about merging with the NDP, what they mean is the second place NDP folding itself up and joining the third place Liberals. If that’s not what they mean, then the Liberal MPs should quit their party and go sit with the NDP.
    Imagine the Liberals and NDP do make a public show of joining forces. Then PM Harper brings in a bill asking parliament to acknowledge that Quebec has never accepted the Trudeau vision of federalism and Canadians outside of Quebec have no right to force Tudeau’s vision on Quebec, and a new type of deal based on the Allaire report should be worked out with Quebec. It wouldn’t take long to split the new party.

  11. Derek Pearce says:

    I’m also more open to this idea than I was just a few months ago. But I still think there’s a real danger of disaffected blue Liberals and die-hard socialists who would leave the NDP en masse join the CPC in the former, and start a further-left party in the latter case. I guess it’s winning votes that would have to be the proof in the pudding.

  12. jon evan says:

    ” where there are five federal parties, there are really only two political tribes in the larger ideological sense of the word.”

    What a fairy tale! That there are only two ideological ‘political tribes’ is nonsense. That the world were so black and white? Even in the CPC there are several ideological positions as there were and are in the LPC. Hebert’s ideas are pure poppycock I’m afraid.

    • The Doctor says:

      I agree. Usually I have a lot of time for Hebert, but that’s simplistic nonsense. E.g., how does she account for the fact that there are people who are fiscal conservatives yet social liberals, and other people who are fiscally very left-leaning yet socially very conservative? To try and pigeonhole the entire Canadian population into two ideological camps is ridiculously reductionist. I know a lot of pro-merger types like to think this way (e.g., thinking the entire electorate can be broken down into the “progressive” camp vs. the “non-progressive” camp), but to me that’s the problem — things just aren’t that simple. The LPC is one of the biggest-tent parties that has ever existed in politics, and LPC supporters in particular need to bear that in mind. The LPC is, and has historically been, a lot more than just NDP Lite.

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