11.14.2011 08:09 AM

To merge or not

Interesting column. Your views?


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    Bigwally says:

    Interesting analysis – seems to side with the mood on the street – a need for change (but not too much) and a need to know why we have politicians at all.
    The question is one of leadership – two separate issues create the problem
    1) If a merger proceeds who could lead it – see it through – sell it to the faithful and woo the converted ?
    2) Who can lead, deliver the goods and then be the next PM ?
    My concern is these roles are not the same person

    Smart money would see an open plan where potentially one (former) provincial leader does the leg work and the other (current) provincial leader delivers.
    If it is pitched at the same time as one congruent plan – it will be an unstoppable.

    Comments on the comments ?

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    Chris says:

    I support a merger. Let’s remember that Trudeau was an NDPer before he became a Liberal. Why did he become a Liberal? To get into power and get things done! Libs and Dippers should have a similar focus on achieving power so as to bring about their preferred policy outcomes. The alternative is to remain ideologically pure but out of power. I hope we don’t need too many more election losses before we accept the inevitable and unavoidable reality that without a merger, we will not have power for a long, long time. Do Liberals really prefer to remain separate from the NDP more than they loathe remaining separate from power?

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      sharonapple88 says:

      Let’s remember that Trudeau was an NDPer before he became a Liberal. Why did he become a Liberal? To get into power and get things done!

      Trudeau also disagreed with the NDP’s approach to Quebec — the whole two nations position.

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    AP says:

    Understatement of the day: “Nicole Turmel has struggled”

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    Finn says:

    Power has long trumped policy in any political configuration.

    With that in mind, I think the LPC NDP should merge, both put a bit of water in their policy wine, and concentrate on beating the CPC.

    Given the way that the new seats will favor the CPC, this really is the only realistic way at the moment to beat the CPC.

    I’m not crazy about some of the affiliation of the NDP but Mulroney got a couple majorities with the Quebec nationalists on board.

    I’d rather be in power and work with the party to do the best thing than always be in opposition and constantly split the center left -right vote and naval gaze.

    Merge my friends, the time is now.

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      Pat says:

      I think that the NDP should go back to being total left-wing nutjobs so that the Liberals can return to their traditional centre-centre-left position without being crowded by the NDP, which has just become a Liberal wannabe party (I don’t mean they want to be Liberals, I mean they are just trying to take the Liberals’ place on the spectrum, thus giving up their core principles)

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    Houland Wolfe says:

    First comes love, then comes marriage. It might be advisable for the NDP and Libs to have a few dates before consummating the union. Witness the riding of Beaches – East York in the last provincial election. The Libs ran Helen Burstyn, a progressive policy wonk, against Michael Prue, the time-tested election war horse. What a waste! They could have run Helen in any of the safe seats (e.g. Don Valley West) or pitted her against a marginal Tory ridingv. The first steps would be for the two parties to agree on who has the best chance of winning what seats. All that said, the Libs are closer to the Cons when it comes to budget cuts.

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    pomojen says:

    Merge for chrissakes. Merge.

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    GEC says:

    Yes …merge …. we have no choice …. if we dont 38% of the electorate will be forever running this country. Its time for the elders of both parties to sit down and work this out …. the mess we have now is pure insanity…… a very vocal and radical minority is trying to destroy this great country …. the tyranny of the minority must end

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    Michael Bussiere says:

    Dunno. The current Rae strategy is an interesting one: unions vs. corp. interests. That does leave the middle open for occupation. Besides, we have yet to see what happens in Quebec post-Layton. As TE Lawrence said: nothing is written.

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    Chris P says:

    The reason the Cons are at 36% is because we’ve allowed them to be – Sadly the focus is on how Harper has done to the ‘left’ what we should be trying to do to the right which is divide and conquer. I believe that hard-core Cons support is around 25% everything above that is ripe for the taking. We shoud be trying to pry a wedge between the Reform and Tory factions. While they are more loyal to the party and ideology than Liberals are they did split once and can split again. Must I remind everyone that Scott Brison was a Tory! We don’t speak directly to them anymore so they red tory’s aren’t with us though I bet you if we had a strategy to engage them many of them would be. Chip away at the Red Tory’s and the Cons support will go down and ours will go up.


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      frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

      If my riding is any indicator, most Red Tories(including myself) fled the Conservative Party a long time ago….indeed our former PC candidate was the one who convinced me to join the Liberals…..In my riding assn…..the majority of former PC’ers have either left the party, become inactive, or like me, joined the Libs…..the remainder have been marginalized, as was the intent of the Refoorm/CA cabal in the first place….

      Dont look to the Conservatives to cherry pick Red Tories…..we aint there……(at least any with a modicum of self-respect)……

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        frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

        Yes, I joined the Conservative Party Mr. Tulk, as did most of my fellow PC`ers in BC did………..a decision that most of us came to regret……As you know I served on my local Conservative Riding Assn as Secretary until I could hold my nose no longer.
        What I didnt sign on for was a homophobic bigoted party of climate change deniers run by and for the Fundamentalist Christian churches of Canada and Alberta oil interests.

        It is a decision I have and will regret to the end of my days……

        But at least I no longer have to hold my nose…..

        As to the forty percent figure…..how many of those voters were actually card carrying Conservatives…

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        Andrew says:

        Sorry, Gord. The Red Torys like myself who saw glimmers of hope years ago with the likes of Jim Prentice and Scott Brison have moved over to the Liberals. The CPC has too many Rob Anders for us to ever vote for them. Their positions on social issues have no place in a modern society. Their track record on fiscal management is dismal. The Liberal Party will be successful if they move back to the policies of Chretien and Martin (i.e. right down the middle). They also have to start being responsible to the Canadian taxpayer, something none of the parties seems committed to being.

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    nic coivert says:

    Merge, or wither.

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    Gregg Hill says:

    A merger is neither desirable, given the two parties’ very different histories, or necessary. The same goal can be accomplished by an alliance, an electoral pact between the two parties. A merger should only be undertaken if an alliance cannot.

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    Sean says:

    CPHD poll says the NDP is losing support in Quebec… 3d place in Ontario. I predict they will be in 3d place nationally by Christmas. Without Layton, they are almost finished. NDP M.P.s ought to start panicking next spring, once they realise their new leader can’t possibly deliver half of their held seats. Anyone who thinks the NDP can beat the tories without a merger with the Liberals is living on Neptune. It is highly possible that they won’t even be O.O. in three years.

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      The Doctor says:

      I agree that unless the NDP got a kick-ass leader, it’s very doubtful they could beat the CPC (i.e., get a plurality of seats). The next election would really be the first time that Canadians took a close look at the NDP as an actual government-in-waiting. The light would finally be shone on some of the NDP’s more controversial and less-known policy planks (e.g., quitting NATO and NORAD, charter membership in Socialist International), and on some of the NDP’s more “colourful” MPs (e.g., Libby Davies and all of those nice things she has to say about Hamas and Hezbollah). Quebec is also extremely volatile and unpredictable, meaning that the NDP would have to be very, very lucky to repeat their performance in Quebec. Moreover, in order to repeat their performance in Quebec, they might be tempted to overstep in kowtowing to Quebec nationalist sentiment, which could cost them elsewhere.

      More likely, or less unlikely, would be the combined NDP-LPC seat total edging out the CPC. That I could see. But I don’t see the NDP getting an outright plurality or majority, unless some Gomery-scale scandal hit the CPC.

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    JStanton says:

    … the ‘merger’ concept is a bit of a misnomer. What actually happens in these situations, particularly when one party has a strongly ideological bent, is that a new party emerges, it’s members largely those unable to find sufficient status in the larger umbrella party.

    If the historic pattern is followed, and NDP leadership coalesces with LPC leadership, two things will occur: the umbrella party will take on the Liberal brand for marketability, (albeit a name change to, for example, the Liberal Democratic Party), and dis-enfranchised dippers will form a new, New Democratic Party.

    In other words, the actual terrain will not change, just the messaging.

    Regardless, they had better get moving; Mr. Harper is already tanking the economy, and is currently un-doing the generations of work it took to make Canada a just and stable society.


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    frmr disgruntled Con now happy Lib says:

    ……Paris is well worth a mass…..

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    Dan says:

    The nostalgia of Jack isn’t on the top of peoples’ minds. But the polls still show the NDP doing strong. The NDP’s appeal runs deeper than the “cult of personality”.

    There IS fatigue with the Liberal brand. Ignatieff didn’t cause it, but he certainly embodied everything wrong with it: shifting ambiguous principles, entitlement, and inside politics.

    And there IS fatigue with the Bloc in Quebec, and appetite for a social democratic party that wants to protect the French language without necessarily splitting the country in half.

    The NDP deserves only half the credit for winning. The Liberals and Bloc deserve the other half of the credit. For losing.

    The conservatives don’t even deserve credit for winning. Their share of the popular vote increased by only a percent since the last election. The real culprit is that the NDP surge only made it halfway in Ontario on election day, and conservatives were able to hang on and go up the middle. (I’d argue they hit their ceiling.)

    There’s two ways to look at a merger.

    There’s the liabilities of the brands. Trudeau made a lot of enemies in the West for a generation. Trudeau made a few enemies in Quebec, and the ensuing corruption of the 90s burned that bridge. Meanwhile, the NDP is not remembered fondly in Ontario. A merged party could face a very harsh ceiling in most parts of the country.

    On the other hand, there’s appetite for a party that’s Trudeau in principle. A “just society”. Social democracy for Quebec, the urban centers, and even the more rural parts that haven’t benefited from huge resource wealth. If only it wasn’t the NDP. If only it wasn’t the Liberals.

    I’d really like to see a merged party. There’s a huge upside. But I just don’t see how it happens in practice.

    First there’s the inside politics. The Liberals are simply unable (or unwilling) to lose the baggage of the huge corporate donors. You attract a lot of parasites when you dominate politics for 30-40 years (interruptions aside). And the Liberals also fail to see the value in a candidate under 30, which will probably mean guaranteed positions for the same people who ruined the party in the first place. And then there’s foreign policy. Neither the NDP or the LPC want to become each other.

    Then there’s the actual voters. It sounds like a fresh start on paper, but after the inside politics you end up with a lot of the old baggage. There’s going to be the right-wing Liberals who are too pro-business, too pro-military. There’s going to be the left-wing Dippers who are too anti-business, too anti-military. Then there’s the Liberal insiders who bring the stench of corruption with them. Sometimes just the appearance of corruption is enough. God knows that’s going to be the message when both the Cons and the Grits complain about the NDP’s union ties.

    A merger could be a disaster.

    But some sort of strategic alliance could work.

    Nothing so strong as picking which candidate runs in which riding. That may be too cozy a relationship. But voluntarily withdrawing from a few key ridings could have a big payoff while still retaining their parties’ independence.

    And voting reform. For the love of God voting reform. The voting system killed this country in the 90s and it’s still killing this country now.

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      Dan says:

      The NDP has a strong brand at the provincial level in the West. You must be stuck in small town Alberta. And the demographics in Alberta’s cities are changing. Edmonton is starting to look more and more like Toronto and Vancouver, and it will voting accordingly. The conservative tent isn’t big enough to hold minorities AND white supremacists. They’ve picked up ridings in the 905 region of Toronto that they really will have trouble holding if they’re to placate the anti-immigrant base.

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        The Doctor says:

        “Edmonton is starting to look more and more like Toronto and Vancouver”

        Actually, Edmonton has been to the left of Calgary politically for decades now. Lawrence Decore came from there, Brian Mason hails from there, etc etc. The only federal Liberal MPs to be elected from Alberta since 1968 (Landslide Annie McLellan and David Kilgour) were from Edmonton.

        It makes total sense, when you consider the fact that Edmonton is a government town (being the Province’s capital city), has more of a blue-collar bent as a result of being the hub of the oilfield service industry, and it’s the home of Alberta’s largest university. Meanwhile, Calgary is head-office town. They are very different places.

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    Corey says:

    No merger!!!!

    2 facts everyone seems to choose to ignore (especially Ms. Hébert from the Toronto Star)

    1) Voters are not static. There isn’t a fixed 38% of canadians voting Conservative, 30% voting NDP, and another 25% voting Liberal. The logic that the only way to beat the 38% Harper won the last couple of times if to add 30% NDP + 25% Liberal = 55% is nonsense. That’s not how politics works. Elections sway voters. A few days into the last campaign, the Liberals were in the low 30s and the NDP was falling below 20%. Layton’s debate performance changed that. Elections matter, and pretending the only way for the Liberals or the NDP to govern is to merge is silly. They need to win the campaign, and push the Cons back down to around 30%. The idea that for some reason that can’t be done is ridiculous and doesn’t match up with past examples. It’s not about combining 2 groups of voters (who – by the way- are not the same voters) RED + ORANGE beats blue – that’s a bad premise for a merger.

    2) The idea that Liberals will never regain power while the NDP is around (a “splitting” of the left vote which is supposedly happening) is bogus. The Liberals are not a left wing party. They just look fairly left wing now that our Conservative party is so far to the right. Let’s remember that Trudeau won a few majorities competing against an NDP & PC party. There’s plenty of room for competition. I also happen to agree with Sean – the NDP is not in as strong a position as the media pundits would like you to believe – i.e. Dwight Lingenfelter & Lorraine Michael. Let’s face it: there’s no Jack Layton in that group of leadership candidates.

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    Mandos says:

    Gotta say I’m distinctly nonplussed by this argument. In a first past the post system, elections are won by the margins. There are a lot of people who would simply stop voting if the new party wasn’t basically 90% NDP in character. They’re enough to nix the idea.

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    Jim Hanna says:

    If you analyze these numbers, they show the flaw in the plan. Starting with the current poll result of 37% CPC, 31% NDP, and 21% LPC, lets see where the merged party gets us. 44% of NDP, so of their 31% that’s nearly 14% of the electorate, and 41% of Liberals, for nearly 9 percent (I’m generously rounding up)…that’s 23%. 56% of NDP supporters are opposed, so that 17% of the electorate, and 59% of Liberals, 12%. So our new landscape is CPC 37%, Merged party 23 %, the hardcore NDP 17%, and the hardcore Liberals 12%. Interestingly, this puts the NDP in their historical range, so lets assume that’s the core hard left part of the population. Having always voted for a social democratic party, would they support one that soft sells these polices? Or would a new social democratic party emerge to take the place of the merged party?
    And if the merged party veers to the left, would they lose the support of the left-Liberals currently supporting the idea? What about the 12% of voters that basically seem to be against the merger? Would any of them go to the CPC in this 2 party universe? Probably. Even if only 15% of Liberal supporters went that way, it pushes the CPC over 40% and into permanent majority territory. If the new party is in any way beholden to Unions, or becomes, say, adamantly pro Palestinian, in response and contrast to Harper’s stalwart pro-Israeli stance, would the centre-right Liberal voter ever support this new party? I can’t support a party whose MP’s fundraise and openly support Hamas…

    Dan brings up the only really interesting benefit, which I hadn’t thought of before: the fact that the Liberal brand is so dead in Western Canada; for example, or the NDP in some parts, that a “new” party or rebranding could excise these ghosts. That’s if voters don’t see through it. My opinion is that if the new party isn’t just a rebranding of the LPC, the majority of Liberal supporters won’t go for it (59% according to this poll); and if its not a committed social democratic party, NDP voters will stay away (56% in this poll). Best case, we play around with this formula for a generation or two of CPC majority governments before we end up back with an electible centre party, a left wing party, and a right wing party…which is pretty much what we have now.

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      Dan says:

      I see a much worse outcome.

      The Conservatives win another majority. Even if the NDP collapses, the Liberal party won’t make enough gains to take out Harper. And if the Liberals collapse, half of Ontario will go conservative.

      If the NDP collapses in Quebec, it won’t be the Liberals who benefit. It will be the Bloc.

      At that point, you have a conservative majority with a bloc official opposition. The Reform base hates Quebec enough to take a big dump on them. And the Bloc will be happy to have that referendum.

      Once Quebec is out of the country, you’re actually left with a nation that’s more conservative than not. You’ve lopped off 25% of the population, much of which is the most progressive and socially democratic.

      Instead of getting the child care system in La Bella Province for the whole country, we instead see the end of universal health care. Social security is next on the chopping block.

      The only way this country can sustain three national parties is with proportional representation. Otherwise, we’re on a collision course with the old Reform party.

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    Scott Yee says:

    It would take the Conservatives and the NDP to merge together, to become the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is based around being a fiscally conservative, socially progressive political party.

    For an Liberal/NDP merger to happen, either the NDP will have to become moderates, which won’t happen, or the Liberals have to become more like the NDP, which will just drive away the center-right of the party to the Conservatives. 1 + 1 does = 2, but when you minus 1, you’re still left at 1.

    Warren, I know you support this, as you are on the left side of the party. But the Liberal Party is in third place, for three good reasons.

    1) The sponsorship scandal. The voters rightfully punished a political party that became too ignorant.

    2) Weak leaders. Some of the party brass want to blame the election loss all on the Conservatives, and are in so much denial, that now they want to create a leader defense fund. When I heard that, I thought that was so corny. Do you know what happens to a pussy in life? It gets fucked. Act like a pussy, and you’ll get fucked liked one. No $10 million defense fund, was ever going to save Dion or Iggy. They’re pussies, and were treated as such. Stop bringing nail clippers to a knife fight.

    3) The most important issue of all, Ideas. Membership in political parties are small, compared to the voting population. Those who drink the Kool-Aid, will clap their hands to anything you say. You need to convince independents to vote for you, as party propaganda will only work, if the other side has no ideas. For the love of God, please stop talking about how great past Liberal governments were. That is in the past, and if you want to win, (which should be because, the Liberal Party is better for Canada, than the other parties, and not because you just want the power) you’ll have to find smart people to run for the leadership of the party, who also have ideas.

    I saw Niki Ashton on Power and Politics, saying why she wants to be leader of the NDP. Saying things like: “I want to do politics in a different way”, (never heard that one before, right?) and how Stephen Harper is bad, etc, etc.

    It seems those who run for office have their every own, don’t ask, don’t tell policy. Don’t ask them about health care, as they’re not going to tell you. Always the same broad, political bullshit. It seems only morons and lunatics run for office.

    Morons join political parties, as they’re too stupid to run as an independent, and lunatics are too crazy to socialize with others, so they run as independents. Voters are forced to hold their nose when voting, unless they happen to drink the Kool-Aid, or don’t bother to vote to begin with.

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      Andrew says:

      Well said, Mr. Yee.

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    Dan says:

    NDP governments at the provincial level have a better fiscal record of balancing budgets than the other two parties.

    By fiscally conservative, you really just mean cutting services.

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    Terraderma says:

    I have a picture of David and Peter’s handshake on my bathroom wall.

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    Jim Hanna says:

    I’ll try to address those points one by one.

    First, there will be another Conservative majority. Its imperative for Liberals to understand this, because otherwise we are setting up the next leader to fail. And it puts the focus on retaking the official opposition.

    Your scenario with a Bloc Official opposition is based on the assumption of a) a Liberal collapse in Ontario, b) an NDP collapse in Quebec, and c) a BQ revival. First, I think both a) and b) happening at the same time as unlikely; it means a situation where the Conservatives are wildly popular in Ontario but hated in Quebec. As for the Liberals not benefiting from an NDP collapse – not necessarily. 10-15 of the NDP seats are in traditional or former strong Liberal ridings; the west Island or NDG-Lachine are not going to vote for the BQ. And it assumes the BQ itself can survive. The BQ was a product of its time; and that time is long long past. Without some sort of constitutional crisis to restoke the fires of separatism, its hard to see what would spark a BQ revival. Those votes are up for grabs. They could go to the Conservatives in rural Quebec. They could stay with the NDP. Under Chretien, the LPC did better in votes and seats in every election…and not because he was especially loved, or becuase he caved on nationalist issues…in fact the opposite. I think that voters in Quebec at least respected the LPC wasn’t softselling Federalism. And as soon as the LPC did, the Liberals collapsed.

    So I don’t see that situation being likely, let alone inevitable. But even if it were, is your second suggestion, that the Reform base would then really dump on Quebec enough so to provoke a second referendum. Given the players, the scenario is conceivable…but I can’t see any Conservative leader actually wanting to be that guy; at that point Canada would drop out of the G8 and the other big boys clubs. And more importantly, Quebec and Alberta have often been allies against central government…without Quebec, yes at first Canada would be overwhelming Conservative, but Ontario will call the shots in a way it can only dream off now. And eventually that will lead to some sort of government that Alberta will chafe against…but without any allies with any power. The base may not think that through, but the leadership will. Even now, the Cons are picking their battles – the gun registry and the justice platform, sure…but they also just handed Quebec a billion for GST/QST harmonization (maybe the billion that BC just voted to give back to get back their old, worse system)…haven’t heard much about the so-called fiscal imbalance lately.

    Our country sustained 3 national parties for at least 90 years without proportional representation; there’s no reason it can’t now. The biggest stumbling block (no pun intended) was the BQ. The the Liberals need to aggressively take the centre, and focus on regaining the opposition. Which means, right now, the NDP is our biggest enemy, not our best friend.

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    The Dude says:

    Merge! Yes, Trudeau would have hated the NDP stance with Quebec. But that’s where the Libs can push it in merger talks.

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