03.19.2013 08:13 AM

In today’s Sun: the math on merger

Stephen Harper is going to win the next federal election. That’s a fact.

That may horrify Liberals, presently re-experiencing Trudeaumania. It probably upsets New Democrats, too, because they were in third (and fourth) place for a long time, and they don’t want to go back. But the Conservative Party is going to win the next election. And federal Liberals and New Democrats are the reason.

Harper’s Conservatives won the 2011 general election with money — they have more of it than any other political party. They won with incumbency — they’d been in power for a few years, and Canadians saw they weren’t as radical as many had feared. They won it with discipline — they had a ruthlessly strategic leader and a well-oiled election machine that lived and breathed the Daily Campaign.

But, mainly, they won because their two main opponents were out to lunch. Still are, too.

In 2011, the NDP and the Liberals together received the support of close to 7.3 million voters, about 50% of those who cast a ballot. The Conservatives got far less, about 5.8 million votes, under 40%.

In 2006 and 2008, Harper won power with even fewer votes. Just 36% in 2006, and 37% in 2008.

Exactly a year ago, before he was running for his party’s leadership, Justin Trudeau spoke to a group of students in Victoria. Asked by one of the students about Conservatives winning power with just a third of the vote, Trudeau said: “If, by 2015, with the election approaching, and neither party has got our act together enough to shine and be the obvious alternative, then …” and here he paused. “There will be a lot of pressure for us to start looking at that.”

A year later, Trudeau doesn’t talk like that anymore. He and his team dismiss any talk of cooperation between Liberals and New Democrats. The only Liberal leadership candidate who favours one-time cooperation is Liberal MP Joyce Murray, and she is routinely dismissed as a defeatist crackpot for her trouble.

The same thing happened to Nathan Cullen when he ran for the NDP leadership — he favoured bringing together the progressive majority, too. The front-runner, Thomas Mulcair, didn’t. End of Cullen’s idea.

There’s some political psychology at work, here. Nobody wants to win their party’s leadership simply to turn out the lights. And, among rank-and-file Liberals and New Democrats, there are undeniably deep emotional attachments to their respective party’s histories.

But the outcome of the next federal election shouldn’t be determined on the basis of nostalgia or warm feelings. It should be determined by cold math.

Stephen Harper acutely understands math. He saw conservatives humiliated by Jean Chretien in 1993, 1997 and 2000, and resolved to bring together the warring factions of the right. He did so, and went on to win power shortly thereafter. He hasn’t been defeated since.

Liberals will switch places with New Democrats in 2015. But power will remain with Harper’s Conservatives.

So, after 2015, will Canada’s progressives finally come together — as Liberal Democrats, say — and finally put an end to more than a decade of Conservative rule?

If they don’t, they’ll have only themselves to blame. And that, too, is a fact.


  1. james curran says:

    Actually, Stephen Harper will not win the next election. Why, you ask? My bet is that he won’t be the leader of his party. He’ll suddenly find a need “to spend more time with his family” in 2014. Just my thoughts.

    • Publius says:

      I’ve speculated this before, and I can see Harper pulling out of politics because he’s sick of herding cats.. federal and provincial. Life could be a lot easier and more lucrative for Harper if he vacated CPC leadership and went for the boardrooms. The problem is whether Harper feels confident that the CPC can win without him because it’s a lot better winning in 2015 and retiring in 2016 … so he can influence the Conservative government from the outside. Get the picture?

    • Les – by asserting that both Trudeau and Harper are megalomaniacs, are you inferring that Mulcair is not???

  2. Christian says:

    I agree.

    Interestingly, Jamey Heath is saying the same thing in today’s Globe. Coincidence?


  3. Paul says:

    What “progressive majority?” There are a lot of Liberal party members (not to mention voters) who would want nothing to do with the fiscally out-to-lunch kooks in the NDP. I’ve never considered the Liberal party to be all that “progressive” anyway, since that term has become a code-word for “center left,” with the emphasis on left and the Liberals were never really about that (with the notable exception of Turdeau the Elder, I guess.)

  4. By win, do you mean get the majority of seats, get the most seats or form the government?

    It would help if the Liberals where more supportive of proportional representation.

  5. Matt says:

    Sorry, not sure I want to join the lineage of great NDP Prime Ministers. Harper and crew are already in self-immolation mode. Will he win the next one if he stays on? Maybe, will he win the next? Doubt it. We don’t change the size of the nets if we can’t score. We just work harder.

  6. jay says:

    Question, Warren: if you’re right and the liberals form the official opposition in 2015, will Thomas Mulcair survive as leader of the NDP?

  7. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    “Nobody wants to win their party’s leadership simply to turn out the lights.”

    Speaking as someone who voted against the so-called merger, it sure worked out pretty well for our leader, Peter MacKay.

  8. Mark says:

    Well, I’ve never voted Conservative nor NDP. I can’t speak for others, of course, but if a merger ever happened, it would send me to the Conservatives. Plain and simple. Mulcair is just too out of line with much of western Canada now (I live in BC), and his pandering to Quebec nationalists makes me sick (for context, I grew up in Montreal, learned French playing street and ice hockey, and worked in a bilingual environment before moving west). I would rather be a Liberal in second place, than belong to a merged party sacrificing my principles to win an election. Full stop.

  9. Mom says:

    My dream team is still Cullen and Trudeau.

    • Publius says:

      … and who would be the “leader” and “leadee” in an unholy merger matrimony?

      I have opined that Mulcair would be the leader and Justin the “MacKay” if a merger were contemplated.

      Remember that the Dippers would come in with 4.8 million and the Liberals with 2.8 million of the popular vote, and 101 versus 34 MPs.

  10. Publius says:

    You almost got it right, Warren… now listen to this:

    Here are the facts, the brutal reality; Mulcair and Trudeau fighting it out between themselves in Quebec is counterproductive and totally destructive to both, so why not forge an alliance, a merger within Quebec not only to keep out the Conservatives but also stop a possible BQ resurgence?

    It’s so much more efficient if Mulcair’s NPD MPs stayed with him and Trudeau secured the Montreal and West Island MPs. What a powerful progressive bloc that would be; upwards of 70+ Quebec MPs!

    Justin has overwhelming popularity in the ROC with big gains in the Maritimes, Ontario, Manitoba and BC. An alliance with the Quebec bloc would easily form a majority government. What about the Dippers in the ROC?

    IIRC, the non-Quebec Dippers only gained 8 new MPs from the ROC. They represent an insignificant old socialist/crypto-commie bloc who can easily be jettisoned in a merger of the Mulcair NPD and Trudeau Liberals in order to win a majority government. Of course this Old NDP bloc could hold the balance of power if they still held ridings filled with their faithful which is okay because they wouldn’t support a CPC government.

    This would be the easiest path to a progressive majority government without engaging in a bloodbath in Quebec and the ROC. Dump the decrepit Dippers in the ROC and unite the Quebec Dippers with the Liberals in a sensible, pragmatic merger that will overthrow the Harper Conservatives. Blue Grits who abhor the NDP, would accept the diluted, neutered NDP joining in with the LPC.

    United we win; divided we die! Now the big question is is Trudeau the Liberal “MacKay” and willing to play second fiddle until PM Mulcair retires?

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Ego, an ever-present thing. I don’t see Trudeau willingly giving up his leadership in favour of Mulcair and vice-versa. See how it shakes out, reach an informal agreement after the election after openly discussing same with voters during the campaign and then hold a joint first-time caucus meeting. Have each newly elected MP vote for leader and whomever pulls out the most votes wins the temporary leadership. And then make the government hold until the next election.

      • Publius says:

        Ron O’D….. Okay, let’s assume the Justin Liberals and Mulcair NDP go into the next election as stand-alone parties; one of them will collapse because they will be fighting for the same vote. Harper will get his 30% core vote plus convince another 10% to vote Conservative to stop the crazy Dippers and wild Liberals. After the election, there will be no discussions because one of them will not be a viable partner. Combining two losers will not create one winner; it will only be a post-mortem last time caucus meeting.

        The merger agreement must happen before the 2015 election, and I can only see a Mulcair leadership and Trudeau playing second fiddle, like MacKay. Please realize, this is not an equal merger because the NDP has the many more supporting votes than the Liberals. If Liberals are betting the party on Trudeau’s charisma to bring them to official opposition status, that’s a very risky bet.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:


          I tend to concur as it relates to English Canada with the proviso that Harper is below 39. Above that, taking into account the new seats, it’s a Harper majority. Frankly, I don’t see the CPC getting anything close to 40 even with the new seats. More like 37, 38. However, one can’t call the Quebec seats based on the same formula. It’s highly unlikely we will see another Jack sweep nor will we see Justin clean up in Quebec given his increasingly centralist positions. He is becoming more and more a reflection of the party’s traditional position and these days, that does not lead to the house that Justin built in Quebec. Hence, logically, a split decision with Mulcair taking about half and Trudeau most of the rest, with some Bloc and CPC thrown in.

          My previous remarks fall under the banner of one-time co-operation that suddenly gets really interesting when the votes are counted. Remember, Cameron and Clegg did not run as a coalition in the campaign. But they came together once the composition of the House became known. That’s where I’m going — in my book, you don’t count supporters or members — you count seats tallied and then let the MPs decide who gets to be the new king. (prime minister).

          In Canada, it seems to me that the voters have to know that one-time co-operation is on the table for both parties even though each would make clear that they prefer to form a stand-alone government. You can’t just haul it out without airing it in the election. That plays into this Prime Minister’s hands and he knows how to work with that to his benefit, in the campaign if both parties try to deny it or totally run away from it, even as a remote posssiblilty.

    • “What a powerful progressive bloc that would be; upwards of 70+ Quebec MPs!”

      Progressives won 70 seats in Quebec the last election. There are only 5 more that could be won.

      • Publius says:

        But there would be no competing because the Liberals and Dippers would be united in Quebec creating a solid bloc of progressive voters. The challenge will be for Trudeau and Mulcair to bring Ontario, Maritimes, BC, on board. Remember there will be 338 ridings in play in 2015.

  11. G says:

    LPC is NOT a party of the left. Many, many LPC voters would vote CPC before supporting anything affiliated with the NDP.m this proposition also ignores/understates the depth of most New Democrats’ disdain for LPC – they see us as synonymous with the CPC.

    I’ll ask a question I’ve seen posed elsewhere – if the NDP were in as strong a position as Harper is, would we be talking about co-op with the CPC to oust the socialists?

    • Mark says:

      Agree, and agree again.

    • Publius says:

      The current LPC has some Red Grits and a lot of Blue Grits supporting it. Layton has peeled away most of the Red Grit vote over the past elections and it’s mostly the Blue Grits who are voting Liberal now.

      If you assume a straight merger will bring all the Blue Grits over to a merged mostly left of centre party, you will be wrong. Blue Grits would either sit out the next election or be motivated to vote Conservative while holding their noses rather than joining with the socialist/commie Dippers.

      A merger is more complicated than that, and as I comment above, it’s got to be a Mulcair-led Quebec NPD and a Trudeau ROC combination merger that would have a chance of succeeding, while the ROC old dog cancerous Dippers are jettisoned. It becomes a Grand Alliance merger between Quebec and ROC “progressive” which might be acceptable to Blue Grits.

  12. GPAlta says:

    I think that Justin is planning to be Prime Minister in 2015, and I think he will succeed.

    He has everything he needs to win, and I think he knows how to use it.

    The Conservatives are lying, cheating, stealing, oppressors of women, children, and minorities (and deep down we all know it– especially the trolls on the internet who are paid to lie for them, they know it better than anyone), so nobody really likes voting for them, they just need someone to give them a reason to trust their better instincts, and that is what Justin will be (it is all he has to be, and he just has to keep it simple). It is going to be a landslide.

    • Mark says:

      So many minority groups have been voting for the Cons for at least two elections now because they are oppressed? Don’t think so. Landslide? Don’t think so even more. As for lying, cheating and stealing, many people have been saying that about the Libs for years (e.g. sponsorship scandal). I think the biggest mistake we can make is deluding ourselves that we are somehow better than them. I’m not a Liberal because I’m better than them. I’m a Liberal because that party comes a bit closer to my general value set.

      • GPAlta says:

        I don’t agree that Harper has the support of “so many minority groups.” The Conservatives got a lower share of the immigrant and visible minority vote than they did of the overall vote, and as we all know, the FPTP system means that they won their majority with a lower share of the popular vote than that of their combined opponents anyway, meaning that they have only a very small share of immigrant and visible minority votes compared to the total available.

        http://www.punditsguide.ca/2011/09/who-really-won-the-%E2%80%9Cethnic%E2%80%9D-vote-in-the-may-election/ .

        Almost exactly twice as many visible minority voters voted against the Conservatives as for them.

        Harper only wins with immigrants who have been in Canada for a very long time and who are not visible minorities.

        Landslide would be inevitable if someone could motivate all of those who don’t support Harper to support himself instead, and that is what Justin can do.

        The Conservatives really have stolen, lied, cheated, and oppressed, and they have done so deliberately and ideologically. When Liberals have done it, it has been more greed or incompetence. I’m a not a Liberal because I’m better than anyone, I’m not a Liberal member at all. I am opposed to the “Harper Government” more than I am in favour of anything, and I think that Justin can bring many Canadians around to that position.

        • Mark says:

          I’ll just respond to one of your points. Here in British Columbia, the Conservatives own most of the immigrant ethnic ridings around Vancouver (mainly in Surrey and Richmond). These are ridings that were not generally Conservative for most of the past 20 to 25 years. There are many new immigrants in these areas, and the plurality are voting for the Conservatives, with a lower number voting for the NDP, and even fewer for the Liberals. In the 905 region around Toronto, as well, we see the same pattern, except there are more Liberal voters than in the Vancouver suburbs.

  13. hatrock says:

    Just as Harper said as long as Joe Clark was leader, merger between the CA and PC was never going to happen. So as long as Mulcair is there, it won’t happen. So long as Trudeau’s ego is there, it won’t happen either. Those who want this merger to happen from both parties should have signed up and then vote for Joyce Murray for the Liberals, and should have done the same for Cullen. Too little, too late.

  14. I do not, CANNOT agree that the best solution for Canada is to split into two idealogically opposed armed camps. I do not mind idealogues, sometimes they can spit out decent policies, but that does not mean that I want to spend the rest of my life governed by them! Neither un-fettered ‘free’ markets, nor state managed uber-beaurocracies are inevitably the correct solution. I just do not trust any Party that believes that they have a pre-packaged solution for eveything that ails us. Some markets are better off being free, some need a more or less heavy hand of oversight. Some personal freedoms are incontrovertibly good, and some are injurious. I, and millions of people like myself will be left stranded in the middle by a capitulation of the Liberal party. Better, by far to roll up our sleeves, and continue the building process started during the Leadership contest.

    • Publius says:

      How about this Canadian political landscape?:

      Conservatives = Blue Tories, Blue Grits

      Liberals = Blue Grits, Red Grits, Red Tories

      NDP = Orange Socialists, Orange Commies, Orange Unionists, Red Grits

      Green = Neurotic Tree-huggers, Guilt-trip Yuppies

      How do you see this political pot-pourri shaking out if there are stand-alone parties in the next election?

      • I would say that your attempt to divide the electorate up into neat catagories fails to reflect reality. People believe in, and vote for a lot more than all that. It is just lazy to slice the population into a few lumps like that.

  15. Philippe says:

    I’m not so pessimistic. Trudeau’s got a good shot at uniting the left and winning. I also believe that if anything’s certain in politics, it’s that nothing’s certain. Fortune tellers almost always get it wrong.

  16. portage & main says:

    “Stephen Harper is going to win the next federal election. That’s a fact.”

    Ten years ago a lot of people thought Martin was going to win more than 200 seats. We know how that turned out. A week is a long time in politics, anyless 2 years

  17. Snake Charmer says:

    I don’t think they like each other …
    Occam’s razor and all that …

  18. Snake Charmer says:

    ps it would be nice if you posted a complete list of banned words/phrases so as to avoid wasting precious time

  19. Windsurfer says:

    Off topic.

    I just saw some info that the Penashue/Labrador issue could heat up because the federal CON’s have been paying off some of his fines (RE: illegal contributions). For the moment, the currently discussed NDP-Liberal merger aside, everyone should get right into the Labrador like a dirty shirt to fight this good fight. Should be a hot one if the by-election is called before Elections Canada can rule on his eligibility.

  20. Publius says:

    My conclusive word on this issue; if the Liberals and Dippers decide on a merger it must be done very soon after Trudeau is elected Liberal leader, within months if not weeks. A merger cannot be implemented a few months before an election. That would be a spectacular failure!

    If a covert cooperation/coalition deal is struck it will be attacked as anti-democratic because it not open and transparent… it’s devious and disingenuous. Party workers will not accept a secret deal made at HQ and given orders to stand down for the other candidate. It’s also voter divisive because progressive Canadians will be confused at voting time. The Conservatives will make certain of that.

    So it’s merger or nothing. Get your sh!t together and soon, boys and girls !!!

  21. James Smith says:

    Um, did Dalton need the dippers to win 2 1/2 elections?

  22. Greg Vezina says:

    Here is a simple fact. Until and unless the opposition parties agree to some form of a primary run-off election (maybe even on the internet open to all voters in the riding, not just party members) in every riding after nominations close, but before the next election, with two simple purposes, one; to prevent any party in the future from forming a majority with less than 50% of the vote and two; to introduce Parliamentary reforms including free votes and party reforms including open nominations and major party policy being binding after elections unless overturned by referendum, so that people would trust the government to be stable and not do anything unexpected until the legislation was passed and a new election called, the Conservatives will rule. After all, a 42 year reign of the Ontario Progressive Conservative government was ended with simple a two year accord between the Liberals and NDP that made David Peterson Premier.

  23. MCBellecourt says:

    We’ll have to agree to disagree, Warren. It looks like Justin does not share your outlook on the next election.


    This is the attitude Liberals need to adopt. Here. Now. As the old saying goes, “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings”, and we still have two years to go before going to the polls.

    With all due respect, defeatism gets us nowhere. How the blazes can Liberals be taken seriously at all when we go back to the same bad habits that sank Dion and Ignatieff? Both good men, both smart men, but they did not get the support they deserved. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

    We, as Canadians, need to start writing to Elections Canada demanding they stop sitting on their asses and start doing the job we pay them the big bucks to do. They have been dragging their heels on the robocall investigation for too long now.

    • Warren says:

      I’ll bet you a hundred bucks I’m right.

    • Publius says:

      Warren is correct because the fix is already in!

      Garneau quit because he realized that Justin was to be the Liberal “MacKay” and that a merger campaign would be launched within weeks of Justin’s winning the leadership. The excuse will be that the Liberal party is no longer capable of running an election campaign due to lack of funds and loss of experienced volunteers on the ground. The federal LPC is only a shell and that’s why veterans like Manley, Rock, McKenna, who could be leaders after Martin, fled to find gainful employment.

      Justin is just the Liberal pied piper who will rally younger voters who don’t know what socialism represents other than the promise of a government job. So just be prepared for a shocking reversal within the Liberal party, within weeks!

      • Corey says:

        That’s absolute nonsense. If you think Justin Trudeau will be the one to dismantle the Liberal Party you are living on another planet. Especially now, when Mulcair is about to become the most weakly positioned of the 3 main party leaders.

        • Publius says:

          Liberal interests cannot tolerate a continued Harper Conservative government beyond 2015; they must be dislodged even if it means merging the LPC and NDP together because on their own they represent nothing, no power… and that’s a fact.

          How is Mulcair about to become the most weakly positioned of the 3 main party leaders? I hope you are not depending on Trudeaumania to deluge Mulcair and Harper! I see Justin as more of a fading fad than leading a trend towards the Liberal party based on nothing more than charisma and vagueness.

          What is absolute nonsense is lack of reality for the rubber hitting the political road.

          • Corey says:

            Here’s an actual fact, pundits predicting election winners 2 years out don’t have a good track record. Two years out from the 2008 U.S. election Clinton and Giuliani were favourites. How did that turn out? Who’s to say what could happen in an election campaign 31 months from now?

  24. Publius says:

    “Just watch me!!”, declares Justin Trudeau promising to defeat Harper… but he doesn’t tell us how he will crawl out of the deep Liberal hole. Let me tell you how he will “defeat Harper”.

    Justin Trudeau:- “My dear Canadians, as the new leader of the Liberal party my prime objective is to replace the Harper government for the sake of the country. To achieve that I have determined that the Liberal and NDP parties must unite their efforts in a joint offensive that will free Canada of the Conservative menace. To that end, I will be discussing a unity merger with the NDP that will save Canada from a government that does not represent Canadian values. I have spoken to Tom Mulcair and he concurs with my assessment of the Canadian political landscape and the need for cooperation leading to a unity merger of the progressive centre-left of Canadian politics. An inter-party unity merger committee is being set up and will be led by Jean Murray and Nathan Cullen and they will be reporting to both parties in 4 weeks. Time is of the essence because we cannot trust the Harper regime should they attempt to spring a premature snap election before their 2015 mandate. I ask all Liberals and NDPers to work together for a unity-merger that will be truly representative of the majority of Canadians. Canada must be our country again.”

    Personally, I would give Justin the benefit of any doubt about his past statements for maintaining the Liberal party. His concern for the welfare of Canada must trump party loyalties and political egos. Besides, it’s ludicrous to think that Justin on his own could challenge Harper and replace him as PM of Canada. The Liberal party could easily disappear after any next election, and that will also be Justin’s conclusion when he gets his hands on the party and determines it’s state of affairs. I believe Mulcair would also welcome a unity merger.

    The New Liberal-Democratic Party of Canada.!!

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