04.18.2012 08:14 AM

Lib-Dipper merger, etc. etc.

Tim Harper has a piece worth a read.  He’s right that the warring conservative factions needed to get their faces rubbed in the dirt a few times before they got their act together – in 1993, 1997 and 2000.  True.

It took a decade for the Right to come together, and I think that Harper is correct – it’ll probably take a full decade for the Left to do so, too.

But he’s wrong, I think, on a couple of points.  One, Jean Chretien hasn’t tossed a “grenade” at his party over this.  He’s simply saying what Stephen Harper, Preston Manning and many others said in a different context: if we keep fighting amongst ourselves, the other guys are going to benefit.  That’s not destructive – it’s constructive, and the truth, too.

Two, Chretien isn’t “conveniently ignoring” anything.  I know him well enough to know that these things take time; he’s well aware of that.  But his point is that, as long Liberals and New Democrats keep squabbling over the same political real estate, Harper will continue to win with his lesser holdings.

I had an espresso with someone very close to Harper the other day, someone who is very loyal to him.  Said he:  “Harper’s good for at least ten years, maybe fifteen.  As long as you guys keep fighting over nothing, he’ll keep winning.”

He’s right.

40 Comments

  1. Conservative Socialist says:

    I’m a staunch advocate for a two-party system–it’s certainly far better than the one-party system that’s existed in Alberta for the past 41 years.

    If the left does unite, expect many disaffected ‘blue’ Grits find their home in the Conservatives. And the Conservatives will have to moderate their platform in order to appeal to a broader constituency to reach that magic 50% of the vote needed to obtain power.

    • Greg from Calgary says:

      Agreed. For my entire adult life this is the 1st election since 93 where there is an actual race. I’d love to see the Libs and Dippers in Alberta join forces and thus be able to provide a crediable alternative that is left of centre. But, this election they’ll be lucky to get 5 seats combined.

    • Political tacticians prefer two-party systems, presumable because the game-theory is a lot less complicated. While hacks may like it, the inevitable outcome is the pathetic partisan lockup currently gripping the United States. Please, let’s not go there.

      Instead of simplifying the party system to a binary, we need to remake the voting process to embrace pluralism. It’s called a preferential ballot. If you’re a progressive you vote, Green #1, Liberal #2, Joe Clark #3… or ND #1, Joe Clark #2, Lib #3… or Lib #1, Green #2, ND #3… It locks out the extreme right wingers no matter how you work it. And you don’t have to go to conventions with Dippers.

      [Sorry this is a repost, meant to reply to Conservative Socialist – you can delete the one below]

      • Corey says:

        I’m a huge fan of that idea. Preferential ballot would be great. It would keep the local representation model of FPTP, but makes the system more fair (without having to resort to a PR system).

  2. After the NDP lose a substantial number of their Quebec seats they will realize that a merger needs to be considered to stop Harper and hs Cons. Won’t happen until the NDP get their dreams of forming gov’t crushed.

    • Corey says:

      I agree with Stacey about the NDP. But I don’t think there will be a merger in the end. That’s because the liberals and NDP are not fighting over the same political real estate (i.e. Muclair and Rae’s totally different reactions to the Charter anniversary). Many Liberals would not vote NDP if forced between the two parties. If a merger was necessary, then McGuinty-Horwath would have to merge in Ontario, Dexter-McNeil would have to merge in Nova Scotia, etc. That’s nonsense. The idea that parties should merge and force the Canadian people into a certain government is wrong. Let Canadians decide when they’re tired of Harper, then they’ll choose another party to govern. Harper does NOT have a lock on 40% of the vote (which is the assumption behind merger theories). No merger necessary.

      • pomojen says:

        I don’t think it means that anyone has to merge at the provincial level at all.

        We still have provincial PCs out there, even though there are no more PCs federally. We have a provincial Liberal party in BC that sets up photo ops at the arena with their Leader Christy Clark, Harper and a couple of Tim Horton’s cups. And here in NS we have an NDP government hasn’t been very “crazy lefty radical” despite the predictions of communist carnage that I heard at election time around here.

        If everyone with a particular label followed the same ideology, maybe I’d listen more to this “we are from different political histories…we have too little in common… blah blah” But to me it looks like crapping out and turf-guarding to me.

        • Corey says:

          Just to clarify I wasn’t trying to imply that federal mergers would mean provincial mergers. I just meant the logic would have to apply to both scenarios. If it isn’t possible to have 3 party competition federally, why do we have provinces where that is the case (Ontario, Nova Scotia, now BC and Quebec). I can’t speak for all Liberals, but I certainly don’t support many NDP positions. For example, the Sherbrooke Declaration. How could the party of Trudeau/Chretien/Dion ever agree to a policy where Quebec could separate with 50%+1 votes? Those are real, fundamental differences of policy that many people are overlooking. There is a case to be made that if there was a merger, a new party would eventually spring up on the left or in the centre to satisfy whichever group feels left out in the cold.

        • Michael says:

          I don’t think that anyone is saying that a federal merger means an automatic provincial merger.

          What they are saying instead is that there is no need for a merger. If there was indeed a need for a merger we would have seen it happen in Ontario, but it hasn’t happened.

          Ontario is a great example of a 3 party system working. Over the last 40 years all three parties have seen their electoral fortunes ebb and flow. In the 70’s (and 40 years before) we had the the Big Blue Machine in government with the Stephen Lewis led NDP as official opposition. In the 80’s we had the David Peterson Liberals govern which gave way to the NDP which gave way to the Mike Harris PCs, which gave way to the Dalton McGuinty Liberals.

  3. David says:

    10 to 15 years for Harper? With their endless scandals Bob Rae can win by default!

    • Michael says:

      It pains me to write this, but I think the Canadian electorate would give the NDP a shot before the present incarnation of the Liberals.

  4. Scott Bowman says:

    The Reform/Canadian Alliance were a breakaway from the PC Party. They re-united after a 14 year split (1988-2002). The NDP and Liberals have never been one and the same. We are not cut from the same cloth. There is no re-unification to be had.

  5. Mulletaur says:

    The problem is that the federal NDP under Jack Layton has been poaching on federal Liberal turf for some time now. Mulcair will continue more of the same. Federal Liberals need to come up with a strategy to counter this, or disappear as a political force. Embracing joke policies like legalization of marijuana won’t do the job. Outflanking the NDP by stealing their most popular policies has been the way that the Liberal Party has done well in the past.

    It’s pretty clear from the distance she kept from organized labour in the last party convention in Hamilton that the Ontario NDP under Horwath’s leadership is trying to adopt the same strategy in Ontario. Just sayin’.

    • Michael says:

      Mulletaur you are absolutely correct.

      The Liberals need a big hairy audacious new policy initiative that will excite the electorate.

  6. Sean says:

    I felt bad when Chretien said he should have united the left when he was in office… He DID unite the left when he was in office.

    • pomojen says:

      You know, I did too. Funny that.

      Also, I will be shocked if we hear anything like this from PMS when he’s finished. His behaviour in general suggests that he lacks the character to look back and acknowledge regrets or see things differently. Someone forgot to mention to him that It’s a sign of strength, humility and wisdom when a person can do that.

  7. The Doctor says:

    I suspect that Paul Martin, John Manley, Roy McLaren and others would disagree.

  8. William says:

    “Polling data in this country shows much more polarization and less tolerance for the middle inhabited by Liberals.”

    There’s the problem. When your market disappears, so does your product.

    With the new seats that will be added in 2015, the power shift favours the CPC.

    There is no other option than for the LPC and the NDP to get together if they wish to regain power and put the country back on the right track.

    My 2 cents.

    • Mulletaur says:

      Markets like virtually everything else that exists are not static. They change. They can also be changed.

      • William says:

        I agree but the market for the LPC has been getting worse, not better.

        When the NDP and the LPC fight, the CPC win. And with the new seats, it only gets easier for them.

        • Corey says:

          I agree with Mulletaur. Markets change and can be changed. Voters are not static, in fact, they’re less static now than ever. Saying there is no market for the Liberals in the future is like saying there is no market for a left-wing NDP if the year’s 1997 or 2000, but situations change – as we say last May.

  9. Brachina says:

    Even if the NDP was interested in a merger, why would it agree to Jean’s vision of it? What’s in it for the NDP?

    Jean’s proposal has this new party as centralist, not even centre left, but centralist, looking to up to Liberal leaders, and treating the Liberals as “equals partners” which really means just letting the Liberals take over. What we get from the Liberals is the Sponsorship scandal, Liberal debt, a wasteful and patronage focused burcracy, a history of liberal rightwing budgets that makes Stephen Harper look tame in comparison, which btw was the reason the liberal attack ads last election on healthcare flopped, making Kyoto a papertiger. Oh and we also get you,legacy of being absolutely hated in Quebec and out West.

    Right now the NDP is tied or leading the Tories in the polls federally. Quebec loves Mulcair and the NDP is rocking BC. Some polls even have the NDP leading in the Altantic, others leading in the Praires. The Tory vote is softing because scandals and the next party to,have thier vote suppressed by the Tories will be thier own. The Liberals on the other hand are getting beaten about the head by the Tories and as usual not fighting back, while the NDP has launched a massive ad campaign.

    And yet we should just surrender to a Liberal take over? I think not.

    Btw the idea that the NDP’s vote will magically vanish in Quebec because you wanted it to is irrational wishful thinking.

  10. Dan says:

    I’m not sure that Liberals and the NDP are fighting over the same political real estate.

    For some bizarre reason, Liberal strategists in the 90s were far more interested in crushing the remainder of the Progressive Conservatives than uniting the left. So we got enormous cuts to social services, an end to the federal minimum wage, and doublespeak on the GST and NAFTA. A few victories over divided conservatives masked the fact that the Liberals had de-branded itself. The NDP seized the political territory, pushing for fair trade, bringing a sensible end to the Afghanistan war, and a budget that took care of Canadians’ necessities instead of corporate tax cuts. Besides being the principled thing to do, it turned out to be great politics.

    Now the provincial Liberals are making the same mistake as their federal counterparts. The OLP is refusing to cooperate with the NDP on a tax increase that most people in Ontario (and Canada) support, which would protect services that Canadians need. Heck, the Liberal party might be wise to spend that tax money on something other than an HST exemption for heating, which would impress the voters more, AND let Liberals take credit for setting the priorities. But nope, instead it’s “we oppose the NDP. We oppose the ‘far left’. We’re the party of the unprincipled, shrinking middle.”

    The federal NDP isn’t making that mistake. If the party leaders won’t form a coalition, the next smartest strategy is for a political leader to make a plea to the voters of both parties. “My party IS the progressive coalition.”

    And the way the OLP is de-branding itself with all of these cuts, McGuinty might be helping Mulcair with his Ontario breakthrough.

    • Mulletaur says:

      “For some bizarre reason, Liberal strategists in the 90s were far more interested in crushing the remainder of the Progressive Conservatives than uniting the left.” – What, like winning elections ?

      Also, I find it quite amusing that Sean (above) says that Chrétien did unite the left, while you are saying that the Liberals moved to the right while he was leader.

      Now that truly is leadership.

      • Dan says:

        Winning elections, short term.
        Destroying your reputation and alienating your constituencies, long term.
        Enjoy your political exile.

  11. Tim says:

    Who cares what Tim Harper says? How many elections did he ever win? Stephen Harper’s ambition to destroy the Liberals and leave the Conservatives fighting one party of the left is well known. His vision of what that new party would resemble and M. Chretien’s vision of the same must be quite different. Which election winner has it figured out? Where Tim Harper is probably correct is saying that we’re not going to find out any time soon.

  12. billg says:

    Stephen Harper, longest serving Canadian Prime Minister.
    Has a nice ring to it.
    There, that enough to make you start talking merger?

    • Corey says:

      Kind of a simplistic view isn’t it. As a Liberal, I don’t want to see an NDP government. I think that would damage Canada in many ways. If that means I’ll be voting for a third party for the next few decades, so be it. The Dippers did it for 50 years – voting for a party that couldn’t crack the top 2. Why wouldn’t liberals prefer that to selling out their ideas just to win government.

    • Tim Sullivan says:

      Can’t afford Harper for much longer, in terms of dollars, lost international reputation, lost democracy.

    • Sean says:

      well said!

  13. Bruce M says:

    Nothing is inevitable (ask Paul Martin.)
    Tory + Reform did not equal 1+1; Lib + NDP will be same;
    Canada 2012 is not Canada 2004 or 1996: Liberals need to realize that (changed demographics, wealth, voting, new Canadians’ loyalties, etc.)
    War has both united and divided Canadians, making Liberal antipathy towards the military and allies a lose-lose.

    And, finally, I notice whole debate is how to win POWER, no reason why it is important. Typical: We are Liberal, power IS the reason.

    • Corey says:

      Precisely. As I said above, power should not be the objective. Liberals need to fight for the set of values we believe in. If that gets us into government then so be it. If it doesn’t, that’s no reason to abandon our ideas and join team Mulcair.

  14. Jeff says:

    I still don’t think it will happen, but the Liberal Democratic Party does roll off the tongue nicely.

  15. billg says:

    Here’s a fly in your ointment Corey. The main talking points for most LPC and NDP members is how Stephen Harper is destroying Canada, yet, the NDP and the LPC cant manage to get together, merge and defeat this evil genuis. So, what is it? Is he doing enough damage to Canada to get your acts together and merge or, is it just rhetoric. The longer voters hear the rhetoric with little action the more it gets tuned out as just rhetoric. Your not fighting to stay a 3rd party Corey, your fighting to stay a party.

    • Corey says:

      Agreed. I’m in favour of changing that rhetoric. It’s time we stop talking about what we’re against and start proposing our own bold vision – and it won’t be the same as the NDP’s. That’s our best chance to continue to remain relevant.

  16. Political tacticians prefer two-party systems, presumable because the game-theory is a lot less complicated. While hacks may like it, the inevitable outcome is the pathetic partisan lockup currently gripping the United States. Please, let’s not go there.

    Instead of simplifying the party system to a binary, we need to remake the voting process to embrace pluralism. It’s called a preferential ballot. If you’re a progressive you vote, Green #1, Liberal #2, ND #3… or ND #1, Lib #2, Green #3… or Lib #1, Green #2, ND #3… It locks out the extreme right wingers no matter how you work it. And you don’t have to go to conventions with Dippers.

  17. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Call me stupid but it seems to me that it’s incumbent upon those who oppose merger to produce sterling-silver leadership candidates that have a reasonably good chance of eventually making mincemeat of Thomas Mulcair. Are fellow Liberals up to that challenge? If so, our only worries will be financing and more importantly, a revolutionary thinking-out-of-the-box platform.

    Otherwise, merger is quite simply the only way to go. Liberals are never afraid of a fight — what they are against is a futile effort wasting human power and personal financial resources on an end result of mediocre leadership. If that is to be our future, quite rightly, they will sit it out in droves making either Harper or Mulcair the happiest politician in Ottawa.

  18. Tony S says:

    Yikes! This is quite a manifesto.
    Just curious: is this the type of ideologue that you Liberals want to hook up with?
    Because, if so, you are going to need to tow to his line; there is no need for him to put any water in his wine, as the NDP would be the dominant partner.
    This all sounds like pretty far-out left wing stuff. It does not sound like anything near centre or even centre-left.
    Are you sure that this is the future of the Liberal Party?

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