Thursday, May 12, 2011

Overdue Post

My apologize for the lateness of this post...As previously mentioned, I was going to be indisposed for sometime after the election (light surgery, and I'm fine in case anyone is worried) and this is the first chance I've had to really sit down and get back to the blog.

Now, there's a lot that's worth talking about. There's the issues surrounding NDP Quebec MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau; there's the rising gas prices; there's Flaherty's vow that he will balance the budget on schedule; and there's ton of post election recapping on the conditions that allowed Harper to beat the pollsters and get a majority government (Here's a hint: It was less about the NDP surge, and more about 'Blue Grits' and 'Red Tories' throwing their weight behind Harper over Liberal candidates...After all, there's a reason why the Liberals did worse than polls suggested they would, and it actually has little to do with the NDP).

So, what issue am I going to talk about?

Well, it's one that hasn't gone away since election day: Coalition. But more than coalition, we're now throwing the M word about: Merger.

In the wake of the Liberals' worst electoral showing in their history, many Liberals began to suggest that the holes in the hull of their ship could be plugged by getting the NDP on board. That the only way to defeat Harper in the next election would be to 'unite the left' much in the same way that the Harper united the right.

This has been a topic that has come up time and time again, but mostly from disgruntled NDPers who were tired of seeing their party lose out to Liberals in certain ridings...But of course, now the shoe is on the other foot and it's now Liberals who are pondering whether or not to merge with the NDP to create a new party that could defeat the Tories.

News media have suggested that some big names have already chimed in on the notion of whether or not a merger should happen; like Jean Chretien and John Manley (if you can still call Manley a big name...)

However, there is a major problem with this. A merger between the NDP and the Liberals suggests that the two parties share the same core values and want to seek similar if not the same course of action to address problems that exist in our country. But this is not the reality that we live in.

The Liberal Party of Canada has never been a 'leftist' party, as they've always tried to market themselves as the 'centrist' choice for Canadians. Socially progressive while being fiscally conservative. Whereas the NDP has never stood in the centre and has always chosen to clearly mark their positions to the left of the political spectrum.

There's problem number one, the ideologies of the parties just don't mesh well beyond social issues. While there is common ground in some social issues (do keep in mind a few Liberals voted against same-sex marriage), it would be a nightmare for the two groups to agree on fiscal policy. The NDP would prefer more leftist economic reform and action, while the Liberals would continue to preach almost conservative like economic action.

The second problem lies in the membership issue. I'm an NDPer, and while we have a very active and dedicated membership, we also have to admit that we have a smaller membership then the Liberals on a national level. While that could change over the next few years, thanks to being in opposition and the increase of youth voting NDP, as it stands now a merger would benefit the Liberals while destroying the NDP.

I say it would destroy the NDP because policy would be dictated by party convention, and if there were more former Liberals than former NDPers in the room, the NDPers are going to lose out on helping to guide party policy. As such, what we would have from a NDP - Liberal merger would not be a new 'leftist' party, but a new centre-left party where the remaining old Liberal supporters run roughshod over the old NDP supporters due to higher numbers.

Effectively, as it stands, a NDP - Liberal merger would simply return the Liberals to a prominent place in Canadian politics without having to do any of the work. After all, if they perform badly in the next election and the NDP performs as well or better, and a merger is approved...All the old Liberals are suddenly returned to a place of power without the voters giving them that right.

Now, given that I was in favour of a NDP - Liberal coalition, this might sound hypocritical...So allow me to explain.

A coalition is not a merger. Both parties maintain their own respective party processes and individuals who work behind the scenes, but they agree to come together to form government and compromise on issues that they can pass with one another. Whereas a merger would destroy these two party machines and replace it with a single one that would be guided by those at the top.

And given the larger number of Liberals in Canada, at least according to party membership, they would dictate party policy with a few compromises that would essentially re-create the Liberal Party of Canada with a light NDP flavouring. Effectively, I don't support a merger because I believe that it would destroy my party. And, given the Liberal track record, I'd be left out in the political wilderness in such an event because I don't believe a party dominated by Liberals in the party machine but driven by mostly former NDP MPs in the House of Commons would even reflect anything close to the NDP now.

As stated this is not an attempt to defeat Harper or an attempt to bring two similar parties together. Rather, it is an attempt for the dying Liberal brand to save itself by taking over another party and slowly (but efficiently if their membership is high enough) replace NDP values with Liberal ones to create a new and stronger Liberal Party of Canada.

A merger with the NDP is the breath of life for the Liberals, but it is the kiss of death for the NDP.

However, Liberals surprisingly have begun to back away from this idea. All signs point to the interim leader of the party vowing to step away from any progress or steps that would make a merger with the NDP possible. Whether the next actual leader will also be confined by this rule remains to be seen.

So, what is next for the Liberal Party of Canada?

I think, if they do not successfully rebuild, they will continue to anguish in third party status until they collapse in the way the Progressive Conservatives did in 1993. Then all talks of a merger will be put aside, and the few remaining Liberals will likely cross the floor to the party that reflects them best.

Surprisingly, I think a Conservative-Liberal non-merger is more likely. Given that it was Liberal supporters who flocked to Harper in Toronto and Ontario, an action which handed him his majority government, it seems more plausible that fiscal conservative Grits will jump ship to the Tories, while the centrists stand around and wonder whether they should attempt to salvage their party...Or if they should accept defeat and join the NDP, without a merging of the two parties.

For a long time Stephen Harper has wanted to see the Liberal Party of Canada destroyed, he's made no qualms about it; but its starting to look like he might actually be the Prime Minister that sees that happen.

Whether that is for good or for ill is too early to ascertain. But what I can say is that Canadians are starting to question the political status quo in Canada, hence the spectacular failure of the Liberals in this election. And who knows where this soul searching may lead.

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