So we’re talking merger?

The news over the past few days has been Liberal-NDP merger. This is all talk and serves to undermine Michael Ignatieff as leader of the Liberal Party. Over the past month, there’s been renewed talk of coalition between the Liberals and NDP and this was spurred on by a couple of polls indicating that a Michael Ignatieff led coalition would lose to Stephen Harper, a Bob Rae led one would tie and — just for fun — a Jack Layton led coalition would win. Another poll was released to suggest that a majority of Canadians would support a coalition party against the Conservatives (you gotta love those leaderless ideal-leader poll questions!)

The problem is, however, is that the electorate wouldn’t be asked as they were by their friendly dinner-time-calling pollster friends. Michael Ignatieff has explicitly said (at least in his latest iteration) that he would not run as a coalition during the next election and that the numbers post-election would govern his choice.

When we ran against the coalition (extra-writ) in December 2008, what most Canadians found offensive about such a proposed coalition was that the separatist Bloc Quebecois would be given a veto on government of Canada decisions (as a partner to government). Furthermore, an election result returned just six weeks earlier would have been overturned. While constitutional, most Canadians felt that such a move lacked moral authority; Stephane Dion had dismissed any talk of coalition during the election campaign and then was ready to form one after the ballots were counted. A coalition was forced upon Canadians without consultation or consideration, but worse, it was done so after it was explicitly stated that it would not happen.

Fast forward to today. Michael Ignatieff’s problem during any future election will be the big question mark placed upon him by voters (helped by the Conservative Party) that asks if he has different intentions in his mind than what he utters from the stump. He’s been for the coalition, then against, then for one if necessary but not necessarily, then against, then for but only after Canadians decide against his party. Canadians rejected Stephane Dion because they were unsure of his uncertain carbon tax (and leadership) during tough economic times. Now, a question of political instability still looms and Michael Ignatieff is doing nothing to firm up confidence in his leadership.

Make no mistake, coalition talk (and merger talk) at this time serves no other purpose than to undermine the leadership of Michael Ignatieff. In fact, winners from such musings are Stephen Harper, Bob Rae and Jack Layton. Michael Ignatieff has had few perceived victories since taking the helm of the Liberal Party. His now famous “your time is up” bellicose utterance to Stephen Harper is now a cliche in Ottawa circles. The summer season can spell death for opposition leaders as they clamour for the media spotlight and Michael Ignatieff is about to embark on his summer tour with no gas in the tank. Consider that while Michael Ignatieff was trying to find his feat during prorogation, Stephen Harper hosted the world at the Olympics. While Michael Ignatieff uncomfortably flips burgers with all of the enthusiasm of a dyspeptic turtle this summer, Stephen Harper will be hosting world leaders at the G20/G8 summits and the Queen during Canada Day to boot. Michael Ignatieff will emerge this summer a faded version of his grey self or with Rae’s daggers in his back.

And now there’s talk of merger with mere weeks of Ottawa spotlight left for Michael Ignatieff? This is nothing more than to give the party something to chew over while they consider their leader’s long-term viability. The Liberal Party will not merge with the NDP. The party’s grassroots put up with enough as they told their Central-Nova activists to stand down against Elizabeth May during Dion’s cooperation deal with the Greens. One cannot imagine 308 (times 2) riding associations trading horses for the right to run their chosen candidate — most have already been nominated. Consider too that the Liberal Party of Canada is the most successful political party of western democracies over the past 100 years. A mere four years out of power is no time to get desperate, lads.

Rae’s real prize is convincing the left that he can lead them to power, but as leader of that historic Liberal Party. With Rae in the Liberal top-spot, Liberal-NDP switchers will go Liberal leaving the NDP a shadow of itself. Is merger on the table? No. But talk of a merger sends a signal to all that the Liberal Party is not content with itself and when you do the math it’s a question of leadership, not its constitution.

  • http://canadiansense.blogspot.com/ Canadiansense

    I agree with the damage control but Ignatieff will not be wearing a giant question mark but rather a giant L on his forehead.

    The CPC have numerous videos they can afford to put on television with him prepared to lead a coalition.

  • Hollinm

    You are right on the money Stephen. Besides if there is talk of a merger Ignatieff would be the last to know about it. The man is a bozo and is looking weaker and weaker everyday.
    He has the support of the Quebec caucus over his treatment of Denis Coderre and now he has probably lost the support of the Toronto caucus after he baled out on Bevilacqua after agreeing to refugee reforms. This is not good. As Stephen says Harper will be front and centre this summer while Ignatieff lies around the French riviera.

  • Ferrethouse

    Damn you write well for a scientist ;)

  • Gabby in QC

    Let me add another reason why Canadians found the 2008 attempted coup really offensive.

    The attempted coalition was revealed to the public AFTER the opposition parties had seemingly accepted the results of the election. Then-opposition leader Stephane Dion said in his reply to the Speech from the Throne:
    The official opposition does not intend to use this occasion to bring the government down.” [Hansard, Thursday, November 20, 2008]

    In other words, the Liberals accepted the results of the election, and expressed their confidence — of course, with the customary reservations — in the PM and the Conservatives’ ability to govern, even if it was in a minority situation. Standing & sub-committees were already formed, with no open intimations of a coalition.

    Then the Economic Update was delivered on Nov. 27 or 28, and the rest is history.

  • Kathy

    Excellent post! You always seem to come through with well-written and to-the-point offerings that are both factual and always, always strongly in favour of Harper. You are making news with your posts instead of being a slave to the usual suspects and bias.

  • Lou

    This is the entire problem. It is just like last time. Michael Ignatieff proposed to take over after an election which will put the CPC in #1 spot. The electorate will simply not stand for this! I was so enraged that my vote would be nullified for 18 months last time that I went to the only rally I have attended in my life.

    If the weak Liberal want to sell out their party because they are sad and pouting, so be it. Actually it would be a VERY bad idea, though, as the Liberals have been able to govern adequately, at times. The NDP is a whole different kettle of fish. Canada should never merge and have a big far left party, as this has NEVER been our tradition. This will lead to more socialism than we want, as we have too much now!

    If they play tricks and take-over after the election, I predict riots. The nice quiet majority will not put up with it! We will be out with our pitchforks, Time Horton mugs and hockey sticks. The west is not going to go for a Toronto-Montreal- (Ottawa) takeover. We have good government now, so there is no reason to have an election anyway! The Ministers in charge are doing a very good job in a challenging environment. Yes, some minor mistakes, but nothing compared to the last 30 years!!!! We need all of them there running the government and getting us through the possible double dip and on to reducing the deficit without taxing more. BC and, to a limited extent, Ontario are fighting the tax grab of the HST. This is the worst possible time to introduce this tax with ABSOLUTELY NO discussion. I hope the CPC will get and earful this summer. Iggy would add more. If income tax was lowered by 7%, I would be ok with this, but it is a huge add-on and inflationary.

    I am frustrated with both the provincial and federal parties. They are stealing my pension income and forcing me to eventually be on the dole.

  • http://www.thepolitic.com Mark Peters

    Completely agree; this isn't about merging at all, rather undermining Ignatieff. The names on the released affidavits suggest the old guard (including Kinsella and Chretien) have the knives out.

  • kenn2

    The rest IS history, but I can appreciate how CPC supporters might want to rewrite it.

    How quickly you forget Harper's Marie Antoinette moment with that 2008 Economic Update from Mars, which pretended the economic crisis didn't exist, while attacking party financing and collective bargaining in the public sector. Harper gambled. Unfortunately the stakes were too high for all the other parties to fold, they had NO CHOICE but to stand up against this, and the counter-attack was the threat of a coalition. And as we all know, Harper prorogued and finally backed down.

    So when you say:
    The attempted coalition was revealed to the public AFTER the opposition parties had seemingly accepted the results of the election.

    And Stephen says:
    While constitutional, most Canadians felt that such a move lacked moral authority; Stephane Dion had dismissed any talk of coalition during the election campaign and then was ready to form one after the ballots were counted. A coalition was forced upon Canadians without consultation or consideration, but worse, it was done so after it was explicitly stated that it would not happen.

    I gotta call bullsh!t, that's not how it happened.

    Anyway, to the main point… I totally agree that all this noise about a “merger” is clearly aimed at Ignatieff. It does seem like an internal putsch, doesn't it? It might even be something that Harper's Ministry of Propaganda cooked up? … naaah I don't wanna give him that much credit.

  • Batb

    This CTV photo says it all (“Caucuses wrap up: Opposition leader comments on possibility of Liberal-NDP merger”):

    http://ezralevant.com/

    Ignatieff to Rae: Et tu, Brute?

  • Observant

    In the last election with Paul Martin running, Buzz Hargrove came out strongly for 'strategic' voting so that Conservative candidates did not win coming up the middle. Buzz understood that the Liberals were losing voters to the NDP, and that tide had to be stopped.

    Fast forward to today …. and the Liberals (not the NDP) are discussing a merger with the NDP as one way of reclaiming all those lost votes in elections past. Sneaky … eh ?!

    It's obvious that right wing neocon Ignatieff cannot retrieve those lost soft lefty Liberal voters parked with the NDP. However it's possible that Bob Rae as Liberal leader could attract those lost Liberal voters back to the Liberal fold.

    So … Iggy can't do it … but Bob Rae might be able to do it … what to do …!!!

  • batb

    Observant: “what to do …!!!”

    Why, stab Ignatieff in the back and bring in, stage-left, Bob Rae, Power Corporation's lad, which, I suspect, has been the pot simmering on the back burner for a long time.