Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Merger talks, leadership politics and the same old Liberal bullshit

The CBC has a breathless report tonight on top-secret merger talks between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party. They're talking platform. Leadership race. They even have a new name picked out: The Liberal Democrats. Cute.

I call bullshit.
Senior insiders with the federal Liberals and New Democrats have been holding secret talks about the possibility of merging their parties to form a new entity to take on the Conservatives, CBC News has learned.

Many Liberal insiders confirmed that discussions between the two parties are not just focused on forming a coalition after an election or co-operation before one, but the creation of a new party.

The new party would possibly be named the Liberal Democrats and there has been tentative talk about what a shared platform would look like and an understanding that a race would be required to choose a new leader.
Just who are these "senior insiders" having these "secret talks?" Unknown. The two "insiders" quoted won't name names. Neither will I, at the moment. I think, though, that you don't need to be a strategic genius to connect the dots.

I highly doubt these secret talks have the blessing of the leader of the Liberal Party. (Aaron Wherry's sources dismiss the report. So do Paul Wells'. And mine, for that matter.) Look at the pretty dammed clear statement Michael Ignatieff made on Sunday: no pre-election coalition or cooperation, and for dammed sure no merger. Yes, only, to post-election cooperation. And I think he had to be dragged into making that statement. Are we really to believe he has authorized secret talks on merging at the same time? Come on.

Maybe some people in the party do believe a merger is the way to go. But I believe they're a minority, and I don't believe the people driving these stories are among them. They're taking advantage of them to advance their own agenda, not the party's. Because this has nothing to do with uniting the left or doing what needs to be done to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives, and everything to do with leadership politics and the personal ambitions of a few.

They're impatient. Ignatieff isn't getting it done. They think they know someone who can. They think they can. Maybe clocks are ticking. Young stars are coming up in the ranks, and if certain people don't get their shot now, before the young stars are ready, their window will close.

This is just a smokescreen, a means to an end: make Michael Ignatieff's leadership position untenable to clear the way for someone else. The latest Messiah to return the Liberal Party to the promised land. Because that, supposedly, is all it will ever take to restore the natural world order.

Sure, we'll tank the next election. But then, new leader! Valhalla! Small price to pay!

I've had it. I've had enough. I've had it with the petty games and the back-stabbing and the power-plays. We've been running on this same dammed hamster wheel of bullshit since the 1980s, so you think we'd get a freaking clue at some point. But I'm sure they're convinced no, I thought it was wrong when Chretien's people did it to Turner, or Martin's people to Chretien, or everyone's people to Stephane Dion, but me, ME, no I'm on the side of the angels! I'm the righteous one!

No. You're not. You're really not. You're just an asshole.

We have a leader. His name is Michael Ignatieff. And unlike some people, I stay loyal to our leader, whether he was my guy or not. And let's face facts. Had we finished a proper leadership race Ignatieff would have won it handily. Yes, he hasn't performed well. Frankly, he has disappointed me too. He has made mistakes. But he's showing signs of learning, of making the right decisions on where we need to go, and how we need to get there. But make no mistake: it's going to be a long road. And no leader can get us there alone.

The only way we're going to get there isn't through the Hail-Mary quick fix of a merger, or those that hope to exploit such talk because they think they, somehow, can do better, or just think it's their turn. We've been looking for easy answers for years now. THERE ARE NONE. If someone says there are, they're lying to you.

What it's going to take is long, hard work. What it's going to take is everyone on board, on the team, rowing in the same direction. And if you don't have the patience to do the hard work, or if you think your personal ambition is more important than the team, then I don't have time for you, because you are part of the problem.

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

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Kyle H. said...

You're damn right, Jeff. This is getting quite ridiculous. And I would go as far as to question Kinsella's motives in all of this. What is his angle, if he did this and wasn't misquoted? And if he did do something, what do we do with him?

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

I don't know if even worthwhile or smart to blog about, tho I agree with premise and conclusion. But. 2 b fair. 1 bit I disagree, strongly, root of probs. Iggy.
"Had we finished a proper leadership race Ignatieff would have won it handily.": said that b4 2006 as well.

As noted, probs started with previous behaviour. Dion never did. Still doesn't. Iggy did. Can't be denied.

Shud have had leadership race, as you say, a "proper" one. Not just wrong, worse: stupid. Was always going to cause this problem. Lack of legitimacy.

Iggy: Hasn't disappointed me. U understand why.

That said, Harperism is such unique problem that this is no time for BS. I'll admit, "normal" situation, I'd have maintained my attitude re. Iggy. But not normal. And cost-benefit clear: unless Iggy steps down by himself, turmoil hurts more than new leader helps.

Speaking coldly. Probably more credible because of it.

Silly story. Any truth=silly Libs. Minority.

So since coldblooded realistic analysis indicates silly story and impossible under circumstances, not even worth discussing.

EFL is no Iggiot. And not furious anti-mergerite. Just both options are clearly impossible (memberships, process, etc.). Realistically, impossible.

Work to win.
Win, one way or another.
Introduce AV.
Problem solved.

Jeff said...

EFL, we're diverging but, just for fun, here's why I disagree on 06 vs 08 ldsp. One, I think it was lining-up pretty solidly on the ground for Ig. But 2, and more importantly, Stephane only won because a crowded field allowed him to come up each ballot with second-place support. If it has stayed Michael, Bob and Dominic, for Bob to win he needed a stronger showing from Leblanc (and preferable a fourth decent candidate) to force another ballot, and it just wasn't there. Stephane won because he had Gerard. Bob didn't have his Gerard. There's always the miraculous, but I wouldn't have bet on it.

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

BCer: for reasons you mention yourself in post, not convinced that after ordinary Liberals had seen and compared candidates on stage, in debates, in speeches, in person, Iggy would have won. Also, new members could have changed things. Never count chickens. But point is, even if u were right, all Libs would have borne responsibility = legitimacy = decreased problems. Never good idea to have a coronation by insiders. Madness.

But I agree, Iggy has done better post-Donolo, despite carping and problems. My basic Iggy views haven't changed and never will, but fairminded enough to recognise reality, and to give credit. And reality is, given cost-benefit, Iggy is the only game in town (unless he chooses not to be, which he won't).

If he follows through, logically, with Order of Parliament (his own motion!), then I'll stay mostly onside.

But if not, then all bets are off.

The LPC is not more important than Canadian democracy. My country before my party.

rockfish said...

If this doesn't smack more of "james moore and his closet pals handing out fake campaign buttons at the leadership convention" then I'll eat my hat.
The media buys it because they're desperate. The CONs sell it because a) they're panicking, and b) it works as both a distraction and a weight around their opposition's neck, having to deal with this silly talk.
Where's the secret sources talking about Harper's lame leadership? They are out there... Some CONs even cling to some sort of ethical idealism. But they've been buried behind Harper's wall of silence. And this crap just makes it feel like that wall is the right way. Thanks for calling it as you see it.

Oemissions said...


Brian G. Rice said...

I can't agree more.

CK said...


In case anyone is interested in hearing Kinsella for themselves.

He really does sound like he believes the Liberals can never win without some kind of merger.

I agree Jeff, this is frightening to say the least.

However, even Iggy's statement which may seem responsible and pragmatic under normal circumstances, perhaps would be the straw that broke the Liberal camel's back. I realize it's damned if he did; damned if he didn't, but his last statement has really provided red meat for the Harpercons and their cheerleaders.

I don't know why you don't want to mention 'the other one's name', but your page; I'll respect. He is most certainly not helping matters.

Kinsella was right about one thing though (from the video linked above), the first thing Harper will do when he gets his majority (sorry, but my gut tells me three times a charm unless a miracle happens), will be to eliminate that 1.95$/vote subsidy. Thus every other opposition party will be forever financially crippled. If Harper were to hold elections, they would be nothing more than acts of symbolism to pretend he's running a democracy, which would be as fake as that 'lake' at TO media center.

I'm afraid that you know who and Iggy are both going to have to go ASAP. One of those up and coming younger stars, as well as Domenic Leblanc wouldn't need any coalitions and thus that talk can cease.

Unfortunately, that will never happen. It really doesn't look good.

penlan said...

"I've had it. I've had enough. I've had it with the petty games and the back-stabbing and the power-plays."

So have I. Instead of the party focussing on the REAL problem - Harper & Cons - all the energy is going on internal squabbles & fights, game playing, one-upmanship, etc. This country is going down the drain & all they can do is fracture the Party. They were all elected to serve the PEOPLE, not themselves. Wonder how things would look if all that energy was expended on trying to put this country back together in a healthy, cohesive & positive way. I'm sick to death of all these conferences, meetings, etc. on "working on" policies/platforms. How many of these things will it take & for how many MORE years to come? It's utterly ridiculous. Gah!

archivist said...

Do I, as a card-carrying member of the party, have no say in this? Surely my vote counts for supporting such an idea.
Well, I'll vote now: NO!
If a certain former war room type is behind this, these he's certainly lost if mojo if he has to start up something like this to defeat Mr. Scary. I mean, come on, the guy has handed us enough ammo for 3 elections. And what about all this policy work that has taken up so much hard work of so many people.

Desperation = weakness.

ottlib said...


If only the Conservatives could be trusted with majority government.

I believe that the Liberals need to spend an extended period of time in the political wilderness, without any prospect of gaining power for at least four years.

That would be the quickest way to get rid of all of the hacks who only support the party because they believe they will be rewarded when the Liberals win the government.

Most of these folks will have no interest in waiting four yours for their gravy train so they will abandon the party leaving it to those who want to build a strong Liberal Party and a strong Canada.

If only the Conservatives could be trusted with majority government.

archivist said...

Whatever happened to:


Jim Parrett said...

Not being a card-carrying Liberal, I don't get this. The Liberals are losing at the polls. They are being decimated in the media despite the clownish Conservatives giving them daily gifts. There does not appear to be any Liberal leader while Harper bullies his message daily in the headlines to counteract the follies of his actions. Libs are fighting not just other progressives but themselves. And you do not want the Libs and NDP to unite to defeat Harper and his Conservatives? You say there is time. How much time, Jeff? Why is party loyalty stopping us from coming up with a way to defeat the Cons? We don't have forever. The same old isn't cutting it anymore.

Steven C. Britton said...

I have to say I'm finding all this Liberal navel-gazing quite amusing. When the conservatives went though this transition back in 2002/3 it was the same on our side of the fence too. Conspiracy theories, anonymous backroom insiders, whining, and so on.

From my perspective, I would rather not see a Liberal/NDP merger, for tactical reasons. a merged Liberal/NDP would mean less vote splitting, which would mean the dynamics of a federal election would change, for the worse, for conservatives.

We've seen the disasters of Liberal governments already. The NEP, official multiculturalism(which has done more to divide us as Canadians than unite us), a bloated and unaffordable health care system, a national pension plan which is a pyramid scheme rather than a savings program, etc. etc. We've seen the catastrophes of provincial NDP governments as well (Bob Rae's NDP in Ontario, for example) so whatever it takes to keep people touting this failed, incorrect ideology out of office is a good thing.

All that said, a merge between the Liberals and NDP also would be of benefit to the Conservatives. The Conservatives have done an excellent job of pushing the Liberals out of the middle, over to the left. A merged party would just end up being pulled farther over to the fringe, which tends to turn people off (for example of fringe, look no further than Elizabeth May.)

Either way, the Conservatives win.

Jeff said...

CK, on the vote subsidy, I'm going to disagree slightly. It would hurt us, sure, but in general we've been building a better fundraising machine (although the current dramedy will obviously hurt). Generally, though, we are becoming less and less reliant on the $1.95. We'd survive. It would be much more of a blow to the NDP, who have ramped-up spending in recent years thanks to it, and rely on it for a greater percentage of their budget. And killing the subsidy would decimate the BQ.

So actually, I think killing the subsidy would actually benefit the LPC because it would weaken the BQ and NDP. Which is why the Cons will probably only threaten to kill it: such a scenario isn't to their benefit.

ottlib, I agree, we need four years in purgatory. If only indeed...

Jymn, here's the thing. As I wrote, I don't think what we're seeing now is really about merging or defeating Harper, it's about leadership politics, and weakening the party going into the next election to open the door for a new face.

On the merits of a merger though, I think it's a very bad idea that won't defeat Harper. I've blogged on this at length before but, in short, a merger doesn't get you there. You can't just add up the two party's support like 1+1=2, because they have little in common. When the PCs and Reform merged it wasn't united the right, it was united the Mulroney party that split (minus the BQ) in the early 90s. And even then you had bleeding, as Red Tories jumped ship. Merge the LPC and NDP, you'll see blue Liberals go to Harper, and you'll see the left flank of the NDP leave and form their own purity party. I'm quite sure you'll see very little actual change in current vote counts.

I do support either a post-election coalition or cooperation agreement if it makes sense based on the results. But in the mean time, I believe that the way to defeat the Harper Conservatives is for the Liberal Party to get its act together, stop sucking, and offer Canadians a real, credible, honest-to-god alternative. And this dramedy is only making that harder.

Steven C. Britton said...

Something that really irks me about the Liberals is their attitude towards governing. Jeff refers to it as "in purgatory," here. I've heard a Liberal refer to it as "time in the penalty box". Most of the time, I hear Liberals use the term "natural governing party."

Liberals seem to have the attitude that the "natural order" of things implies that Canada is a country with the Liberal Party in power. The implication being that the Liberals have some kind of "divine right" to govern.

Newsflash: nobody has a divine right to govern. Not Liberals, not Conservatives, not Stephen Harper, and not Jack Layton, or even me.

Being elected to the House of Commons is a privilege bestowed upon people by the electorate in each of the 308 federal ridings. It is a privilege that can, at any point, be taken away. By extension, a government, be it Liberal or otherwise, only exists at the privilege of the electorate. There is no "natural order" or penalty box" or "purgatory."

To suggest that there is such a thing is arrogant and elitist, and very unbecoming.

Omar said...

Mere words cannot express my revulsion for the Harper government. I want them gone and I want them gone as soon as non-confidently or electorally possible. As I have no long term affiliations with either the NDP or Liberals I would like to see a merger and a Liberal Democratic Party is more than fine by me. Much more of this posturing (NDP) and floundering (Libs) and I'm headed Green. It's as simple as that.

Will said...

Great article, Jeff. I think you're dead on.

Steven C. Britton said...

Once again I am amused. This time by comments such as Omar's, where he expressed "revulsion" at Stephen Harper being Prime Minist; yet not once does anyone seem to explain, or detail what is so awful about Harper. The usual might appear at this point, "he's a bully" or, "he rules with an iron fist.". Guess what - Jean Chretien was a bully who ruled with an iron fist too. Chretien's strong-arm tactics weren't limited to his House of Commons collegues either: he grabbed a protester by the throat and shoved him aside, after deliberately veering off the original course his handlers had planned for him.

The point is that the argument coming from Liberals is, "he's a Conservative," as if that, in and of itself, disqualifies him from being Prime Minister. Once again, it's the Liberal elitism coming through: "only Liberals should govern, because Liberals have the Devine right to govern Canada."

Until the Liberals start putting forward some specifics, some critisism of Harper and the Conservatives that is based on what they've actually done while in office, then nobody is likely to take the Liberels seriously.