Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's time for the party saints to step into the light

The leader of the Liberal Party is against a merger with the NDP. So is every MP who has spoken on or off the record about it, including those seen as the most likely heirs apparent. Every party executive I've heard from is opposed. The leader of the NDP, the party we'd supposedly merge with, is firmly against it, along with every one of their MPs that has spoken on or off the record about it. The media pundits think it's ridiculous (usually a cause for closer consideration, to be honest). And as for the grassroots, if you want to believe polling, most Liberals are opposed, most NDPers are opposed, and so are most Canadians. Which echoes the bulk of the conversations I've had.

Still, though, it's the story that refuses to die. Because there do appear to be at least a few people that think a merger is a good idea (outside the Langevin Block, that is): a handful of so-called (it's unclear by who) party saints. On these reports, the fragile flame is kept alive against all else, instead of engulfing Harper's G20 billion dollar boondoggle, or, just for fun, actual policy shortcomings.

Who are these saints? The most often reported names are Jean Chretien on the Liberal side, and Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow. Today, Romanow went public with some comments on the matter. To date, Broadbent and Chretien have not.

Now, I think a merger is a terrible idea. For one, it won't work. You'll lose Liberal votes on the right to the Conservatives and NDP votes on the left to a more socialist alternative, leaving you no further ahead (and maybe even a little more behind). The math doesn't work. It's also unnecessarily. While our situation is poor, it has been worse in the recent past. With hard work, we can turn it around. This merger talk, however, is only making that much more difficult, making Liberal weakness the issue at a time when we have good narratives against the Conservatives. Absolutely, consider a coalition post-election if the math makes sense. But a merger? Madness.

That's just the opinion of this humble blogger, of course. Others will, and do, have other opinions. And the ability to discuss and debate those opinions freely and openly, in the light of day, should be what our party is about.

I'm a big fan of Jean Chretien. I don't look back at his time in office with rose-coloured glasses, but he was a fighter and a passionate defender of Canada who did a lot of great things for this country, and did it with style. He was a great Prime Minister, and he is a great Canadian.

If Mr. Chretien is the Liberal saint here, if he does believe a merger with the NDP is needed, justified and a good idea, if he is indeed, against the wishes of the current leadership, working with NDP saints to advance this idea, then he owes to his fellow Liberals, and I think to Canadians, to come into the light and tell us why he feels as he does.

This should not, and can not, be a back-room process, negotiated by self-appointed party elders and then presented to the party memberships, and the leadership for that matter, with a flourish. This is my Liberal Party too, and we all deserve better then that. This isn't something for the back rooms and it's not something for saints, no matter how well intentioned. It's for the people. You can't expect it to succeed any other way.

So please, Mr. Chretien. If the reports linking you to this process are false, please repudiate them. And if they're accurate, then please share your reasoning with us. Maybe you'll convince me. Maybe you won't. We'll never know unless you try.

Because saints don't belong in the dark. And I think the little guy from Shawinigan would agree.

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RayK said...

I think we have to consider the possibility that the idea of a merger is being allowed to linger out there in the ether in order encourage the full consideration of less extreme options like a coalition.

That would certainly explain why a man like Jean Chretien would be choosing not to make his own views explicitly clear.

DL said...

That's actually an interesting theory that may have something to it. Realistically, merger is a complete non-starter for reasons that have been enumerated many times. But the more the array of options get discussed - the more likely it is that the public will be prepared for what will finally happen. Merger is never going to happen. I think the Liberals will merge with the Conservatives before they merge with the NDP! A pre-election coalition deal is also unlikely given that it would require some sort of a common platform negotiated in advance and possibly non-compete deals in certain ridings - never gonna happen in the near future.

So we are back to "square two" - if no party has a majority after the next election, the NDP and Liberals are prepared to try to form a government.

Ignatieff's original "square one" (I refuse to work with any other party and I will only govern if I can do it alone) is now dead. This is good.

Brett Klassen said...

Hey, nice read.
I'm a conservative... And I totally agree with you, I don't think a merger with those Socialists would help you out much.

RuralSandi said...

Chretien better be careful here. Romanow - is he wanting this for the NDP? Nanos said this whole divide among the "former" leaders and the parties will destroy the Liberals in the next election.

If it is Chretien's plan to destroy Ignatieff - he's toast as far as I am concerned. The Party should come first.

When the NDP/Libs went together in Sask under Romanow - the Liberals never came back in Sask - think about it.

Chretien forget that in the late 80's he polled at about 27%?

Anonymous said...

Whether Chretien is right or wrong, you can bet that his tactics of saying only a little bit have a good reason behind them.
I've learned that you can tell it's an idea worth talking about when conservatives are calling something childish names like "loser". When they do, it's because it's what they fear the most.

ricky said...

No one plays in the political world of Canada better than JC. He is a master at it. I suspect that this has more to do with opening the door to realistic thoughts of a coalition government, even if the Libs end up with less seats than Harper in the next election.