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The Insiders: Why not merge?


At the end of the evening Monday night Peter invited Jaime and me to put our partisan hats back on for some final observations.  I would like to take this opportunity to address more fully the issue of an NDP/Liberal merger, which the results have pushed to the forefront, and about which I have strong feelings.  So please excuse a post that is more argumentative than previous ones have been.

Why not merge?

1.  Because the two parties do not share a common voter base. 
According to a late campaign Ekos poll, only 37% of NDP supporters listed Liberal as their second choice and only fifty percent of Liberals said NDP was their second choice.  Liberal activists will recognize this in the common NDP/Conservative switcher phenomenon.

2.  Because Liberals are not collectivists. 
We believe fundamentally in the inalienable rights of individuals.  Canada would not have a Charter of Rights had there been no Liberal Party.  It was opposed vociferously by the NDP government of Saskatchewan.  Allan Blakeney, to whom Jack Layton dedicated this campaign, was an impressive man, but is almost solely responsible for the existence in the Charter of the odious Notwithstanding Clause.

3.  Because there are two kinds of NDP governments
There are those like Romanow, Harcourt, or Rae (in the latter part of his mandate), that are essentially Liberal governments in disguise, and there are those that run failed economic experiments.  If the idea is to create the former, there is no real need for Liberals to join the NDP.  If the idea is to create the latter, you belong in the NDP.

4.  Because when Jean Chretien and Paul Martin were saving the economy back in the 1990's, they were able to do sensible things like trim back the size of the civil service without having to answer to trade union party bosses.

5.  Because merger is what Harper wants. 
Why has Harper been dedicated to the destruction of the Liberal Party?  Because it is a far more formidable electoral foe than the NDP can ever be.  Harper knows that in a polarized system, the Conservatives will play the role of "Natural Governing Party", and the NDP will play the role of default when the government really has to be thrown out.  Why would Liberals want to join a party that will win as often as the Washington Generals?

6.  Because adding one-fifth of a national party to two-thirds of a national party does not equal a full national party anyway. 
The NDP are a fifty seat party right now with a 50 seat Quebec bonus.  The Liberal Party has lost almost all of its centre/centre right voters over the past seven years and 35 days. People who call the Liberal Party "left-leaning" do not understand it.   Liberal success has been built on balance.  For every Paul Martin - a Bob Winters, for every Jean Marchand - a John Turner, for every Lloyd Axworthy - an Anne McLellan.  Those centre-right Liberals will not be able to be brought into the NDP, but the Liberal Party can take them back from the Conservatives.

7.  Because the territory the Liberal Party has in the past, and can again occupy, is the sweet spot of Canadian politics. 
If you dropped party labels and asked Canadians if they would vote for a socialist party of the left, a conservative party of the right, or a centrist party based on the principles of individual rights, opportunity and compassion, they would choose that Liberal option every time.

8.  Because the NDP, especially under Layton and with this new caucus, hold views about the federation and Quebec's role in it that are anathema to most Liberals.

9.  Because centrist, brokerage politics provides the best government for a country as diverse as Canada.
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