No more talk of NDP-Liberal merger: Broadbent

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent tells CBC Radio's The House that his party's success in Monday's election will bring an end to talk of a merger with the Liberals.
Ed Broadbent, left, listens as NDP Leader Jack Layton, right, speaks during a 2008 campaign stop. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent says his party's success in Monday's election will bring an end to talk of a merger with the Liberals. 

The NDP's seat count in the House of Commons shot up from 36 to 102, giving them the title of official Opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative majority government.

With NDP Leader Jack Layton heading back to the House as the leader of the official Opposition, Broadbent told CBC Radio's The House he doesn't think talk of a merger between the two parties is going anywhere.  

"The conversation might have … taken place if in this election the NDP and the Liberals between them constituted a majority, i.e., Mr. Harper didn't get a majority," Broadbent told host Kathleen Petty in an interview that aired Saturday morning.  

"Then there would have been a whole new scenario discussed and quite a different government might have taken shape. But we are in a historically quite different position where the NDP is quite clearly dominant in numbers and I say and have said this already to some in the Liberal Party who are social democrats, that now's the time to join the NDP."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who failed to win his own seat in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore, resigned after the Liberals retained only 34 of their 77 seats.  

The Liberals' monumental defeat in Monday's election revived talk among some pundits about whether Canada's left and centre political parties need to merge to take on the centre-right Conservatives.  

Until Monday, Broadbent had been the most successful federal NDP leader, with 43 MPs in the House in 1988. He was head of the party from 1975 to 1989 and returned to Parliament for two years starting in 2004.  

Broadbent said Layton focused on his social democrat message. He said all the opposition parties — the NDP, Liberals, Bloc Québécois and Green Party — had a more progressive agenda than the Tories.  

"What they campaigned on, whether it's health care, housing programs, you name it. Their agenda was more in accord, I believe, with the majority of Canadians than Mr. Harper," he said.  

'Discipline and coherence'

A majority government, Broadbent added, will help the NDP cement itself as an official Opposition and contender for government. 

"You have to listen and lead, and the MPs will have to get a sense of discipline and coherence," he said. "And that's the good point about having four years for Jack and the caucus, the older members, to bring everyone together and become very credible to the people of Canada."  

The new MPs, some of whom are in their early 20s, will take "a lot of managerial skill, which Jack has in spades," Broadbent added.   This weekend's episode of The House also features Louise Elliott on the Conservative majority win and their priorities as a majority government, as well as a post-election wrap-up with journalists Tom Clark and Kevin Newman.