Saturday, June 18, 2011

UPDATE! Hebert on NDP-Liberal merger: we say premature and unlikely

UPDATE: (August 30, 2011)Both former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, just thiw past weekend have publicly thrown their combined weight to the idea of a merger between the Liberal PArty of Canada and the New Democratic Party!!! Those voices, along with Denis Coderre and with his 'toe in the water calling it 'blue-skying' Justin Trudeau have added considered heft to the growing chorus of voices recommending the merger....We will continue watching!
By Chantal Hebert, Toronto Star, June 18, 2011
Quebecers are hardly alone in their interest for a coming-together of the Liberals and the NDP. Polls have shown that non-Conservative voters are generally more sympathetic to the idea than the two parties that purport to represent their views in the Commons.

Since the election, the federal Liberal establishment has gone out of its way to ward off talk of a rapprochement with the NDP.
At the same time the election result has convinced many New Democrats that they can go it alone. On Sunday, the convention will be asked to support a resolution designed to shut the door to any merger with the Liberals.
Yet, when all is said and done, nothing would divide the Liberal grassroots more than an offer of cooperation from the NDP.
Now that it is in the driver’s seat, wisdom would at least suggest that the NDP road-test its new status before foreclosing the option of going down the road of an arrangement with the Liberals.
There is little to suggest that the NDP will turn down a proposal to shut the door on a Liberal-NDP alliance in Vancouver this weekend. Although they are in Vancouver, they are in the same rarified air that hangs over Boston this week, where the celebrations are on the winning of the Stanley Cup. For the NDP, they share an exuberance similar to that of the Bruins, although their victory is hardly analogous or even remotely similar.
Quebecers in the thousands wanted and voted for a progressive government, and smiling Jack Layton, with his cane, his hip replacement and his availability attracted those votes. Many of his candidates were merely "names" on a nomination form, for the purpose of offering a "national campaign." Without those votes, the NDP would be holding its convention this weekend in a phone booth on Granville Street in Vancouver.
There is no perception of the need to join the Liberals from the helium-inflated, air-walking NDP, feasting on headlines like, "We are ready to form the next government."
For the Liberals, Bob Rae, interim leader, has committed to the party that he will not consider, or enter, conversations with his former political allies, so long as he holds the interim post. Yet, this requirement too, seems more than a little misguided. The conservatives will be virtually impossible to defeat if two centre-left parties run against them for the obvious reason that  those two opponents will divide the vote between them, leaving the conservatives clear sailing. Fundraising for the conservatives will also be facilitated and enhanced by two opposition parties fighting over the same dollars, now that the federal portion of funding is being removed by the Harper majority.
It is in building bridges between the lower and middle classes (as one) and the corporations and big money that is and will continue to be the challenge for the left in Canada. Resisting government action on the environment, building prisons, and fortifying the military are all calculated to secure and embed the support of the upper class, the have's, for a long time. And that is obviously Harper's agenda, along with the permanent destruction of the Liberal Party, a feat he is quite far along to accomplishing.
It must seem too obvious and too easy for some Liberals to contemplate hooking their wagon to the NDP success, and minimizing the task of rethinking, and rebuilding their party from the ground up. Nevertheless, a complete rebuild needs to follow the dismembering that occurred on May 2 in order for the Liberal Party to find its bearings, to find its relevance and to discern whether the future includes an alliance or not.
That decision makes sense only after an extended and critical self-examination done in public, to the accompaniment of intellectually stimulating provocation from outside the party as well as from within.
In Europe, the future of the middle-way parties is bleak if not virtually foreclosed. In the U.S. third parties have often been Roman candles, shooting high for a brief moment, and then lying and smouldering in their own ashes in the dirt.
Is that the fate to which the Liberal Party must bow? In Canada, that would seem a little less guaranteed, especially with the history and tradition of the Liberal Party on which to build. Eaton's would never amalgamate with Simpson's, in order to block Sears from an invasion from the south. General Motors would never merge with Ford to withstand an invasion from Japan. And certainly Dominion Stores would never merge with Sobey's to fend off an invasion from the A & P. It is often the corporate models that attract political insiders. And while the merger has defined the last two decades in the corporate world, those companies, or at least many of them, were recent entrants into the race, and not long-standing cultures and heritages. One significant exception is the airline industry where the merger of large companies was necessary to ensure the continuation of some, where those mergers worked to the advantage of both.
However, it will be a question of hubris and confidence, that likely determines the final outcome of a merger between the Liberals and the NDP. If either party thinks and believes that it does not need the other, then hubris will win over political necessity. If both parties can see, seek and find enough that is mutually beneficial in a marriage, especially with the wave of conservative cashflow creating a tsunami in that direction, then the realization of the finite resources people are willing to contribute to the political process may be the agent of humility that brings the two parties to the same conclusion.
For the foreseeable future, one (the NDP) cannot see beyond its euphoria, and the other (Liberal) can barely see beyond its humiliation...and good decisions are never made from either "place". So let's not look for a change in the direction of a unified party in the short run, at least for two years.
And then, if the Liberals have succeeded in electing a new leader and their fortunes have turned, any interest in a merger may have dissipated in another wave of confidence.

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