By Joan Bryden, Globe and Mail, April 16, 2012
Jean Chrétien is still promoting the idea of Liberals and New Democrats merging into one federal party, despite strong objections to the NDP’s approach to Quebec independence.
In an interview Monday, the former Liberal prime minister dismissed suggestions that a merger now – when the Liberals have been reduced to a third-party rump and New Democrats are on the rise – would amount to an NDP takeover of his once-mighty party.
Interim leader, Bob Rae, denounces the idea, while other pundits posit a middle road, of a completely new party, starting from "scratch" to determine if the ideas people want to fight for are strong and wide enough to generate such a party.
In the NDP, opinion was obviously divided during the recent campaign for their leader, with Nathan Cullen arguing for co-operation, meaning that where Liberals are strong, the NDP would not run candidates to oppose them, and where the NDP is strong the Liberals would reciprocate.
He did not win, but his campaign generated both heat and light among many of that party's leaders.
I have written here, previously, that I neither favoured the merger of the NDP and the Liberals, nor did I expect it to happen. That was before so many of the truly regressive and unpalatable and ignominious acts and attitudes of the current government were laid bare for all Canadians to see, to contemplate and to refute.
Now, the situation is quite different.
Canada cannot afford, in the broadest sense of that word, another term of this government, with its anti-environment, pro-corporate, anti-rehabilitation, pro-punishment, grow the government with their own appointees-and cut thousands of civil servants (allegedly to save millions) but really to keep their own appointees and dismiss those of previous Liberal governments who are undoutedly anathema to their ideology, pro monuments to their political ego (jets, ships, prisons) and anti real crime prevention (scrapping the long-gun registry), pro-west and anti-Quebec....and the list goes on and on....not to mention the modus operandi of memorised talking points that simply deny reality to upstage and to talk over even the most temperate of interviewers....this government has to be dismissed in the election of 2015, if there is no legitimate step to dismiss them prior to that date.
And, if merger, which would be no walk in the park, and would cause considerable bruising and wailing and gnashing of teeth, would serve to bring all of Canada's people, ideas and campaign finances to bear on a unified campaign to oppose Harper and his government, then merger it is!
There is currently only limited evidence that Liberals, on their own, are regaining their once-prominent, sustainable and credible stature, although the current caucus is "punching far above its weight" in the commons, in the media and deserves huge accolades, including the interim leader, Bob Rae. There is also limited evidence that the NDP have made, or are likely to make, significant break-throughs in regions in Canada where they are traditionally soft or absent, in spite of a vigorous campaign for leadership, and the election of Tom Mulcair.
Mr. Rae says he is not running a political seminar, but rather a political party facing issues that matter to the Canadian people every day. True enough. And all Canadians respect him for that heroic effort. But it will take, in our view, the combined force, intellect, imagination and resources of both Liberal and NDP parties to convince Canadians that we have had enough of this Canadian version of the Tea Party, and it is past time for it to exit the national stage.