View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – It is too early to talk merger – May 9, 2011

Ottawa ON – Layton’s assertion that the NDP is the true alternative to the Conservatives and the NDP’s reluctance to talk about a merger with the Liberals makes sense, at least that is for the next four years. Riding on his party’s election victory Layton has his hands full and it won’t get any easier for quite some time.


Such talks would be a distraction from what should be the focus for the NDP right now- learning the role of Official Opposition. With a new caucus that will be a challenge to handle and train, Layton and his senior MPs have quite a task on their hands to mould their caucus into a “government-in-waiting” which is what the Official Opposition is supposed to be.

Nor will things get easier for Layton once the House resumes sitting. Over the last week Canadians have already had a few good chuckles at the NDP’s expense and once the House returns and all of their MPs come under the intense scrutiny of the media, we will probably have a few more. They will have to pick up their game quite a bit if they want voters to still vote “orange” in the next election. With so much on their plate, it is simply too early for the NDP to talk merger.

On the other hand, reality has not yet set in with the Liberals. The true extent of their defeat will only be felt when they hold a caucus meeting and so many former friends and colleagues are there to say good bye.  In the weeks that follow they will be looking around the caucus table at a hard core of survivors who will be determined to resurrect the brand.

The survivors won’t want to talk merger at this time as it is simply too early. Instead there will be lots of bravado and talk about how voters made a mistake this time and that their time will come next election if only…. Maybe their time will come again, maybe it won’t, the Liberal Party has always been fairly resilient and in spite of their present misfortune, still have an organization and a core of experienced MPs to draw upon.

Reality will sink in over time. In the initial weeks and months their experience will help the Liberals to get some positive media coverage, but as the NDP settle into their new role as the Official Opposition, they too will gain experience. With almost a 3 to 1 advantage in the number of questions they can ask, NDP MPs will garner the majority of the media coverage. With only an interim leader to head the Liberal caucus, they will soon find out that media attention will shift away from them and just how difficult it is to earn media and get into the public eye.

It is too early for either party to talk seriously about a merger. Give it time and eventually the advantages just might out weigh the disadvantages, but that time is still years away.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Scott Beck

1 Comment

  1. You got it right, Keith. The Libs have engaged in a lot of mood and perception altering experiments. The Liberals have a lot to ignore and should be busy for quite a while. I’ve no doubt our good friends in the NDP will provide a needed Circus Maximus. .I consulted the Oxford Dict. : ” liberal: respectful and accepting of behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas, favourable to individual rights and freedoms, favouring individual freedoms.

    So, I suppose the Liberals are saying, “well yeah, that’s us.” And everyone who voted against the Liberals said, “that’s not them – they ain’t liberal.” The problem isn’t one of perception. It’s one of actual, taking place, reality. Stop with the perception altering ads and the mood altering puffy promises. The population the Libs desire to vote Liberal in the future, is the population that adopted the term ‘subliminal seduction’ into the lexicon. Get real.

    The Liberals have lately remained contrary to their term and exist contrary to the best interest of those who would normally vote for them. The Liberals were most popular when they were liberal and understood that standing firmly in the middle of the road, is a place most frequently used by ten ton trucks.

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