Keith Beardsley’s View From the Hill – To Merge or Not to Merge ? August 31, 2011

CFN – There has been much media speculation this past week about potential merger talks between the Liberals and the NDP, but it is simply too early for them. Neither side is ready for a merger

Both parties have not yet reached the point that the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives were at in 2003. We considered a merger after fighting an all out war with each other for over a decade. Only then did it slowly sink in that we were wasting time, resources and energy fighting each other, rather than the common enemy- the Chretien government.

Ignatieff’s Facebook comment “Sitting together in the same hall, isn’t it obvious how much we have in common” is pretty accurate, but it won’t win him any supporters for potential talk of a merger between the two rival parties. Neither will it win Justin Trudeau, Denis Coderre and Pat Martin any friends, in fact they might lose a few as hardcore partisans dig in their heals to oppose any discussions with “the enemy”. A potential PC Party and Canadian Alliance merger had one additional point in its favour, while we fought each other at the federal level, members of the Canadian Alliance and PC Party often joined forces to assist local provincial conservative candidates in Ontario and elsewhere. The Liberals and NDP don’t have that opportunity as they oppose each other at the provincial level as well.

At this point in time, any talk of a potential merger or coalition will be quickly squelched by party officials, Liberal leader Bob Rae and potential NDP leadership candidates. Any NDP leadership candidate proposing a merger will find out how quickly they lose support and votes. At the same time the Liberals cannot openly talk about a merger with the NDP as this would be an admission that they can never regain power on their own. At this point in time, I doubt many would ever want to admit that publically.

There have been some suggestions that the Liberals and NDP could cooperate in Question Period and this is a valid point. A united strategy could offer them the opportunity to work together, coordinate strategy and better hold the government to account.

Back in 2000, this is exactly what the then Reform Party and PC Party did during the Transitional Job Fund scandal. Some may recall the “Billion Dollar Boondoggle” which was a phrase coined by yours truly and first used by PC Party MP Jean Dube in a question to Jane Stewart the HRSDC minister. At that time the two parties cooperated for a short time on Question Period preparation, sharing research, tips and even going so far as to decide who would ask what question and when. It was a short-lived but excellent example of cooperation that merged their superior research skills and budget with our experience from being in government and our knowledge of how minister’s offices functioned and the department worked.

I might add that the NDP and Bloc also met with us for a short time, before going their own way on the issue. This was one of the few times that I experienced full cooperation between all four opposition parties on an issue.

The Liberals and the NDP both need more time out of government before there is any chance of merger talks moving forward. Right now neither of them is frustrated enough with their inability to form a government and they need a few more disappointing elections under their belt before they can consider the merger option.  In the mean time, die hard partisans will be very public about the folly of a merger of the two parties and proponents will be scorned. While the two parties spend years fighting each other as well as the Conservatives, Harper will enjoy a divided opposition and have time on his side to reinforce the Conservative brand as he moves forward with his agenda.

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.



  1. Your article and perception is bang-on. I would say accurate insight and balanced assessment portraying facts and reality exact as it is without partisan BS. A informative read indeed. Thank you.

  2. The Dippers and Libs have a few years to get their shit together, elect new leaders and come to the same conclusion that the PCs and Reformers came to a few years ago. If the Libs are really lucky, and play their cards right, the Dippers might offer a marriage proposal. In the meantime, the Libs are still tearing themselves apart with ego driven infighting. If it goes on much longer, they will totally self destruct, and the Dippers will be the only center-left party, which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

  3. “Harper will enjoy a divided opposition and have time on his side to reinforce the Conservative brand as he moves forward with his agenda.”

    That actually really worries me… 4 years to force on us stuff that we may not necessarily need, and already I see some nasty things going on in this country. Soon half this country will be incarcerated and the other half will be running the private for profit prisons, that is the ultimate solution after all right? Slowly our society is being eroded, and its going to have detrimental consequences for us all.

  4. Infighting I believe is the biggest problem for the Liberals. A leader is required who among other things is palatable, can build bridges and convince knives to be sheathed, to unite in common direction and to move forward with a solid, relevant game plan.

    In May Liberals voted to not explore a merger. Recently a few voices have expressed concept of merger, however the original ‘no merger’ consensus remains strongly entrenched. In four years perhaps there is change of heart.

    To serve as official opposition the NDP are relishing this first-time experience and full of confidence. As such they feel no pressing need of a merger. Although they feel they can continue their rise, personally I have my doubts. I look at recent events and think they will step on many of the landmines that await. For example Turmel was not a wise choice and Davies pushing for pension reform was not smart. If this is experienced voices what happens when things get moving in Parliament and the rookies push forth!

    Bottom line is Liberals and NDP must merge. Harper is a tactician and is with a awesome political machine… well organized, solid game plan and superb fund raising success. His popularity slowly increases and “hidden agenda” and “be afraid” monikers bantied about by the far left no longer resonate with the electorate. Harper and the Conservatives will be more popular in four years and a divided left will hand him another majority.

  5. I hope you’re wrong Grimalot, but I fear you might not be. They’re not gonna spend billions on expanding the prison system and then not use it.

    Yup. After all these years, the Chretien people and the Martin people are still still at war. If these people don’t grow up or quit the party soon, the Libs will be toast for a long time. It’ll be interesting to see if any will make the leap to the Cons or NDP. Bet it looks tempting to some.

  6. That Harper is with a majority has me ecstatic. I very much believe change is needed away from do-nothing political correctness of past. Things are not yet active in Parliament but already the Conservatives are enacting logic and common sense. Gun Registry and Immigration being two most recent examples, Kyoto Accord a recent previous example. Harper’s voicing support for Israel is not politically correct but certainly to me is more logic and common sense than supporting Hamas and Hezbollah factions. In current global downturn I feel it’s fortunate Harper the economist is our PM and not the alternative candidates of previous election. Harper is speaking at or chairing numerous foreign forums which to me reflects a growing global respect for our PM, but also, that he is busy promoting and inking numerous trade agreements bodes well for us. We are and shall long term be locked to the US as our major trading partner but it is obvious we must diversify and seek new markets.

    Four years of Harper and the Conservatives I am looking forward to. To see/realize current state of affairs with the Liberals and NDP I feel fortunate they do not have their hands on the levers of power. I am happy the opposition has been pushed to irrelevance for the next four years. That being said also I hope the left becomes stronger and provides strong opposition after next election fours hence as I do not believe ongoing majority governments are good for a country. Too much power for too long has tendency to corrupt. For now Harper is with freedom to govern without interference of partisan politics. I believe we are in need of such for next four years and believe he will do so with prudence, logic and common sense. I find that refreshing and look forward to the next four years.

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