December 29, 2009

Canadian Political Party: Liberals Soldier On or Merge?

For a certain Canadian political party, the Liberal Party of Canada, the future is unclear.

More and more every day on t.v. and radio news programs and in print publications chatter is centering on the political future of the Liberals. It's hard to believe that it was just half a year ago that they were deadlocked with the Conservatives in the Canadian political polls.

Since then leader Michael Ignatieff has seen his popularity drop along with that of his party. Canadians didn't seem to take too kindly to the possibility of another election so soon.

So what's next? Luckily for Ignatieff a new year is right around the corner. A new start, a new and possibly last chance to turn the poll numbers around. Liberal supporters need to feel enthused about their party and their leader -a feeling that generally lacks as 2009 comes to a close. He is on notice and you cannot attribute all the party's problems to him alone.

History is not on Ignatieff's side.

A lot of the talk in the media lately (including Canadian political blogs) has focused on the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger. Such an idea is unthinkable to many Liberals but I seem to remember a similarly "crazy" idea back in 2003 when the Progressive Conservative Party and Canadian Alliance merged into one super-party. The right of centre was united as one entity while the left-of-centre was still fractured into several parties.

It's a simple numbers game.

In the current political context the numbers do not favour the Liberals. Many members of the Canadian political party believe that if they just have the right person to lead the party everything will be o.k. and they can go back to the good ol' days of seemingly endless rule. This view is incorrect. It would take a "perfect storm" of circumstances and events that would lead to the Liberals winning the next Canadian federal election if it comes in 2010.

The Conservative government would have to make some serious mistakes (serious, not trivial) and the NDP would have to lose some support (it has been gaining support over the last 6 months) and the Liberals and Ignatieff would have to run a near-perfect campaign. Could it happen? Possibly? Yes. Unlikely Yes.

I'm not a pessimist, just a realist.

As I looked into the issue of a Liberal-NDP merger I examined the provincial politics to see how such a merger would affect politics in the provinces and I call tell you that such a merger would not change the provincial Canadian political system generally. In B.C. however, things get a little tricky as two parties in action there are the NDP and the BC Liberals who are not affiliated with the federal Liberal Party of Canada. The BCL's membership is derived from federal Liberal and Conservative supporters.

As a centrist who favours relatively conservative fiscal policy and moderately liberal social policy I personally identify best with the Liberals as my Canadian political party of choice; no party in Canada represents my political views more accurately. I want us to win. If we could avoid a merger that would be ideal but I just don't foresee that happening given the historical and current political context.

It just does not add up.

The average Canadian voter needs a clear choice. Voters from the centre to centre-left are splitting their vote between the the NDP and the Liberals, diminishing the possibility of either party forming a majority government. Times have changed. We might have to swallow our pride and change with it. I always liked the fact that we had a multi-party system and with a merger that system would remain.

It takes bold and tough choices to achieve great results. Stephen Harper understood that well in 2003.

I'd like to hear some input from Liberal supporters on this so post a comment and let me know what you think about a potential Liberal-NDP merger.

see related: Ally the left-of-centre?

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