Am Johal: NDP-Liberal merger DOA, but strategic cooperation on the table
There has been much media speculation the past few weeks of the possibility of a merger between the federal NDP and the Liberals. For a series of reasons, it is an unrealistic scenario.
The culture and the histories of the parties are built upon real policy differences. The relationships, core supporters, and funders come from different constituencies. There is too much sweat equity invested in building these parties from their respective memberships that an outright merger would be perceived as an injustice to the decades of work that has gone in to developing these parties.
That being said, the political situation has altered significantly from even last year when possible merger talks were floated as a possibility back in June 2010. The NDP is now the Official Opposition. Its negotiating position vis-à-vis the Liberals has improved significantly. The last election also saw the decimation of the separatist Bloc Québecois, another impediment to cooperation.
Additionally, the Conservatives promise to get rid of public funding for political parties will mean the incentive to run candidates in every riding to ensure maximum funding is no longer relevant. That move by the Conservatives will actually contribute to their own downfall.
With a Conservative majority in the House of Commons and the Senate, and with the majority of Canadians not voting for the Conservatives, there will be significant support for some cooperation between the NDP and Liberals when their respective leadership races are over.
For example, if the NDP decided not to run 50 candidates in targeted ridings and the Liberals decided not to run 50 candidates other targeted ridings during the next election, it would cut off the possibility of a Conservative majority at the pass. This is what "strategic cooperation" would look like in real terms on the ground.
If electoral patterns hold in 2015, Canada could see either an NDP majority government or an NDP minority government with a Liberal balance of power, or a coalition government. With a Conservative majority for the foreseeable future, all possibilities are on the table, but it is more likely to be strategic cooperation rather than a merger.
Am Johal is a Vancouver writer, social activist, and former provincial NDP candidate.