Am Johal: NDP-Liberal merger DOA, but strategic cooperation on the table

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      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.


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      Sep 18, 2011 at 11:25am

      Strategy coordination finally!!!. I've been advocating this for twenty years.

      Next eradicating the Green Party like progressive forces in the US did after US Green Party leader Ralph Nader defeated the greatest greenie of all time Al Gore.


      Sep 18, 2011 at 12:01pm

      You are clearly guessing and wishful thinking. There is no chance we will see the NDP and the Libs not running a full slate of candidates. It just won't happen. The 100 constituencies would not stand for it. The Reform Party merged with the Progressive Conservatives and they had the same issues in regard to culture and the brand equity (sweat) you state as the reasons that you will not see a centre-left merger. The real problem for the centre- left consolidation would be that the sum of the parts would elect fewer overall MPs as a result of right of centre Liberals defecting to the Conservatives, and the left wing of the NDP defecting to the Greens.

      James G

      Sep 18, 2011 at 3:24pm


      (interesting handle btw)

      Your analysis is sound. If you recall Jack Layton's remarks during the leader's debate from the last federal election, the two parties that voted together most often in the previous House were the Liberals and Conservatives. Although the Liberals like to campaign centre-left, they always govern centre-right.

      You are correct about some slippage to the Green Party as well although that party is no more left than the Liberals. If there was a complication building what Layton called a "social democratic majority" in this country, it was the separatist forces in Quebec. They have been at least put on hold while the NDP is given a chance to perform. We can be certain they want to see what the existing party has in store rather than have it fade away into a merger with the political forces they most despise.

      Those calling out loudest for a merger are Liberals who arrogantly refuse to accept that the electorate has given them exactly what they deserve for their legacy of hypocrisy. They wrongly presume they would be entitled to the leadership of a new party and overturn their demise by colonizing it.

      NDP MP Pat Martin has suggested "getting into a room" with Liberals. I have written him to ask if his constituency association in Winnipeg Centre will be "getting into a room" to find an NDP candidate. If he wants the Liberals, there they are. His is always a shrill voice on every issue, left and right but the substance is usually shallow.

      Not now, not ever.


      Sep 18, 2011 at 6:17pm

      Not in a millions years.

      Isn't Christy a Federal Liberal?

      Isn't 1/2 of the coalition of the unscrupulous in this province Federal Liberals? The same coalition that would do or say anything to keep the provincial NDP out of power? The same coalition that has led the country in child poverty rates?

      I honestly can't believe true social-democrats would be for any kind of merger with this group.

      glen p robbins

      Sep 18, 2011 at 6:54pm

      I also agree with Denmanistan's position.


      Sep 18, 2011 at 8:03pm

      Did the Federal election in May change Canadian politics forever and now, have Jack Layton's last words inspired Canadians beyond what was previously thought possible?

      <blockquote>“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world."</blockquote>

      The results of the 5 provincial & territorial elections this fall should give some indication of how the NDP will fair in future elections.


      Sep 30, 2011 at 11:04pm

      I think a formal merger is the wrong way to go. My hope for the future of our electoral system will be to eventually have some sort of proportional voting system. It would be a mistake to evolve into a two party state, it will further disenfranchise voters and reduce participation. It's good to have a wide array of policies & people in our House of Commons to reflect Canadian diversity. Remember there are many former Progressive Conservatives who don't have a home in Harper's party due to its extreme right-wing views on most issues. We need an electoral alliance for the purpose of defeating Harper. He is stripping Canada of most everything by which we define ourselves as Canadians, and it will only get worse over the next 4 years. It's time to put the country ahead of the political parties. I also agree that without the funding, it will be easier to convince the Liberals and NDP to work together to rid us of Harper. This must happen. Merger, No, Alliance, Yes.