Ever since the 2010 British general elections and the creation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat governing coalition almost a month ago, the discussion about a potential Liberal-New Democrat coalition and/or merger has resurfaced in the the Canadian political news scene. While there was rhetoric from both pro-coalition and anti-coalition sides, as well as support from some members of both Liberal and New Democrat parties, leaders of both parties denied that any new coalition deal was taking place and rejected any coalition deals or discussions before the outcome of the next federal election. Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has stated “We had some discussion of this ridiculous discussion of fusion of the two parties. No one has any authorization to even discuss this matter. It’s ridiculous. I am a Liberal. I am proud to be a Liberal. The people around me are Liberals. We are going to form a Liberal government.”
The Globe and Mail reported that while Ignatieff has denied any merger or coalition discussion were taking place, members of the Liberal caucus and senior party officials were debating the issue amongst themselves.
Last time there was talk of coalition in Canadian politics, many individuals and political groups across Canada called for a “progressive coalition”, or a “coalition of the left”. The problem with such a statement is due the political landscape of Canada and the political identities of the four major political parties: The Bloc Québécois are essentially a party advocating the separation of Québec from Canada and can easily fluctuate in terms of the traditional political ideologies, depending on the leader; The Conservatives are a big-tent party that unites everyone from Red Tories to Blue Tories, Monarchists to Republicans, Capitalists to Mixed Market folk, and more; The NDP are obviously a social democratic party. What is hard to pinpoint is the Liberal Party. While most folk would state that the Liberal Party is either a centrist party or a centre-left party, but according to John Tory and Bill Carroll on their 5:30pm segment on CFRB (AM1010) a month ago, the Liberal Party and its provincial counterparts are essentially a party of opportunists. Like the Conservative Party, the Liberal Party is a big tent party. Essentially, it is a political party that includes the left, the right, the centralists, and other groups.
The fact that the Liberal Party is a party of opportunists, the idea of merger with the New Democrats would be out of the question and in fact (as Ignatieff said) ridiculous for many of their members who are small-c conservatives but are Liberals because of the apparent opportunity it provides and the general dislike of the former Reform/Alliance portion of the Conservative Party. A party merger would also be against the long-term goals of the Liberal Party and its members. A governing coalition, on the other hand, would be in the interests of the Liberal Party’s short-term goals. What would destroy the legitimacy of a governing coalition between the Liberals and the New Democrats is if (1) the two parties rule out a governing coalition before the election and/or do not campaign on a common platform, and/or if (2) the Liberals and the New Democrats remain number 2 and 3, respectively, as it would constitute a “coalition of losers” which will damage the reputation and hurt the long-term goals of both parties.
Until they resolve the issues surrounding the creation of a new coalition deal, the Liberals and the New Democrats should stay away from any deal.