There's some talk about the Libs and the NDP merging to defeat the Harper Cons. As a Disaffected Lib who went into exile because of Ignatieff and his bungled attempt to shift the LPC to the right in harmony with Harper's shift of the Conservatives to the far right, I suppose I should be keen on the idea - but I'm not. In fact, I think a merger of the parties would be an admission of failure by both.
Let's take stock. Power was never the Layton NDP's to be had. Much as I respect them in some ways, the NDP have been and will for the foreseeable future remain a rump party. The idea of them ascending to power on the Liberals' coattails will unsettle a lot of people. The whole will be lesser than the sum of its parts. Maybe it could be enough to displace Harper with a stronger left-of-centre minority, but for how long? If anything I think this could work to the Conservatives' advantage in the medium and long-term.
On the other side of the ledger we have Ignatieff but just what is that? It's a leader with great academic credentials who has utterly failed at presenting a coherent policy platform that resonated with the voting public. Should Ignatieff's personal failure be just cause to drive the Libs into the NDP's arms? What Ignatieff has shown is that he is a man of the right of centre. Assuming he would expect to lead the merged entity, just how would he consolidate the support of the left? While I've steadfastly opposed the IgLibs drift to the right, Ignatieff is what he is and that rules out him leading a determined, centre-left party.
Having spent enough time looking in from the outside, I'm convinced the Liberals' problem is, fortuitously, at the top. I really don't believe there's all that much wrong with the Party beyond having strayed from its traditional place in Canadian politics. That the Party insiders happened to choose two, fatally flawed leaders in a row surely is more a reflection on the failure of those insiders and the individuals they chose than on the party of Laurier, Pearson and Trudeau.
How many people are capable of leading a rejuvenated, truly progressive Liberal Party? I can think of a couple and I'm sure there are vastly more. It's not going to be easy staging a comeback. It'll take a powerful, insightful and courageous person - another Trudeau (only Pierre, not Justin). I happen to know just the person to fit the bill - Louise Arbour - but I'm sure there are others. You've got to discard the Volpes and the Manleys, the whole not-quite-good-enough Old Guard.
Canada is on the threshold today of enormous, multi-generational and even existential challenges. There's more than enough meat on them bones to formulate a powerful Liberal platform instead of the thin gruel we've offered up these past few years. But you can't formulate that without vision that can be embraced by the voting public. Truth be told, I never believed Michael Ignatieff wasn't capable of that vision. I remain convinced, however, that he's not willing to trust ordinary Canadians with his vision, that he doesn't believe we as a people are capable of rallying to face great challenges. I truly believe Michael Ignatieff doesn't offer enough to this country to deserve leading our nation whether as a minority prime minister, a coalition head or the leader of a merged "Liberal-Democrat" party. He's staked out his turf and he's going to have to live there.
Canada needs and deserves a truly centrist party just as it needs and deserves another party to anchor the left of the Canadian political spectrum. That has benefited us in many ways I think we fail to appreciate. By standing on principle, serving as the conscience of parliament, the NDP has operated as an effective check preventing the Libs from drifting too far to the right. Reduce English Canada to a two-party state and, before long, you're apt to wind up with a Lib-Dem party resembling Tony Blair's Labour and a corporatist political structure closely resembling America's Democrats and Republicans. Who could wish that on our Canada?