Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Merger? I Don't Think So.

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?


Okie said...

Well, the Spinner has created quite the conundrum. An interesting situation no doubt, and certainly has people talking. I'm wondering if Jean is looking for anudder kick at the can or just a means to pull the important strings?

About Arbour, certainly her reputation speaks well of her but do you think she has the instincts to deal with the National political arena?

Is there a slippery pitbull side to her?

The Mound of Sound said...

If anything, Okie, I think Arbour's instincts and aptitudes are ideal for political leadership. Her legal experience was impeccable. Supreme Court of Canada Justice, UN Human Rights Commissioner, International Court chief warcrimes prosecutor. She repeatedly proved herself perfectly capable of standing up to despots and even the full court press from the Cheney White House. Unlike the current management, she'd make very short work of a petty thug like Harper.

Okie said...

Yes, the background is clear but what about the interest and the opportunity? First is she interested, second are her main qualities desirable to Liberal Party upper echelon?

She has shown herself to be a person who commits to doing what is right and to fulfill her mandate as she sees it, rather than how others would like it to be done. Therein comes the value of the slippery pitbull. Unfortunately. The skills that someone like Chretien has/had were acquired largely in the political arena if you get my drift. Also, it didn't hurt Jean that Canadians were ready to elect anybody but Mulroney when he got the nod. Add some slippery, and presto!

I'm wondering if she is the type of person that leaders of either of our leading party's see as desirable? Seems to me, so much of being a polittical party leader is the comfort zone the backroom group have in their ability to control said leader.

Another thought derived from your assessment of Harper. When I watched his Utube debut I noted how he addressed the issue of legalizing marijuana, which I would describe as simplistic as well as about 8 decades out of date. What he did though was talk down to a group of people who largely only understand a message when expressed in a simplistic way. That could be a challenge for someone as gifted and knowledgable as Arbour.

I'm just looking at it from the point of politcal realities and what is and is not saleable. Same as I did with Dion's announcement on the Carbon tax, and the Cons only slightly veiled pokes at his English during the last days of the election campaign. A calculated risk methinks.

That said, there are no shortage of positive political considerations as well and surely she would pass muster in Quebec. As so much of the liberals success is tied to giving them what they want i.e. Bill C 232, her candidacy should produce positive political results.

The Mound of Sound said...

Your points are well taken, Okie. I'm sure she would ruffle more than a few feathers at the top insider ranks of the LPC and those lining up to succeed Ignatieff. However those are the same feathers that have brought the LPC to the ditch it stands in today and they need a good ruffling.

The question is whether she would be interested. As the recently appointed head of the International Crisis Group that's far from clear. However she's never sat too long in one spot whether on the SCC, the ICJ or the UN Humanitarian Affairs office.

A couple of years back I had an e-mail exchange with Ignatieff over Arbour. He said top Libs had reached out to her a couple of times but no luck yet.

Anonymous said...

you are right about Icky,Iggy.

The merger would have to be a merger, everybody comes on equal footing, and all previous status is just past history. A leader is elected.
All the policies and issues were thoroughly debated and rewritten at EnFamille but not one on the upper echelons participated to my knowledge.
Take a look and compare to NDP and the policies are very similar.
Grassroots see the similarities and are in accord on matters of importance.The Greens should be onboard too.
We have a planet and people to care for

Okie said...

Interesting vid here;

About the 13 minute mark Craig Oliver starts and says Chretien feels he might have to come back in order to stop the Cons from getting a majority in the next election.

Looks like my antenna is still working.