There is a lot of talk these days about a merger between the Liberals and New Democrats. I for one am not enthused with the idea. I am not a Liberal. I joined the NDP because they best expressed my values. I suspect many people joined the Liberals for the same reasons. For years Liberals have been working at recruiting me to their party. They have come very close on many occasions using the argument that I can work to change things only if I am inside the big Red Tent.
Many people have been tempted to do this and some have fallen into the trap, (I use the term trap in the nicest way).
George Baker comes to mind quickly. He was an MP from Newfoundland and Labrador who spoke out on union rights and social justice often. Getting to Ottawa was quicker for him as a Liberal in those days. And prominent NDP members have tried. Bob Rae who was literally cast out found it was his only hope and his connections to Jean Chretien made it a happier place for him. Glen Murray who made it to power in Winnipeg on the backs of the NDP machine to become Mayor was wooed by Paul Martin. He lost in that election. Having burned his NDP bridge, he came to Toronto and lucked into running in George Smitherman's constituency. He has affected very little since being elected as a Liberal.
My friend Ujjal Dosanjh choose to run as a Liberal. He became Health Minister for a brief time. He managed little during his time albeit short. He was tossed by the voters in the last election like many Liberals were. Ujjal I believe felt he could make a difference by joining the Liberals. As it turned out he either ran out of time or the big red machine was too stifling.
Finally my good friend and Senator Larry Campbell was enticed into the Senate by Paul Martin. He choose to sit with the Liberals as the NDP does not support the Senate. He said at the time that sitting as an independent Senator he would have little chance to effect change and he is right. Independents in the Senate often don't get told the agenda or get to be on committees.
Being New Democrat changed with Jack Layton. Jack Layton made many in the press gallery snicker when he said he was running to be Prime Minister. They knew he had to say that but what they couldn't get over was the fact that Jack really was running to be Prime Minister. He built the party, each election saw more New Democrats elected. Canadians warmed up too him. In the end he delivered. The NDP are now the official opposition. Some will say he was lucky, I respond that to be lucky you have to be good.
There is no need for the NDP to merge with the Liberals. I suspect it is something more urgent for Liberals than the NDP. We do share some values I will admit. We do support human rights. We do support government action in the economy and Public Health Care. That is likely where it ends. The Liberals support big tax cuts for the big corporate sector. They downloaded health care costs to provinces much in the same way Harris slashed funding and downloaded costs onto municipalities in Ontario.
All that said I support many Liberal MPs. I liked Warren Allmand, Carolyn Bennett, Ken Dryden, Francis Fox, Pierre Trudeau and many more. I suspect many of them could have been New Democrats had it been an option to govern in years past.
Alas the Liberal Party is not the party of Trudeau any more. It is not the progressive party we saw in 1972-74 when they were a minority, where the NDP held the balance of power and actually saw legislation before it was tabled. So much was done in those two years. So much has been undone since then by both Liberal and Conservative governments.
Merger talks may or may happen. In the end we in the NDP need to forge ahead with the plan laid out by Jack Layton. We can convince Canadians we should be government. If along the way we convince Liberals to join us then great! We welcome you and your ideas. Progressive people have a real choice now. They can effect change. They have a realistic chance of forming a government.
Some of this will be affected by our choice of leader. I have yet to decide who I might support. There will be some very good candidates running for the job.
When the leadership is determined, you can count on solidarity in the NDP. We will be focused on the goal of forming a progressive and responsive federal government. It has too happen.