More on the Liberal NDP merger. Watch for moves by Jean Chretien to reconstitute the Liberals. Who will make it to the Liberal leader’s chair?
by Tom Thorne
It is interesting how this merger topic remains in the Canadian political wind. Both the NDP and Liberal parties deny that this will ever happen calling on those with these views to examine the differences between the Liberal and NDP platforms. There are differences and that added to the negative weekend musings of Jack Layton may put this issue now on simmer or even on the back burner. However, to this point the merger issue is not off the stove yet.
Former Liberal leader, prime minister, and party éminence grise Jean Chretien stated several days ago that the best interim leader for the party at the moment would be Bob Rae. Interestingly enough Bob Rae may be proposed for this caretaker job by Chretien to truncate the merger of the Liberals and the NDP. Bob Rae says he has an open mind to the merger discussions and that could be his undoing when the Liberal back room boys begin the rebuilding process.
Rae also smelled the merger- no merger winds on the past weekend and is now rethinking his position and so is Jean Chretien. If he becomes interim leader he would have to play the strict Liberal line and so the issue may come off the stove in the Liberal camp so they have a harder think about the future.
Jean Chretien is in my view is the master politician of the centre maintaining constant majority governments during his time a Liberal leader. Chretien is pragmatic. He knows from past experience that Liberals can rebuild, although this time the financing will be much harder with a reduced parliamentary staffing budget and when Harper passes the revised election act bill which is now a certainty. Liberal finances will become a key issue during this survival period and later during the regeneration of the Liberal brand with Canadians.
Time is on Liberal side...
However, given four years of Harper majority government Liberals have time to devise another policy book and head hard again for the Canadian political centre. Also Quebec is now more open since the Bloc Quebecois has been gutted and the NDP must take on the responsibilities of managing Quebec interests with an inexperienced group of MPs. Quebec is now an accident looking for a place to happen so the NDP will have to be extra astute to build on what they won on 2 May. The Liberals have bounced back before from as few as 43 seats. This 34 seat situation is the worst scenario they have had to deal with but it would be foolish to count them out.
Chretien is always several steps ahead in strategy so one must look deeper to discover the reason for this Rae endorsement. Perhaps he really wants Ralph Goodale currently Deputy Leader of the Liberal party, to be leader although he is largely unilingual and that could be a liability in Quebec and other French speaking parts of Canada. He holds the Regina seat of Wascana in Saskatchewan a province where Liberals are as scarce as hen’s teeth. So starting the rebuild in the West would be a bold move if it happens.
Goodale took his riding this time with only a 2,000 vote lead down from 4,000 in 2008. He has been a former cabinet minister and knows how the Chretien team ran this country until the Paul Martin era (Chretien’s anathema), was followed by the Stéphane Dion short interregnum and finally slipped into the Michael Ignatieff period with the sad results we now know. With Ignatieff back in private life the door is open to bring up Ralph Goodale and his experience. The new Liberal constitution now makes getting a permanent leader a quicker process than ever before so decisions will have to be made.
Why Ralph Goodale? Well the first step of the regeneration of the Liberal party would then come from the West. It would give notice to the western voters that the Liberals are intending to be a truly national party again. Ralph Goodale is also well known to be cool to any NDP-Liberal mergers. That means the hard core Liberals in the Chretien camp can rely on him. It is time to settle down in the minds of hard core Grit strategists. There has been too much leadership experimentation.
Of course some analysts look to other younger Liberal MPs such as Justin Trudeau, Dominic LeBlanc or Scott Brison to find a new Liberal leader. Trudeau is only a two time winner in his Montreal riding and carries the big name and also carries too much ammunition for the Conservative negative advertising team to work with. Dominic LeBlanc on the other hand has been an MP since 2000 in Beauséjour a riding in Franco New Brunswick. Before that he was a Liberal staffer in Ottawa. His education profile is also stellar covering University of Toronto, University of New Brunswick and Harvard.
Scott Brison is the member of parliament for Kings-Hants, Nova Scotia. he has been re-elected each time since 1997 He is a business graduate with a University of New Brunswick and Harvard background and is the Liberal finance critic.
My bet however would be on the depth that Dominic LeBlanc would bring to the Liberal leader’s job. In addition, he is a francophone, but not a Quebecker with feet in English Canada and the USA although that didn’t help Michael Ignatieff much. A francophone from outside Quebec dramatizes the nature of the French speaking fact of this country covering News Brunswick, Quebec, Northern Ontario and parts of Manitoba. We can only wait as the Grit wheels grind fine for a new leader that can beat Harper and return the NDP back to third place.
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved