Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP chief Jack Layton are scoffing at a media report suggesting their parties are discussing a merger.
Ignatieff said the idea is "ridiculous."
Layton called it "fiction."
The two leaders reacted Wednesday to a CBC report in which Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella said senior Grits were involved in "serious" negotiations to unite the centre-left under a new Liberal-Democratic party banner.
Notwithstanding the flat denials from the two highest authorities in both parties, affidavits were flying by late Wednesday as Liberals engaged in a "did too-did not" tiff over who, if anyone, has been talking about uniting the parties.
"No one has any authorization to even discuss this matter," Ignatieff said following a Liberal caucus meeting.
Emerging from his own party's caucus meeting, Layton was equally categoric.
"It's not a fusion; it's a fiction," he said.
Talk of a merger, coalition or some sort of electoral co-operation between the two parties has been bubbling for weeks, largely fuelled by Liberal concern about tepid poll numbers and encouraged by the example of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition which took power last month in Britain.
Much of the talk is laced with an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with Ignatieff's leadership.
But the merger report seemed to have a unifying effect Wednesday.
Ignatieff was flanked by two erstwhile leadership rivals - Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc - as he insisted his leadership is "solid."
"Solid, solid, solid," put in Rae, who dismissed the merger idea as unsubstantiated rumour.
Kinsella has been promoting the idea of a merger for some time on his website.
He was brought on board the Ignatieff team last fall to run the Liberal war room in an election the leader was promising to force. When the election threat fizzled, Ignatieff replaced his inner circle, precipitating a falling out with Kinsella.
Ignatieff now says, "I have no relationship with Warren Kinsella."
NDP national director Brad Lavigne pointed out that he regularly appears on television panels with Kinsella. He said Kinsella has not once broached the idea of a merger with him.
Late Wednesday, Kinsella issued a sworn affidavit specifying that Liberal party president Alf Apps told him during a May 11 conversation that there had been "many discussions at a high level " about merging the two parties.
He said Apps told him "there is a lot of interest in merger in the NDP" and that "the NDP saints" - former national NDP leader Ed Broadbent and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow - were involved.
Moreover, Kinsella said Apps told him the NDP would need to renounce socialism, embrace a mixed market economy, accept Ignatieff as leader and cut its link with trade unions.
Another Liberal commentator, John Mraz, also issued a sworn affidavit. He said Apps told him last week that he'd been personally involved in the merger talks, which included not just Broadbent and Romanow but former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien and former Progressive Conservatives Joe Clark and Roy McMurtry.
In an interview, Apps said Mraz and Kinsella are the only Liberals who've raised the merger idea with him. And Apps issued his own statement, denying Kinsella's version of events.
When Kinsella raised the idea, Apps said he listed all the reasons why he believed it would never work and "discouraged him bluntly from pursuing the concept."
"Everything in the affidavit that (Kinsella) describes as cornerstones of the plan were, in fact, my view as to reasons why a merger would and could never occur," Apps said.
"I have never personally engaged in serious discussions on this topic and have no personal knowledge of any such discussions among others," Apps added.
Chretien has acknowledged that he and Broadbent have informally discussed various ways of uniting the centre-left vote to defeat Stephen Harper's Conservatives. But he's also stressed that neither of them has any mandate to negotiate anything.
In a weekend interview with The Canadian Press, Ignatieff unequivocally ruled out a merger or any kind of non-compete agreement with the NDP, wherein the two parties would not run candidates against each other.
However, Ignatieff said he'd be willing, if necessary, to lead a coalition government if that's the hand voters deal him in the next election.