Leaders scoff at report of Liberal-NDP merger

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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.

Ottawa -

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.

"It's ridiculous."

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.

Organizations: NDP, Liberal-NDP, CBC Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Canadian Press

Geographic location: Ottawa, Britain, Rae Saskatchewan

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Jim
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    If I thought the NDP and Liberals had the best interests of Canadians at heart, I'd at least be willing to consider the idea of a merger. Unfortunately, both Parties are so desperate to hold the reins of power that they'll do just about anything, including selling out their grassroots supporters.

    If the Liberals would just do what is necessary and replace Mr. Ignatieff with a leader that Canadians find engaging, all of this merger talk would disappear.
    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  • Justin
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Gerry Kaplan had the best comment about this story, suggesting how out to the lunch the CBC was for reporting a rumour from Warrin' Kinsella.

  • Doug
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Politically incorrect, it seems that you are incorrect again. Ed Broadbent was Vice President of Socialist International from 1979 to 1990. Also, to save you your usual response when anyone disagrees with you, I have never had any connection to a political party.
    But what is really scary to me is the thought of Finance Minister Bob Rae.

  • Greg
    July 02, 2010 - 13:20

    Dropping voter rates across the country indicate we don't see much difference or care enough to vote for any of them.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    Please... The corporate owned and controlled Liberals and Conservatives have much more in common than the Liberals and the NDP. As in the United States, partisan rhetoric aside, the Republicans and Democrats are virtually identical in policy and direction. What we do need is a system of proportional representation (PR) that allows each voters to actually mean something.

  • Politically Incorrect
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Renounce socialism? The NDP has never been a socialist party; social democratic yes, but never socialist. Is Kinsella really this stupid or just red-bating? Both the NDP and its fore-runner, the CCF have always looked to a mixed market economy, perhaps with more emphasis on the public sphere, but hardly socialist (not that theres anything wrong with that). As for dropping the affiliation with the union movement: would Kinsella agree that the Liberal Party drop its affiliations with Bay Street, big oil, big banks, the arms industry, and the rest of its corporate cabal?

  • don
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    The Liberal Leader and the NDP Leader just demonstrated how out of touch with reality they really are. Apparently, Ignatieff and Layton are content to be in opposition or being forced to cooperate in a minority Government scenario in perpetuity. The political differences which separate the Liberals from the NDP are not insurmountable and an effective merger of the two political philosophies could be accomplished with a little work on both sides. Merging the Liberals and NDP makes sense and should happen sooner rather than later. I look forward to seeing the Liberal-Democrat Party on the next Federal election ballot. The sooner we move to a two party system with room for one independent party such as the Green Party on the Federal Ballot the better. Perhaps the Conservatives will change their name to the Conservative-Republican Party and face off against the Liberal-Democrat Party in the next Federal election. When the merger between Canada and the USA happens in the year 2025 it will be easier for voters of the United States of North America to know who is who!

  • Jim
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    If I thought the NDP and Liberals had the best interests of Canadians at heart, I'd at least be willing to consider the idea of a merger. Unfortunately, both Parties are so desperate to hold the reins of power that they'll do just about anything, including selling out their grassroots supporters.

    If the Liberals would just do what is necessary and replace Mr. Ignatieff with a leader that Canadians find engaging, all of this merger talk would disappear.
    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/

  • Justin
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Gerry Kaplan had the best comment about this story, suggesting how out to the lunch the CBC was for reporting a rumour from Warrin' Kinsella.

  • Doug
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Politically incorrect, it seems that you are incorrect again. Ed Broadbent was Vice President of Socialist International from 1979 to 1990. Also, to save you your usual response when anyone disagrees with you, I have never had any connection to a political party.
    But what is really scary to me is the thought of Finance Minister Bob Rae.

  • Greg
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Dropping voter rates across the country indicate we don't see much difference or care enough to vote for any of them.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:02

    Please... The corporate owned and controlled Liberals and Conservatives have much more in common than the Liberals and the NDP. As in the United States, partisan rhetoric aside, the Republicans and Democrats are virtually identical in policy and direction. What we do need is a system of proportional representation (PR) that allows each voters to actually mean something.

  • Politically Incorrect
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Renounce socialism? The NDP has never been a socialist party; social democratic yes, but never socialist. Is Kinsella really this stupid or just red-bating? Both the NDP and its fore-runner, the CCF have always looked to a mixed market economy, perhaps with more emphasis on the public sphere, but hardly socialist (not that theres anything wrong with that). As for dropping the affiliation with the union movement: would Kinsella agree that the Liberal Party drop its affiliations with Bay Street, big oil, big banks, the arms industry, and the rest of its corporate cabal?

  • don
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    The Liberal Leader and the NDP Leader just demonstrated how out of touch with reality they really are. Apparently, Ignatieff and Layton are content to be in opposition or being forced to cooperate in a minority Government scenario in perpetuity. The political differences which separate the Liberals from the NDP are not insurmountable and an effective merger of the two political philosophies could be accomplished with a little work on both sides. Merging the Liberals and NDP makes sense and should happen sooner rather than later. I look forward to seeing the Liberal-Democrat Party on the next Federal election ballot. The sooner we move to a two party system with room for one independent party such as the Green Party on the Federal Ballot the better. Perhaps the Conservatives will change their name to the Conservative-Republican Party and face off against the Liberal-Democrat Party in the next Federal election. When the merger between Canada and the USA happens in the year 2025 it will be easier for voters of the United States of North America to know who is who!