The day after Jack Layton's state funeral service, Ignatieff mused in a public note
on his Facebook account:
The words we care about —generosity, justice, hope—they care about them too. We don’t own these words and they don’t own them either. These values are bigger than all of us, bigger than our divisions and our arguments.
It was good to put the past behind us for an afternoon and imagine what the future of our country might look like if we put those values first.
Ignatieff, who resigned
his position as leader of the Liberals after being handed the worst showing his party had ever received, is not the first to muse about the similarities between the parties, and he won't be the last.
Indeed, there had been talk
of a merger between the parties following the most recent election, though it was quickly — and wisely — put to rest, in no small part at the insistence the late Jack Layton.
But Layton's death has left a void in the New Democratic Party, and it has politicians within both parties revisiting the prospect of a merger between the parties.
According to the Globe and Mail
, Liberal MP Denis Coderre said
Canadians want a "serious debate on the future of progressive forces in Canada."
That a Quebec Liberal is discussing the possibility of a merger between the parties is far from surprising. The NDP ran a strong campaign and nearly decimated the Liberals in that province in the last election; it only makes political sense for the surviving members of the Liberal caucus to attempt to make nice.
What is surprising is the fact that there is support for a merger from the New Democrat camp, as well. NDP MP Pat Martin has pledged
that he will run for the vacant NDP leadership post if no other candidate steps forward with a merger in mind.
Still, any potential merger between the two parties would have to overcome a number of obstacles.
Mulcair may step in
If NDP Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair holds true to his musings
and wades in to fill the post left vacant by Layton, the leadership void that presently troubles the party would quickly become a non-issue, and talks of the merger would consequentially be off.
With more than half of the party's seats being situated in Quebec, Mulcair — who, in many ways, blazed the trail for the NDP in Quebec — would be the clear favourite; especially considering the fact that his primary opponent
is NDP president and relative unknown Brian Topp.
As leader, Mulcair could solidify the NDP's strong Quebec base, maintining the party's strong footing and giving them a better chance to expand upon it than they might otherwise have.
Bob Rae rejects the idea
Another hurdle for those in favour of merger talks is Liberal Interim Leader Bob Rae. Rae, who once led the Ontario NDP as Premier of Ontario, has dismissed
the potential of a merger as "fiction."
"That's not on my agenda," Rae said
, "People are free to talk about whatever they want to talk about, but it's not on my agenda at the moment. I think we really have to focus on the Liberal Party."
Canada needs a centrist party
The last and greatest hurdle to be overcome by advocates of a merger is the need for a centrist party in the Canadian political landscape.
Any combination of the NDP and Liberals would inevitably place the party on the clear left. Doing so now, when the Bloc Quebecois is particularly weak and the Green Party holds only one seat, would essentially create a two-party system and would worsen the already growing trend toward polarization in Canadian politics.
One of the greatest strengths of Canada's political system is that we have more than two vocal, viable political parties. It allows for a greater representation of the values, needs and ambitions of the Canadian public. Heavily polarized, two-party politics, by contrast, results in more rhetoric and less substance, less effectual governance, and less representation.
While it is important for a strong alternative to the Conservative Party to exist on the political stage, it is equally important for multiple alternatives to exist.
Those who would seek a merger must seriously consider their motives: are they genuinely seeking a stronger progressive voice, or are they simply tired of so many years sitting in the passenger seat?