Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bob Rae and the Iffy Question of Merger with the NDP

Summer nonsense spilled over into the press conference held today with Bob Rae. One of the questions dealt with a possible merger between the Liberal and NDP parties. Rae was forthright, and quoted FDR in his answer.

Like Roosevelt, Rae said he saw the question of a merger of the two parties as, right now, an Iffy Question.

In her book FDR, Jean Edward Smith refers to FDR's first press conference in theWhite House, where he laid down the rules governing his press conferences: He would not answer "iffy" questions, or those "which for various reasons I do not wish to discuss, or am not ready to discuss, or I do not know anything about."

Rae is right.

Right now, with the NDP leaderless, the Tories triumphant as majority party, the Bloc still stunned, the Greens still AWOL, and the Liberals still nursing our wounds, all talk about a possible merger between the two parties is a hypothetical or "iffy" question.

Right now, the Liberals must concentrate on the two issues Bob Rae referred to in his interview: the Inspiration Issue (policies for the next session of Parliament and the coming convention), and the Perspiration Issue (restructuring the party).

The Perspiration Issue is by far the most important of the issues facing the party. It beats the policy issue hands down.

The LPC is a bloated party, with far too many people at the top, far too many subcommittees and departments and groups, and far too many expensive tasks being done.

With far less revenue flowing in due to the defeat, the lacklustre leaders over the past five years, the disasterous executive direction of the party, the change in public funding laws, and the inability of the party to date to increase its membership massively and fund raising equally massively, the top priority must be a root and branch restructuring of the party.

FDR on "iffy" questions (from FDR)

That Perspiration Issue means a total change in party structure, starting with a fresh slate. Nothing that the party now has should be treated as a given; every single department, office and group in the party structure should be treated as on the table.

And the changes in structure should meet a handful of tests:

  1. Can we afford it? If not, cut it out.
  2. Does it change the party into a party responsive to its members? If not, change it.
  3. Does it incorporate the most advanced democratic political thrusts in the world today? If not, make it so.
  4. Does it convert  the party into a machine capable of starting to fight a continuous election campaign each and every day, starting early next year? If not, make the changes to make this happen.

In a meeting of the Liberal Party held a few weeks ago, The Cat suggested that the party needed to inspire people. I reduced my proposal to writing, and circulated a few people. It's worth repeating the proposal in full:


In the 2011 federal election 4 in 10 Canadians did not vote, and only about 1 in 8 Canadians voted for the Liberal Party.
Clearly something is wrong.
Many years ago Martin Luther King electrified America with a few words. History was changed when he spoke.
His words were simple: I have a dream.
Yet so compelling were his words that hundreds of thousands of people marched when they heard them.

Today, for the Liberal Party to become attractive to more Canadians again, we need to be able to say to Canadians that we are the party with dreams.

One of the dreams we should have is to become the political party that can say to Canadians:

We commit ourselves to strive each and every day to improve your democratic rights.

We will do this at all levels of government – local, provincial and federal.
We will strenthen your democratic rights, not diminish them.
We will give you the most advanced democratic tools that any political party in any modern democracy can provide.

That is the general principle of this dream of democracy.

I would like to support the call for the restructuring of the Liberal Party so as to adopt the above as the guiding principle:

We will give you the most advanced democratic tools that any political party in any modern democracy can provide.

And as part of this change, drive home the modern tools of email, internet and social media deep into the party, so that members from all parts of the country can interact in real-time with party officers, MPs, and other Liberals. 

We can talk about a possible merger at a later stage. And that talk must consider all the alternatives open  to us: the whole range from full merger, to coalitions (pre and post elections), to electoral ceasefires.


  1. I don't think that a merger is okay. The NDP want it, because they are more apt to have a leader before us, we are the third party, and we won't be getting a leader until 2013. Lets wait until we are in better shape, before we even think of merger

  2. Annie, time and tide wait for no man or woman.


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