Sunday, July 15, 2012

Should we choose David Merner as new leader of the Liberals, over Justin Trudeau?

Little seedlings of support for David Merner as the next leader of the LPC are sprouting up.

Three seedlings

Dan Arnold of the National Post has this to say about Werner:

I’ll reserve judgment until I meet the man, but Merner does meet three of the requirements on the official “Liberal leadership BINGO card” – he was born in Alberta, used to play hockey, and is fluently bilingual. If we find out he’s Pierre Trudeau’s long lost nephew, the media will be head-over-heels in love with this man.
David Merner

Impolitical also sees David Merner as worthy of consideration:

I spoke with David on the weekend while he was at the LPCA meeting in Edmonton. Merner is a native
Albertan, living in Victoria, who has worked in Ottawa at the Department of Justice. Is fluently bilingual. So fluent that he played on French hockey teams while living in Ottawa. And wrote the Ontario Bar in French. That's pretty darned bilingual.

Also notable about Merner, he sits on the advisory board of Leadnow, which over the past year has become one of the leading young progressive organizations in the country. Speaks about really making an effort in the west for the party, emphasizes micro-targeting, mentioned Liberalist twice during our chat, cares about a new way of doing policy in the party ("wikisourcing") and is keen to answer the question of what kind of leadership the party needs. Very engaging and easy to talk politics with, he is going to add a lot to the race.

And Far and Wide astutely points out the hidden weapon of Merner in the coming race for leader – the possibility that tens of thousands of progressives who want the non-Tory parties to cooperate to remove Harper from power could sign up as Supporters of the LPC and vote for David Merner:

And suddenly Merner will place himself within a debate that will emerge as this race moves forward.  Why?  Because, as I've said the mechanics of the race mean the contest isn't confined to narrow partisans, it will draw in others with a wider agenda:
 Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians...."The progressive elements of our society have to come together in solidarity"... And Jamie Biggar, the executive director of, which has challenged measures of the Harper government, says his group advocated for co-operation with the Liberals during the NDP leadership campaign and will do so again as the Liberals pick a leader.

Biggar also notes 10000 people joined the NDP to support these notions. The point here being, "outside" organizations can willingly participate in assisting any advocate. Mr. Merner will find friends within the party, and perhaps a built in administrative aid from others. There is an appetite out there for co-operation, that Merner is distinguishing himself makes him a "dark-horse" to watch, he will recieve media attention and sympathy from certain quarters.

I expect "co-operation" to be a core issue as this process moves forward. Mr. Merner has shrewdly staked out fertile ground that could make this "second tier" candidate one to watch moving forward...
Nathan Cullen - the Cooperation Guru

The Ballot Box Issue – Cooperation, Cooperation, Cooperation

I'm with Far and Wide: cooperation will be a major touchstone in the coming election of the new leader of our party, and perhaps THE key issue.

Poll after poll shows massive support for some form of electoral cooperation between the NDP, LPC and Greens. People want change.

And they want our democratic deficit remedied, through electoral reform that makes people's votes count.

The Merner Plan & Justin Trudeau's decision not to run for leader

I believe that David Merner needs to add several key planks to his support of pre-election cooperation as per the Cullen Plan, in order for him to win.
Justin Trudeau

If Merner were to add the features below to his candidacy, I believe that two things would happen.

Firstly, Justin Trudeau might seriously decide to keep his powder dry and take a stab at the Liberal leadership some time in the future. The Merner Plan would give him the perfect out to do this, while keeping his options option for a run for the leadership in the near term.

Secondly, I believe that tens of thousands of Canadians would join the Liberal Party of Canada as Supporters so as to vote for David and the Merner Plan.

If Merner publicly supported the Merner Plan as set out here, then I would seriously consider voting for him as the next leader even if Justin Trudeau decided to take a run at the leadership. The country comes before the party when it comes to improving our democracy.

Contents of a Winning Merner Plan

David has one of 3 of the issues I believe he needs in order to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada: his support for pre-election cooperation along the lines of the Cullen Plan.
Matthew Carroll of Leadnow

If David added the following 2 issues to his Merner Plan he could prove unbeatable, no matter who ran (Justin, Coyne, either of the McGuinty brothers, whoever):

Modified Proportional Representation:

Merner should spell out in clear terms that should he become leader of the LPC, he would immediately define the terms of a modified proportional representation system of  electing our federal MPs. This LPC MPR would then become the basis on which he, as leader of the party, would consider supporting any other party should the next election re sult in a minority government.
Jamie Biggar of Leadnow

Merner should make it absolutely clear that (i) there would be no support (with the LPC abstaining from confidence votes or voting against any minority government) unless the leader of the NDP clearly and publicly committed himself and his party to vote for legislation to implement the LPC MPR within 6 months of assuming power as Prime Minister; and (ii) there would not be any referendum on the LPC MPR proposal.

This plank would give all those who so desperately wish our archaic democracy to be reformed by giving ALL votes cast in our elections value, to join the LPC as Supporters (if they met the terms to do so – not being a signed up member of another party, and 
agreeing to Liberal values).
Ryan Baillargeon

Merner is a fighter, both in court and as a politician, and weighing the odds and sifting the facts before making an incisive and effective decision is not foreign to him.

David Merner would go down in history as the Great Reformer.

Commit to Step Down:

Commit to resign as leader of the LPC once the modified proportional representation proposal has been legislated into existence and is the law of the land.

This will trigger another contest for leadership of the LPC, and Merner should reserve the right to run again for leader. Justin Trudeau, if he has wisely decided not to contest Merner in this go around, could toss his hat into the ring at that time.

Merner's commitment to step down would do wonders in focusing Canadians' attention (including tens of thousands of prospective Supporters) on the two major issues in the Merner Plan – the adoption of something like the Cullen Plan before the next election, and the implementing of a modified proportional representation form of electing our future MPs.

Like Cincinnatus, David Merner would earn the respect of all Canadians for carrying out the reforms we so sorely need, and then stepping down once he had achieved the changes.

The Big 5 who might help David Merner become leader of the LPC

The leadership of the LPC will be won by the candidate who gains the most votes f rom all members of the Party and all Supporters.
Anna Maclean of Leadnow

The new class of voters known as Supporters means that hundreds of thousands of Canadians who wish to bring about positive changes in our democractic system of elections, can actively take steps to make this happen by becoming Supporters of the LPC and voting for a candidate of their choice to become the new leader.

Given that the probability is that there will not be a party in Parliament after the next election with a majority of seats, the tide for reform is at a critical time. A cooperation between the NDP and LPC and Greens to replace the Harper government with a new one, will take place.

And if David Merner adopts the above Merner Plan and becomes the new Liberal leader, reform is  virtually guaranteed. Not even the Tory control of the Senate could stop such reform legislation.
Emma Pullman of Leadnow

Keep your eye on Leadnow, the activist group seeking cooperation with a view to electoral reform.

Their five leaders could play a major role in bringing about an influx of several hundreds of thousands of new Supporters in the LPC, who would vote for the candidate who promised the best hope of immediate, tangible and effective eletoral reform.

LeadNow believes in ordinary people doing extrarordinary things together:

Normally, we wait for politicians to tell us who and what we should vote for. Let's work together for change by telling our politicians that we will vote for the candidates who will cooperate for progress on the issues you care about.

Right now, generations of Canadians are coming together to share their hopes and ideas for our country and our future. Together, we'll draft a Declaration for Change that challenges our politicians to work together for progress on the issues that you care about. Leadnow will ask people to commit to take action and vote for the politicians who will rise to the challenge.

The Leadnow group defines cooperation and electoral reform in clearly understood language:
Leadnow cooperation results - 10,000 replies

What do we mean by “cooperation?”
When we say “cooperation” we mean any plan that involves the NDP, Liberals and Greens working together in key ridings to ensure that vote splitting does not result in a Conservative being elected despite the fact that a majority of people in that riding are willing to vote NDP, Liberal or Green. There are a number of different ways of accomplishing this goal, and it should partially be up to negotiation between the parties. We will report on the ideas put forward by the parties and the leadership candidates.

What do we mean by “electoral reform?”
We think that Canada needs to have a national conversation to determine the exact nature of the electoral system that would best fit the needs of Canadians. The goal would be to ensure that the number of seats a party earns through an election closely reflect the number of Canadians who cast ballots for them. The current system does not allow for this, and we need to build consensus on a better system for Canadians.

Leadnow is a young organization:

In March 2011 a group of young Canadians launched to help Canadians take action together for the fair, responsible and democratic Canada that we believe in.

A year later, more than 100,000 Canadians of all ages and across the entire country have joined the community. Our members include NDP, Liberal, Green and Conservative supporters. Many of us do not belong to any political party. All of us want change.

Through local gatherings and online voting we have found that our community values deep democracy, equity and climate justice. As we organize campaigns on a range of issues, they will always work towards these larger goals.

Their key leaders are:

Campaigns Director
Matthew Carroll is Leadnow's Campaigns Director. He trained as an atmospheric scientist, and has a decade of experience as an organizer, facilitator and campaign strategist, working with a variety of non-profits, public institutions and governments. Follow him on Google

Executive Director
Jamie Biggar is Leadnow's Exective Director. He has a background in large-scale online and offline collaboration to develop policy and campaigns. He began organizing in the youth climate movement, co-founding Common Energy and goBeyond to bring university communities across British Columbia together to catalyze regional climate action. He has served on the boards of multiple environmental, social justice, and educational organizations, including his service as Chairman of the Sierra Club of BC.
You should follow Biggar on Twitter at and his Facebook

Digital Strategy
Ryan Baillargeon is Leadnow's Online Director. He specializes in using technology as a tool to help the Leadnow community take easy, effective action on a range of important issues.You can follow him on Twitter at

Local Organizing
Anna McClean is Leadnow's local organizing coordinator. She helps the Leadnow community build local connections, organize events and actions, and come together to discuss the issues that matter to Canadians. Follow her on Twitter at

Emma Pullman is Leadnow's volunteer research director. She is a passionate independent investigative journalist and writes for the Vancouver Observer and DeSmogBlog. Her Twitter address is and her blog is

Over to our Pollsters

Now let's see whether our pollsters start asking some pertinent questions about who would join the LPC as a Supporter in order to vote for a replacement government and electoral reform, along the lines of the Merner Plan outlined above.


  1. Interesting post.

    With respect, Leadnow should not seek to play any larger role in the Liberal leadership than they did in the NDP leadership race. As I recall, they only advocated for a cooperation candidate, Cullen, in the few weeks before the NDP convention and as the voting began. And they did so once.

    They are a non-partisan organization and I'm sure they are cognizant of being perceived as such.

    You might also be getting ahead of things with your reference to a "Merner Plan." There was a Globe report where he spoke favourably about cooperation, yes, but he should be given a chance to speak about his intentions more fully than that.

  2. Nancy, the "Merner Plan" in my post is what I am recommending that David Merton expand his position to (if he is not already there). The press reports only speak of his agreeing with cooperation pre-election ala the Cullen Plan.

    My suggested Merner Plan is for a modified proportional representation module to be added to the Cullen Plan module, with Merner backing it, and for him to undertake - like a successful modern Cincinnatus - to step down as leader of the LPC when the job is done: our election process changed by law to a MPR one. He can then stand for reelection again.

  3. One of the oddest posts I've ever read on a blog.

  4. Thank you, Jordan.

    I think ...

    But the reason why Cincinnatus's name still resonates tens of centuries after his dictatorship ended, was because it was such an unlikely and selfless act.

    Heroic deeds are often done by those 'normal' people deem 'odd'.

  5. I find it very odd to say that a leader of a political party should step down because they managed to get a few things accomplished, and then run in the leadership race. Why exactly would the party want to go through another leadership race in like 4 years?

    I'm also not a big fan of cooperation. Why should Liberals support having an NDP government anymore then having a CPC government. I'm no fan of Harper's but I'd probably still prefer having the CPC in power then the NDP.

    I'm sick of the idea that the Liberals have to be on the left and that they should support socialism.

  6. The reason 'my' Merner Plan suggestion includes a pact by Merner to step down once modified proportional representation is the law of the land is simple: FOCUS.

    David Merner is in touch with the groundswell in Canada that wants to remedy our archaic parliamentary election system so that it truly reflects the wishes of all Canadians in our elections. By focussing his campaign for leadership on two things - cooperation pre-election so as to maximize the chances of removing the Conservatives from power and by reforming our election laws, he can win this election through the votes of hundreds of thousands of new Supporters who want these changes to take place.

    And by offering to step down - like Cincinnatus - when this Herculean task is done, Merner will make it easier to win, harder for the Tories to attack him, and more difficult for Justin Trudeau to throw his hat into the ring this time round.

    If Trudeau runs, the nomination as leader is probably his for the asking. But if he wins, the chances of real reform of our electoral system through some form of modified proportional representation are much slimmer than if David Merner wins. Trudeau is not on record as favouring adequate restoration of our democratic deficits. Right now, I believe fixing our democratic deficit is the top political value, and so electing Merner to do this necessary job puts our country before our party.

    If organizations such as Leadnow sprang into action and started interviewing declared candidates for LPC leadership, such as David Merner, about their willingness to cooperate pre-election with a view to major electoral reform once the Harper government is removed from power, they could encourage tens of thousands of Canadians to sign up as Supporters right now.

    Imagine the effec if within 6 weeks such groups actually succeeded in persuading 30,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 Canadians to become Supporters of the LPC, so as to influenced the choice of leader and push for removal of the Harper government and the remedying of our democratic deficit through electoral reform?

    What do you think such a flood of new Supporters would do to the Liberals who want to run for leadership? Would it change the discussion to a discussion of effective, practical steps to change the government in 2015 and reform our election laws?

    You betcha!

    And would it give Justin Trudeau reason to pause while considering whether to run?

    You betcha!

    Abnd would it encourage millions of Canadians to consider voting for a change in our silly winner-takes-all first-past-the-post system come the next election?

    You betcha!

    And would our country be a much better country if all votes were given value when we selected our MPs?

    You betcha!

  7. Graves accurately stated that Canadians grow tired of political parties. If the Liberal PARTY wants to stay ahead of the curve- or really catch up- then they would be wise to look for arrangements that are more inclusive, less tribal in nature, optics that speak to a wider calling.

    I need to hear a lot more from Merner, as Nancy points out, his views to date aren't fleshed out at all. That said, juxtaposed with other candidates waving the Liberal flag, I suspect it will look quite attractive to a public who doesn't share our affection for all things red. The question in this leadership is how do we pierce apathy, how do we resonate with the massive pool that doesn't vote, as well as those just doing so out of "duty" rather than enthusiasm. The idea of shared values, highlighting the overlap that surely exists, this will find an audience, if cultivated correctly, by an enticing messenger.

  8. I'd probably end up voting Cnservative before putting the NDP in power by support cooperation.

  9. It's early days yet, PoscStudent, but a rash of polls shows that (i) we are heading for a minority government in 2015; (ii) the NDP will end up with the most seats in the House; (iii) the NDP plus LPC will have a majority of seats in the House.

    That being so, the NDP will need the LPC to govern, just as the Tories in the UK needed the LibDems to govern there.

    The Liberals should learn from Nick Clegg of the LibDems, who sold his support of a coalition government for a mess of porridge: he could have bargained and gained a firm commitment from the Tories to introduce and support electoral change, but settled for a referendum while allowing the Tories to publicly oppose and sink it.

    David Merner, if elected leader of the LPC on a platform of pre-election cooperation and post-election electoral reform AS THE PRICE FOR SUPPORTING THE NDP MINORITY GOVERNMENT, would be in the powerful position of reforming our elections laws by having a modified proportional representation system passed into law within 6 months of the election being held.

    That price is worth supporting the NDP government for a year or so ... and such support would obviously on be on the basis of acceptance of the capitalist system (with similar terms to the NDP-LPC Coalition Accord of 2008).

    1. If I were Mulcair, and your assumptions are correct (NDP wins most seats, NDP+LPC is majority), and the LPC demanded post-election reform as the price for support, my answer would be "No".

      What then? Another election, where the electorate becomes even more polarized, and blames the LPC. Both Harper and Mulcair enjoy the extra election, maybe 2 extra elections, the only loser being the LPC.

      Proportional Representation may be a better system, but it virtually guarantees the LPC being part of the government almost all the time. Would Mulcair go for that, just after reaching historic gains for the NDP?

      Even though I agree with PR, this smacks of a desparate attempt to get back into power as quickly as possible, in defiance of a lack of public support. Instead, why not propose concrete policies that are a compromise between the Conservative and NDP positions, and that Canadians will naturally incline to support, especially after a period of CPC-NDP back-and-forth?

  10. Yes the Liberals should take lessons from Nick Clegg!

  11. Jordan - you misread me: my advice was DON'T do what Clegg did - squander an opportunity for real electoral reform when he had the power to do that.

    Anon: Yes, then we go into another election cycle because Mulcair did not want to implement the PR aspects in his party's platform.

    And no, this is not a desperate attempt to regain power at any costs - that's the piffling Tory line to come. It's an attempt to drag our pathetic democracy into the advanced eletoral system that so many advanced nations have. And PR does not prevent majority rule - IF any party can capture 50% of the votes cast. It just stops any party with less than 50% of the votes cast ignoring the MPs representing the majority of voters when they govern.

  12. Jack Layton fought elections to win, and he gained each time. The Liberals should do the same thing, not say we can't win anymore so we'll make things easier for Tom Mulcair.

  13. Jordan, as a voter whose vote is devalued by the current FPTP system, I count as a "win" a change in the way we elect our MPs that makes each vote count. Such a win outweighs any single party's gaining power.

    And there are millions of Canadians who believe the same thing: our parties and politicians should do the right thing and remedy our democratic deficits.

  14. I have to say, CuriosityCat, that at first (and second) glance your idea is kind of brilliant. I'm already on board with the Cooperation candidates plan and the modified PR. But these extra twists are new to me, and I must say most intriguing!

  15. Anon, spread the word. Retweet it, send this post to all and sundry and invite debate about it.

    If Justin Trudeau is wise, he would stay out of the race, back cooperation in a general way, come out forcefully in favour of modified proportional representation as THE major plank in the LPC revised policy, propose before the end of this year a series of 5 hard-hitting, effective, popular democratic deficit reduction measures for voting at the 2014 policy convention.

    The result? He brands himself as the reform candidate; he supports putting people before politics; he promises to work with similar minded people to restore the dignity of Parliament, give Parliament back to the people, empower ordinary MPs so that they can properly represent their constituents.

    The result? He helps Merner indirectly; he draws a clear and highly visible line between himself and Harper; he earns kudos from the tens of thousands of potential Supporters; and he can run in about 4 years time.

    Harper's vulnerability is his contempt for democracy and his intrinsic authoritarian gene. Focusing on this weakness of Harper and hammering home the Liberal Party as the party of meaningful reform is a dynamite move.

    In the meantime, Merner is given a boost in winning the leadership and in changing the way we practise politics - his name will go down in history.

    And the hard emphasis on actually doing something soon to reform our electoral system rather than simply paying lip service to it will paint Mulcair into a corner. His instincts are to go for broke, so that he becomes prime minister with majority power; but his party's constitution provides for PR. He will be hoist on Jack's and his predecessors' petard.


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