By George Brown, editor
Okay everybody, raise your hand if you turned to your spouse or best friend the other morning and offered your own punchline to this news item: “Former PM Jean Chretien doing well after brain surgery.”
“World’s shortest operation.”
“Was it exploratory surgery?”
“Too bad it took so long to find a donor.”
“Must have been a long waiting list.”
“Was Premier Ed Stelmach the recipient?”
“A few days after stumping with Michael Ignatieff and the man needs brain surgery? No wonder.”
“It was obvious he needed surgery after he said the federal Liberals and New Democrats should merge into one political party.”
We are in the height of the political silly season in Canada, the time of year in the news business when the oddest tidbit hits the front page.
An item that is getting play is the idea that to defeat the Harper Conservatives and restore a left of centre majority government in Canada the Liberals and New Democrats must unite and form one superparty capable of ruling the nation for the remainder of the millennium.
You could do that, or you could threaten with jail time the more than one-third of Canadians who don’t vote in federal elections. Where would they place their X?
We could also outlaw the Bloc Quebecois, putting 40 or 50 more seats in play; allowing the Bloc Quebecois to hold seats in Parliament destabilizes the country and reduces the talent pool from Quebec that Liberal and Conservative governments have to choose cabinet ministers from.
Without a strong Liberal leader to challenge Stephan Harper and attract Bloc voters in key Quebec ridings, Canadians might have to get used to minority governments. Not that a Liberal minority or majority would govern much differently from the Conservatives. Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin, later a minority PM, was more fiscally conservative than these Conservatives, ripping off policy from the old Reform party.
The most obvious problem with the concept of a unite the left movement is that no one but Jack Layton wants to lead the NDP and no one in their right mind wants to lead the Liberals while they have no chance of defeating Harper and forming a majority government. So that leaves only Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff as candidates.
If these two parties were ever to get serious about the notion of a merger, the policy convention should be attended only by party MPs with less than 10 years on Parliament Hill and delegates under the age of 40. This calls for a fresh approach not a power grab by the usual suspects. Canadians deserve new powermongers forging the future of the left in Canada.
And then they should anoint Justin Pierre Trudeau as the leader of the new Liberal Democratic Party of Canada.
The vast majority of Canadians and Albertans did not vote for the brand of government they have federally or provincially. And there is no political party ready to offer an alternative that would appeal to them.
I remember telling Kevin Taft before he became the former Alberta Liberal leader that the only way the left could ever defeat Ralph Klein and his brand of Progressive Conservatism would be to develop a strategy with the Alberta New Democrats not to run their so-called star candidates against one another in Edmonton. They didn’t and they were nearly wiped off the political map.
More than ever, with the Stelmach Tories listing and the Wildrose Alliance plucking MLAs and support from the hard right of the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals should be pirating the Red Tory support that for decades was comfortable with Peter Lougheed and then Ralph Klein before he went a little loopy. The PCs being a big tent kind of political party.
That would leave Alberta’s conservative voters with the choice of the Progressive Conservatives in the centre, the United Left at left of centre, and the Wildrose Alliance on the ultra-right or whatever they choose to call it.
Liberal leader Dr. David Swann made a half-hearted attempt last month to court support on the left and came off looking desperate. He’s not the one to be the face of a united left in Alberta but give the man credit for recognizing neither the Liberals nor the NDs have a hope of forming the government.
Where is the Danielle Smith of the political left in Alberta?