An NDP/Liberal merger?
I'm sure everyone is blogging on this so ... why bother? Well, because I think talk of this merger tells us something about Canada and so I'll break from my promised next installment on censorship (which might be a relief to some) to address this.
This merger -- or, talk of or potential merger -- is important for two reasons:
First, note the way some journalists have addressed this issue: almost as if it were a scandal (I found The Globe's coverage particularly interesting in this regard). So and so denies ... sworn affidavits; so and so confirms .... Why address this issue in this way? It is no secret that the Liberals have "picked off" some NDPers over the years or that parties try to make allies in the case of a minority government. Indeed, I would be shocked if the left wing of the Liberal Party and the right wing of the NDP had not been in some level of communication over the years. Why present this story as an almost scandal? Perhaps a journalistic proclivity to see everything as misinformation and scandal in which the journalist becomes the hero of the story by uncovering the truth? If so, this type of presentation is a tad self serving, no? More darkly, one might see this mode of presenting this story as a continuity of leading media outlets anti-Liberal bias. I'm not certain of that and some analysis would need to be done, but I also would not discount the possibility out of hand.
Second, and I think more importantly, a Liberal-NDP merger would be something different then some sort of electoral alliance in which the parties looked for common ground that would allow them to form a reasonable governing bloc that could address matters of importance to themselves and a large section of the Canadian population (although certainly not all Canadians). This might include environmental issues, reversing some Conservative policies re funding for Status of Women or developing a realistic plan to address the economic morass that is federal finances.
A merger, however, would speak of something different. For a number of years I have been hypothesizing that the Liberal project for Canada, let's follow Ignatieff and call it civic nationalism, has reached its end. This end is not that it has been rejected by Canadians because we know that large parts of this project are now broadly supported. Canadians, by and large, accept the idea of equality of citizens, Charter rights, multiculturalism, and official bilingualism. Whether or not these things can be treated as part of an evolving project for Canada is, I think, an open question. Aside from the extreme edges of Canadian society, these things might almost be seen as status quo.
In this sense, the ending of the Liberal project for Canada might signal the development of a transition to something else. And, that transition might signal a political re-alignment. In this sense, an NDP-Liberal merger might be something more than a "get the Tories out" coalition. It might be part of a process through which a different type of Canada is evolving into being.