Liberal MPs Trudeau, Rae dismiss NDP merger talk
Published Monday, August 29, 2011 9:01PM EDT
Canada's opposition parties are focused on the future, as the New Democrats begin a new era without their charismatic leader Jack Layton and the Liberals renew their objections to merging the two parties together.
New Democrat staffers are moving into offices on Parliament Hill on Monday, where they will serve Acting Leader Nycole Turmel when Parliament resumes next month.
Until recently, the offices were populated by Liberals. But they are being claimed by the New Democrats, who are serving as the Official Opposition for the next four years.
While some pundits have suggested the Liberals should consider merging with the New Democrats to form a stronger alternative to the Conservatives, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau said that such a merger "is not in the cards."
Trudeau said that the Liberals are in a time of "re-think" and need to figure out a way to get back into the political game after suffering a historic defeat in May.
"We need to make sure that we're starting to connect with people," he told CTV News Channel from Ottawa. "But I've never been convinced that a merger is a viable option or a desirable option."
In fact, Trudeau said that the only people talking about combining the parties are reporters.
Brad Lavigne, NDP's national director, said the party is eager to return to Ottawa and to make their late leader proud.
"The party has never been more united than it is today. We've never had as much resolve," Lavigne told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.
"And we've never had such clarity of purpose as we do today coming out of the wonderful outpouring of support for Jack and the family."
Yet after the tragic loss of Layton, who died just a week ago, the party now finds itself dodging questions about who will pick up the leadership mantle from the late NDP leader.
Layton penned a deathbed letter in which he recommended that Turmel stay on as temporary leader until New Democrats elect a permanent successor.
But talk is already rampant about who could be in the race for the top NDP job, with several names emerging as possible leadership candidates. So far, Deputy Leader Thomas Mulcair and party president Brian Topp are two of the most oft-mentioned names.
Toronto-Spadina MP Olivia Chow, the widow of the recently deceased NDP leader, is also rumoured to be a potential leadership candidate.
CTV's Mercedes Stephenson said the early word is that no matter who succeeds Layton in the long term, the next leader will be obliged to continue to uphold the values that resonated with voters in the recent election.
"What NDPers are basically saying is that they see themselves as moving forward on the same values that they came to Official Opposition status with," Stephenson said.
"And that is their social democratic values. And they are saying that really, in particular in Quebec, this is what made them popular."
The New Democrats soared to new heights in the May election, seizing dozens of seats in Quebec and securing Official Opposition status for the first time ever.
Liberals look ahead to future
While the NDP saw new levels of success at the polls, however, the Liberals experienced new depths of failure.
Now a third-ranked party in the House of Commons, the Liberals hold just 34 seats and have been forced to take a hard look at what has made them lose support from Canadian voters.
A series of meetings taking place this week will focus on the rebuilding efforts that lie ahead for the Liberals.
On Monday, Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the party needs to change its ways.
"I think we really have to recognize that the party itself has to change, the party has to improve," Rae said.
"We've got to do a better job communicating with the public and communicating with each other."
Rae also dismissed any talk of a merger.
"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."
Rae also dismissed any suggestion that the Liberals will be left out of the limelight in the fall, as a result of their diminished status in the Commons.
Pointing to the fact that New Democrats were able to have their voice heard in the last Parliament, Rae said the Liberals will be able to do the same.
With files from The Canadian Press