Trudeau, way back when, on Liberals and NDP remaining apart - Macleans.ca

Trudeau, way back when, on Liberals and NDP remaining apart

A telling interview from two years ago

by
Justin Tang/CP

Justin Tang/CP

Just to add a little background to this week’s interesting writing on the prospect of any future coalition between the NDP and Liberals, from my colleague Paul Wells here and Huffington Post’s Althia Raj here, I’m casting back to what Justin Trudeau said on the even more audacious idea of an outright merger of the two parties in early 2012, before he’d even launched his bid for the Liberal leadership.

In case you haven’t been following along, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, who previously dismissed the coalition notion, has now expressed a rather vague openness to the idea. But Trudeau declares that he couldn’t possibly consider such a pact, noting policy differences such as the NDP’s stance—contrary to Liberal “Clarity Act” doctrine—that any future Quebec referendum could be decided in the separatists’ favour if they got a bare 50-per-cent-plus-one majority.

When I interviewed Trudeau around two years ago (check out his hair in the photo that accompanies this Q & A!), I asked about uniting the left. He made a key point in his assessment of why Stephen Harper’s reuniting of the right went more with the historical grain of Canadian conservatism.

As well, I thought that while Trudeau touched on policy disagreements between Liberals and New Democrats, he seemed more focused on the strategic matter of what was and wasn’t necessary—for either the Liberals or NDP— to beat Harper:

Q: I’d like to ask you about the Liberal party’s future. Ever since the right united as the new Conservative party, there’s been a case that the Liberals and NDP should merge too. Why not?

A: The right didn’t unite so much as reunite. I mean, Reform was very much a western movement breaking away from Brian Mulroney. But they broke away, then they came back together. The NDP and the Liberals come from very, very, very different traditions.

Q: Still, there’s an electoral logic in trying to combine the centre-left votes.

A: Before anyone can even seriously talk about thinking about that, let’s allow us to get two permanent leaders. I think the NDP has huge fault lines within it, whichever leader they choose. Obviously, the Liberal party has huge challenges. But if one of the two opposition parties manages to get its stuff together, I don’t know that a merger or even any sort of co-operation is going to be necessary. I think Canadians are going to be unwilling to allow Mr. Harper to continue.

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