Liberals dismiss talk of merger

Wed Jun 9, 2010 2:49pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's main opposition Liberals dismissed a report on Wednesday that they are discussing a merger with a smaller party to increase their chances of defeating the minority Conservative government.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp said some Liberals, alarmed by how poorly they are faring in opinion polls under leader Michael Ignatieff, have quietly sounded out the left-leaning New Democratic Party to talk about a possible merger.

"No one has any authorization to even discuss this matter. It's ridiculous," Ignatieff told reporters, blaming what he called rumor-mongering for the story.

New Democrat leader Jack Layton dismissed the idea of a merger as a "fiction".

Polls show that the centrist Liberals, who lost power to the Conservatives in early 2006, regularly trail the governing party by five or six percentage points.

There are also mutterings within the party about the less than sparkling performance by Ignatieff, who had spent much of his life as a broadcaster and academic before taking over as leader in December 2008.

The Conservatives, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, won a strengthened minority in the October 2008 election and currently hold 144 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons. The Liberals have 77 and the New Democrats -- who have never held power federally -- have 36.

Political mergers are not unknown in Canada. The Conservatives were created in December 2003 when the Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance parties joined forces.   Continued...