New Democrats keep merger door open

Sun Jun 19, 2011 6:15pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The New Democrat Party kept the door open on Sunday to a possible merger talks with the struggling Liberals, a party they leapfrogged over to become the main opposition in a May 2 election.

But New Democratic leader Jack Layton said the left-leaning party is in no rush to talk to the Liberals, and needs to concentrate on proving to voters it is now ready to replace the Conservatives as government.

New Democrats held a weekend convention in Vancouver following the election that gave the NDP the best showing in its 50-year history. It also boosted the Conservatives into a majority government status at the expense of the Liberals.

Delegates rejected a call by some party members to block the NDP from even discussing a merger with the once powerful Liberals, whose future has been thrown into chaos by its worst-ever election showing.

"There is, of course, no proposition to do that (merger), but the idea of encouraging Liberals to come and join with us, we're wide open to that," Layton told reporters.

The idea of a merger has also divided the Liberals, who decided this weekend to delay picking a new permanent leader for up to two years as they discuss how to rebuild the party's fortunes.

Although the NDP jumped over the Liberals to become the Conservatives' main opposition, many of its gains came in Quebec at the expense of the separatist Bloc Quebecois that saw its support evaporate in the May election.

Delegates in Vancouver also decided to postpone a vote on whether to drop the NDP's long-standing use of the word "socialism" from its constitution, a reference that reflects its link with Canada's union movement.   Continued...

<p>NDP leader Jack Layton delivers a keynote speech at the party's 50th Anniversary Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Ben Nelms</p>