Liberal leadership rebuffs united left calls

Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:09pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of the Liberals, a party reduced to also-ran status in the May federal election, on Tuesday rebuffed the idea of an alliance with their left-of-center rivals, even as a former party leader touted a merger as the only way the left would win back power.

Asked about working with the New Democrats, Liberal leader Bob Rae said Liberals needed to focus on rebuilding into a strong fighting force that occupied the center and would be able to grow the economic pie.

"The problem I have with NDP polices is quite clear," Rae, himself a former New Democratic premier of Ontario. "They always take the pie for granted."

NDP policies are mostly to the left of the Liberals in terms of tax rates and social spending, and both are to the left of the small-government, low-tax Conservatives.

All three parties promise balanced budgets, although their paths to that goal differ greatly.

The NDP ousted the Liberals as Canada's official opposition in the election, vaulting from fourth place to second under the leadership of charismatic Jack Layton.

But Layton died suddenly last week, leaving the NDP facing its own leadership race and emboldening some Liberals to muse about the sensitive idea of a left-left merger.

Under current voting patterns this could subsume the Liberals, a party that was founded in the 19th century and was long Canada's party of government, into a previously smaller and far younger rival.   Continued...

<p>Liberal Party leader Bob Rae comments on the government's budget on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Dave Chan</p>