Tag Archives: David Merner

David Merner and the Conversation the Liberal Party Needs to Have

David Merner (left) and Alberta Liberal Party president Todd Van Vliet (right.)

It’s funny, I thought I would be running as a pro-business, pro-environment West-coast Liberal but it looks like I’ve become the ‘cooperation candidate.‘” That was former LPC(BC) President David Merner’s reaction when I told him that I had read Gloria Galloway’s article in the Globe and Mail and I had some questions for him about Liberal/NDP cooperation.

Mr. Merner held a meet-and-greet in Toronto at the Duke of York on Friday (it was the second of these type of events that I had attended in as many weeks.) With Jean Chrétien openly musing about the prospect of a LPC-NDP merger, David and I agreed that the party needs to talk openly about cooperation (though Merner, like myself is vehemently opposed to a merger) and we can’t be afraid of talking openly about so-called “Liberal sacred cows.*” If the Liberal Party doesn’t have a serious conversation on what I have termed “progressive cooperation,” there will be fissures within the party that may weaken us going in to the 2015 election. However, Nathan Cullen only received 24.6% of the vote on the 3 (and 2nd last) ballot at the NDP leadership convention back in March. The pair of candidates on the final ballot (Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair) were two of the fiercest opponents of cooperation with the Liberal Party in the running to succeed Jack Layton.

When Merner talks about cooperation he focuses on reaching out to the Greens, red-tories and (a term he introduced me to that I now love) “conservation-conservatives.” As a Liberal campaigning in Victoria B.C., he realizes that in ridings in that area, and in places like Vancouver and Toronto, cooperation with the NDP (our main opponents) wouldn’t make sense. Merner’s approach to cooperation fits in well with the pragmatism that is a pillar of the modern Liberal party. “We should be about creating choices for Canadians not reducing choices.” Merner believes that any practical form of electoral cooperation must, like the debate on cooperation, come from the bottom up. He pointed to the deal between Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May not to run candidates in each-others’ respective ridings as a top down decision that had negative results. This pragmatic attitude was on display when I asked Merner about two of my top issues, cannabis legalization and high-speed rail. Merner supports legalization, calling prohibition a “waste of police resources” while pointing out how cannabis would be a cash crop in British Columbia. On high-speed rail he wasn’t afraid to disagree with me bluntly. We talked about the proposed Edmonton-Calgary and Quebec-Windsor lines. He compared commitments to building massive high-speed rail lines to previous Liberal governments failure to reach ambitious environmental goals. “We need to be the party of practical solutions to real problems.”

David Merner bristled at the fact that certain party officials have said that progressive cooperation is “not up for discussion.” I agree. As the third party we need to show that the Liberal Party’s approach is different than the NDP or CPC‘s. To do this the Liberal Party needs to produce and promote bold policies and we need a competitive leadership race where the candidates aren’t afraid to constructively criticize the party.

David Merner is an intelligent and engaging candidate. Let’s not close our minds to any of the candidates because the media interprets one of his or her positions narrowly or incorrectly.

* Real, substantive health care reform and realistic targets to reduce carbon emissions were two such “sacred cows” that we discussed at the Friday evening event.

In Defense of “Second Tier” Candidates

On July 4th Bob Hepburn wrote this silly article: “Warning to Liberals: Beware delusional no-hope leadership candidates.” I would like to defend these so-called “no-hope” candidates.

The next Liberal leader is unlikely to be elected Prime Minister in 2015. We must have a 2 election strategy. The Liberal Party cannot keep jettisoning our leaders or the media’s wish that we cease to exist will come true. If you look at Thomas Mulcair’s name recognition at the beginning of the NDP leadership race it was extremely low outside of Quebec. So far, there have been more articles on the Liberal Leadership than there were during the whole NDP race. Charisma, policy and organizational ability must be weighed equally when we pick our next leader. Though I would agree with those who argue that debt from a previous leadership race is a factor that should prohibit a candidate from running for Liberal Leader, most of Hepburn’s disqualifying factors seem to have been thought up posthumously to justify putting down people whom he happened to not know.

I believe that David Merner,  David Bertschi, Deborah Coyne, and George Takach are all legitimate candidates for Liberal Leader. Yes they will have to work harder but, just as candidate Barack Obama’s victory in the primary campaign was legitimate managerial experience, if a candidate who isn’t a caucus member wins the leadership that will be proof that they have the charisma, policy knowledge and community/political organizing skills that the party needs. Deborah Coyne, the first candidate to officially enter the race, released a long list of substantive policy proposals. This will ensure that all of her opponents will be held to a high policy standard. The Liberal Leadership race has not officially begun and she has already made it a better one. If the Liberal Party is to survive we need to do politics radically differently. Voters in the Liberal Leadership race (the first truly open leadership race in Canadian history) will weigh as many factors as they so chose. We should not dismiss a candidate because they don’t fit our narrow view of a Liberal Leader.