New Democrats are keeping their options open when it comes to a possible merger with the once-mighty Liberal party.Ditto for whether they should jettison the word "socialist'' from the NDP lexicon.Delegates at the NDP's 50th anniversary convention rejected a resolution that called on the party to rule out any merger or non-compete arrangement with the Liberals.
They also agreed to defer a vote on a proposal to delete references to socialist principles from the preamble to the NDP constitution.
In rejecting the anti-merger resolution on Sunday, delegates weren't necessarily welcoming a union with the Liberal party.
It was more that they didn't want to gratuitously insult Liberals, whom the NDP must woo in order to win power in the next election. Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer said there are many Liberal MPs who are "truly wonderful people'' and with whom he'd be willing to work "in a heartbeat.''
"To close the door on any discussion with Liberals now or in the future, I think is a tactical, serious mistake,'' Stoffer said.
In order to win power, Stoffer said a lot of Liberals are going to have to switch to the NDP.
"We don't get Liberals if we say, 'Because you're a Liberal, we no longer have talks with you.'''
Northern Ontario MP Carol Hughes told delegates that she and other New Democrats have hired former Liberal assistants.
"Instead of pushing them away, let's welcome them with open hands and open arms into our party,'' she said.
However, some delegates exuded nothing but animosity toward the Grits.
One supporter of the anti-merger resolution was really about "rejecting everything the Liberal party has stood for.''
"We have to stand on our own two feet,'' he exhorted.
Said another: "I think we need to be clear. We don't need the Liberals.''
The convention, which wrapped up Sunday, was billed as the first step toward making the leap from opposition to government within four years.
Only three years ago, the fourth-place NDP eagerly sought to form a coalition government with the Liberals. After vaulting past the Grits into official Opposition status on May 2, however, New Democrats are now more intent on supplanting the Liberals entirely.