The Liberal Party has suffered greater losses, has been in worse positions than it is in now, and it always could have merged with the NDP before, so one must ask, "Why then is there talk about it now? What's changed?" The answer is the Liberal Party.
There are many examples that show how the Liberal Party is changing from a party that is balanced by both social and economic concerns to one that is asymmetrically socially minded, from a party that appeals to both NDPers and Conservatives, to a party that only furthers the divide; but of these examples, the most obvious concerns the recent Vancouver Conference where out of the ten policy resolutions adopted none sought to improve our economy or its place internationally.
The ten policy resolutions, as prioritized by members, are as follows:
1. National Housing StrategyThough the conference began with 67 policies, and 14 of those were put in the "Economic" category, there were in reality few policy resolutions that sought greater fiscal responsibility.
2. Early Childhood Development and Child Care
3. In Support of Instating a Microcredit Bank of Canada
4. Generic Drugs for Developing Countries
5. Transitional Licenses for IMDS
6. Moratorium on International Oil Tanker Traffic and Oil and Gas Drilling in BC Coastal Waters
7. Preserving a Representative Supreme Court of Canada
8. Comprehensive Plan for Post-Secondary Education
9. Building a More Skilled Society
10. Annual Income for the Elderly
Only one policy of the final ten was even labelled by the conference organizers as economic, and in reading the policy on Annual Income for the Elderly, it's hard to see why. So was the case for several other policies that were labelled Economic. One supposed economic policy called for enhancing Aboriginal education by increasing the participation of elders and another similarly labelled economic policy called for the creation of a Federal Ministry of Charities.
This is not to say that initially there were no economic policies, because there were, it's just that the Liberals in attendance weren't voting for them. The few economic policies like reducing the capital gains tax, streamlining the pension system, supporting a global financial transactions tax, reforming the RRSP structure and supporting a plan for Canada to be debt free, were all eventually voted down.
Now it's possible that more socially oriented policies were just better written or had more substance, but no matter what the case may be, the final ten policies that were selected allude to a problem that may be facing the Liberal Party, and that is, it's losing its historic balance between social justice and economic progress. For even if all the economic policies at the conference were themselves poor or weak, the therefore absence of strong economic policy reflects the change in importance given to the economy by the general membership, and that change itself embodies the harkening of an ideological shift.
This conference was one example of the Liberal Party losing one of its halves, slowly moving away from its balance which included fiscal responsibility towards a myopic view driven purely by social issues, a view coincidentally shared by the NDP. This conference with it's exclusion of any economic emphasis, serves as one example of why, of all times, there is talk of a merger, or of closer ties with the NDP, because, simply, the Liberal Party is undergoing an ideological shift. And as the Liberal Party is moving out to the left, it is to our peril that the economy is being left out.