Liberals and Conservatives won’t merge

A merger of the two right-of-centre parties won't happen before the next election.

There are suggestions floating around that the BC Liberals and BC Conservatives should merge, to prevent the NDP from winning the next election.

The promoters of this plan seem to be largely from the business community, most of whom backed the Liberals through thick and thin for the past 19 years, ever since the party emerged to take the place of the Social Credit party.

It’s not going to happen, and here’s why.

First, the fact that so many of the business community backed the Liberals is part of the problem. The BC Liberal government has been business-friendly, which is good in that jobs and investment are emphasized, but it has on occasion been too business-friendly.

It adopted the HST with no input, and just after an election when the idea wasn’t even mentioned. That was the death warrant, not just for former premier Gordon Campbell, but for the party. It didn’t matter who took over after he resigned. The only slim hope the party had was that the HST would be approved in a referendum, which of course it wasn’t.

A host of things caused so many voters to flee from the Liberals. They include the sale and subsequent scandal involving BC Rail; rising BC Hydro rates; smart meters; the poisonous education atmosphere; rising MSP premiums;  higher ICBC and ferry rates; TransLink and a number of other irritants. All have become magnified in the public mind as the economy continues to sputter, and people have less and less money to spend each month.

Another reason the merger will never happen is the absolute hatred that many BC Conservatives have for the Liberals. Even if there was a formal merger, those people would not follow the leaders over to the Libs. They might accept a merger under the Conservative banner, but only if there was a conspicuous absence of high-profile Liberals.

These angry Conservatives would far rather see an NDP government than another Liberal government.

The third reason it won’t happen is a simple one — a lack of time. When the NDP defeated Social Credit for the first time in 1972, it wasn’t too long before there was a formal organization known as the Majority Movement to get the right-of-centre parties to come together.

It, along with the herculean efforts of Grace McCarthy, served to convince enough non-Socreds to join the party under new leader Bill Bennett. Most notable were the Liberal and Conservative MLAs who joined the Socreds. This occurred well before the next election, and when the vote came sooner than expected, they were ready.

The next provincial election is just over a year away. It could be delayed by the Liberals, if they go against the fixed election date law.

The elaborate exercise that would be required to bring two very different parties together will take many months to fully implement.

It appears that B.C. is in for an NDP government. The question people should be asking now is this: “How will an NDP government deal with issues such as higher user fees, labour strife in schools and creating an economic environment where investors won’t flee the province?”