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CAW chief Lewenza urges NDP to consider merger with Liberals

Ken Lewenza is president of the Canadian Auto Workers.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

One of Canada's largest trade unions wants the NDP and the Liberal Party to explore the possibility of merging or co-operating in the interests of defeating the federal Conservative government.

The position of the Canadian Auto Workers was outlined in a letter from union president Ken Lewenza to Winnipeg MP Pat Martin Thursday evening and copied to the entire NDP caucus.

"The writing has been on the wall since the Conservative alliance," Mr. Lewenza wrote. "To suggest otherwise would be misleading and not credible. The CAW would be prepared to take part in this [merger]idea in the interest of progressive politics in the interest of all Canadians."

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Mr. Lewenza sought Mr. Martin's "guidance and advice" on the issue and described Stephen Harper's merger of the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservative Party as "incredibly successful."

"The debate that might be generated as a result of your public position is one we clearly support," he wrote.

Mr. Martin argued this week in favour of uniting the two largest federal opposition parties, which he said would deliver a "guaranteed majority."

Both parties are in a state of flux, with the NDP set to hold a leadership vote next year after the death of Jack Layton. If no other candidate champions the issue, Mr. Martin has said he will run for the top job himself.

Potential candidates Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair have shown little or no interest in the idea.

The CAW traditionally backs the NDP and, along with other heavyweights of organized labour, wields considerable influence in the party. Trade union representatives, for instance, have been accorded votes at past leadership conventions.

It is not the first time the CAW has suggested co-operation between the country's centre and left to keep the right from power: during the 2006 election campaign, then-president Buzz Hargrove advocated strategic voting and told reporters the ideal outcome would be a minority Liberal government with a large NDP caucus holding the balance of power in Parliament.

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