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The Globe and Mail

Young Liberal pushes 'Stop Harper' coalition; Conservatives brag on economy

Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Gatineau, Quebec April 29, 2010.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

The president of the Young Liberals of Canada is now adding his voice to the idea of a coalition on the left, calling for a serious debate that would lead towards a merger with other federal progressive parties as the only way to stop the Harper Conservatives.

"What scenarios are left to impede Harper from radically altering the face of our country in a way a majority of Canadians don't agree with?" Samuel Lavoie, who as the YLC president sits on the National Board of Directors of the Liberal Party of Canada, told the Globe's Ottawa Notebook today. "Basically uniting all the federalist progressives in some way, shape or form …"

Mr. Lavoie, who says he still supports his embattled leader Michael Ignatieff, however, believes there is an opportunity this summer for frank discussions, given all of the informal summer party events and caucuses.

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He excludes the Bloc, however, from his calculations; his scenarios only see federalist parties being involved in a merger.

His decision to go public to call for a coalition was in part motivated by what the situation in Britain in which a coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has recently formed.

As well, recent comments by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien - "If it's doable, let's do it" - also got him thinking.

Recent polls are also pointing out how effective a merger on the left could be to stop Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

Indeed, an Angus Reid poll yesterday showed that the Conservatives led by Stephen Harper would defeat a coalition led by Michael Ignatieff 40 - 34 per cent.

But with Bob Rae as Liberal leader, the coalition and Conservatives would be tied; if Jack Layton were leading the show, the coalition would win.

"I tend not to put too much stock into polls," Mr. Lavoie says. "But some trends are hard to ignore over a certain period of time. And these trends have made this discussion about a possible collaboration amongst federalist progressives unavoidable."

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Mr. Lavoie is frustrated by the political landscape that to him shows only gridlock on the left.

"At the end of the day I am firmly convinced that the current political landscape makes it all but impossible for a progressive party to severely diminish Harper's ability to do whatever he wants in Ottawa on its own, let alone win a majority," says Mr. Lavoie. "That is why I support some kind of collaboration/cooperation amongst Canada's progressives, excluding the Bloc."

He is not sure how this would come about nor is he wedded to any model; his motivation now is to provoke discussions involving grassroots, elected officials and party leaders.

Mr. Lavoie has not pitched this merger idea to the national board or to the Opposition Leader's Office but he believes that the time is right now to start "deliberating" on this idea.

And he is poised to bring this idea to the Young Liberals, who are traditionally far more progressive than the other wings of the party. He will begin his push there.

"This is something that I and others will keep on bringing up regardless of the negative initial reactions we may be getting. I will also make sure the executive starts thinking about this."

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And he adds: "This is not 1974 or 1993 anymore. It is time for progressives to think outside the box in reflecting on how we can impede that the next decade be nothing more than a long Conservative winter for Canadians."

Bragging about the economy amid a massive $1-billion summit security bill

Stephen Harper's Conservatives circulated a series of internal party talking points yesterday bragging about the shape of the country's economy as opposition MPs were hammering them over the huge $1-billion price tag for security for the three days of summiteering taking place this month.

Under the headline, Canada's Economy Leading the Way, Conservative strategists write in their memo that the economy grew 6.1 per cent in the first quarter, which "represents the strongest quarterly rate of economic growth in a decade."

And then they brag about the success of their Economic Action Plan that has seen the creation of 285,000 new jobs since last July.

This economic news comes as the Liberals and NDP spent most of Question Period yesterday asking for answers as to why the bill for the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville and Toronto later this month is so exorbitant.

No good answers were provided. And this morning, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation sent out a release congratulating Stephen Harper for becoming the newest member of the "notorious Billion Dollar Boondoggle Club thanks to Summitscam."

The CTF lists off other politicians who have managed to spend (waste) hundreds of thousands of dollars on initiatives including the implementation of the long-gun registry, the Ontario eHealth affair and the sponsorship scandal.

"This summit spending boondoggle is a mess that requires investigation," says the CTF.

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