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Martin may run for NDP leadership in bid for Liberal merger

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OTTAWA - Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin says he’ll run for the NDP leadership himself if no candidates step forward pledging to take the party into formal unity talks with the federal Liberals.

"I firmly believe we have the ability to stop the Harper agenda," said Martin. "I’m serving notice that that’s what I want to hear from a leadership candidate. And I’m not alone."

Martin said he knows of several people from both parties who believe the same thing. He isn’t seeking the leadership job yet but he says he will do it if it means members can vote for someone willing to lead the two parties to a united stand.

"If none of them throw it on the table, I’ll do it myself," he said.

He says he fully believes the NDP could win the next election on its own but it is guaranteed a united NDP/Liberal party would win a majority.

"We wouldn’t be splitting the vote and letting all those Conservatives come up the middle and win," said Martin.

Martin has had numerous well-documented arguments with the Liberal party over the years. But this is not the first time he has publicly proposed cooperating with the Liberals.

He ran afoul of his own party in 2007 when he proposed an informal alliance with the Liberals. However he also said he’d rather "stick pins in his eyes" than back a formal merger to create a single party.

Such a merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives in 2003 ultimately allowed Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lead the way into government. The Liberal majority governments of the 1990s were largely built on split votes between the two right wing parties.

A similar scenario gave Harper his majority in the May election, though it was vote splitting between the NDP and the Liberals which helped the Conservatives.

"It’s time to bury the hatchet," said Martin. "If we believe all the things we say about Harper ruining this country, we have it in our grasp to do something about it."

Talk of the NDP and Liberal merger was loud Tuesday as the Liberals met in Ottawa for an end-of-summer caucus retreat. Partly it was because former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was overheard discussing the idea.

Liberal MP Denis Coderre also said it was something that should be discussed.

However, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said it was not on his agenda.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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