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This article was published 27/2/2012 (3160 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba's Liberals are in merger talks with the Green party to create a new political entity to take on the NDP in the next provincial election.
Discussions are in the early stages -- officials from the two parties started talks just after Christmas -- and nothing has been approved by either party's membership.
Insiders say the goal is to give the Greens a more solid base and save the Liberals from extinction. It would also potentially give voters a viable third alternative to the NDP and the Progressive Conservatives, the latter in the throes of finding a new leader.
"Liberals are always open to new ideas and to discuss new ideas," Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said Monday. "One of the things we need to talk about is what's the relationship between the Green party and the Liberal party moving forward. We are now engaged in discussions.
"We are clearly in need to build bridges and collaborations and build the position the Liberal party and the future of Liberals."
Green party Leader James Beddome was more guarded in his comments on a possible merger.
"It's an interesting idea, but as far as I know, there is nothing formal before our executive," he said Monday. "Anything further than that would be premature."
The Greens sent out a notice to its members updating them on the talks shortly after the Free Press contacted Beddome.
The idea of the Liberals joining forces with the Greens was discussed Saturday at a provincial Liberal board meeting. Board members were split, but officials from both parties -- they've met twice so far -- have agreed to keep talking. There already is an informal agreement, required by the Green party for talks to progress, that if the two join hands, any new party would have a strong "green" environmental policy and a "democratic" membership structure based on a bottom-up policy-approval process.
The two parties have already collaborated on two recent environmental issues: a new logging road in Grass River Provincial Park and more recently, peat harvesting in provincial parks.
Talks between the two parties started shortly after the Oct. 4 provincial election that put the NDP into its fourth term of office since 1999 and earned it 37 seats in Manitoba's 57-seat legislature. The result was disastrous for the PCs, who didn't gain a seat, only keeping the 19 ridings it had before the campaign, a result that led Hugh McFadyen to announce he would step down as Tory leader.
It was almost as bad for Gerrard's Liberals. Gerrard kept his River Heights seat, but popular support for the party plunged from 13 per cent a decade ago to 7.5 per cent.
If the two parties united, it would give added clout for both to attract candidates, plus it would spark voter interest, lacking in recent elections.
Gerrard said he has no designs on leading a new party in the next election and confirmed he will step down as Liberal leader in 2013. He said he will complete his term as MLA for River Heights.
A second new provincial party may also been in the works. Photo-radar opponent Todd Dube has said he wants to create the Manitoba Party as an alternative to the NDP and Tories. Organizers are to meet tonight to begin discussions.
WHO: Manitoba Liberal Party Leader Jon Gerrard and Green Party of Manitoba Leader James Beddome.
WHAT: Their representatives continue to hammer out a possible deal to merge the two parties.
WHY: Both parties are going nowhere at the polls; in fact, the Liberals are going backwards. To save the values it stands for, and for the Greens to make any headway, some are taking the view they have to pool resources and talent under one tent.
WHERE: Most likely Molgat Place, the Liberal HQ on Broadway.
WHEN: Before the next provincial election, scheduled for 2015.
HOW: That's still to be determined.
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