The race for the Liberal leadership might kick off as early as next month, with the final vote held a little less than a year from now. But with more than half of the electorate giving up on the Grits, and a solid majority of party supporters favouring a merger with the NDP, what kind of prize will the party's next leader be winning?
An Ipsos-Reid poll found that 64 per cent of Liberal supporters like the idea of merging with the New Democrats. Even 57 per cent of NDP voters would support such a merger. Assuming the proportion of voters on the left who want a merger cast their ballot for this hypothetical party, it would likely be enough to oust the Conservatives from power. But if a third of Liberal voters swing to the Tories, that result becomes less than a sure thing.
But while Liberals might like the idea of merging with the NDP, there is little to sell the New Democrats on the older party. When 56 per cent of Canadians, and even 21 per cent of Liberals, call the Grits the "party of the past" such a merger could be as much a burden as a blessing for the NDP.
The survey showed 65 per cent of Canadians think the NDP has a better chance of beating the Conservatives, with only 35 per cent saying the Liberals have better odds of defeating Stephen Harper. If the progressive vote is truly split between the two parties, those on the fence are more likely to vote for a winner - or at least the party perceived to be a winner. That could spell disaster for the Liberals.
But all is not doom and gloom. Though 52 per cent of Canadians have "written-off" the Liberals, the other 48 per cent believe the party still has some life left in it and can win elections again. Of course, the number of people who have given up on the party is likely much higher than those who feel the Conservatives and New Democrats are spent forces, but with our electoral system a party can win an election with a lot less than 48 per cent of the vote. And the proportion of Canadians who would never vote Tory or NDP is usually also quite high.
Nevertheless, the Liberal Party has a steep hill to climb. Is Bob Rae the person to bring the party back to prominence? He performed well against the Nycole Turmel-led NDP but has since been eclipsed by Thomas Mulcair. Ipsos-Reid found only 18 per cent of Canadians have a positive impression of the interim Liberal leader, compared to 35 per cent who view Justin Trudeau positively.
While Trudeau maintains he is not thinking about a leadership run at this time, he is head and shoulders above the other likely candidates. Marc Garneau scored a 16 per cent positive rating in the survey, while David McGuinty, Gerrard Kennedy and Daniel Leblanc all had six per cent or less. This is not because they are disliked - a majority of Canadians simply had no impression of them. Rae and Trudeau are the only two with wide name recognition, but Rae had the higher negative impression score.
Facing long odds, the Liberals have an important choice to make. The next leader will have to rebuild the party or preside over its dissolution. Perhaps thinking it over for10 months isn't a bad idea.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers on most Tuesdays and Fridays. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls, and electoral projections.
Surprising Justin Trudeau Facts
With talk of Trudeau making a bid for the Liberal leadership reaching a fever pitch (again), HuffPost takes a look at some surprising facts about Canada's perpetual PM-in-waiting. (CP)
11. Politics On Mother's Side Too
Trudeau's maternal grandfather <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Sinclair_(politician)" target="_hplink">James Sinclair</a> was a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in Louis St.-Laurent's government in the 1950s. (House of Commons) <em><strong>CORRECTION</strong>: An earlier version of this slide incorrectly said Sinclair was a Progressive Conservative MP.</em>
10. Born In Office
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau was only the second child ever to be born while a parent was prime minister</a>. The first was John A. Macdonald's youngest daughter Margaret Mary Macdonald. Trudeau's younger brothers, Alexandre (Sacha) and Michel were the third and fourth. (CP)
9. Educated Enough?
Trudeau has a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill and a Bachelor of Education from UBC. He also studied engineering at the Université de Montréal and environmental geography at McGill, but never finished degrees in those fields.
8. Enemies To Friends
While fathers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Trudeau were rivals, sons Justin and Ben are friends. Mulroney attended Trudeau's wedding to Sophie Grégoire. Grégoire has worked as Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk, which is hosted by Mulroney. (CP)
7. Let Them Eat Anything But Cake
Trudeau didn't have cake at his wedding, with <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Sophie arguing that people never eat it anyway</a>. (Shutterstock)
6. Born On Christmas
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Trudeau" target="_hplink">Trudeau entered the world on December 25, 1971</a>.
5. Two Tattoos In One
Trudeau has a large tattoo on his left shoulder. <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/justinpjtrudeau/statuses/179973685136998400" target="_hplink">The planet Earth inside a Haida raven</a>. Trudeau got the globe tattoo when he was 23 and the raven when he turned 40. (Media Ball)
4. Keeping It In The Family
Trudeau and his wife Sophie have two children, Xavier James (4) and Ella-Grace Margaret (3). Both are partially named after family.<a href="http://www.chatelaine.com/en/article/4970--the-littlest-trudeau" target="_hplink"> Xavier James is named after Trudeau's maternal grandfather James Sinclair</a> (the politician) and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophie_Gr%C3%A9goire" target="_hplink">Ella-Grace Margaret is named after Trudeau's mother Margaret and Grace Elliot, Trudeau's paternal grandmother</a>. Xavier also happens to share a birthday with Pierre Elliott Trudeau. (CP)
3. Politician And Actor
<a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0846011/" target="_hplink">Trudeau played Talbot Mercer Papineau</a> in the 2007 CBC miniseries "The Great War."
2. .. And Video Game Star
<a href="http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/09/06/in-deus-ex-justin-trudeau-is-the-pm-and-canada-has-a-problem-with-illegal-immigrants-from-the-u-s/" target="_hplink">Trudeau is prime minister in the dystopian future portrayed in the video game Deus Ex: Human Revolution</a>. (CP)
1. Childhood Sweathearts
Sophie used to visit the Trudeau family home when she was a child. She was a classmate and friend of Trudeau's youngest brother Michel, who died tragically in a B.C. avalanche in 1998. Justin and Sophie made contact again at a fundraiser in 2003 and soon after began dating. <a href="http://www.macleans.ca/canada/national/article.jsp?content=20050606_106678_106678" target="_hplink">Trudeau was so smitten</a> that he declared they would spend the rest of their lives together on the very first date. (CP)