A Liberal-NDP merger seems to have few vocal champions among active Liberals, possibly because the number of people willing to identify themselves as such have dropped precipitously in recent days.
But questions about one are not soon going away for one simple reason: because on election night, in the midst of the worst drubbing in Liberal party history, Bob Rae wouldn't rule one out. And as long as Mr. Rae remains on the list of possible leaders -both interim and permanent -the merger question cannot be shoved back in the bottom drawer.
Adding to the confusion: The party executive says the selection of an interim leader, a decision that was thought to come Wednesday, will not happen this week at all. And with reports the executive is set to issue a no-merger edict to potential interim leaders, a theoretical debate about that aspect of the party's future could become an imminent reality.
It doesn't help that Jean Chrétien, the man who has become more mythic in Liberal party history with every disastrous electoral result, has been oddly coy about his thoughts on a merger. Asked directly about the subject by reporters in Quebec City on Monday, the threeterm prime minister said, "It's not for me, it's up to the leadership of the party to decide."
But he added: "Some would prefer to build back the Liberal party, others think that, as the right managed to amalgamate, perhaps amalgamation would be a good thing." It says something significant that Mr. Chrétien sounded far more open to the merger possibility than, say, Jack Layton. Or Ed Broadbent.