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After Quebec's brush with sovereignty in the 1995 referendum, Jean Chrétien's government decided to spend millions promoting federalism in Quebec.

Paul Chiasson/Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

In its Saturday edition, La Presse reports that "Jean Chrétien believes it's in the interest of the Liberal Party to merge with the NDP and build a party that can defeat the Conservatives in the next election." Indeed, anonymous Liberal sources told reporter Joel-Denis Bellavance that Mr. Chrétien believes that "merger is the only option - as the right was united."

The former prime minister is spot-on: Having opened up the scenario of a post-election coalition with the NDP, the Liberals have done Prime Minister Stephen Harper's work and given him the issue on which he'd been hoping to fight the next election. And, by nixing any discussion of merger, they've ensured that Mr. Harper will fight the next election against a divided opposition.

That, in fact, is where things appear to be headed: Mr Bellavance's sources tell him that Mr. Chrétien held informal discussions with Ed Broadbent along these lines "a few months ago," but that the discussions "led nowhere" and have terminated:

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"There are no discussions within the Party about merging or cooperating with the NDP. Anyone who says there are doesn't know what he's talking about."

Moreover, according to the La Presse report, Mr. Chrétien has decided not to "stir things up any more so as not to harm Liberal chances in the next election."

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

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