So the swirling rumour in Canadian politics of the day is that the Liberals and the New Democrats will unify to create a new, centre-left party.
Now, on the one hand, this sounds reasonable, because this is basically what the right-wing parties in Canada did years ago. On the other hand, the basic argument for this idea is that the Liberals are incapable of finding a leader with charisma, and at least Jack Layton looks vaguely human. (Note that the link points out that a “Liberal Democrat” party led by Layton would be victorious, and one led by Michael “useless limpdick” Ignatieff would lose. That Michael Ignatieff would lose an election in a country where generally only forty percent of the country at best is inclined to vote Tory tells you a lot about how useless a limpdick he in fact is.)
Of course, the problem is that in getting the strengths of both parties, you also get their weaknesses: this means you combine the funding collapse of the Liberals with the not-ready-for-prime-time economic strategies of much of the NDP (and, speaking as someone who has spent time in the NDP previously and is pretty reliably left in his politics, some of the lack of understanding of basic economic principles of many Dippers is just incredibly irritating to me). The potential voter has both the leeriness of voting soulless Liberal (and the Liberals will be soulless for as long as it takes them to start defending their record of leadership; why nobody in the party bothers to point out that Paul Martin’s government is largely responsible for Canada mostly avoiding the global financial meltdown is beyond me) and unready NDP. That combination is potentially toxic.
Of course, what’s more important is whether or not a reformed Liberal party would have any chance of picking up additional seats. Would they get a majority? Probably not. Looking at 2008 election results, if you go with a formula of “Liberal Democrats” getting a combined vote of the NDP and Liberals in any given riding and then subtracting ten percent (assuming the most pessimistic scenario with swing voters going Tory and disaffecteds voting Green), they pick up about another twelve to fifteen ridings, which still doesn’t win them an election. However, the upside is that the ridings they’ve already won become extremely solid, which means they can campaign harder in swing ridings and have more effect; they can also more reliably portray themselves as a national party, as they would become competitive in quite a few ridings in BC and Manitoba where they currently aren’t.
Is it a good idea? With the right leader, potentially. Unfortunately, they don’t really have the right leader. When Jack Layton is your best-case scenario, you have issues.