There are several really good reasons why the NDP and the Liberals aren’t about to go beyond first base anytime soon (the political version of first base being where each side teases and scorns the other in equal measure.) The best is alluded to in this morning’s Globe and Mail editorial. Usually the Globe’s Front Street take on Quebec is about as specious and disconnected as you’d expect, but this one made sense. A leader out of Quebec, reason the Globe sages, would properly root the party in the province where it has its most MPs and where, arguably, the halo of Jack Layton seemed to shine that much brighter. And since whatever candidate steps up will have to speak French (one really, really hopes so, anyway), why not have him/her from Quebec?
So, imagine you’re the next NPD leader from Quebec. Why in the name of all things orange and green would you want to merge with the party that ranks somewhere amongst bad breath, parking tickets and syphilis, as far as Quebec public opinion is concerned? Put another way: you’ve just hauled in the most support in your party’s history, punted aside the long-reigning sovereignist Bloc Québécois and captured the eye (if not the hearts) of Quebec’s fickle voters. Is now really the time to start playing footsie with the party of Trudeau, Chrétien, adScam etc—the same one that, with the sponsorship scandal, gave the Bloc a new lease on life on 2004? If nothing else, this would be a fantastic way to give weight to the sovereignist argument that all federalist parties are the same.
Here’s the other thing. Even if the NDP were to jump into bed with the Liberals, I doubt very much the Liberals would have them—if only because of who, exactly, owns the bed. Again, the Dippers just came off a stunning electoral victory in which they won 103 seats and came in second in 121 ridings. The election was a good, old-fashioned, dragged-to-the-woodshed whupping of the Liberals, mostly at the hands of the upstart NDP, and if there is merger chatter then the NDP has every right to bargain with this reality in mind.
Now, if you’re a Liberal, are you really ready to douse 150-plus glorious years of crimson-tinted history in patchouli oil and unfortunate facial hair because of one lousy election? Heaven’s, no! You’re the natural ruling party, after all!
In order for a merger to happen, the Liberals need to rebuild, gain momentum, get cocky again and go into the next election with fire on the brain. Then, they need to truly split the vote with the NDP and let the Conservatives at it for another term. That’s when things get desperate: when the Liberals and the NDP are on equal footing.