A new poll, released as two more left-leaning candidates prepare to enter the Liberal leadership race, suggests a merger of the Liberal and New Democratic parties could be an electoral winner.
The Decima Research poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians believed the two parties should unite.
Voters who supported either of the two parties in last winter's election were even more receptive to the idea: 36 per cent of Liberals favoured a merger and 32 per cent of New Democrats.
Moreover, a Decima analysis of the 2006 election results suggests that had the two parties joined forces during last winter's election, they could have blocked the Conservatives from winning a minority government.
Before left-leaning voters start celebrating the possibility of eternal "progressive" government in Canada, they should take a few cautionary notes from the Conservative Party's example.
First: One plus one does not always equal two. Even if the Liberals and NDP are both left-leaning parties, certain factions within both parties will decamp because they just will not work together.
Fiscal and social conservatives in the Liberal Party, increasingly marginalized among their own kind, will likely go to the Conservative Party rather than share a tent with hot-blooded socialists and pro-abortion, anti-family activists.
Hardcore environmentalists will be just as unwilling to be swallowed up by Liberals perceived as all too friendly to big business polluters. The Green Party awaits their arrival.
Expect loudly proclaimed defections if such a merger comes to pass from both sides.
Second: You can throw a party together at the last minute, but don't expect it to win at the last minute either.
Those of us who were disappointed by the failure to win in 2004 after a short-lived mid-election rise in the polls collapsed, in retrospect, proved to be more grateful for what was achieved than resentful about what was not.
The Conservative Party had to run an accelerated merger and leadership process, and throw together a campaign team and platform from scratch. What normally takes two to three years had to be done in less than six months.
We were fortunate to have some of the shine come off Paul Martin's image, even though the full extent of Adscam and the Liberal Party's corruption had yet to be known.
A united left will likely not have the same benefit of scandals and a tired leader and government with heavy baggage going into the next election. And it will still face all the same organizational challenges.
Third: Don't run ahead of your own membership.
Most people will agree, eventually, that merger is a good idea. But they will not actively pursue it until they're convinced of the futility of the status quo. It took three elections and the near-collapse of both Alliance and PC Parties before hope and fear overcame inertia. The time was not ripe in 2000 when Reform tried to unite the right all on its own. Three years later, everyone wanted on, fast.
Finally: Remember that the media will not want this merger to fail. It will work long and hard for the consummation of its greatest hopes. One liberal party, indivisible, with patronage and entitlements for all.