Well two out of three of the latest poll results puts the Liberals ahead, -one with a majority government, so it may be a moot point, but I was thinking what would happen to politics in Canada if the Liberals and the NDP were to merge the way that the PC and Reform parties did. There are really four ideological camps; there are the extreme right wing social conservatives (like the Tea Party in the U.S.), the moderate economic conservatives, the central and moderate left (Liberals), and the far left (NDP). The right is united, but the left is divided.
If the left united (and I’m not saying this is a good idea, but..) pitting the left against the right in a two party system, would the Conservatives ever win another election. In the federal election and in most provincial election, the united left (Liberals + NDP) almost always manage to have a higher popular vote than the Conservatives. In the federal election, this didn’t translate into seats, so the Conservatives managed a majority government, but I think this would be an exception brought about by the extreme backlash against the Liberal and their leader, meaning that many of the centrists, who could vote either way, bounced over to the Conservatives. Most of the time, the popular vote is pretty established in the left wing camp. Take for example the current Ontario election. The combined Liberal / NDP popular vote in the poles is at least 60%, and yet there is a chance that the Conservatives might manage a minority government. If the Left merged, would the Right ever stand a chance.
Well, two things might work for the Right to save them. The first is those centrists who bounce between Liberal and Conservative. They have some left wing views and are moderate in their ideology, but not enough to make them loyal to one party or another. The existence of those people is the reason that McGuinty has had to assert that a coalition with the NDP is not an option, and is also the reason that the PC party is so anxious to make it look like they might. Alienating that centrist group might bring the much needed vote into the conservative camp.
The other reason is that there are a lot of people out there who don’t vote ideologically. It’s not important to them or they just don’t understand it. I know lots of people who don’t really get the essential ideological differences between the parties. They don’t understand that the Conservative parties are interested in smaller government, fewer social services and fewer restrictions on business. Their understanding is often restricted to more or less taxation. They vote for the party that gives them the best feeling or seems to have the nicest leader. I don’t know what percentage of the voters is included in this category, but I know a lot of them. They’re the ones that a majority of the flashy advertising is aimed at.
The bottom line, though, is that the majority of the population in Ontario, and probably in Canada, are in the left of centre camp. A united left wing political party would be, at least, a major inconvenience for the conservatives.