I'm not naturally sympathetic to the idea that the NDP should try and build a new left party in Canada, but I do try and deal with the arguments seriously. Giant Political Mouse has a provocative point when he writes that NDPers should "....take a lesson from, of all people, Preston Manning. We on the left need to unite the left and create a winning coalition."
Um, okay. Let's imagine we are as successful as Manning. We'll spend a decade building a party in the wilderness, while the governing party (presumably, in this scenario, the Conservatives) runs roughshod over our grievances, go through two successive re-brandings in an attempt to unite some mushy notion of "Progressives" that nobody in Canada really agrees on, until finally a party that really doesn't look much like the early vision finally, tortuously, wins one of the weakest minority governments in Canadian history.
Victory at last!
You may think I'm being flip, but look at what these plans inevitably require: splitting the Liberals in two (presumably between the Business-Right and the Left factions) and glomming the various "progressive" parties together in Parliament.
The problem isn't (only) the natural arrogance of elected officials. There are substantive differences between the Libs, Greens, and NDP, and not just in details. The only kind of platform that could unite three groups that are today so disparate would be something about as vague as "we like puppies" and "fire bad, tree pretty".
So first we destroy the one working, national alternative to the Conservatives, then we improvise together a party out of three parts (not one of which will be treated well by the press) and try and keep it together long enough to win an election.
This is a recipe for successive Conservative majorities.
Now, that's not to say we won't get Conservative majorities anyway -- Harper has been underestimated in his career before -- but we don't have to help Harper along, do we?
And, looking forward, I think that two Conservative majority governments is about the only thing that could force the various parties to the table. But even this radically under-estimates the incredible animosity the Liberals and NDP have for each other. Anyone who's spent any time with actual Liberals close to politics knows what I'm talking about -- in Ontario, I don't think it's a stretch at all to say that the McGuinty Liberals detest Howard Hampton's NDP more than the Tory Conservatives.