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RADIA: Left should unite (unless it wants continued Tory rule)

FACE TO FACE: Should federal lefties unite under one banner to fight the right? Eight years after the Progressive Conservative and the Canadian Alliance parties merged to unite Canada's political right, there is increasing chatter about a similar mov

FACE TO FACE: Should federal lefties unite under one banner to fight the right?

Eight years after the Progressive Conservative and the Canadian Alliance parties merged to unite Canada's political right, there is increasing chatter about a similar movement to unite the left.

The leadership of both the federal Liberals and NDP say they prefer the status quo.

But at some point, the simple math of what it will take to defeat the Conservatives will have to dawn upon even the most devout members of the Liberals and New Democrats.

Aside from the 1993 Kim Campbell fiasco, Canada's right-of-centre parties have consistently garnered between 35% and 40% of the popular vote - this is the conservative base.

In other words, to dethrone the Harper Conservatives in 2015, a party will need to earn more than 40% of the popular vote.

Under current circumstances, it's doubtful that either the Liberals or the NDP can unilaterally achieve those levels of support.

First of all, the federal Liberals are a mess. The so-called natural governing party of Canada has been floundering without an identity since Jean Chr├ętien retired in 2003. Paul Martin was a fiscal conservative in disguise, Stephane Dion moved the party to the left with a disastrous green policy and Michael Ignatieff was all over the political map, zigging and zagging with each new headline.

And now, in their infinite wisdom, the Grits have chosen the turncoat Bob Rae as their interim leader. The former NDP MP and NDP premier is somehow supposed to help the federal Liberals differentiate themselves from the NDP?

The New Democrats, as well, will be hard-pressed to make any gains in the next election without Jack Layton. A fickle Quebec electorate combined with a slate of leadership candidates who seem to lack the charisma, the presence and the profile of Layton doesn't bode well for the party's long term aspirations.

Without a merger between the federal New Democrats and Liberals, this country is destined for a decade of Harper.

Not that I'm complaining, though, as a prolonged period of sound conservative policies is just what this country needs.

But from a political strategy point of view, a merger is the right thing for the left.

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.