I hate Harper and the Reformers like pretty much all Liberals, and definitely like all the NDP do. This recent turn of events is a GIANT "f you" to Harper from the 65% of Canadians who never liked his politics - or his personality (or lack of it).
While some Liberals (not too many, I'm not surprised) are worried and talking merger, most of us are talking about a potential rebuild - depending on E-day results. The kind we never truthfully got after Chretien's majorities. We always ran from the left and governed on the right/center. We forgot that for a few years, not putting forth any eye-catching left-wing policies (the Green-shift was not well-thought out). In doing so, we failed to grow in Quebec - on issues which help federalists there. All we did in Quebec was the "nation" discussion.
So forget any talk of "merger". We WILL cooperate with Jack - of course we will. He is more like us than Harper ever was. Why no merger?
Here are a couple of possibilities with a merger:
1) We merge, and the Canadian political scene becomes polarized like the US - continuously swinging from left to right - and with media private ownership and influence, and corporate influence, MORE often to the right. I don't think we want that... To allow the Cons to be the "natural governing party" like the Republicans in the US. Harper would be happy though - this is exactly what he wants.
Sure, Canada has had only a couple of options for brief periods in our history, but typically there has always been a 3rd party. Usually this party was one which represented Western protest - and typically born on the Prairies. This won't change - and indeed, we can get this scenario back.
2) We merge, and the "left" of the NDP splits off to join the Greens, literally re-forming the "NDP" in their more true sense. While this would maintain the status quo under new names, it is probably unlikely (as favorable as it seems). Some Liberals would split away to join the Conservatives - but not nearly as many as would if the Conservatives were the "Progressive" Conservatives and not these "regressive" ones. More NDPers would split away to the Greens.
The hassle of destroying a party and it's infrastructure (and new intelligence software that is JUST getting itself started) and loyalties, for the giant question mark of doubt, only to see things re-evolve back to the current 3-party situation just doesn't help. It would be like treading water.
What is the best solution? Here's how I see it:
Layton is hell-bent on being PM. Let him. We can support him case-by-case. As a Liberal I really didn't want to see our party governing over the next two years. I see a US economic "double-dip", a Canadian housing collapse, rampant inflation, $2 gas, and general economic troubles in the very near future. No party wants to wear that. Harper created it - let him wear it. Give him a few months (or less), then pull the plug, and let PM Jack deal with it. He may get it right (EU-style, Romanow/Blakeney style) and that would change Canadians' thought patterns on the efficacies of left-of-center economic solutions. He may (more likely) fail, based on current Western World economic situations.
The key is that meanwhile Harper is done. The Conservative Party would be in a gut-wrenching leadership battle. They may even split up. If they are lucky, they will elect a Lord/McKay type and come back with a Mulroney-esque majority - in the PROGRESSIVE vein.
That gives OUR party anywhere from 6-8 years to completely rebuild, set a solid set of platform goals, and come back at them from the left (then govern from the center). The NDP would still be stuck with a very old Jack, while we come back with a dynamic, young, populist leader. I think this would lead to moderate-centrist majorities again. The beauty is the Quebec situation. The Bloc may be dead - and we have much upside there IF (IF) we present a series of ideas that appeal to the economic and social needs of Quebecers, and we outright tell them that it is what we are concerned with.
The NDP won't hold the Quebec vote forever, and our selecting a dynamic Quebec leader would build the groundwork for another "grand coalition" to govern. Don't look to Chretien as an example - he benefited from a split on the right. Rather, pursue the Trudeau or Pearson way.
We should also create a new "urban populism" to take advantage of urban-rural splits. The Canadian population is largely urban, and WE ARE the party of urban Canada. Let's grow on that new reality. We need to talk about "urban-rural synergies" in the urban corridors around cities. We need to celebrate the farms which provide for the cities, but the conversation has to be about the cities and towns where 80% of the population lives. The future of Canada: green, technically-forward, socially correct - is all centered around urban Canada. Martin had it right when he started the "Urban agenda".
Either way, our party is needed to prevent a USA scenario. I'm not even dreaming of giving up on a centrist alternative/big-tent party. I don't think anyone else should.