Friday, March 29, 2013

I'll be voting for Joyce Murray even though I hope Justin Trudeau wins Liberal leadership...

I've always been a left-leaning Liberal. I've always been slightly anti-establishment. Since I was a recently out university student, I've always wanted to push the Liberal Party to be more activist, more open and more progressive. Those blue Liberals who believe in little more than lower taxes, deregulation and the colour red have always pissed me off. The folks who seized power and did nothing with it but cut corporate taxes and ignore their promises to strengthen public services and health care had little business calling themselves Liberals, in my estimation.

But in recent years I've been questioning my instincts. The establishment that elected Jean Chretien was mostly right. The establishment that first elected Dalton McGuinty (over my choice of Gerard Kennedy) in 1996 and then insisted that Dalton stay after blowing the 1999 election were also quite right.

But then again, the establishment was dead wrong when they hoisted Paul Martin on the country. They were also wrong when they forced Liberals to choose between Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae in 2006. In the end, Liberals including myself rebelled and voted for the best alternative we could find, Stephane Dion, who turned out to be quite disastrous. That choice forced me to reconsider my instincts. In 2008, I decided to backtrack and supported Ignatieff's acclamation as leader. That proved to be even more disastrous.

I continued to question my old instincts in the Ontario Liberal leadership race this year. It's true that I knew Sandra Pupatello and all of her staff quite well from my days at Queen's Park (1999 to 2004.) That personal connection, as well as Pupatello's strong performance during the campaign, made the difference for me in endorsing her over rival and eventual winner Kathleen Wynne. I had no personal connection with Wynne as she had only been elected in 2003. I had heard great things about her from those who worked with her. But I had never experienced that greatness personally. Thus, her ascendancy to the leadership in January surprised me. I had never seen what she was capable of until she won the leadership. Since then, Wynne has massively impressed me and I've become quite the Wynne fan.

Had I not had a personal connection to the Pupatello campaign, and had I decided to trust my old anti-establishment instincts, I might have endorsed Wynne instead in that leadership race. As experience is now proving, voting for Wynne would've been the right choice.

Which brings me to the current federal Liberal leadership race. Justin Trudeau is probably going to win this thing on the first round of balloting. This has never been much of a contest. And it seems he's the right person for the times. He's passionate and has no trouble drawing huge crowds and money to his campaign. He's done the hard work of going across the country and speaking in church basements and elsewhere for years. In this race, he has taken nuanced policy stances that indicate fresh thinking mixed with pragmatic and reasoned judgment. I like his stance on preferential balloting in general elections. I like his stance on marijuana. I like his focus on helping out the middle class who are the lifeblood of the economy. He's casting himself as a new generation of dynamic leadership for a country growing bored of the same-old-same-old of Stephen Harper.

Justin is very green, of course. He still comes across occasionally as a guy in slightly over his head. But he's shown growth over the course of this leadership race. Like Wynne said shortly after winning the Ontario Liberal leadership, leaders are "forged" in the battle to become leader. There is little life and work experience that can adequately prepare you for the role of national or provincial leader. It's very much showing the potential for growth and earning the position, after which you continue to grow and hopefully soar. Justin Trudeau looks quite capable of such growth. If things go his way, and they just might, he may eventually lead the federal Liberals back into contention for government.

But this time, I'm going to trust my instincts and vote for Joyce Murray (pictured) as my first choice. Trudeau will likely be my second choice on my preferential ballot. Electoral reform has long been a passion of mine, even though I think the cause for proportional representation in Canada is largely a dead one. Four referendums on the subject have all but killed the various PR options on the table, in my mind. To me, moving to preferential balloting would be the type of reform Canadians might embrace, but nothing more radical (hence, perhaps, why Trudeau has endorsed such a reform.)

But I quite like how Murray has focused her campaign on some really meaty, leftie issues like electoral cooperation, the environment, marijuana and a number of other issues. While she's never been a high profile MP, Murray has been able to seize a lot of attention in this race and is hitting her stride at the perfect time. I got the chance to meet her briefly at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention in Toronto in January and was impressed with her. She's the only candidate I have actually gotten to meet in person in this race.

Other also-rans like Martha Hall Findlay, Martin Cauchon and even Marc Garneau failed to impress me much. Garneau's a nice guy, I liked his stance on opening up the telecommunications industry to more competition, but a 63-year-old, charisma-challenged dude is not what the Liberal party needs this time. We need an energetic, exciting fighter who has at least 10 years to offer to do the grueling work of rebuilding and re-connecting with Canadians. Garneau saw the writing on the wall and dropped out of the race.

Cauchon's campaign this time has been boring and, true to his history, launched way too late to have much of an impact. Cauchon should've stuck around as an MP in 2004 instead of quitting when Paul Martin took over. If Cauchon had been still around, he would've spared us the unfortunate return of Jean Lapierre to federal politics. He would've also spared us the Outremont byelection forced after Lapierre abandoned the party yet again and made way for Thomas Mulcair's NDP win in that riding. Cauchon should've run in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership. Liberals that year were desperately looking for alternatives to Ignatieff and Rae. So they chose the only francophone in that race, Stephane Dion. If Cauchon had been on the ballot, he might've even kept Dion out of that race and won the whole thing as the compromise francophone candidate. And history would've been different. However, Cauchon made his choices and the rest is history. He missed the boat long ago. Timing is everything in politics and Cauchon has the worst timing.

In truth, I think the best future for progressive politics in Canada would be to see the federal Liberals and NDP merge into one new party. It would be called the "New Liberal Democratic Party of Canada" or NLDP. It would combine the untainted history of the NDP, with strong support in parts of the west and now Quebec, with the traditional support of the Liberal Party in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. If viewed as moderate, but still authentically progressive, it could be the equivalent of the Democratic Party in the U.S.

To that end, I view a vote for Joyce Murray in this race as the best way to voice my position. A vote for the electoral cooperation candidate is the best vote in favour of the progressive forces in this country coming together under one banner. In truth, I accept the fact that a merger is not in the cards anytime soon. Tom Mulcair and the NDP remain convinced they can still beat the Conservatives on their own. The road back to a federal Liberal government seems more long-term and perhaps even more naive. Once both parties become convinced they can never win on their own against a united conservative party, they will decide to merge into one, just like the old Canadian Alliance did with the Progressive Conservatives. Until then, I will be voting for those who voice support for working together and coming together for common cause. A divided centre-left in Canada is simply a recipe for more Conservative governments. And that is not a tolerable option for Canada anymore.

Joyce Murray might make a terrible leader, but I'm voting for the causes she has championed, not so much for her personally. I fully expect Justin Trudeau to prevail on April 14th. I just hope that support for cooperation is strong enough to be noticed amid that victory and not forgotten as we move forward.


Nancy Leblanc said...

Learning to trust your instincts can be a very tough thing to do:) I appreciate this reasoned case combined with your honest relation of your history in wrestling with leadership decisions. I believe many in the party will be doing the same thing and going through similar such processes.

I would of course quibble with the "terrible" part at the end:) I believe if JM were to become leader, we'd have one of the toughest, smartest political actors, steeped in public policy, to become our leader since Chretien.

Hope to see you at the event on the 6th.

Matt Guerin said...

Hey Nancy! Thanks for the comment. I wrote she "may be", not "would be" terrible. She's a great campaigner for sure.

Yes I hope to make it on the 6th too. Glad to know you'll be there!

Maudie Bones said...

In view of your track record, Matt, let me suggest you vote for Justin 1st and Joyce 2nd. Joyce will still do well and the party will benefit from Justin's popularity if he's leader; not so much if he isn't.

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Maudie. But I think I'll follow my own instincts here which was the (long-winded) point of my post. Following the establishment's advice against my own instincts hasn't always done me well before. I'll support Justin 100% if/when he wins.

Anonymous said...

I hope Justin wins for sure. I believe in the government regulation of things that are most important to society like health care, education and I would hope to see the government become even more involved in the management of public works transportation and infrastructure. I believe in multiculturalism and ethnic diversity and want to see the immigration process streamlined so as to have more immigrants of colour especially from African and middle east countries. I want to see more protection for minority members of society such as people of colour, women, transgender, gays, students and impoverished. I want to see an end to the white male heterosexual elite wealthy establishment that has been trying to destroy the core elements of the definition of Canada as a multicultural nation. I believe that Justin was meant to follow in the foot steps of his great father and carry on the dream that his father had for Canada.

Laurie Clark said...

Joyce is the choice! It has to be her; her policies are clear and definitely pro-Canada and Canadians.

kitt said...

I will not vote for a leader who thinks the Liberal party is a loser and needs the backing of the NDP or Greens to win an election. Plus with her plan Liberals will only be running in 91 ridings. As for her performance, she so fails to impress with her hard stance. JM will not be on my ballot as I do not have to vote for everyone.

Ian D. Allen said...

Cooperation is a core Canadian value, one not shared by our current Harper government, the government that 60% of us didn't want.

We must not replace an uncooperative Harper government with an uncooperative Liberal government. The first-past-the-post system is splitting the vote and destroying Canadian values. Forty percent of the voters are dictating to 100% of the country. That has to stop.

I believe in the 60% of Canadians who didn't vote for Harper. I even believe in the 40% of Canadians who voted for Harper, but I believe they should have 40% of the seats, not 53%. I believe in a Fair Voting political system that gives those 60% of Canadians a voice. I believe that 60% of us are ready to cooperate to put in place a political system that gives all voters a say in which parties represent us.

Once we have a Fair Voting system and the parties in the House represent the voters who elected them, then the parties can go back to trying to distinguish Liberals from Greens from NDP. But first, cooperate and fix the voting system so that never again will one minority party dictate terms to the rest of Canada.

If we had voted under a Fair Vote system last election, Liberals would have had 58 seats instead of 34 and Harper would be in the minority. What part of this do you not understand, Liberals?

Brian Lessard said...

I'm supporting Joyce Murray this time around because I think her policies simply rock big time. She's a really smart woman and has her pulse not only on the electorate but on the needs of Canadians. If you want an integrated inclusive economically socially and politically sound community Joyce can make that happen....and she has a track record of making things happen. Her momentum in this race while all others have stalled is indicative of what we can expect when the next election comes around. I'm so afraid of Harper in this next election given his corporate backing (ie. big news media) that Justin's lack of experience and weakness in the policy area isn't going to be enough to win an election. Joyce is politically savvy enough to recognize what it takes to win here. She's appealing to women, will decimate the Tories base in the west, solidifies the progressive vote and will have the confidence of seniors as well. You can't imagine how many seniors I've talked to who say they like Justin but would like to see him gain experience before they'll consider him for the top job. Let's be realistic. Justin is the perfect storm for the Tories and we'll be looking at hinterland if he becomes the Liberal leader. Joyce Murray, first female Liberal Prime Minister of Canada. She does have a plan and it's going to be good for Canada. If we miss the boat on this one we're going to look awfully stupid when we're trounced in the next election. Joyce Murray in 2014, Justin Trudeau can take over when Joyce has finished establishing the Liberal party as the clear choice for Canadians for generations to come.

Jenn said...

I think a lot of us Liberals do understand, Ian D. Allen. And I'm hoping the Liberal members' understanding is reflected in a victory for Joyce! For myself, I had to check to make sure I didn't write what you wrote (fortunately, it was better written than I'd have done, so while my views to a T, no plagiarism.)

ch said...

I don't agree with Matt on Joyce's ideas, but like Matt, I hope Justin Trudeau wins. I also hope Trudeau does what he says he will do, and focuses on rebuilding the party, on helping riding associations rebuild, on developing policy in an open and consultive way, and ultimately in giving Canadians a better and more positive choice, including bringing in his package of democratic reforms. I much prefer preferential ballot to proportional representation.

I don't like Murray's particular example of pre-electoral cooperation, unless it was an open primary that didn't exclude any voter, independent of party affiliation. I hope the party focusses on the hard work that needs to be done and does not get distracted by this idea, which I don't see as being feasible to implement and which could distract from more important work to be done in reaching out to Canadians, including some of those who voted Conservative, NDP or Green in the last election.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, first of all, I agree with you that PR is just too big a mouthful for a majority of Canadians to swallow. Pref. Ballot is probably the most likely consensus voting reform.
On Joyce Murray, while I am very pleased that she has demonstrated something very important for the Liberal Party, the potential of an online campiagn, but there is a really fundamental problem with her campaign. She has never built the campaign organisation, she has ridden a wave of emailed in memberships. The Liberal Party badly needs to spend the next 2 years gaining, and consoslidating support, which cannot come without serious organisational skills. Since that is what is required most of the next leader, I will be putting JT first on my ballot, as JT is the onloy candidate who managed to build a solid organisation from coast to coast to coast.