Joyce Murray has been considered a “dark horse” in the Liberal Party of Canada leadership race since the start of the campaign period on Nov. 14, 2012. She recently received a celebrity boost as a result of endorsements from Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, and several advocacy groups, such as Avaaz and Leadnow.ca.
One week before the final leadership debate, the Tribune spoke to Murray, a former Cabinet minister in the B.C. government, about her vision of a sustainable society, electoral cooperation, and what young Canadians want from their political representatives today.
McGill Tribune: In your platform, you propose that the Liberals form a one-time agreement with the NDP and the Green Party in order to defeat the Conservatives in the 2015 federal elections. Why do you think none of the other Liberal leadership candidates have proposed electoral cooperation?
Joyce Murray: I want to just connect the dots between that strategy and the purpose behind it, which is electoral reform. I strongly believe that our current first-past-the-post system is not only non-representative … [but it] is contributing to the polarized, divisive tone of working in Ottawa, which is counter-productive to addressing the conflicts [and] policy challenges of today. So, I believe we need … a more proportional representation-style system, but in order to do that, we have got to defeat Stephen Harper.… That’s what the one-time electoral cooperation is all about—it’s to avoid the vote splitting. And I was surprised that none of the other candidates support that. The majority of Liberals support that, according to a forum research poll on Feb. 6 … the majority of NDP supports it, and the majority of Greens support it.
MT: Justin Trudeau has been described as a candidate who appeals to younger voters. What are the defining parts of your platform that target youth and students, and that distinguish you from Trudeau?
JM: Many of the people that have signed up to support me are young Canadians, and they’ve signed up to support me for three separate reasons, I would conjecture. One is because young people have no patience for this divisive and negative posturing that goes on in Ottawa.… It turns them off and makes them apathetic, and they’re hungry for a change in our system, where [Members of Parliament] and parties work more collaboratively together. So … the whole cooperation strategy and electoral reform strategy has attracted tens of thousands of young people to my campaign. Secondly, is … my vision of a sustainable society. I think young people … become apathetic when they see representatives make short-term decisions … that don’t contribute to the long-term well being of our society and our country. So, I think they’re looking for a more integrated vision with policies that would move us forward in that direction of a sustainable society.… Some [young people] will of course gravitate towards Justin Trudeau. I’m not going to pretend that he doesn’t have a celebrity status—that’s very appealing. At the same time … people want to make sure that whoever becomes the leader of the party actually has a track record of delivering on leadership. And I have that. People know that [I have] a track record of tough decisions, of strategic decisions, of facing difficult situations and solving them successfully—both in the private sector and in government. So … my experience demonstrates that I’m the right person to lead the [Liberal Party].
MT: What is your reaction to Mark Garneau’s recent withdrawal from the leadership race? How does this change the nature of the race?
JM: Well, first I was surprised, and then disappointed. Because, we’re in a race to win, but we’re also in the race to bring forward ideas, to invigorate the Liberal Party through reaching out to Liberals and supporters, and I think … there was a lot that Marc could contribute over the coming months, even though he had reached a conclusion that there was no pathway to success for him. How will that change the race? I think a lot of the people that were supporting Marc were people that were looking for experience, leadership and substantive policy, and that’s exactly what I’m offering. So, I’m optimistic that many of them will take a look at me and put their support behind me.
MT: Your platform focuses heavily on sustainability, ranging from climate change policy, to food security, to digital access. Why do you think there’s been resistance to “sustainable” policy-making in the past? Do you see this changing in the next decade?
JM: Perhaps Canadians were not as aware of some of the risks of inaction [around environmental issues], and some of the economic costs of inaction. And … from a climate change perspective, [it] certainly has become more and more clear to … the public that there’s major costs and risks [to] human well being … The other side of it is that the opportunities of stimulating innovation and solutions to reducing our footprint will be lost if green investment passes Canada by … and there’s uncertainty, because we have a federal government that hasn’t made [environmental policy] a priority. So, I do see it changing. I think that Canadians are … starting to see the whole picture together: a focus on long-term, environmental sustainability is crucial for our economic and social sustainability as well.
—This interview was edited and condensed by Bea Britneff