Playing to the Left: Joyce Murray and the Liberal Leadership Race

Joyce Murray

I still have nothing to say about golden boy Justin Trudeau. For the life of me, I cannot seem to form an opinion of the man one way or the other.

Nice hair, I guess. But meh.

In the wake of yesterday’s Liberal Party of Canada leadership debate, Joyce Murray is the candidate I would prefer to write about. Something interesting has happened in her case: a decade after having presided over massive provincial environmental spending cuts as Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection in one of the most right-wing governments in BC history, she now appears to be presenting herself as both the green and the left candidate in her party’s leadership race.

She claims to favour carbon pricing, protecting the BC coastline, Idle No More, pot legalization, quotas for women in cabinet and other appointments, and — perhaps most interestingly — targeted electoral cooperation with the NDP and Green Party for purposes of defeating the Conservatives and bringing in proportional representation, a strategy I have gone on record before as supporting.

These developments do not come entirely out of left field, so to speak. Long before she entered provincial or federal politics, Murray co-founded a reforestation business with her husband, and she wrote her MBA thesis on climate change in the early 1990s back before Al Gore had become a movie star.

The unreformed cynic in me cannot help but wonder which Joyce Murray it was who sold out her principles for political gain: the one-time provincial cabinet minister or the modern-day federal Liberal leadership candidate? Is she really a moderately progressive eco-capitalist or a heartless, cost-cutting reactionary?

Don’t ask me to sort out the identity issues of today’s typical politician. All I can say is that I like the policies Murray is now coming out with, and these policies are probably not wholly ephemeral. When contenders say things during leadership campaigns, they will usually water down their commitments later on during general elections, but they cannot abandon them altogether. Party leaders will always be reminded by their bases of the promises that got them such cushy positions in the first place — and pressured accordingly.

Take Mitt Romney. (Please!) By natural inclination (to the extent that the man has natural inclinations), Romney is a fairly centrist Republican. Yet he was pulled so far to the right by the primary season nut jobs of his party that by the time the Presidential election came, though he tried to tone himself down somewhat, he was stuck having to pretend to foam at the mouth over Obamacare despite having introduced a virtually identical health care plan at the state level while Governor of Massachusetts.

In other words, if Joyce Murray becomes Liberal leader based on left-of-centre promises, she will only be able to drift so far to the right come 2015. Plus, she clinched the apparent support of Lloyd Axworthy, one of Canada’s best Foreign Affairs ministers, and a major force behind the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Treaty to ban landmines. With friends like him, Murray must be doing something right.

All this being said, my soft endorsement of Joyce Murray for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada (yes, that is pretty much what this post is about) is not a particularly enthusiastic one due to her checkered past, and I reserve the right to flip-flop over the next three months. Deborah Coyne, for instance, showed uncommon courage in uttering the terrifying words “carbon” and “tax” during yesterday’s debate. (I swear I saw Justin cross himself as she said it.)

So perhaps my mind is not yet fully made up.

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4 thoughts on “Playing to the Left: Joyce Murray and the Liberal Leadership Race

  1. ephemeral! Is such a very good word.. esp. in tandem with political positions.. brilliant.. Joyce is also a very positive name.. You could have called this article “ReJoyce”………or “Ephemeral ReJoyce”

  2. Reblogged this on ThePoliticalIdealist.com and commented:
    After the Liberal Party of Canada endured a crushing defeat, with Conservative Stephen Harper winning a majority and the left-wing New Democratic Party winning second place for the first time, the Liberals are suffering what might be described as a mild identity crisis. However, as this article says, there might be a future for them as a party of the Left.

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