Saturday, January 19, 2013

MP Joyce Murray to kickstart the Canadian debate on electoral reform tomorrow

Joyce Murray - Reformer
Tomorrow MP Joyce Murray will be given the chance to kickstart what could be the most important public discussion in Canadian politics in two decades, when she debates the other candidates for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Susan Delacourt has an interesting (and must read) article in The Star on Murray and the first debate:

Liberal leadership contender Joyce Murray enters the first debate this weekend with two advantages on her side.
 First, the event is being held on the home turf of the Vancouver MP, the only candidate who makes her home west of Ontario.

As well, the nine candidates are due to discuss electoral cooperation with other parties — an issue on which Murray has already staked out some clear ground in favour of strategic, progressive alliances.

In a field crowded with candidates making appeals to the centre-right of the political spectrum, Murray is one of the rare few contenders saying that the Liberals’ future lies in the progressive left.

Murray's Modern Planning Approach for the LPC:

Murray also has a headstart compared to the other 8 candidates when it comes to putting real meat on the now badly emaciated skeleton of the once mighty Liberal Party. 

She is cooperating with Matthew Kalkman, author of a 2012 guidebook to rebuilding the progressive, Liberal vision, called New Liberalism.

Murray and Kalkman are calling for a radical reshaping of the Liberal Party, designed to take it by the scruff of the neck and drag it out of the ineffective behaviour of the past decade or so, into the arena now occupied by the best political parties and politicians of the world, such as the Obama Democratic Party:

Murray and Kalkman have co-authored an article, due to be published on Friday, in which they lay out a Liberal agenda focused on long-term planning — everything from sustainable economic and environment policies to investments in education and training.
 “We are programmed to think about the next quarter and the next election and not about the next generation,” they write. “Across the board, we have been ignoring our long-term challenges even as they worsen, whether we are talking about the economy, the environment, our social system, or our democracy.”

In an interview this week, Murray said she believes voters want more than a system of politics that doles out “little carrots to specific groups to satisfy their individual interests.” 

This approach, treating citizens like consumers of political sales campaigns, keeps politics from tackling long-term challenges, Murray said.

This is a highly intelligent way of approaching the planning inside a political party that 
hopes to form the government in 2015.

In our recent elections, we chose an extraordinarily inept way in which to tell our voters what we stood for and why we wanted them to elect our candidates as MPs: We hid our election platform from them.

Why did we do that? 

Simply because we feared that if we revealed it, Stephen Harper and his new Tories would bombard the voters with misrepresentations, and perhaps steal the best ideas.

What a debacle!

It was tantamount to the Party asking voters to give them a blank cheque, and voters simply brushed the party aside, punishing it by reducing its MP total to a rump in the low thirties.

The Murray approach is a disciplined, businesslike approach. 

You do not run any organization that needs the support of millions of people to survive, by muddling the waters, chopping and changing your products (policies) as the wind changes, and not discussing reasons why choosing you to govern the country is not a wise choice.

It's no wonder so many Canadians just don't know what the Liberal Party stands for.

Murray's Outreach to Progressives:

Another positive feature of the Murray candidacy is her outreach to all the progressive Canadians. As she puts it in Delacourt's article:

“I do see myself as a progressive leader,” she said. Her entire campaign is being organized around an outreach to the roughly 60 per cent of people who didn’t vote Conservative in the last election — not just Liberals, but New Democrats and non-partisan, floating voters as well.
 “My job is to help people who have not normally been interested in a particular political party, who are non-partisan, but who are concerned about Canada’s future, to take notice,” said Murray.

I believe that Joyce Murray is a serious contender, and our party and our country would benefit from having someone with her approach as the next prime minister.

So far, about 100,000 Canadians will vote to choose our next leader:

About 100,000 people are eligible to vote in the Liberal leadership race — about 55,000 full party members and another 45,000 who have signed up to be “supporters,” but not card-carrying members. Hundreds of other names are also being amassed by the various leadership campaigns, but the grand total of voters won’t be known until after people have formally registered to cast a ballot.

There is still time for tens of thousands of Canadians, who live in all 308 ridings, who are not signed up members of any other federal party, to  join the LPC as Supporters and to vote for meaningful electoral reform in the April LPC leadership election.

If you want to change our country for the better, sign up as a Supporter and vote for a candidate who supports serious electoral reform to our suffering democracy.

The Two Aspects of "Electoral Cooperation:

Tomorrow's debate will for the first time table the topic of electoral reform for public discussion,  in a serious way, by candidates for leadership  of the party that could form the next government.

The debate topic is described as "electoral cooperation", but really consists for two aspects of cooperation.

Part 1: Pre-election Cooperation

The first is pre-election cooperation – this first surfaced in The Cullen Plan. 

Murray favours similar voluntary cooperation by Liberal ridings who wish to work with the other parties in ridings where a Consertive MP sits in the House, in order to ensure that a candidate runs who can win and remove that Tory MP, leading to the replacement of the regressive Harper government come 2015.

This is a contentious subject, and some do not like it.

Justin Trudeau, for example, seems to be heading for the Adams' Power Trap with his shoot from the hip, instanteous rejection of voluntary riding cooperation of the sort recommended by Nathan Cullen and Joyce Murray.

I see no reason why Liberal ridings should not accept the Murray proposal: the objective is to ensure that Harper does not become the Prime Minister in 2015 with less than 50% of the votes cast.

Part 2: Post-election Cooperation on Electoral Reform

The second element of electoral cooperation is post-election cooperation between all parties to remedy the appalling democratic deficit caused by our out of date First Past The Post (FPTP) election system.

The Murray plan is to strike a Royal Commission to examine more democratic methods of electing our MPs, to replace the FPTP system.

My preference would be a commitment now by the LPC to instituting a modified proportional representation system (MPR) immediately after the 2015 election.

However, I recognize that there is merit in Murray's view that nobody has a lock on wisdom, and that a Royal Commission should explore the issue and present the next government with alternative methods to restore democracy to Canada through changes to our electoral system.

Such a Royal Commission would be a wonderful opportunity for the 60% of voters - who time after time, in election after election, and opinion poll after opinion poll, have indicated very loudly and very clearly that they do not want a political party with a minority of support by the voters and a minority of votes in the House being able to rule as if it was a majority government with majority voter support - to give voice to their concerns about our outdated electoral system, and suggest and debate alternatives.

Canadians are well-read, well-educated, and attuned to democratic changes in the world. 

They understand that north America's political systems have lagged behind the march of democracy, and that there better ways out there, being used by other modern democracies, that would make very vote count in Canada, and give all major opinions and regions a voice in our Parliament.

Joyce Murray's proposed Royal Commission is a democratic, fair and timely way to go in restoring our democratic rights and giving us a fairer Parliament, that is in tune with the voters and the various regions of this large and underpopulated country.

She should be commended for taking this position.

Just image a vigorous national debate over a period of 6 to 9 months, after the 2015 election, about the merits and demerits of various electoral systems! If you want to engage your citizens in politics, this is one heckuva way to do that!

And the Liberal Party should show that it does indeed listen to the voice of the people, and will restore our Parliament to the people, by adopting her policy of a Royal Commission on electoral reform.

Time for a serious debate:

Murray will start the debate on meaningful electoral reform tomorrow.

Let us hope that the topics for, and questions asked during, all future Liberal leadership debates also allow enough time for this most critical issue to be discussed by the candidates.  Let us hear what other regions of Canada think about Murray's idea, and what the other candidates think about our democratic deficits.

It is, in my view, the single most important issue facing our country right now. 

A decision to reform our electoral system so as to make very vote count, ensure all regions and all voices are fairly represented in our Parliament, and allow greater cooperation between parties and MPs in our House, will remedy a lot of the abuses and failings we have lived with for more than a decade.


  1. I think it's a bit to late, the kickstart was long ago.

  2. This the first time that candidates vying for leadership of a major party, who stand a better than 50% chance of becoming the next prime minister, will be discussing serious electoral reform for our country.

    Most candidates have shied away from the issue, or rushed through it with lip service to the idea, but no in depth discussion.

    And the real difference right now is that there are 100,000 potential voters listening, roughly half party members and half supporters; with hundreds of thousands of other possible supporters still in the wings.

    So this is the very first serious discussion by candidates with Canadians other than their own party members.

    With luck, other regions will insist on hearing the candidates first hand on electoral reform, as well, and the media will pick up on the metalogue, and start asking Canadians and other party members and supporters for their views.

    Within a week or so, wwe should get the first polling results on this issue, as well.

  3. The NDP have talked about electoral reform for years. Stephen Harper even discussed electoral reform when Chr├ętien was winning government with less than 40% of the vote. British Columbians and Ontarians already rejected electoral reform at the ballot box. Marc Garneau's proposed reform, that I believe was already embraced by Trudeau and Hall Findlay at last years biennial convention, is much better.

  4. As well how does she stand a better than 50% chance of becoming the next PM?

  5. I think the Garneau proposal is better than FPTP, but a far cry from proper fairness for all voters. The modified proportional representation system is much better at ensuring that all opinions and regions are represented. There is no reason at all why Alberta ridings should not have MPs elected representing the 30% plus voters who do not vote Tory, or why Conservative voters casting votes of 20% to 30% in downtown Toronto ridings should not have their voices heard in the House.

    Chretien, like Trudeau, are in the Power Trap because they preferred and prefer to have a shot at winning a minority of the total votes cast but a majority of seats. This is no different than Harper's ability to rule as a majority government with the support of the 33% to 37% votes his party gets.

    As for previous referenda on MPR, they were a farce. They were designed to fail by politicians who did not support them, who did insufficient during the campaigns to encourage a proper debate amongst voters, and who were pleased that they failed.

    Having a Royal Commission consider this and hear people present view pro and con several alternative systems, will ensure a proper debate across the country of the choices. And, of course, the debate should be for a long enough period, involved as many people as possible, and be properly funded.

    Then we can hold a referendum with proper terms, and let the people choose.

    For example, the first question could be a qualifying one: Do a majority of voters believe that the FPTP system should be replaced by a fairer system of choosing our MPs?

    If so, let's then move on the the alternatives recommended by the Royal Commission, and let the winning proposal be that one of the two or three choices that gets the most votes compared to the others.

    Then implement the revised system, but with a sunset law: If after the later of 15 years or 3 elections, an agreed majority (55%?) of all voters voting in a referendum say they dislike the system then in place, let's find a better one to replace it.

    It's not rocket science if it is handled properly. Many European countries have done that.

    The reason politicians (as opposed to voters) shy away from it in Canada is that they have a vested interest in the current system, as undemocratic as it is.

    So you can see why Murray's proposal of a Royal Commission makes so much sense. It allows a free and fair discussion, properly funded, across the country, open to all Canadians to take part in, rather than a system just chosen by one politician or one party.

    Sound kinda democratic to me. So let's have real debate about the terms of appointment of the Royal Commission, and then about the alternatives, and a proper vote.

    Let the people decide.

    After all, in a MPR system, it is still open to any one party to win a majority of seats.

    And if no one party can, then that is the wish of the voters, and the governing party will have to take that into consideration when tabling policies.

  6. Jordon, the NDP talks about reform, but when Layton had the power to dictate terms, he opted for a handful of porridge rather than insisting on meaningful electoral reform such as MPR.

    Let's have some leaders who walk the talk for a change.

  7. Jordon, about the chances of any of the 9 candidates to win the leadership of the LPC: right now the meme is that it is Trudeau's to lose, and he will sweep the boards. Plus, he has already raised $600,000 funding.

    However, until the date arrives that supporters can be signed up, it seems that each candidate can sign up supporters who are eligible to vote for the leader, without having to disclose the number or names to the Party.

    If this nonsensical provision is in fact true, then the chances for any one candidate pushing for supporters in all 308 ridings, using other groups of progressives to assist them, and then coming up on the final date with enough supporters in enough of the 308 ridings to win, is still there.

    For example, Nathan Cullen had the open support of several progressive groups who approached their large membership bases to support him, and a late surge almost put him over the top.

    Who says this cannot happen in our race?

    As for the 50% statement I made, I believe whoever is elected leader of the LPC has a better than even chance of becoming prime minister in 2015 or 2014, whenevery the next election is. Canadians are so turned off by the narrow politics of Harper and his party, and by the debasement of our democracy that is taking place daily, that the odds are high Harper will be tossed out then.

    Especially if the new leader promises fair electoral reform as a top priority. What voter does not want his or vote to count, and to be represented in Parliament?

  8. I have followed Murray's campaign with great interest. Were she to become Liberal leader I would seriously consider returning to the fold. Barring that, I'll stay with the Greens.


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