by Joyce Murray
• When news broke that a by-election was imminent in Labrador following the resignation of Peter Penashue – the disgraced Conservative MP who stepped down following news about his election financing irregularities – I called Green Party leader Elizabeth May and asked her to consider having the Green Party Electoral District Association (EDA) not run a candidate in the upcoming by-election. In light of Penashue’s election by a mere 79 votes in 2011, it seemed imperative to consult the local riding associations in question, to see if they felt collaboration was appropriate. The result is that the Green Party announced it will not run a candidate in the Labrador by-election. They even asked the NDP to consider doing the same.
This illustrates the potential of the one-time cooperation strategy I am proposing as a key element of the political platform in my campaign. In almost 60 ridings in 2011, Conservative candidates won with less than 50% of the vote. My proposal is a one-time agreement, initiated at the local riding level in communities where Conservatives won due to splitting of progressive votes. As leader, I will empower Liberal riding associations to assess the circumstances in their own communities and decide if cooperation with other progressive candidates is right for them – a truly democratic process. A Liberal, Green and NDP candidate would still be nominated in every riding. However, ridings that choose to cooperate would then engage in a progressive “primary” style run-off, a transparent process in which the candidate deemed most likely to beat the Conservative candidate would be selected.
If progressive parties can set aside their differences to overcome our dysfunctional elections and defeat Stephen Harper in 2015, the focus will then shift to the reform of Canada’s ailing democratic systems. This isn’t just about winning the next election. This is about creating a more representative and collaborative Parliament that better serves Canadians and combats voter apathy. My record of leadership in business and government is grounded in my cooperative approach and cooperation is the hallmark of progressive Liberal governments of the past.
Other progressive parties will participate because it’s what Canadians want. Many Liberal riding associations are cooperating at the local level right now and are in regular contact with Green Party and NDP riding associations. I am confident the public’s determination to achieve cooperation to defeat Stephen Harper will prevail.
Let’s be clear. Electoral cooperation is far from the same thing as merging. Cooperation does not compromise party identity; nor does it lessen the distinct values each party espouses. It means we are working together in the best interests of Canadians to achieve a common goal, just like NHL hockey players who cooperate to form Team Canada in order to win gold at the Olympics and then go back to competing against each other afterwards. Except the “gold medal” this time is that we get to reform our electoral system and make Parliament more representative.
As Liberal leader, I will drive a national process to rethink our electoral system. We will seek input from the public, parties and experts across the country. We will look at best practices from around the world, with the goal of crafting a made-in-Canada system that ensures fair, straightforward elections and reinvigorates our democracy for decades to come.
Canada is too important to let Stephen Harper win another majority simply because our archaic electoral system encourages vote-splitting. So let’s work together – starting in Labrador – to give Canadians the democracy they deserve.