03/04/2013 12:18 EST | Updated 05/04/2013 05:12 EDT

Why Supporting Joyce Murray Is the Best Way to Defeat Stephen Harper


If you care about income inequality; climate change; democracy; transparency and honesty in government; gender equality and equality of opportunity; regional economic development; employment opportunities; responsible government spending; ending corporate handouts; federal-provincial relations and co-operation; sustainability; labour relations and collective bargaining rights; early childhood education and child care; food safety; a rational approach to criminal justice; and Canada's reputation in the world, then you are among the majority of Canadians who want to see Stephen Harper defeated in the next federal election because his policies have failed in all of these areas.

Most Canadians do not believe the Conservative Government reflects our values, which is to be expected given that the Conservatives were awarded a majority of the seats in the House of Commons after having received the votes of only 24.2% of adult Canadians (the Conservatives got 39.6% of the popular vote in the last election but only 61.1% of those who were eligible to vote did so). Prime Minister Harper acts as though he actually has a legitimate mandate to represent Canadians while ignoring the sensibilities and priorities of the 75.8% of adult Canadians who did not vote for his party. The only reason he can get away with this is because our present electoral system is wildly dysfunctional.

In the last election, as a result of our "first past the post" electoral system, the Conservatives won 14.3% more seats than their percentage of the popular vote warranted. The Conservatives benefited the most from our defective system. The Liberals were the most disadvantaged having been awarded 7.9% fewer seats relative to their popular vote. In total, then, our electoral system was off by 22.2%, effectively spoiling the ballots of more than one fifth of Canadian voters.

It is no surprise then that the Conservatives are the only major Canadian federal party to oppose electoral reform. They would rather see our government be grossly unrepresentative than to lose power. If we want a national government that represents the values, objectives and consensus of a majority of Canadians, we'll have to defeat Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

As you are no doubt aware, the Liberal Party of Canada is in the middle of a process to elect its new leader.. Eight candidates are running to become the leader, but only one candidate, Joyce Murray, has a workable strategy to attain electoral reform based on proportional representation. Ms Murray shares the principles on electoral reform advocated by Canadians for Justice as described in our previous articles in The Huffington Post. To achieve our shared objective of electoral reform, Ms Murray wants her party to "co-operate" with the NDP and Green Party to defeat Stephen Harper and then work together to reform our electoral system. For the record, Canadians for Justice does not believe that actual co-operation between the parties would be required. Indeed, the notion of co-operation with the other parties has made Ms. Murray vulnerable to misleading and ill-founded attacks by Justin Trudeau and others who assert that co-operation would involve sacrificing Liberal values to the NDP. Clearly, however, anyone who is fair about Ms Murray's policy would admit that her goal for co-operation is to have a one-time only arrangement with the other progressive parties to defeat the Conservatives and bring in electoral reform. Her plan would not require any of the progressive parties to sacrifice their values.

Canadians for Justice proposes an even bolder approach that does not involve active co-operation. We argue that Ms Murray should simply discourage the nomination of Liberal candidates by Liberal riding associations when their candidates have no reasonable prospects to win and their candidacies would only serve to split the vote and result in Conservative or Bloc victories. This would amount to less than 10% of the ridings across Canada (had this approach been in place in 2011, it would have involved just 20 ridings). Ms Murray could state that her party is taking this action because of the imperative to defeat Stephen Harper in order to improve our democracy through electoral reform. No agreement between the parties is necessary for this approach. Ms Murray can simply take this principled stand and invite the other leaders to follow. The Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, would likely have her party do the same while the Leader of the NDP, Thomas Mulcair, would have to be pressured into it based on his past comments. If Mr. Mulcair refuses to take this approach, it would only strengthen the Liberals' position in the next election campaign because he would be seen as yet another politician standing in the way of a truly democratic government for Canadians.

Unlike Mr. Harper, Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Murray is prepared to put the national interest ahead of her own party's interest because she believes that is what most Liberals and other Canadians want. As a result, prominent Canadian individuals such as David Suzuki and leading activist groups like Leadnow, Avaaz, Fair Vote Canada and the Dogwood Initiative are supporting Ms Murray's efforts and her campaign appears to have the most momentum going into the vote.

By taking a stand on how best to achieve electoral reform that is contrary to the positions of her competitors in the Liberal leadership race, Ms. Murray is bravely taking a risk on behalf of all of us, and she deserves our support, whether we are Liberals or not. Think about it. If you are a supporter of the NDP or Green Party, Ms. Murray's victory could put Canada on the path to proportional representation which would likely result in an increased ability of both parties to form the government or at least have a meaningful effect on government policy. The Liberals would benefit as well because the current electoral system disadvantaged them the most in the last election.

So, whatever kind of progressive you are, it's time to take control of your government back. The best way to begin to repair our democracy is to encourage a common sense approach to defeating Stephen Harper when selecting progressive candidates in the next election. If progressives fail to engage in some kind of process that stops the vote splitting among them, Stephen Harper will win again and there would be increased pressure on the progressive parties to merge. Ironically, Ms. Murray's challengers have suggested her idea for co-operation would lead to such a merger, but in fact, a one time co-operation among progressives followed by bringing about a new electoral system would make each of the progressive parties even stronger and more independent of one another in the future. This is something the Liberals should think about before they vote for their new leader.

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