If there is one candidate vying for the Liberal leadership who’s bucking the trend, it’s Joyce Murray.
The former British Columbia cabinet minister has made waves in the race not for her experience or her reams of lofty policy, but instead for her scheme to forge an electoral cooperation pact between the Liberals, Greens and NDP.
The maverick candidate has unleashed a torrent of policy papers that have hit everything from genetically modified foods to making sure that every Canadian has high-speed broadband access.
In February, Murray released policy papers on health and women’s issues. In them, she comes out in support of harm-reduction ideas that have proven controversial in her own party – creating safe injection sites and moving toward a regulated and legal sex-work industry.
Murray has consistently identified herself as the nerd in the class, digging deeper into policy questions than her competitors — on legalizing pot, for example, she has indicated that she wants to establish quality controls — yet it’s netted her nary a second look from the media in a race that is Justin Trudeau’s to lose and Marc Garneau’s to upset.
The MP for the affluent riding of Vancouver Quadra, who founded a multi-million-dollar tree-planting company with her husband, has used her joint nomination plan to attract democratic reform activists and steal some airtime from the front runners.
The idea, however, has proven divisive within the party and a matter of intense scrutiny in the media. (Murray laughed after I told her I’d asked all my questions: “I’m struck by the fact that this is the first interview in which the journalist hasn’t asked about my plan to work with the other parties.”)
Just the same, Murray has deflected a lot of the criticism thrown at her by her opponents — including an unflattering label as a tree-hugging hippie with no business experience by now-dropped-out candidate George Takach.
Murray, firing back, made it clear that she’s nobody’s tree-hugging hippie.
The deadline to register to vote for the Liberal leadership race is March 3, which is also the date of the next debate, to be held in Halifax.
Murray in her own words:
Fighting HIV/AIDS: “The federal government has done nothing to support or fund trials on treatment-as-prevention . . . We need to support this concept of identifying people, in an appropriate way, who have HIV/AIDS and ensuring that they have regular treatment because that’s far more effective as prevention than anything else I’m aware of.”
The trans rights bill: “In principle, I think it’s very important to identify where equality is not fully being applied in our country. If we have a principle of equality — regardless of gender, race, colour and creed — then we have to be vigorous in being inclusive.”
Gender equality: “I’m the only candidate in the race that appears to be talking about issues of concern to women, in terms of equity and in terms of strategies to reduce violence against women.”