Why Joyce Murray shouldn't be immediately dismissed in Liberal leadership race
Tomorrow, Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray is expected to announce that she's entering the Liberal leadership race.
To date, media have more or less coronated Papineau MP Justin Trudeau as the winner for the following reasons:
• He has high name recognition.
• He's fluently bilingual.
• He beat up a Conservative senator in a charity boxing match.
• Polls suggest that the Liberals will fare well in the next election with him as leader.
• He looks good on TV and on the front pages of newspapers and magazines.
Murray, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister and owner of a successful reforestation business, has far more qualifications on paper than Trudeau. She obtained a master's degree studying climate change back in 1992, winning the dean’s convocation medal as the top MBA graduate.
Her son, Baba Brinkman, is a brilliant rap artist.
But Murray will have trouble generating much attention amid the Trudeaumania that seems to be gripping the mainstream media.
For example, when Straight reporter Carlito Pablo broke the story that Murray was eyeing a run for the top job, it was ignored by virtually every news outlet in the country.
In light of this, why shouldn't Murray's chance of winning be rejected outright? Here are some things to consider:
• Environmentally minded candidates fared exceptionally well in the federal NDP leadership race. The B.C. Green Liberal Caucus supported Nathan Cullen's leadership bid. He came third, despite having little name recognition at the outset. The winner, Thomas Mulcair, also had the support of many environmentalists.
• In his eagerness to win support in Alberta, Justin Trudeau, has stood up for tar-sands development, winning him praise from the industry-loving Ethical Oil website. This will not stand Trudeau in good stead with environmentalists.
• Murray is in a good position to win the backing of the party's significant environmental wing, which is more concerned about issues than personalities. That was clear when it helped make Stéphane Dion the party leader in 2006.
• As an MP, Murray has held a series of policy meetings and breakfasts with some high-powered experts, including AIDS researcher Dr. Julio Montaner and economist Robyn Allan, who has definitively demonstrated how the Northern Gateway pipeline threatens the Canadian economy. Murray's curiosity to learn more about public policies will make her an effective debater in front of Liberal delegates.
• The federal Liberals have always thrived when they've had the greatest support among female voters. Both Stephen Harper and Mulcair are vulnerable in this area—Mulcair, perhaps, because his temper could get him in trouble. Party members might see some value in supporting a female leader in the hope that this might attract more female votes from the NDP.
• Trudeau has been a flip-flopper on decriminalization of marijuana. That has likely alienated a few Young Liberals, who've attacked Mulcair for his position on the war on drugs.
• Trudeau has demonstrated that he makes gaffes, most notably when he suggested that Quebec separatism had merit in light of how Harper is governing the country.
• If Bob Rae's machine were to get behind Murray, this would give her candidacy some credibility. Rae must be a little miffed at Trudeau for trying to usurp the party's leadership before he's really ready to become prime minister. Rae's unlikely to publicly back any of the candidates, but he could quietly steer support Murray's way.
Murray will no doubt say that she's in the race to win the Liberal leadership. And that will be accompanied by more than a few guffaws from those "in the know". But front runners have fallen on their face before—just look back to Edmund Muskie in 1972, Gary Hart in 1988, and Michael Ignatieff in 2006. This Liberal leadership race still has a way to go before it's over.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.