David Suzuki plumps for federal Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray
Many Canadians see Vancouver broadcaster and environmentalist David Suzuki as one of this country’s most influential citizens. But the 76-year-old host of The Nature of Things confesses that even though he has “been very, very scrupulous” about voting in federal elections since turning 21, he has never cast a ballot for a candidate whose party formed the government.
“So in essence, my vote every year has been thrown away,” Suzuki tells the Georgia Straight on the phone from Ottawa. “So the voting priorities represented by someone like me really hasn’t been represented in Ottawa.”
Suzuki recently took the extraordinary step of releasing a public letter explaining why he’s supporting Joyce Murray’s candidacy for the federal Liberal leadership. Part of the reason is the Vancouver Quadra MP’s support for a carbon tax and her proposal for more female appointments to cabinet and government boards and agencies.
But he also heartily approves of her plan to cooperate with the Greens and NDP at the riding level in the next election to defeat the Stephen Harper–led government. He points out that she’s the only Liberal leadership candidate to propose this one-time cooperative arrangement, which is a precursor to working toward proportional representation. “I think we desperately need that,” Suzuki says.
With a March 3 deadline to sign up to vote in the Liberal contest—which will be decided on April 14—candidates are ramping up efforts to recruit supporters. Suzuki notes that the Liberals have made it remarkably easy for anyone to participate—people can register for free at Liberal.ca and they don’t even have to belong to the party.
“So I think it’s a real opportunity for various sectors of society to register what they feel about the various leaders, and therefore what they feel about their positions or their platforms,” he says.
Today (February 28), perceived front-runner Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP for Papineau, is urging each of his backers to sign up five friends. One of his highest-profile boosters in this region is Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre. On the line with the Straight from her Ottawa office, she rattles off numerous reasons: Trudeau boosted the Liberal vote in his riding, he doesn’t dictate policy to the members, he can get younger people engaged in the political process, and he learned about policy and politics at a young age from his father, Pierre, and his senior cabinet ministers, including Marc Lalonde and Jean Chrétien.
“Here is a young man who literally was injected with the Liberal DNA at birth, so to speak,” Fry comments. “He’s a politician in his soul.”
Like Trudeau, Fry rejects the premise of a one-time cooperative arrangement with the NDP and Greens at the riding level to defeat Harper, calling it a “very shortsighted political solution”. She says that if somebody is elected in this way, it would be unclear if the MP would represent a single party in Parliament or be a “conglomerate candidate” representing three parties.
As a Liberal, she adds that she does not like to look at the world through an ideological lens. “I don’t agree with the NDP with a lot of things they espouse,” Fry says. “I agree with the Greens on environmental issues, but on lots of other things, I certainly don’t agree with them. So how do you build common ground with a bunch of people in one shot only?”
Murray’s plan, however, has received vigorous support from her son Baba Brinkman, a New York–based hip-hop artist who created The Rap Guide to Evolution and The Canterbury Tales Remixed. He recently recorded an upbeat music video for his mother’s campaign called “Cooperation Time”, which plays up the benefits of political parties working together to get rid of the Harper-led government.
Speaking with the Straight by phone after a seven-city tour of the eastern United States, Brinkman says he wrote the lyrics on a plane over a three-hour period. The beat was supplied by his producer and engineer, Mr. Simmonds.
“It just had that sort of catchy, fun, let’s all sing a song on the playground kind of vibe to it,” he says. “So I just wrote it with that feeling in mind.”
On a serious note, Brinkman describes his mother as exceptionally intelligent and “an excellent problem solver and consensus builder”.
“What is new and unexpected is always going to be disregarded as unlikely,” he says. “I think the choice that Joyce is making to run on that cooperation plan is the bolder, more visionary approach. It’s not the business-as-usual approach.”