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by Aaron Wherry

Joyce Murray is the second Liberal MP to declare her candidacy for the Liberal leadership. And she seems to be borrowing Nathan Cullen’s idea of riding-level runoffs.

Murray says she believes Liberals, New Democrats and Greens should have the option of conducting run-off nominations to choose a single candidate in tightly contested ridings where a united progressive front would guarantee defeat of the ruling Tories … To make sure Harper is ejected from that seat, she said riding associations need to be able to co-operate with rivals. ”There are some ridings where the vast majority of voters would like to have a progressive voice,” she said. “So, if a riding is willing to have a run-off (nomination) so that the progressive voice has a chance of becoming elected, then that’s something that I think is a good idea.” 

Murray wouldn’t impose the idea; she’d ask Liberals to endorse it at their next convention, then leave it to local riding associations to decide whether to use it or not. It would be a one-time tactic only for the 2015 election. She stressed she is not proposing a merger with the NDP or any other party.




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  1. It’s a great idea but sadly the vast majority of Liberal members/party organizers think they are on their way to a majority government in 2015; and the NDP probably think the same as well.

    • What evidence do you have that it’s the vast majority…?

      My “feeling” from talking to a few libs is they are typically split on the idea. The view that it is a medium to long term goal to rehab the LPC is not all that uncommon. It’s even a part of the rhetoric of the party insiders – which might mean it isn’t oddly enough.

      • No evidence, I just made it up.

    • I’d say there’s a reason it’s a Liberal leader hopeful proposing this and not anybody of the NDP.

      Which would be the exact same reason that it was NDP folks proposing it before the last election, and not Liberals.

      Aside from that though, you’re right. The NDP have had their first taste of real success on the federal electoral level. There’s simply no way that they’re going to negotiate away the (remote) possibility of them being government, which is essentially what this proposal would do by taking a lot of their candidates completely out of the equation.

      • Not anybody of the NDP? Did you miss the NDP leadership race?

        • Fair enough. I’d forgotten failed leadership candidate Nathan Cullen.. as I expect most people have by now.

          • He’s actually a rather successful House Leader, pops up on the news a lot. Since Topp wasn’t in the House he’s basically become Martin to Mulcair’s Chretien, but with out all the spite.

  2. I much prefer this idea [ with a further commitment to a national referendum on electoral change if at all practical. Attempts should be sternuously made to include the CPC in on an such national project] to one of either Mulcair/Trudeau further demonizing Harper in one half of the country as a means to eject his obnoxious govt.
    Sadly as Peter says it looks like both those candidates are going for broke in the traditional way. Why not! It’s basically how Harper built his winning coalition isn’t it!

  3. If we’re going to have run-offs, why not make them happen automatically on election day? We could very easily have an automated run-off system when first choices do not result in a majority for a single candidate and then have a run-off. This would be more productive.
    But, this approach of only including “progressives” in a first vote? Can we not conceive of a voter who’s second choice is Conservative? Can we not conceive of a Conservative voter who is subtle in his/her approach and also has second choices which he/she would like reflected in the results? Painting the Conservatives as a monolithic “them” and painting progressives as a monolithic “us” looks great on paper but ignores the complex reality.
    This binary approach is really missing something – unnecessarily excludes a portion of the population from the process whilst not necessarily resulting in a fair expression of voters’ intentions. Finally, the law of unintended consequences is here is spades: we would create to Canadas, each with their own media and own truths, and each unable to bridge the divide.
    An automatic run-off for everyone would actually reflect the subtle shades of grey and include all Candians.

    • The idea of an automatic runoff would be fine with me. But isn’t that essentially electoral reform? We can’t even get off square one so far.
      I think you are mischaracterizing the proposal with your progressives only in a first vote. After all the proposal to limit it to within NDP/LPC/Green[?] riding associations. If libs or dippers feel their possible second choice conservative options are being taken away they would have an opportunity to say so. And really they can still vote conservative anyway. The real option that would be lost here would be my option to choose to vote for my liberal candidate if the RAs went with an NDP consensus choice. No one would be disenfranchising the CPC vote, except to the degree that he/she might also like the lib as a second option. Sorry, but that looks like a bit of a red herring to me.
      In fact it might even harden up the conservative vote and cause in my example some unhappy libs to go conservative. That is the danger of this project to my mind for progressives.
      I would agree with you that a truly national option would be best for all. Nevertheless until we get one there remains the possibility of the opposition parties agreeing to attempt to not split the vote where it is clear they would. I wonder how many seats would really be at play here and if it is really worth the risk of an unintended backlash from disenfranchised voters?
      I don’t get your two medias and competing truths scenario, not at all.

      • On the idea of different truths, look for example to the case of the Conservative attack on the NDP Carbon Tax. Here, they attacked a policy that doesn’t exist and did so while holding (apparently) the same views as the party they are attacking (they both have argued for cap n trade). How you view this story is likely skewed by the news media you read. If you read Wherry on this you could have a very different opinion than a SUN viewer, for instance.
        In this example, it may be the case that both sources are reporting the story identically, I don’t know. For more on how media affects perception of facts and not just opinions, look to the studies on viewers of Fox News. Republicans have ended up in a bubble of their own making. But, the same goes for Rachel Maddow viewers on NBC – they, too, have their own facts. A binary system leads – it would seem to me – from a country divided by matters of opinion to a country divided by dissagreement on matters of fact.
        Any attempt to divide Canada into a binary system risks building walls that are not really there. There is a continuum of opinion – shades of grey – and failure of the political system to recognize this continuum could result in a permanently divided country. One of the sources of division will be an inability to even recognize each other’s facts.

        • You have a point about the US. I don’t believe that is replicated here – not yet[ fingers crossed] So i still don’t get how proposals like that of Murray or Cullen can bring this about. It is a bit of a stretch. As is your equating AW’s take on the carbon farce as somehow a difference of opinion between equals. Sun tv is by just about any objective opinion a mouth piece for the CPC period. They are not a news organization in the traditional sense. Your last sentence seems to bear this out. In the main there aren’t different facts – merely the interpretation of them or the spin you want to put on them.

      • Doing a quick rundown from last election, 43 CPC seats received fewer than the combined NDP/Liberal vote. (And 2 Bloc seats, as a side note).

        Of those, 31 had the Liberals in second so probably would be Liberal candidates in a progressive runoff situation (and 1 of the 2 Bloc seats)

        So makeup of the house would be CPC 120, Liberals 67, NDP 113, Green 1, Bloc 2, Independants 2, and the results of the three by-elections today, if you assume a perfect transfer of votes. Which, as you point out, is a hell of a lot to assume.

        I’ll probably play a bit more and see what happens if the vote transfer wasn’t 100%.. if I do, I’ll put those results below.

        Ah. Cut that to a 70% vote transfer, and you’re already down to 5 CPC seats (+1 bloc) and Liberals attaining four of those… oh. crap. Did my math wrong.. I cut it down to a 7% vote transfer, not 70%.. I’ll figure out 70% in a moment here.

        Okay. At 70% we’re down to 34 CPC seats being lost, with 28 of those having Liberals in second place.

    • Because that’d require a change to the Elections Canada act. Do you really expect the CPC to change the voting to a method that doesn’t favor them?

      And it excludes nobody, because parties are private entities. A party can run any candidate it wishes in any riding it wishes.. or not.. as it chooses.

      Saying that they have to run a candidate just because it keeps that split alive and you prefer that is nonsense.

      Incidentally, nobody is left out. So far as I’m aware, riding associations are open to anybody who wishes to join. If people are going to whine that the choices the riding association provides aren’t what they wanted, whose fault is that?

  4. I still believe this way lies mayhem, regardless of the simple intellectual elegance of the proposal. Without amendments to both parties’ constitutions, there would be court challenges from an unpredictable number of local putative candidates of one party or the other, citing denial of their opportunity to run for their chosen party, or even from rogue riding associations whose candidates were sidelined in “run-offs”.

    While the chances of such events happening on a wide scale are slim, even one or two local sideshows like this would be expensive and distracting.

    In short, too many cats to herd effectively.

  5. I understood why Cullen would propose this strategy, as his party didn’t have to worry about bleed offs to the right, but why would a Liberal MP be advocating for a progressive unity? One of the reasons the Liberals lost Fortress Toronto is because right of center or centrist voters were afraid the NDP might form goverment so they held their nose and jumped over to the Torries. If those same voters were to again be offered with the choice of an NDP candidate or a Conservative candidate, unless that Tory’s name is Joan Croackette they’re probably going to be voting Conservative. I mean this happened to her own party, why hasn’t it sunk in?

    • Uh, because studies have been done, and 70% of Liberals would choose NDP or Green as second choice.

      • Doesn’t jive with the 2011 election results in Ontario.

        • The election results in Ontario or anywhere else were silent on second choices.

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