Joyce Murray, Elizabeth May, agree to electoral cooperation in Labrador by-election

The Green Party will not be running a candidate in the upcoming by-election in Labrador, and that’s partly due to Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray.

Murray approached the Green Party and the NDP and suggested that the three parties cooperate to avoid splitting votes and inadvertently re-electing Conservative MP Peter Penashue, who stepped down because of a scandal over improper campaign donations.

In an interview on the CBC radio program The House, Murray, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, and NDP deputy leader Megan Leslie were asked about the idea.

May agrees with the idea of a one-time electoral cooperation pact “with the goal of getting rid of the first past the post voting system and bringing in proportional representation, which would mean that in future elections, you wouldn’t have to worry that if you voted Green in a by-election you might accidentally elect someone you really don’t want.”

The NDP, however, is having none of it, and will be running a candidate in Labrador. Leslie suggested that an agreement not to run a candidate would be undemocratic.

Murray replied, “What’s not democratic is our system, and as Elizabeth said, first past the post is where people don’t have an opportunity to be represented. In fact, less than 25% of eligible voters, Canadian voters, voted for the Conservatives, and yet they won a majority, so that’s, I mean there’s a lot of Canadians who feel that their vote doesn’t count. They’re tuning out, they’re not voting on voting day, and I think it’s bad for our democracy to have that kind of distrust in our democracy.”

Leslie replied, “The one thing I can agree with Elizabeth and Joyce is that we do have an electoral system that isn’t working, that isn’t representing people the way that it should,” but she pointed out that it’s the system we have and we have to work within it right now.

Leslie said, “My membership has not given me a mandate to work under the umbrella of cooperation.” However, she conceded this could change at a future policy convention. “It could evolve over time,” she said, “It all comes from the members.”

May urged, “We don’t want to keep making the same mistakes that deny us the chance to change our voting system, to get rid of first past the post once and for all.”

“We are two weeks away from the conclusion of a leadership race,” added Murray. “Our voters, the supporters and the Liberals, will have a very clear choice. They’ll be able to choose a new politics, if you will, or stick in with the old politics.”

Asked what happens to the cooperation plan if she doesn’t win the Liberal leadership, Murray replied, “There are too many Canadians that are starting to feel some hope that we can change our electoral system to one that’s more democratic and collaborative. That’s not gonna go away. Just think about the fact that about eight million Canadians who are registered voters stayed home, did not, do not go out to vote, many of them because they just don’t think their vote counts.”

“I’m so grateful for this kind of opportunity,” added May, “and I’m grateful that Joyce came to me about cooperation. This is creating a conversation that we weren’t having last week, which is about what’s wrong with first past the post. The vast majority of modern democracies use one form or another of proportional representation, that gets higher voter turnout, higher levels of women in political office, and more diverse ethnicity within Parliaments. First past the post is a perverse system. It is tearing this country apart. It’s the system we have to go after — first past the post.”

“I am always open, grateful in fact to talk about the problems with the first past the post system,” concluded Leslie. “It is part of the NDP’s platform to make that change.”

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