How I’ll be Voting in the Liberal Leadership Race, and why.

So it’s come to this. After months of struggle, schmoozing, debates, meet and greets, and snide remarks from the media, Liberals across the country are choosing their next leader.

Not some cloistered stadium full of delegates and hacks, but real people, across the country, with an interest in restoring Canada’s promise after the long years of Tory skulduggery, small-mindedness, and venality.

And you know what? More people have just voted for one of the six Liberal candidates than voted for the NDP in 2011.

The party is back.

I’m currently trying to cast my vote, but am experiencing difficulties. Mainly because I can’t access the help phone lines because they’re completely jammed.

I’m happy to wait. They’re busy, and they deserve to be. But in the meantime I’m going to explain publicly who I’m voting for, and why.

Some people like to keep this a secret. Others find it rude to even be asked about it. Personally, I’ve never understood that mind set. Of course, a secret ballot is integral to democracy, and it’s something people are perfectly entitled to keep to themselves, or not, as they choose.

And I choose to tell people what I stand for. Because I’m not ashamed of it whatsoever.

So I’m going to explain, partly for my own purposes, to clarify my thinking, and partly because I don’t care who knows it, who I’ll be voting for in the preferential ballot I’m about to fill out.

A word on preferential ballots: They’re an absolutely brilliant way of ensuring that the majority of voters’ preferences are registered, and the candidate who has the broadest base of consensus support takes the cake at the end of the day. No chicanery, no absurdities like the ones that we all know first-past-the-post can create. Just the will of the people. Clearly stated.

What I’ll be doing in a few minutes is ranking the six remaining candidates by order of preference. My first preference vote will be noted, applied to my chosen candidate, and so on down the line. Candidates will gradually be knocked out of contention, and the ballots they collected passed on down their lists of preferences until eventually a winner receives a majority of the ballots cast.

In case you’re interested, for whatever reason, here’s how I’ll be voting.

My first preference vote will be going to Deborah Coyne, and my second will be going to Justin Trudeau. Bronze medal goes to Martha Hall Findlay, fourth to Karen MacCrimmon, with Martin Cauchon and Joyce Murray bringing up the rear.

To some, that may require explanation, or even justification.

I worked on Deborah’s campaign. Admittedly not as hard as I should have, for a number of personal reasons, and perhaps not with the greatest deal of expertise, but with a certain raw enthusiasm for her and her ideas. She’s a wonderful woman.

I came back to Canada recently from several years abroad, and found myself in a bit of a political vacuum. I had viewed Canadian politics through the prism of the foreign media for four years, and while glad to be back, was a little under informed. But I bought my Liberal party membership, which I had been meaning to do for some time, and set about learning about the candidates.

I had little to go on but their websites, and so started there. Being interested in public policy myself, I scoured the various candidate pages for evidence of the new ideas and new thinking that I was convinced the party needed.

Which, in fact, we desperately still need. We’ve effectively lost our way in the years since the death of Pierre Trudeau. Since the waning days of the Chretien administration we have offered little but economic competence and federalism to Canadians as a justification for the right to govern we seemed to simply claim, with some arrogance. I won’t comment in detail here about past mistakes, as it isn’t the place, but a number of them were made, and Canadians turned away from us. Which we deserved.

So I was particularly hungry for policy that day as I searched for the person I thought would do the best job as leader. And Deborah’s website was a revelation.

There were ideas. There was vision. There was a comprehensive approach. There was a blueprint for the country’s future that I could get on board with, and which I’d still really like to see happen. You can still find it on her website. It remains incredible.

She’s spent her life thinking about this country, and how it could be better. She’s Pierre Trudeau’s  intellectual heir. The muscular federalism, the concern with social justice, the belief that Canada is at its best as one country, and not as a ragtag collection of interest groups and disparate provinces, it’s all there. If you believe in the legacy of Pierre Trudeau, and love the country he gave us, Deborah Coyne is the one who understands where it goes from here.

She’s one of the brightest minds in the Liberal Party. And would give Harper a run for his money in any election. So she gets my first choice. We’d be lucky to have her as PM.

But the majority of the party wants Justin. And frankly, I understand why.

He’s young, he’s personable, he’s articulate, he’s effortlessly bilingual, and his hair is perfect. Just perfect. He may also have what it takes to be a truly great Prime Minister.

I should concede that I have my criticisms of him, and have been far from uncritical in my assessment of him. I’ve called him a featherweight. A hairdo. Someone who can’t be trusted with the leadership of the party.

But I’ve said a lot of stupid things in my time, and most likely will continue to.

The fact of the matter is, he’s not a bad guy. In fact, he seems like a really good one. And he’s built the sort of grassroots, modern campaign architecture that the party needs to be competitive today. To say nothing of the fact that his ascendancy, and that of the bright young turks around him, spells doom for the old fuddy-duddies who have brought the party to the brink of ruin since the Chretien-Martin years. This is a new party now. And it’s Justin’s.

The Tories are calling him the Liberal’s ‘pretty pony.’ Let them. A pony looks a lot less pretty when it’s kicking you in the face.

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