Joyce Murray Revisited: Electoral Cooperation and Defeating Stephen Harper

It occurs to me that it may have been rather rude of me not to mention the other candidates in my blog a few days ago. I chose not to on the principle that if I was just going to rubbish them with my reasons for not voting for them, it was better to say nothing at all.

The truth is, I have nothing but respect for all of them. They’re liberals who have put their lives on hold because they want to serve this country. And they should be honoured on that basis alone. Martha Hall Findlay put it best in the first debate. This is one hell of a shadow cabinet.

Having said that, I’m not going to get all valedictory and praise each candidate’s merits in turn. They know that they’re in this for real. They don’t need my praise. I certainly hope that George Takach is going to run as an MP, because we could really use him in parliament, and the same goes for Bertschi, MacCrimmon and Coyne.

Indeed, I’ll point out that most of my favorite candidates in this race have not been sitting MPS. That’s a testament to what’s been happening. It turns out the race really did revitalize the party. It turns out we really did have an honest, strong discussion about what our future is as a party. It turns out the old establishment have been overturned for good, and the party is back in the hands of ordinary Canadians. It turns out that large portions of the Canadian media are looking a little stupid today.

I’m not going to write sweet nothings to the sitting MPs in the race. They’re all far more substantial than I, and don’t need my praise anyway.
I am, however, going to outline why Joyce Murray was at the bottom of my list. And why she’s now third.

Joyce Murray I was afraid I just in good conscience couldn’t vote for. I thought, and still suspect, that the Cullen/Murray cooperation plan was cynical, divisive, and just bad politics. I thought it reeked of the kind of self-righteous entitlement that lost us the trust of Canadians in the first place. It smacks of the same flawed logic that made people honestly believe that a coalition with the NDP and Greens was somehow a good thing. That it wouldn’t have been annhilated in the election that probably would have happened within weeks.

You can rage all you want about the fripperies of first past the post, which I’ll admit are absurd, but if you truly loathe Stephen Harper and all he stands for, as I feel many Liberals rightly do, you have to beat him. You have to stand up, and you have to beat him. You can’t just fiddle with the rules to try and finagle yourself the power you feel you rightly deserve.

You have to earn it. And you have to earn it from the new Canadians, and the workers in Alberta who fear for their jobs, and the population of Quebec, and all those who have begun to feel either that perhaps Harper isn’t so bad after all, or that someone else is better equipped to beat him than we are.

Because, and this is the truth that the Murray campaign recognizes, we’re not the only ones who want him gone. We know what he is. We’ve been following his insidious demolition of everything we love about our own country. We know how it feels now, to hang our heads in shame on the world stage.

And though blowing smoke about his ‘hidden agenda’ has become tiresome, as he’s quiet, and bides his time, and certainly doesn’t appear to be dismantling the liberal state, but the fact remains that there is something deeply sinister happening in Ottawa today. A secretive, clubby, repressive, and authoritarian clique increasingly dominate the city, and Canada is being ruled as a series of fiefdoms by a federal government that is completely disengaged from the broader life of the nation.

and Joyce Murray, to her credit, cares about that.

Perhaps I could vote for Ms. Murray, if I truly understood the logic behind the cooperation plan. Perhaps I’m painting it in too negative a light. Perhaps the truth is that definitions like Liberal and Socialist and Conservative have ceased to have the meaning they once did. I should confess that calling myself a liberal these days has increasingly begun to feel like I’m calling myself a Chartist, or a Bonapartist, even. It feels somehow outdated. As though that fight is over, and a new one has begun.

Perhaps the nature of the game has changed, and we need to acknowledge that we’re facing a different, far more sinister opponent than just the Tories. Perhaps we’re facing the organized power of a particular segment of private enterprise, that is seeking to unfairly influence and dominate the rest of the country. And without being coy, I’m talking about the tar sands.

Yes, the tar sands. It’s what the rest of the world calls them. Because it’s what they are. You’ll just notice the media doesn’t call them that here.

Perhaps the trouble really is that the country is being run with one interest in mind; that of the oil barons of Calgary. Perhaps ‘screw the west, we’ll keep the rest’ has finally come back to haunt the ‘Laurentian Establishment,’ as John Ibbitson calls them, and it really is Alberta calling the shots now. Perhaps social conservatism, heavy-handed, authoritarian government, and a crueller society all around are our future. Perhaps, as Thomas Homer-Dixon recently pointed out in an article in the New York Times, we really are beginning to exhibit the warning signs of being a ‘petro state.’ Perhaps Harper is just our vicious right-wing version of Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A petty despot living on oil revenue and using it to impose his will on a country that for the most part hates him.

The thirty percent of voters who are consistently in lockstep for Harper’s Tories represent a tiny fragment of the population. One that you can be sure does, in large part, well out of them, or they wouldn’t be voting for him. To continue with the petro-state analogy, so does the Saudi Royal family and those close to them. So do the people who fell in line with Chavez’ United Socialist Party. So do those Russians who toe the line and vote for United Russia and praise Putin to the skies. So do the clique of clerics and their friends who currently run Iran.

It doesn’t matter what twisted ideology you import to justify your slow seizure of the country’s resources, as the above list demonstrates. Harper’s is a hodgepodge of the dumbest kind of US republicanism, the slightly nutty fixations of the old Socreds, the straight-up bigotry of the old Canadian Alliance, and the crumbling relic of what was once the Progressive Conservative party.

John Duffy once wrote, in a book I no longer own, which I thus can unfortunately not source, called Fights of our Lives, that historically, western Canadian fringe parties generally get gradually absorbed back into the eastern mother party.

But for the first time in our history, that hasn’t happened. The Canadian Alliance staged a coup in the conservative movement. They took it over. The eastern establishment PCS fell in line because they were promised the fruits of power. The Albertan nutbars like Stockwell Day we spent the 90s laughing at are at the controls. Because one of them, it turns out, is a calculating, devious, and ferociously brilliant sociopath. And he’s ruining everything.

He’s building thousands of new prisons to incarcerate a population he barely cares about. He has no trouble watching his own population be viciously beaten in the streets of Toronto by testosterone-crazed loonies from out of town. He doesn’t give a damn about how Israel treats the Palestinians because he knows he can lock up a series of Toronto ridings by slavishly supporting a right-wing kleptocracy that has taken the dream of Israel hostage, and used it to savagely oppress another people.

He’s shutting down government sponsored science. Mainly because it keeps coming to inconvenient conclusions about global warming. But also because he just doesn’t care. About science, or global warming. Neither fit in his monomaniacal vision.

He’s lulling Canadians to sleep. One day we’ll wake up to find the country we loved gone. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. Unless we beat him now.

Perhaps Joyce Murray and Nathan Cullen are the candidates who acknowledge that stopping Canada’s Republicanization is more important than any petty rivalry the NDP and the Liberals may have had in the past. Perhaps they acknowledge that what is now being undertaken by the Harper government is so fundamentally abhorrent to Canadian values that it needs to be stopped at any cost. Perhaps they are the new left. The bold left. The visionary left that will stem the tide of corporate influence in Ottawa, restore reason and sanity as the bases of pariamentary policy, and banish the reactionary ideology of the Canadian Alliance to it’s long deserved electoral grave.

Or perhaps it’s that cooperation is the shortest route to power. I don’t know. I’m curious to find out. So I’m going to put Joyce third on my ballot. Just to make it interesting.

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