Joyce Murray may lack the national profile enjoyed by other Liberal MPs hoping to lead their party, but her policy platform is a surefire attention grabber.
The MP for Vancouver Quadra would legalize and tax pot, slap a price on carbon, kill the Northern Gateway project, ban oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast, ensure 40 per cent of federal appointees are women, ditch Canada’s first-past-the-post voting system and address vote-splitting through a voluntary system of partisan co-operation at the riding level to allow joint candidates to compete against vulnerable Conservatives.
As the 58-year-old South Africa-born wife and mother of three adult children points out, she’s the only one of as many as 11 candidates seeking to replace Bob Rae to have any governing experience.
Before becoming an MP in 2008, Murray served in former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s government. She was Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, then Management Services, from 2001 to 2005.
Murray also touts an impressive private-sector past. She and husband Dirk Brinkman have built a reforestation and sustainability company now operating in six countries.
And importantly for the party, Murray is a Westerner, giving the party badly needed regional credentials.
Liberals won a scant four seats in the West in the 2011 election.
But Albertans might be reluctant to embrace Murray’s candidacy given her push for a price on emissions, an end to oilsands industry subsidies and opposition to pipeline proposals to carry bitumen to a B.C. port.
Murray says she wants more oil to be refined and upgraded in Canada, and believes this country should be focusing on achieving energy self-sufficiency.
Murray opposes not only the Northern Gateway pipeline but also a proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline to Burnaby, arguing neither has sufficient public support.
Pipelines to export oilsands product to Asia, she says, conceivably could go through Eastern ports or be transported to an existing port in Valdez, Alaska.
Murray jumped into the leadership fray two weeks ago to champion sustainability as it relates to the environment, the economy and social programs.
Her campaign chair is Jamie Carroll, a past Liberal national director who in 2006 crafted former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion’s highly unanticipated winning campaign.
Murray is not a particularly high-profile caucus member, having held relatively minor critic roles — for amateur sport and Western Economic Diversification, for example, rather than Foreign Affairs or Finance. (Although fellow candidate Justin Trudeau also has held only minor critic roles.)
Two private member’s bills Murray sponsored sought to ban tanker traffic in the Pacific North coast and exempt bicycle-related purchases from the GST.
While the Vancouver MP exudes quiet competence, she lacks flash or charisma, describing her own style as collaborative and pragmatic.
So how does she intend to outmuscle someone such as Trudeau at the party’s leadership convention next April?
"I present who I am," she responds.
"I announced my candidacy knowing Justin would be running. It’s wonderful that he’s bringing so much attention to the race.
"I am going to have a campaign of ideas and policy, and I have a track record of implementing ideas."
Murray says she has been studying French since 2008 and her speaking ability is "very good."
She argues it would be a bonus for Canadians to have more female leadership on Parliament Hill; Canadian politics would benefit from a more collegial style exhibited by women politicians.
Observes Murray: "The testosterone-fuelled combative approach of both the current NDP and Conservative leaders will not lead to more respect in Parliament."
» Barbara Yaffe is a national affairs columnist for the Vancouver Sun.