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Liberal Member of Parliament Joyce Murray speaks during a news conference announcing her candidacy for the party's leadership, in Ottawa November 26, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
Liberal Member of Parliament Joyce Murray speaks during a news conference announcing her candidacy for the party's leadership, in Ottawa November 26, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Calgary Centre a wake-up call for the left, Liberal MP says Add to ...

Liberal MP Joyce Murray says the split in the progressive vote in the Calgary-Centre by-election confirms a key proposal in her bid to lead the federal Liberals: It’s time for progressive parties to unite and run one non-Conservative candidate in some ridings.

“It certainly illustrates the problem we face,” the Vancouver-Quadra MP, who helped with the campaign in Calgary, said on Tuesday. “Calgary was an illustration of splitting the vote.”

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Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt won with 36.9 per cent support. But the combined totals of the second and third-place candidates was far higher. Liberal Harvey Locke came second with 32.7 per cent, and Chris Turner of the Green Party ran third with 25.6 per cent. The NDP was fourth with 3.8 per cent.

Ms. Murray, a former B.C. environment minister first elected to parliament in a 2008 by-election, entered the Liberal leadership race this week with a proposal to have the Liberals, NDP and Greens broker a one-time deal on candidates for the next election in a bid to defeat the Conservatives.

“We don’t agree on everything, but on a number of things,” Ms. Murray, 58, said of the proposed partners to the arrangement, which she suggested would involve a “sort of primary amongst the progressive candidates so one of those candidates ends up contesting the election.”

She emphasized that she is against a merger of parties, but that some form of co-operation is necessary because more than 60 per cent of voters did not choose Conservative candidates in the last election, yet they won a majority.

As Liberal leader, Ms. Murray said she would seek Liberal support for talks with other parties on the concept, which would apply to a “small percentage” of ridings where the Conservatives won due to splits in the progressive vote. “I find it unimaginable we can’t find the will to co-operate,” she said.

Montreal MP Justin Trudeau is seen as the frontrunner in the race to lead the third-place party in Parliament, with Ms. Murray far behind. However, her commitment to the idea of co-operation against the Tories suggests it will be a topic of discussion in the campaign as well as the five debates scheduled across Canada en route to the leadership convention April 14 in Ottawa.

Mr. Trudeau has ruled out such co-operation.

Ms. Murray said she hoped the concept would take off among Liberals even if she does not win the leadership. “It’s about co-operation. We need more of that in Ottawa; we need more of that in our political system.”

Ms. Murray acknowledged that the idea also helps express her leadership style. “It is a co-operative approach,” she said. “It is typically more what women do. We think about how we can work together to get something that everybody wants.

“You start in your own home, and that’s the Liberal Party. I would have that conversation first with Liberals, and if there’s support for it, I would start talking with the leaders of the other parties. One step at a time.”

Ms. Murray has other plans as well. As she launched her campaign on Monday, she proposed the legalization and taxation of cannabis. She is also proposing that 40 per cent of government appointments to agencies, boards, commissions and cabinet go to women.

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