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With just over a month left in the Liberal leadership race, Joyce Murray was holed up in a back-wood cabin in northern B.C. without running water, cellphone service or electricity.
When the Liberal MP emerges later on Wednesday, she will have 32 days to get first-, second- or third-ballot support for her bid to dramatically shake up the Canadian political map ahead of the 2015 general election. From now until April 14, the race is all about reaching out to registered voters and trying to convince them to cast a ballot that shows some form of support for greater co-operation with the opposition in the next election.
Ms. Murray, who is widely seen as being one of the top-three candidates in the race after Marc Garneau dropped out, faces special challenges over the coming month, as her ideas are meeting with stiff opposition among the other leadership camps. In her home base of British Columbia, for example, the provincial Liberals are gearing up for a bitter electoral fight with the B.C. NPD in the spring, highlighting the tensions between the diverse political factions that she wants to unite under her campaign.
To reach her goal, Ms. Murray must first clear up what she wants to achieve in terms of a co-operation deal with the opposition in the next election.
"One of the challenges is that a number of times, it has been mischaracterized as a merger with the NDP or the Greens," said campaign manager Ian Perkins in an interview. "That is obviously something that must be out there, that we're not advocating a merger, that it's a one-time co-operation deal."
Mr. Perkins was handling media duties for the campaign during Ms. Murray's absence to spend some time away with her three children in an out-of-reach location. He added the campaign needs to emphasize that the proposed deal with the Green Party and the NDP specifically excludes the Bloc Québécois, stating that only "federalists, national parties" will be invited to join in the bid to bring down the Harper government.
Mr. Perkins acknowledged the Murray campaign cannot operate like the other top contenders in the race, who can still hope to attract support from any candidate who decides to drop out ahead of the vote. At this point in the race, all of her six remaining rivals have poured cold waters on plans for increased co-operation with the other opposition parties, suggesting none of her rivals can be expected to endorse Ms. Murray's campaign over the next four weeks.
Still, Mr. Perkins said, the campaign will make a push to all registered voters, regardless of which candidate attracted them to the party. He said Ms. Murray has particularly interesting policies in terms of the environment and women's issues, and that she hopes to benefit from the party's use of a preferential ballot. He noted that since she obtained the endorsement of CBC host David Suzuki, Ms. Murray has managed to attract new supporters to the Liberal Party.
"It'll be a conversion campaign," he said. "We'll be asking people, if Joyce is not their first choice, to consider for their second choice or their third choice."
Daniel Leblanc is a parliamentary reporter in The Globe's Ottawa bureau.