The fifth and final Liberal leadership debate was held in Montreal this past Saturday, a mostly-French affair that followed the format of the last couple of debates with its three-way brawls and then one-on-one matches. The official topics focused mostly on seniors issues, the environment, and some other things, while the latter portion of the debate featured candidates questioning each other on their own topics. Like a real debate!
This being the last debate, it was an important one for me personally. Not because I was undecided - in fact, I had very much already decided. But Marc Garneau obviously didn't have the staying power he claimed to, and I was thrust into the position of supporting, by default, Justin Trudeau.
That hasn't changed, as I do support Justin Trudeau. But I no longer support him as my first choice - instead, as you can see to the right, my first choice will now be Martha Hall Findlay. This was mostly because of the debate, and how it played out.
First off, I am no longer interested in Joyce Murray's candidacy. I've tried to stress several times in the past that, outside of her co-operation plan, Murray has impressed me and is a great candidate. Hell, I'd even vote for her if it weren't for that one issue she's tried to stake her entire candidacy on. And that's kind of the problem - Murray, like Nathan Cullen before her, is not seen seriously by anyone else as anything except the co-operation candidate. Yes, it is a position that gets her endorsements and a certain segment of the vote - but it also alienates everyone else. There is very little in Joyce's candidacy that bridges to gap between those wanting co-op, and those that do not, even though she is experienced and has some interesting ideas, attributes that puts a lot of the other candidates to shame. Only Martin Cauchon has more experience in government that her, and he lacks her parallel business experience. Plus, she's the Western candidate, and I would dearly love to see a Westerner win the leadership.
So, previous to this debate, I had some inkling towards Murray, just on the basis of her background alone. Given that my preferred candidate had dropped out, it wasn't entirely out of the realm of possibility to see Murray get some traction with me. Ted Hsu, one of my favourite parliamentarians, and the last Liberal MP for my riding, Paddy Torsney, are supporting Murray. These are people that I have a great amount of respect for. If they're supporting her, why shouldn't I? I can get past the co-op plan, maybe.
But, then this happened. Murray dropped the "Calgary oil industry" bomb, which absolutely infuriated me. It was stupid when David McGuinty said it, it was stupid when Tom Mulcair said it, and its stupid when Joyce Murray says it. Enough with the us vs. the Calgary oil boogeymen schtick, keep it the hell out of the leadership race. Leave it to Tom Mulcair to be divisive, 'cause we can't afford to be.
I could go on about how stupid that was - seriously, I wrote several pages in Word before I realized it was getting too long - but more than just turning me off Murray, it sparked a renewed interest in Martha Hall Findlay, who gave an excellent retort to Murray's nonsense, noting that the oil industry benefited for all Canadians. She also noted that, yes there are problems with pipeline plans, but we need to do something with that oil, and that something includes pipelines. More importantly, oilsands development and environmental safety are not mutually exclusive. That's what I like to hear - the truth.
But it is more than just that. Hall Findlay impressed me with her well of knowledge every time she was on stage. That included during a sparring between her and Cauchon over her supply management issue, as well as her versus Trudeau on the issue of the retirement age, and so on. Suffice to say, I like Martha, I like what she has to say, I like the ideas she's put forward, and I hope that she'll be with this party for a very long time.
That then brings me to Justin Trudeau. Like Martha, I like what he has to say, I like the ideas he's put forward, and I hope he'll be with this party for a very long time. Some of Justin's highlights includes his promise to hold open nominations in all 338 ridings (that's a personal favourite), his take down of Murray's co-op plan (somewhat over-hyped but good), and of course, his bashful retort to Martin Cauchon's broaching of Quebec and the Constitution, in which Trudeau knocked that down easily, saying Quebeckers are interested in the same things every other Canadians are, not the old battles. I loved that, and so did the Montreal crowd.
So, much like before when Garneau was running, I've decided that Justin will be my second choice. I do this for two reasons. One, I want Martha to have a really good showing in this race, which means putting her first on my ballot so I can contribute to putting her ahead of less desirable candidates. Two, if she does fall behind the other candidates, my vote will go directly to Justin.
Thus, my ballot has become a strategic one. I'll support Martha if I can, but if she doesn't win, then Justin it is. I want to contribute to the two candidates I'd like to see win, and not to the candidates I don't. That's only one person at this point, but you get the idea.
So what about the rest of my ballot? Granted, once you get to Trudeau as your second choice, you're probably not going to have to go any further. But this is the reason I've put my ballot online - I want these candidates to know that they do have my support in certain ways.
Based on the recent debate performance, Cauchon has made his mark as one of the most intelligent and thoughtful people in the race. He's experienced, he's well spoken (even with accented English), and he does seem to know what kind of general direction he'll take the party if he won. You can see this all throughout the debate. At the same time, I still don't get a sense of what his candidacy is about. That's kind of a problem that has run through this entire race, to be honest - I mean, except for Murray, what can you say about the narrative of anyone's campaign? Do Martha and Justin really have a raison d'etre for their campaigns, outside of personal ambition? Not really. Cauchon, however, seems more scattershot than everyone else.
Karen McCrimmon and Deborah Coyne are two unlikely candidates to win, but I've enjoyed their presence. In this debate, McCrimmon had one of the best retorts of the night versus Murray's co-op talk. Deborah Coyne is extremely intelligent, and knows what she's talking about. They've gotten great profile, but still, their impact has been small. That being said, I hope to see more of the both of them in the future.
And finally, Joyce Murray... sigh. I still have bucket loads of respect for her, and she's more successful than I probably will ever end up being. She deserves a place at the table, for sure. I still can't support her, nor do I don't want to see her win. She just wants to take the Liberal Party in a direction I do not want to see it go, and that's the hard truth. Sorry.
Anyways, that wraps this up. I suggest to anyone still undecided that you consider what I've done here. Maybe you don't have the same choices I do, but be strategic with your ballot. Consider who you want to win (or get a great profile), and then consider who you know will win. That way, your bases are covered.