Joyce Murray is driven - and that's not a bad thing.
The current Vancouver MP, and former New Westminster MLA, has thrown her hat into the federal Liberal leadership race and those who underestimate her may be surprised.
She is surely a long shot by virtue of her western roots, lack of a star name and her somewhat aloof reputation.
But her work ethic and smarts are a powerful combination.
Murray and I have had our clashes. She once compiled a "report card" on a slew of our editorials, marking them from A to E if they, in her opinion, displayed a bias against the Liberals (needless to say the As were the ones seemingly supporting the Liberals). I found it rather entertaining, but I think she believed it was a powerful argument showing editorial bias that shouldn't exist. I had a rather more plebian view: if something looked stupid, I railed against it. It is, after all, an opinion. But I consistently give her A for effort and tenacity. And from my perch from the ivory tower of the press, Murray is still one of the hardest working MLAs I have ever observed. She does her homework and she does her legwork. She also has a seemingly insatiable - almost scientific - interest in uncovering the best way to do things. She seems to approach things as you would hope more politicians would do - not as people pleasers, but as seeing problems with workable, human solutions.
As a novice MLA in Gordon Campbell's government, she toed the party line and ended up on the wrong side of the closure of St. Mary's Hospital. But that controversy overshadowed the fact that the novice Liberal MLA cracked an NDP stranglehold on the city riding. Yes, to be sure, she got in because the NDP were bungling things, but her coalition building, environmental reputation (an arguable point) and - yes, again - incredible hard work, made the difference.
She formed an early sisterhood with Christy Clark and both of them suffered, in my opinion, because they bought into the politics as usual unquestioning loyalty to Campbell.
Murray should have stood up to Campbell on St. Mary's and, I believe, would have if she hadn't bought into the whole political boy's club thing. She might have been dubbed Saint Murray had she saved the hospital. But she only served in New West until 2005.
But witness her learning curve: she moved to a safer riding, kept her own counsel, won her new seat (albeit by a slim margin) and may now emerge as one of the forces in a redefined Liberal party. What do I think Murray has learned? She's learned to trust her own thinking. Which is formidable.
Her platform includes a plan for the NDP, Greens and Liberals to stop splitting the vote by having the option of conducting runoff nominations in tightly contested races to knock off the Conservative candidate. She's the first to take such a stand and should be rewarded for this almost revolutionary thinking in a political system that values "silo" politics over collaboration. She also favours legalizing marijuana and wants to reform the current first-past-the-post electoral system providing fairer representation across Canada.
Her Achilles' heel?
She holds herself to very high standards and often expects the same of others, giving her a public persona of being aloof and sometimes judgmental.
She is, I'm sure, probably much harder on herself than any critics could ever be. Will she lead the Liberals? Odds are against it - but, don't ever count Murray out.
Pat Tracy is the editor of the Burnaby NOW.
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