Progressive primaries to the rescue

Monday’s plurality by-election win by the Conservatives in Calgary Centre is being called a textbook case of vote splitting. The thinking goes that few Liberal, NDP or Green voters would pick the Conservatives second, so three centre-left candidates dilutes that vote.

What to do? Coincidentally Liberal MP Joyce Murray announced her candidacy for her party’s leadership that same day and outlined a “progressive primary” proposal for the next election.

Murray proposes Liberal, NDP and Green candidates face off in a pre-election primary, then the winner would face the Conservative candidate. Murray proposed this system for only the next election, after which she, as prime minister, would pursue proportional representation.

Critics will deride the idea, saying “the NDP already rejected working with the Liberals at the riding association level” or “it will lead to an American-style two-party system” or “who’s Joyce Murray?”

Murray also didn’t have many specifics to offer, such as whether party members or the general public would vote in these primaries or who would pay for them. But hey, it’s at least more interesting than any idea Justin Trudeau has offered up in the leadership race.