Federal Liberal leadership race formally kicks off
Published Wednesday, November 14, 2012 12:06PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 14, 2012 2:56PM EST
And they’re off.
Today marks the official start to the federal Liberal leadership campaign and eight declared candidates are already out of the gates, jockeying for the party’s top job.
One of the latest contenders to enter the race is former MP Martha Hall Findlay, who had also sought the party's top job in 2006.
"In 2006, there were some who questioned my run for leadership. But soon most were calling it gutsy. Before long people were coming up to me all the time to say how much I inspired them," Hall Findlay said as she made her announcement in Calgary.
Retired Canadian Forces Lt.-Col Karen McCrimmon also announced her candidacy on Wednesday.
While leadership hopefuls float from campaign stop to campaign stop, perceived frontrunner Justin Trudeau admits that he has a lot to prove -- just not what you might think.
“What I have to prove isn’t to myself. What I have to prove isn’t to any comparison to my father,” he told CTV’s Canada AM in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
Certainly, there have been no shortage of comparisons to the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who famously asked Canada to “just watch” him as he unapologetically butted-heads and banister-slid through four memorable terms as prime minister. But the younger Trudeau says he’s not paying heed to detractors who insist he’s trying to cash in on his father’s charisma.
Instead, the Montreal MP says his attention is fixed on the people who voted him back into the House of Commons last year, handing him another chance to carve out his own political legacy.
“What I have to prove is to the people who trust me to represent them in Papineau,” he said, adding: “I have to demonstrate to my family that the time I’m spending away from them to try and build a better world is actually worth the moments I don’t get to spend with my kids.”
It’s a tall order. At age 40, Trudeau is eight years younger than his father was when he launched a bid for Liberal leadership. He’s had four years of experience on Parliament Hill, but never while the Liberals have held power.
Others on the laundry list of Liberal leadership candidates include lawyer and the mother of Trudeau’s half-sister Deborah Coyne, as well as prosecutor Alex Burton, lawyer David Bertschi, economist Jonathan Mousley and recent addition David Merner, of the party’s B.C. chapter.
Chances are it won’t stop there. Three others are also expected to join the competition:
- Vancouver MP Joyce Murray
- Toronto lawyer George Takach
- Montreal MP Marc Garneau
The federal Liberals will formally announce their next leader at a convention in Ottawa next April. In the meantime, Trudeau appears unwavering in his mission to stare down those who say he lacks vision and concrete plan for Canada’s once-mighty Liberal Party.
“There’s all sorts of things that I’m willing to take hard positions on,” Trudeau said Wednesday.
He offered his leeriness to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, opposition to bolstered language laws in Quebec and support for the decriminalization of marijuana as examples.
What may sometimes come across as a broad platform, Trudeau insists, is his attempt to engage the public and encourage participation in policymaking.
“People want to be able to question the solutions people are bringing forward, contribute to them, feel like they are part of a discourse,” he said.
Trudeau asserts that Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty indirectly muffled the voices of Canadians by sharing the government’s fall fiscal outlook in New Brunswick on Tuesday, rather than back in Ottawa in the House of Commons.
The gesture, Trudeau said, demonstrated the Conservative government “is not serious about actually allowing the people who are elected to represent Canadians to listen, to hear, to engage, to comment directly on the contents of the fiscal projections.”
In his update, Flaherty said it would take one year longer than initially predicted to balance the nation’s budget, pushing back the current estimate to the 2016-17 fiscal year. Canadians also learned the country is expected to miss its annual deficit targets over the next four years due to a drop in income based largely on lower commodity prices.
Responding to Flaherty’s mid-term report card, Trudeau said he wasn’t surprised that the government’s budget estimate had been pushed back.
“Politicians haven’t been doing a good enough job of making sure that people are getting ahead, and that’s my focus. Does it mean stimulus spending? Perhaps,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of state this government leaves us in after the next election is done.”
But even sooner than then, Trudeau must prove that he can lift the federal Liberal Party out a period that’s been spent on the opposition bench, marred by infighting and scandal.
If his vision proceeds, Trudeau will be tasked with endearing voters to the party -- and ultimately himself.
“What we need to focus on is: ‘how do we bring them back?” he said. “You bring them back by absolute transparency, by integrity, by electing people who don’t owe anything to anyone.”