Findlay rallies young Liberals’ support

Martha Findlay was the first to throw her hat in the ring for Liberal leadership.
Martha Findlay was the first to throw her hat in the ring for Liberal leadership.

A woman aspiring to be the next prime minister visited campus March 14 to talk about her passion for politics.

A crowd of around 20 students, mostly from the Queen’s University Liberal Association, gathered in a meeting room in the JDUC to meet Martha Hall Findlay, one of the three candidates who have so far announced their intent to run for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

The party has been in limbo since former Prime Minister Paul Martin announced his resignation following the Conservative victory in the recent election. A number of key Liberals are expected to step up to the challenge following Saturday’s release of the rules and regulations of the race.

Findlay said she made her decision known early because she is relatively unknown throughout Canada and wanted to take advantage of extra time to get her name out there.

“It’s key to meet more people,” she said. “A big part of why we’re doing this [talk] is to introduce me to Liberals across the country and to see what you’re thinking.

“When I announced my intentions [to run], a lot of people said, ‘Who is that?’ ‘Is she serious?’” Her answer to her questioners: a definitive “Yes.” With only a limited history in politics and with the Liberal Party, Findlay acknowledged that she might not have the experience of other potential candidates, but refuses to see it as a setback.

“Huge divisions in the party have built up over the past few years,” she said. “Not being connected to that could be a benefit.” She was quick to point out that a lack of experience in politics does not equate to a lack of experience in general.

“I have a tremendous number of things that I’ve done in my life so far. I have a strong track record of getting things done,” she said, referring to her work outside the political sphere.

Findlay decided to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party shortly after Martin announced his decision to step down from the post.

“With [Martin’s] announcement, everything happened a little more quickly,” she said. “It became an opportunity for significant changes in the party.” Findlay said she hopes to capitalize on the opportunity, comparing it to the late 1960s as a period of political revitalization.

“I remember this incredible enthusiasm because there was a number of really strong people in the party,” she said. “We’re at that point again, but it’s 2006.” There are different issues to be faced, Findlay said, and different problems to be dealt with now. At the top of her list is equality across the country.

“What does it mean to be equal in Canada?” she asked. “We’ve been hearing health care, health care, health care. Universally acceptable, single-tier, good health care that everyone has access to, regardless of money or location.”

Also on her list of priorities is political integrity, particularly in light of the recent strategic moves across the House of Commons floor by Belinda Stronach and David Emerson.

Stronach’s union with the Liberal Party hit a particular sore spot for Findlay, she said. In the 2004 election, Stronach narrowly defeated Findlay in the Newmarket-Aurora riding. Then in the 2006 election, Findlay was asked to step aside by then-Prime Minster Paul Martin from her role as the Liberal candidate in the same riding so Stronach could run.

Following Stronach’s floor-crossing, Findlay said, she was “ready to give Harper respect for his main platforms,” especially accountability. She said she was ultimately disappointed with his Cabinet selections, however—specifically the appointment of David Emerson, who had run as a Liberal.

“I have a lot of respect for the electorate,” she said, adding that she believes that if an MP feels the need to leave his or her party, sitting as an independent before crossing the floor should be a requirement.

While Findlay said she is not willing to hold back her disapproval regarding what she sees as Harper’s hypocritical stance on political integrity, she is also quick to give him credit where she thinks it’s due.

“I have a lot of respect for what Harper is doing in Afghanistan right now,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for Canada to stand up for [its] values and be recognized internationally.” Findlay stressed the importance of reasserting Canada’s role on the global stage.

“Canada has had international respect in years gone by that, frankly, we’ve lost. We got that respect largely because we knew what was going on within our own borders.” She said she sees this transition period as a time to re-assess what is going on within Canadian borders.

“We’re going down a path that I find very unnerving, to say the least,” she said regarding Canada’s national unity. “We need to see that each province has distinct qualities, but we must remember that we’re Canadians first.” Regardless of the outcome, Findlay said she hopes the leadership race will help revitalize the party, and act as a substitute policy conference, where ideas can be discussed freely. “The first thing the new leader has to do is sit down with other candidates and work out all the different ideas,” she said. “It’s not enough to go to the public and say, ‘Vote Liberal because we’re not as bad as the other guys.’

“We have to reaffirm what it means to be Liberal.” When asked about how to get more women involved in Canadian politics, Findlay mentioned her involvement in organizations such as the Ontario Women’s Liberal Commission and Equal Voice, but said efforts should not stop there.

“We can talk, but until we do, we’re not actually moving forward,” she said. “I’m a firm believer in leading by example.”

Even if she is unsuccessful in her bid for the Liberal Party leadership, Findlay said she is not about to give up in the political world.

“I will still run as an MP [in the next election],” she said. “I’ve discovered that politics is my passion.”

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