Campus Liberals split on leadership race

Youth campaigns picking up speed

Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff greets young Liberals at a kick-off for his youth campaign in Montreal Saturday.
Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff greets young Liberals at a kick-off for his youth campaign in Montreal Saturday.
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Since Paul Martin’s resignation in March of this year, the Liberal party has been abuzz searching for a new leader. Throughout the summer, 10 candidates have campaigned across Canada, calling on all Liberals to support their quest for leadership.

Responding to some of those calls are members of the Queen’s University Liberal Association (QULA).

With such a large number of candidates, however, the organization is split over whom they should support.

Many candidates have launched youth-specific campaigns, targeting student followers, such as the members of QULA.

Gerard Kennedy has “Gerard’s O.C.” (online community), where bloggers regularly post updates about the campaign.

Stéphane Dion has worked with members of the Young Liberals to develop plans to increase youth participation in politics.

Despite being pulled in multiple directions, QULA members say the group hasn’t been fractured by the wide-open leadership campaign.

“It doesn’t bother anyone in the club,” said Megan Lee Shulman, ArtSci ’07. “We’re Liberals first.” The executive and members of QULA are working together to encourage Liberals at Queen’s and in the Kingston area to vote for delegates later this month. The elected delegates will then go to Montreal in December to vote for a leader.

McCargar said she has been sending out e-mails to ensure QULA members turn out to vote.

“We want to get as many people out as possible,” she said.

Some QULA members have chosen their loyalties by keeping it all in the family.

Jon Rae, ArtSci ’09, spent the summer supporting his uncle Bob Rae’s bid for leadership. Jon contributed to the campaign by selling new memberships to the Liberal party and recruiting people to be delegates for Rae at the leadership convention.

“I’m now talking to ... voting members and getting people to be delegates for Bob,” Jon said.

Jon said he chose to work for his uncle’s campaign because of Rae’s dedication to public service within Canada.

“Just because he’s family doesn’t mean I have to support him,” Jon said. “I honestly believe he’s the best man out there to run the Liberal party.”

Jon said a necessary qualification for any candidate is someone who can win an election.

“We need to win,” he said. “We can’t let Stephen Harper get a majority government.”

Also working on a family member’s campaign are Everett and Patrick Findlay, Sci ’08 and ArtSci ’09 respectively.

Everett spent part of his summer working for his mom, Martha Hall Findlay, and accompanying her on campaign trips in her Big Red Bus.

He also managed the database for the campaign, compiling lists of Liberal members and Findlay supporters. Patrick helped to recruit supporters as well.

“People seem to respond really well to her,” Everett said of his mom, adding that she gets criticized for being new at this, but that hasn’t stopped her.

“All her policy platforms come from years of paying attention to Canadian events and being really aware of what’s going on.” On Saturday, QULA members Marilla McCargar, ArtSci ’07, Robyn Cassidy, ArtSci ’07, and Radey Barrack, ArtSci ’08, went to Montreal to attend the launch of iggynation.ca, a blog and discussion site for Michael Ignatieff’s youth supporters.

“I don’t care how old you are,” Ignatieff told the cheering audience. “What I care about is, can you do the darn job. And time and time again, your generation has stepped up to the job so well you just silenced arguments about how old you are. And that’s the kind of Canada I want.” Ignatieff’s recognition of the power of youth, and the importance of listening to the ideas and opinions of others, attracted McCargar, QULA president, to the candidate.

“He does listen,” she said. “[He’s] someone who’s extremely intelligent, but very aware of his own limitations.” Cassidy, QULA vice-president, said Ignatieff’s enthusiasm as a candidate appeals to her.

“He brings a positive light to the Liberal party,” she said. “It’s something fresh, new [and] exciting to be a part of.” McCargar said it’s in Ignatieff’s favour that he’s not associated with the problems that have afflicted the Liberal party in recent years.

“He’s brought a unique approach to liberalism and the Liberal party,” she said.

While many members of QULA back Ignatieff, other candidates have support at Queen’s as well.

Mark Sholdice, ArtSci ’07 and QULA membership secretary, is coordinating the Kingston community campaign for Gerard Kennedy.

“Basically what I’m doing is organizing the riding for Gerard,” Sholdice said.

This entails finding people to run as delegates for the leadership convention and talking to members of the Liberal party in Kingston and Queen’s, to encourage them to vote and to support Kennedy.

Sholdice has also been working closely with Kingston and the Islands MPP John Gerretsen, who endorsed Kennedy’s campaign.

“The thing I like about Kennedy is he’s young and he’s progressive,” Sholdice said. “He’s a guy that will really put in a lot of effort into leading the Liberal party, working on a federal election and hopefully becoming prime minister.” Shulman began supporting Stephane Dion’s quest for leadership long before he declared his intention to run.

“I was looking around at people in the party and I had kind of followed his career a little bit,” she said. “I thought he was very impressive.” Dion stands out above other candidates, Shulman said, because of his experience in cabinet and his policies.

“He has a strong platform that I think differs from the kind of cookie-cutter platforms that are also out there,” she said, citing his positions on the environment and his views on women in politics.

Kelly Murdock, ArtSci ’09 and QULA’s director of policy, is the director for Scott Brison’s British Columbia Youth Campaign. She spent her summer working for Brison in B.C. and traveling with him in western Canada.

“I met him a number of times because I’ve been involved with the party for a while,” she said, adding that she was drawn to him because he and she are “ideologically along similar lines.”

Brison’s commitment to youth and to all regions of Canada, in particular rural areas, made him stand out as a candidate, Murdock said.

“He is the youngest candidate and he’s also a very dynamic person,” she said. “His whole basis for running is to be a new generation of leadership and ideas.”

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