CALGARY – Former MP Martha Hall Findlay has announced her candidacy for the federal Liberal leadership saying the party has to stop trying to be all things to all people.
She said the Liberals must show courage if they are to win back respect and regain power.
“The Liberal party proved in the 1990s that it had the guts to do what was right — fiscally and economically,” she said of the deficit-cutting Liberal government of the day. “It was tough, but it was right. And we must show that kind of courage again.
“The Liberal party must have the courage to no longer try to be everything to everyone. We must stand for what we believe is right.”
Hall Findlay, who also sought the party’s top job in 2006, is another high-profile candidate for the party’s top job. She came forward Wednesday on the first official day of the leadership campaign.
“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.
“We need to take on (NDP Leader) Thomas Mulcair right where it counts and where he’s the weakest — the economy. We need to take on (Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, take the fight to him, not just wait and react defensively to the next round of attack ads.”
Hall Findlay joins Justin Trudeau, who announced his candidacy six weeks ago, and four others.
They include Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne, Vancouver Crown prosecutor Alex Burton, Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi and David Merner, former president of the party’s British Columbia wing
The Liberals are to choose a new leader in April.
“Allow me to say I told you so,” said Trudeau at an event at the University of Toronto on the eve of Hall Findlay’s much-anticipated announcement.
“I told you there’d be a lot of very strong candidates getting into this race that were going to bring forward tremendous ideas,” he said.
“We’re going to have a great debate about where the Liberal party needs to go with voices from across the country — people who know the Liberal party matters in this country.”
Hall Findlay, 53, positioned herself as an “intelligent” candidate, who graduated from high school at 15, became a lawyer and worked on international business deals. But she said she also has experience as a hard-working mom who knows the value of a hotdog cut up into Kraft Dinner.
Her first political success was in the Toronto riding of Willowdale where she won in a federal byelection on March 17, 2008. She was re-elected in the general election later that year, but lost her seat in the 2011 vote.
She had been the party’s candidate for Ontario’s Newmarket-Aurora riding in the 2004 election, but lost narrowly to Conservative Belinda Stronach.
Hall Findlay was the first declared candidate in the Liberal leadership race to succeed former prime minister Paul Martin in 2006. She was eliminated from the first ballot and threw her support behind eventual winner Stéphane Dion.
Dion stepped down after the Liberals failed to win the next election in 2008 and was replaced by Michael Ignatieff. He, too, resigned after the Liberals were reduced to rump status in the 2011 vote.
Bob Rae has been interim leader since and is not entering the leadership race.
A University of Lethbridge political scientist said Hall Findlay joining the race is good news for the party.
“They need a contested election. They cannot afford a coronation,” said Peter McCormick.
“That’s the quickest way to put an untested Justin Trudeau into the maw of a federal general election, which is a rather horrific place to be if you don’t have the right kind of experience. A leadership race would be the beginning of that kind of test for him.”
McCormick suggested Hall Findlay’s chances of winning are slim, but added “you can never tell when lightning might strike.”
He said she is more likely to be concerned about making sure that certain issues and ideas will be “illuminated and discussed” during the leadership campaign.
“She’s run before. She’s a connection with the past. She’s a recognized name within a corner of the party and she speaks for a set of issues and policies she wants to make sure is addressed during the leadership race.”
Hall Findlay has brought in Stephen Carter, credited with some notable successes over the last couple of years, to run her campaign.
He successfully steered Naheed Nenshi to the Calgary mayor’s chair two years ago when there were other candidates with a higher profile. Carter also ran the leadership and provincial election campaigns for Alberta Premier Alison Redford.
McCormick said Hall Findlay’s choice of Calgary to announce her candidacy is an interesting one since the city isn’t known as a Liberal stronghold.
“Justin Trudeau has started a new fad for Liberals. You come out and demonstrate that even here in the desert I can find some water.”
The leadership race could get more crowded next week. Vancouver MP Joyce Murray is expected to step forward as a candidate, as is from Toronto lawyer George Takach.