It is widely assumed that when the next election is called, Andrew Leslie, the decorated former lieutenant-general, will be a Liberal candidate. If or when that comes to be the case, he will have to knock on doors and ask for his neighbours’ votes. And he will stand on doorsteps and explain who he is and what he stands for and why he should be deserving of a vote. And he will, one imagines, be asked about the $72,000 he received to move after retiring from the Canadian Forces.
So what would he say to the voter who says, “You got $72,000 to move, I don’t get $72,000 to move”?
“A rebuttal might be, I understand that, it’s part of our conditions of service. You didn’t have to move 18 or 19 times. You didn’t have to leave your family in a house in Canada while you were overseas, not for months, but for years and years and years,” Leslie says, sitting in a quiet conference room in Montreal at the end of his first difficult week as a political actor. “And so it’s actually in the guidance and regulations that the intent behind this is the compensation for all the difficulties and travails that you go through serving as either an RCMP or member of the armed forces.”
After addressing the Liberal convention this afternoon, and revealing that he had some kind of discussion with the Conservative party before joining the Liberals, Leslie sat down with Maclean’s for an exclusive one-on-one interview. In that conversation, he addressed the matter of the $72,000 expense claim, his decision to enter politics and what attacks may still come.
“I’ve had, as I mentioned, a 35-year career,” he says. “Don’t forget what it is I did, in terms of my occupation. I had responsibility for 55,000 people, for multiple billions dollars of worth of funding. I’ve made life and death decisions. I have made mistakes in some of those decisions, which are awful and that’s why I’m slightly passionate about the treatment of our veterans and those who haven’t made it all the way home yet. I’ve made decisions, literally, that resulted in people dying or people being killed or, more happily, people being saved or not killed. I’ve carried a rifle. I’ve been in personally unpleasant situations where people have paid the final price. So there’s all sorts of things, which if you want to bring up isolated incidents and spin them for political advantage, people can take advantage. On the other hand, I firmly believe that this issue and others like it, point to the tone and tenor and character of political debate in our country. And it’s something … I’m really worried about it.”
For more of our interview with Andrew Leslie, tune into Maclean’s on the Hill later this weekend.