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Martha Hall Findlay looks to the non-faithful Liberal leadership

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CUP B.C. Bureau Chief

Martha Hall Findlay on the campaign trail.
Martha Hall Findlay on the campaign trail.

VANCOUVER (CUP) — Martha Hall Findlay might seem like the dark horse candidate for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. After all, she’s a former MP who served just over one term in office and who once received only 2.7 per cent of the vote in a leadership race. But she doesn’t see it that way.

“Trust me, there are people who aren’t necessarily Liberals who are already signing up to support me,” she says cannily.

This race to determine the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada won’t just be decided by the party-faithful: non-members, so long as they don’t belong to a different federal party already, can cast votes as “supporters.” And it’s from these outsiders — many of them weary of politics and a good number of them young — that Hall Findlay hopes to draw her base.

“Everyone wants more young people involved in politics, period,” she says. “Young people are not apathetic. Look at how many people get involved in NGOs, they’re in environmental groups, they get involved in other humanitarian organizations, all kinds of stuff.”

Her campaign has been low on flash and star power, but relentlessly insistent on substance. She has released — and plans to continue with — a torrent of policy papers and op-eds outlining intricate stances on such topics as disparate as dairy farms and oil pipelines.

The Liberals have been struggling to find their footing for some time, having gone through six leaders in nine years and securing only 34 seats in the 2011 federal election. With a pro-business bent informed by her years of experience in the private sector, Hall Findlay is staking out turf many say is to the right of the party’s usual sweet spot. But she bristles at any attempt to fit her positions in a straightforward left–right pigeonhole.

“What is left and what is right? We don’t live in the 1950s anymore,” she says. She admits her outlook is socially progressive, economically less so, but will rebut anyone who tries to split the difference. “I don’t think of that as being in some ‘mushy middle.’ Pick any policy issue — give me 20 policy issues — and I will be pretty clear about where I stand.”

She doesn’t characterize any particular topics as “youth-vote issues,” but argues that students and young people should support her based on issues that matter to Canada as a whole. She wants to push for job growth for recent graduates, in part by making various sectors of the economy more open to international trade.

She sees oil pipelines to B.C.’s coast as a non-negotiable part of the country’s economic future.

“Canada has a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources that the world wants. We get less — and I say ‘we’ consciously — all Canadians end up suffering because we get a lower price for our oil with the United States being our only market.”

She’s also been adamant in her position on a particular niche issue: ending supply management for Canadian dairy farms, which could lower the price of milk and milk products in the country considerably.

On the topic of post-secondary education, she says the current system of loans and grants is “not bad right now,” but could use a bit of tweaking. “The sheer [student debt] numbers are high.

That’s not so much because of the student loan and grant system, as it is the cost of tuition and the cost of living.”

The graduate of Osgoode Hall law school at Toronto’s York University suggests, possibly, a system that might take into account the earning potential of a degree when student loan agencies evaluate how quickly they expect a student’s debt to be paid off. “I think it’s no surprise that people who graduate from law school, biz school [or] engineering probably have a better chance of earning a significant income than history grads,” she says.

The self-identified feminist also says she’ll have no truck with the displays of faux-modesty that have become somewhat expected of female politicians lately.

“What is it about us women that we have this, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t know, I don’t know if I’m good enough, I don’t know if I’m smart enough, I don’t know if I have a thick enough skin?’ Apparently the guys don’t worry about that. Some of them maybe should, but boy, they don’t,” she says.

“I’m pretty confident that most people who choose to support me in this leadership will do so because I’m smart. I have some great experience. I’m substantive.”

Photo: Facebook

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