Martha Hall Findlay's Pitch To Liberals: Substance Over Celebrity

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Martha Hall Findlay believes that lessons from an ‘80s Liberal icon may help the once-mighty party win big again. And no, she isn’t talking about Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

The former Toronto MP visited The Huffington Post Canada office on Wednesday to discuss her second campaign for the federal Liberal leadership in seven years, her call for the end of the supply management system and her recent apology to so-called Liberal front-runner, Justin Trudeau.

When asked why she’s running again, Hall Findlay leaned on the example of Frank McKenna. The former New Brunswick premier, she said, was “not exactly flashy but incredibly substantive.” She said McKenna’s efforts to seek out ideas from respected people, regardless of political ideology, led to him winning every seat in the province in 1987.

“My firm belief is that’s what we need,” she said. “My view is that this cannot be about celebrity. This cannot be about a silver bullet. And, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who would love that to happen.”

Hall Findlay, who has touted her economic credentials, also answered questions about the Keystone pipeline, foreign policy, dealing with China and free trade.

You can read the highlights from her meeting with the HuffPost editorial board below.

On how this campaign differs from 2006

“We’ve been told we’re running the best campaign of the bunch, which is not what we were told in 2006. Back then, we had a big red bus and six people. A change from 2006 is that it is nice to be lumped in as one of the front-runners. A couple of months ago the word was ‘coronation,’ but the discourse has changed a lot. We have a race.”

“I’m also seven years older. I use more makeup now than I did in 2006.”

On the troubles facing the Liberal party

“All we’ve managed to do in seven years is lose two elections. The last one, obviously, was our worst result ever. It’s clear to me that we can’t keep saying the same things and hope that our fortunes change.”

On Stephen Harper's foreign policy
Reader question from foottothefire

“It takes decades to build up a strong reputation, and internationally Canada did. The current government has completely turned its back on the United Nations. It does not take any effort to hide its disdain for the organization."

“One of the first things I would do is recognize Canada’s role in setting up the United Nations. Calling it broken is too harsh, but there’s no question the United Nations has real problems. It’s massively bureaucratic and the Security Council and its membership clearly don’t reflect 2013. It’s time for Canada to step up and help fix it.”

On why she apologized to Trudeau for suggesting he can’t understand the concerns of the middle class
Reader question from Jeffrey from AB

“The family to which somebody is born, the level of privilege to which somebody is born, is out of their control. That’s off limits. The apology was because it’s clear that some people thought that’s what I had meant.”

“I will admit I was surprised by the backlash. We have to be able to engage, and sometimes politics is messy. However, I will be the first to say that this stuff cannot be personal.”

“There’s nothing wrong with apologizing. It doesn’t hurt. And, you know, we’re Canadian.”

On how she would work with cities

“Municipalities desperately need a stable, ongoing, predictable source of funding. When Paul Martin allocated a portion of the federal gas tax, it helped. In the intervening time it would be a great solution to double or perhaps even triple that amount. Municipalities need this. We as Canadians need this. Urban centres drive our economy and our prosperity.”

On why she would pursue universal daycare

“Every study has shown that for a dollar invested in daycare, the society reaps anywhere from two and six dollars in savings and tax revenue. ... It’s also a major question of equality of opportunity for kids.”

On why she is calling for an end to supply management

“The average family pays hundreds of dollars more than they should. It’s regressive. The people who pay the most proportionally are the people less capable of affording it -- single parent families with small children.”

“There are barely more than 10,000 dairy farmers left in Canada, whereas there were 145,000 when we implemented the system. It was a great system when we brought it in, but it needs a change now.”

“By far, the majority of Canadian farmers would love to see supply management dismantled for the small, tiny number of dairy, poultry and egg farmers because they know the challenges it creates for trade. Every time we sign a trade agreement we have had to give up more than we would have otherwise."

On whether she is more of a free trader than Stephen Harper

“I don’t know if I’m more of a free trader. I do believe Canada should be embracing these free trade options. The current crop in the government, there isn’t a whole lot of international expertise. Stephen Harper showed that in spades in his initial dealings with China, which were embarrassing."

On trading with China, despite human rights concerns

“I do not believe that you open minds by closing doors. We can do much more as a country in terms of influencing others, not by wielding a stick but by engaging more.”

“There’s no question there’s a long way to go, but how often do we have this conversation about Saudi Arabia? Try being a woman in Saudi. We’re incredibly selective about our international concerns in human rights.”

On the Keystone pipeline

“The current government has bungled this so badly. The things that they’ve said, the allegations they’ve made about environmentalists. I mean, my God, 'radical terrorists'?"

“The irony is that we haven’t focused on things such as the fact that the greenhouse gas emissions put out by the oilsands is less than three per cent of what the American coal-fired electricity industry produces. Had we been participating in a much more grown up conversation about the pros and cons, what we need to do environmentally, maybe we wouldn’t be facing this. But losing Keystone hurts us economically. So not doing things properly from an environmental perspective is an economic cost to us.”

On the Northern Gateway proposal

“I’m on record supporting access to the West Coast. Northern Gateway is so problematic. Even now if it passes the environmental requirements, I don’t think it will have the social license that we need in a democracy like Canada. But we need access to the West Coast.”

“Development is not risk free. Why don’t we turn that around and say we are going to be a world leader in pipeline monitoring technology? Why doesn’t Canada become a world leader in spill containment?”

“It’s such a shame. We just have huge opportunities in this country to do this right and for the last seven years the current government has dug us deeper and deeper into this black mark that we have.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Editor's note: Hall Findlay has blogged for HuffPost Canada.

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Liberal leadership hopeful Martha Hall Findlay is stopping by The Huffington Post Canada's offices on Wednesday to answer your questions.

Hall Findlay was first elected in a 2008 by-election in the Toronto riding of Willowdale, but narrowly lost her seat in 2011. She was also the first declared candidate in the 2006 Liberal leadership race and would go on to throw her support behind eventual winner, Stéphane Dion.

She has made waves in the current leadership campaign by calling for the death of supply management in Canada's agriculture sector. Yet, her most memorable moment may have been when she took a controversial swipe at Justin Trudeau in the most recent debate. Hall Findlay was booed for suggesting the Grit front-runner couldn't understand the challenges of the middle class. She later apologized.

Other ideas for questions include:

  • Do you think your defeat in 2011 makes campaigning for the leadership more difficult?

While we expect tough questions, you'll be more likely to get an answer if you keep things respectful.

Leave your questions in the comments below or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter. And don't forget to check back here to read her answers.

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