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Needed: Strong and Courageous Leadership

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To mark the official start of the federal Liberal leadership race, The Huffington Post Canada asked all the declared candidates to tell us, in their words, why they decided to run. Martha Hall Findlay, a former Toronto Member of Parliament, announced her bid for the Liberal leadership on October 14, 2012.

Luckily for us, Canada is a great country. We all know that. But we also know that Canada can be better. We can achieve greater prosperity, and real equality of opportunity for all Canadians -- which we don't yet have.

To get there, Canada needs smart, strong and courageous leadership.

But leadership doesn't happen just by talking. Real leadership is by example. Canada should once again be leading by example. To do what's right for Canada, we need the Liberal Party to lead by example. And for that, the Liberal Party needs a leader who does the same.

A key part of leadership is being smart. Canada must have a government that takes action that is intelligent, not based on some ideology or for domestic political advantage.

To lead Canada again, the Liberal Party must prove to Canadians that it, too, is smart, with policies based not on some outdated view of what is "right" or "left" or even some undefined "centre," but on evidence -- on facts, based on an understanding of economics, global markets, investment. The challenge for the Party is to not just keep saying it, but to prove it.

And for that, the Liberal Party needs smart and experienced leadership. As a lawyer, I worked on large international transactions. As a senior executive, I managed large teams of people, both in Canada and abroad. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I met plenty of payrolls.

That's the kind of smart and experienced leadership, in times of economic challenge, that the Liberal Party, and Canada, needs.

We also need courage. Canada has led by example before: Canadians fought bravely in WWI, WWII, the Korean War and of course in Afghanistan. Our men and women of the Forces show courage everyday.

At home, we built a railroad across the country, against all odds. We had the courage to be bold ahead of our time by creating a national healthcare system, the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security.

But Canada now, desperately, needs a government with a different kind of courage -- the courage to take on real debate. To engage with dissenting voices, not shut them down by cutting their funding or regulating them away.

The Liberal Party proved in the 1990s that it had the guts to do what was right, fiscally and economically. We must show that kind of courage again. We must have the courage to stop trying to be everything to everyone, but stand for what is right. Only then will we gain people's trust and confidence.

For the Liberal Party to show that kind of courage, it needs to have its own courageous leadership.

A perfect example is supply management (dairy, poultry and eggs). It was clear that a major research paper calling for the dismantling of supply management was risky for a politician. True enough. But it was also the right thing to do, and the reaction, all across the country, urban and rural, has been extraordinary. Except for a few politicians (not a surprise) and the dairy lobby (even less of a surprise), it has been universally positive.

We must also be able to compete. Putting up walls and trying to avoid the challenges of globalization will only shrink us and take us backward. We need to embrace global opportunities, and Canada is better poised than virtually any other country to take advantage of global markets for greater prosperity. Our natural resources and energy abound -- and the world needs them. We have a highly-educated work force. We have the most multicultural, multi-linguistic, multi-capable population in the world.

To lead, the Liberal Party must also compete. We need to take on Thomas Mulcair where it counts, and where he is the weakest -- the economy. We need to take on Stephen Harper, not just wait and react defensively to the next round of attack ads.

I've competed all my life. As a ski racer, in academics, in business and politics. And I look forward to competing in this campaign. But (and this is a lesson also for Stephen Harper) competing is not the same thing as winning at all costs -- successful competition includes good sportsmanship, hard work, playing by the rules, and respect for others. That's how we all win.

The purpose of all this? A country that reflects who we are, what we care about, what we aspire to.

We know that the economy is key, because of what prosperity can do, not only for us and our kids, but also for others. We care about pollution and worry about climate change. We care about honesty and democracy. We care that our income gap is widening. We care that we are now an embarrassment when it comes to the environment. We care that our government becomes more secretive by the day.

I believe that a Liberal government can, once again, help us achieve the Canada we want. Together we can make it happen.

Liberal Leadership Candidates
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