03/06/2013 02:50 EST | Updated 03/06/2013 02:53 EST

Martin Cauchon: Liberal Hopeful 'Ready To Face The Music'

Martin Cauchon knows better than most the strain that a life in politics can have on family.

The former Liberal MP, who was first elected in 1993 and named justice minister at the age of 39, visited The Huffington Post Canada’s offices on Tuesday to discuss why he has returned to politics to pursue the Liberal leadership.

Cauchon, who has three children, recounted a story from nearly 10 years ago. One evening, he asked his wife to wake him up early the next morning so that he could have breakfast with his sons before he had to “unpack, pack again and go.”

While sleepily eating his cereal, one of his boys — then about three-years-old — said something that stopped him in his tracks.

“Out of the blue, my second son François says: ‘Mommy, where is Daddy living?’ So, for him, Dad was a guy popping around once in a while,” he said.

Not long after that conversation, Cauchon retired from politics.

But life in the private sector didn’t stick. He tried to win his old seat of Outremont in 2011, but lost to now-NDP leader Thomas Mulcair by more than 10,000 votes.

Now, at 50 years old, Cauchon says he has the experience, work ethic and support from his family that he says he'll need as Liberal leader.

“I know what it means, I know the commitment,” he said. “And I’m ready to roll up my sleeves.”

Cauchon answered questions about same-sex marriage, the gun registry and whether or not Justin Trudeau is experienced enough to take on Harper.

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

On why he’s running

“When I look at the Harper government, it is just impossible for a guy like me to sit on the sidelines. Over the past 10 years I’ve been travelling a lot outside Canada and the country that people used to know, looking from outside at least, is not the same at all. And inside Canada as well.”

On why he waited so long to get into the Liberal race

“It was never planned to enter the race before. We wanted to get into the race after the holidays.”

On whether Liberals should co-operate or merge with the NDP to defeat the Conservatives

Reader question from Arzie Chant

“I’m not there. The NDP has nothing to do with me as a Liberal. I find it strange that we keep talking about this because Mulcair made it clear that it was a non-starter.”

“Look at the grassroots they [the NDP] have in the province of Quebec. After the election last time, people came to see me and said: ‘Wow, we’re pleased because it’s a federalist party at least in Quebec.’ But the point is that all Bloc grassroots just changed their vehicle. They’ve decide to move with the NDP. And a lot of their members are, I would say, separatists. So, how could you work with a party like that? If the NDP decides to merge, it’s going to probably be with the Bloc. There’s a natural fit there.”

On whether the Liberals can win big again

“I believe in the capacity of the Liberal party to come back. We have a strong brand. If we do the right thing now … reach out to Canadians… we’re going to come back. We’re going to come back because we’ll be able to work with the Canadian people. We’ll be able to craft policies that will again inspire people and create hope.”

On Harper’s law-and-order agenda

“They’re… just trying, basically, to import the U.S.-style justice system, proven to be not working in the States. The last omnibus bill that they tabled -- we see more and more mandatory minimum sentencing. They’re for removing the discretion of the court to decide on a case-by-case basis. I believe we should respect the court system more.“

On the gun registry

“I believe it was an amazing tool. It was an effective tool that was used by police forces. And with a gun registry, we were sending the right message to our Canadian people, unlike in the States where according to case law having access to firearms is protected by the Constitution. It’s a pity what happened with that.”

“I would look to go back with a sort of registry. I don’t believe actually they were able to dismantle everything and throw the technology away. Of course, there’s always a question of costs involved and that would have to make sense. But if there’s a way to do something that would look like the gun registry, I would do it.”

On his greatest accomplishment in public life

Reader question from RealMattHopkins

“To me, the thing that I’m most proud of is same-sex marriage. When I started with same-sex marriage, it was not on the radar screen at all. The reaction of all the people around me at the time was basically: Let it go to the Supreme Court. And because of my past experience, I said there’s no way I’m going to let the court decide. It’s too important for our society.”

“If we have principles in our Canadian Charter of Rights, then we have to stand by those principles. We have to fight for those principles. It was a question of equality.”

On the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines

“I support the notion of the two pipelines. We cannot do that without respecting the environmental policies and the Aboriginal people. One of the major problems is … when you look at those two issues -- the environment and Aboriginal people -- the Harper government is not credible at all. It’s going to take a government that’s credible regarding those two points.”

On whether Liberals can win in Alberta

“We’ve had problems in Alberta for years as a party. They’re making a fantastic contribution to our country. What we’re going to have to do there is exactly what we’re going to have to do everywhere: visit the province, reconnect with people and try to better understand their point of concern."

On his biggest asset over his rivals

“I’m the only one among the eight remaining candidates that has experience in federal cabinet.”

“The moment I become leader, I know I’m going to be tested by Harper and Mulcair. I’m ready to face the music. My question is simple: look at all the other candidates and ask yourself if they’re ready to face the music.”

On whether Trudeau is experienced enough to lead the Liberals

“I’m not sure. I’m just asking. Is he able to get into the substance? I hope. So far we haven’t heard much and what we’ve heard were mistakes.”

On his love of Canada

“If you have vision, if you have ideas, it is the best place. Canada is a fantastic country. You know why? You can have a very tough discussion in Canada like the ones I’ve had. You could have five points of view. You could protest. But in the end, when we make the decision together, we rally and we move on. We don’t go back. We build.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Also on HuffPost

Photo gallery Liberal Leadership Candidates See Gallery