TORONTO — Caroline Mulroney highlighted her mother's teachings on conservatism, her grandparents' immigrant background, and her experience as a parent and businesswoman to a national gathering of conservatives on Friday as she sought to portray herself as a new kind of leader needed in Ontario politics.
The daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney is among three high-profile candidates vying to lead Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, a party thrown into turmoil months ahead of a spring election after the departure of Patrick Brown, who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations he emphatically denies.
Caroline Mulroney, a 43-year-old Toronto lawyer, said that while Canadians muse about her father's impact on her politics, it was her mother's side of the family that influenced her conservatism.
"People talk a lot about my dad and his experience and how that might influence me, but my mother was born in Yugoslavia," Mulroney said at the Manning Conference in Ottawa Friday.
"My grandfather was a psychiatrist who was very religious. He moved to Canada because he wanted to be able to practice his religion which he couldn't do. He wouldn't sign the Communist Party list. When they moved my grandmother had to burn all of his diaries ... I ended up spending most of my youth with them, in their church."
Mulroney said she sought her mother's advice about the impact of political life on a family since both are mothers of four children.
"The person I really spoke to most about it though is my mother," she said. "As much as I'm a career woman and was taking this step into politics, I'm also a mother of four, which my mother is (as well). So, I spent a lot of time with her talking about the challenges and how I would do that."
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Mulroney said while she talked with her father extensively before becoming a Progressive Conservative candidate last August, his advice was on a much more practical level.
"His advice to me was 'your riding is big, drive safe,"' she said. "He really came at it from a father's perspective."
Mulroney's talk of family came as she works to style herself as a fresh face in provincial politics, one who has not previously held public office.
"I come to this with a very broad understanding of what we need to do and how we need to fix this," she said. "I've done that while raising a family and so I think I've got the kind of experience that people want to see at Queen's Park."
Mulroney predicted the spring election will focus on affordability for families but offered few specifics on what policies and promises she would bring if elected leader of Ontario's Tories.
She has indicated she won't support a carbon tax, a key plank of the party platform meant to fund other promises, and hinted that while she approves of other elements of the document, like promises on bringing down hydro rates and investing in mental health, more changes could be on the way if she becomes leader.
"We have less than 100 days left until the election. I'm going to be speaking to members about what mattered to them, what they thought was important ... I will put forward my own plan," she said. "People want something completely different and I am ready to lead the team that will do that."
The Progressive Conservatives will be selecting a new leader March 10.