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Choosing Canada's next liberal leader

The Liberal Party of Canada hopes to again challenge for power after a new leader takes the helm.

Last Modified: 13 Apr 2013 12:57
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Liberal Party leadership candidates (L-R) Trudeau, Murray, McCrimmon, Findlay, Coyne and Cauchon [Reuters]

Supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) have been casting their ballots to elect a new leader to helm the country's oldest political party. 

The new leader of the centrist party will be announced on Sunday at an event in the capital city of Ottawa.

In the 2011 federal elections, the liberal party received the fewest seats in its history, and lost its position as the Official Opposition. Then-party leader Michael Ignatieff lost his own seat and resigned from the leadership.

Toronto MP Bob Rae was appointed as Ignatieff's interim successor by party grandees, but this weekend's poll will choose a leader to face Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the New Democratic Party's Thomas Mulcair in federal elections in 2015. 

The Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party of Canada will also contest the 2015 elections.

The LPC's current policies include education reform, sustainable universal health care, investing in renewable energy production, increasing corporate taxes and reducing the national deficit. The party had previously agreed to legalise same-sex marriage and the use of marijuana for medical purposes. 

Regaining a seat at the top table of Canadian politics will not be an easy task for the country's liberal party, which has previously found itself relying on attacks against Harper's right-wing governance in order to score its political points. While campaigning in 2011, Ignatieff had said that Harper was "out of touch with the priorities of Canadian families".

"He's led a government whose record of waste, contempt and abuse of power has gone out of control."

The Harper administration withdrew Canada's signature from the Kyoto Accord, cut down development assistance to Africa, gave up its seat at the United Nations Security Council, and severed diplomatic ties with Iran.

However, Harper spearheaded the withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan, and also helped Canada largely recover from the economic crisis faster than any of the G7 countries. He has also made Canada's Arctic sovereignty a priority during his leadership. 

Al Jazeera looks at the six candidates running for the leadership of the LPC and outlines some of their key campaign pledges.

Martin Cauchon

Lawyer, former Liberal cabinet minister under Prime Minister Jean Chretien

A 50-year-old from the French-Canadian province of Quebec, Cauchon was formerly justice minister under liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien. He also currently sits as the vice chairman of the Canada-China Business council.

Martin Cauchon [Reuters]

If elected, he promises to begin negotiations for a free trade agreement with China in order to "in order to stimulate growth and favour job creation and prosperity".

He championed Chretien's decision not to get involved in the US-led Iraq War, and said that Canada should take a mediaion role instead, a role he claims has receded under the Harper administration.

Cauchon's foreign policy platform includes the creation of a new office for conflict prevention within the UN's department of political affairs, replacing the office of religious freedom with an office devoted to the promotion of human rights worldwide, and campaigning for a seat on the UN's human rights council in order to boost the country into more of a leadership role within international legal standings.

Deborah Coyne

Constitutional lawyer, professor

Deborah Coyne [Reuters]

A Toronto-based 58-year-old author, Coyne's "one Canada for all Canadians" campaign runs on an "issues agenda". She is a member of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.

On her campaign website, Coyne argues that the Indian Act, a statute giving legal rights and legal disabilities for Canada's indigenous peoples, must be dismantled and be replaced with a self-governance arrangement between the federal government and the First Nations. 

She stands for instituting a carbon tax to protect the environment, and reforming immigration policy to admit more foreign workers into the country.

She also opposes the secession of the province of Quebec from Canada. 

Martha Hall Findlay

Lawyer, entrepreneur, former Member of Parliament

Martha Hall Findlay [Reuters]

Martha Hall Findlay, a 53-year-old Toronto-based businesswoman, was a member of parliament between 2008 and 2011 for the electoral district of Willowdale in Toronto, Ontario. 

Her policies include reforming the senate. She wants members to be selected by a multi-party strategy, with significant changes proposed in the way senators are appointed. Under the current system, each province has a set number of senator seats, while are filled by members hand-picked by the governor-general, under advice from the prime minister.

She maintains that Canada, while never a superpower, must try to regain its "respect" for its engagement "in thoughtful diplomacy and intelligent involvement on the international stage". This includes a refocusing of foreign policy to concentrate on peace-building and peace-keeping, with a renewed commitment to the United Nations.

Karen McCrimmon

Canadian Armed Forces veteran

Karen McCrimmon [Reuters]

Hailing from Weston, Ontario, Karen McCrimmon is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and was the first woman to lead a Canadian air-force squadron.

She served in the Gulf War, the NATO-led Balkan campaigns, and in Afghanistan. She was also a competitive skier during the late 1970s.

McCrimmon campaigns on battling youth unemployment and increasing benefits to Canadian war veterans.

In her manifesto, she maintains that the issues of first-nations people are key, and if elected, says she intends on sharing revenues in partnership with indigenous people in order to manage the country's northern development.

She also proposes an immigrant aid programme which will help migrants and minorities to transition into life in Canada, and also help to protect victims of human-trafficking.

Joyce Murray

Environmental advocate, Member of Parliament

A South Africa-born businesswoman from Vancouver, British Columbia, 58-year-old Joyce Murray has been a member of Canada’s House of Commons, the lower house of parliament, since 2008.

Joyce Murray [Reuters]

The only candidate in the leadership race from Western Canada, Murray's campaign runs on the need for "a sustainable society" in the country. She intends to introduce carbon-pricing in order to address climate change.

According to her campaign, under a Murray leadership, federal boards, commissions, and agencies would have a minimum of 40 percent of each gender on their boards of directors, further advancing women's participation in representative democracy. Currently, Canada ranks 49th in the world for the participation of women in parliament.

Citing the Arab Spring as inspiration, her "Canadian Democracy Initative" involves the creation of an office within the department of foreign affairs to lead the country's "democracy-building efforts" internationally.

Her policies also include building "strategic partnerships with other democratic nations, and where invited, [to] support transitional countries seeking to build democratic institutions, particularly in the Middle East and Africa". She has also proposed that a Canadian Youth Corps be created, which would send young Canadians to support democracy initiatives around the world.

Justin Trudeau

Member of parliament, former drama teacher and ski instructor

Justin Trudeau [Reuters]

Representing the Papineau region in Quebec, 41-year-old Justin Trudeau's campaign has not provided detailed policy on several issues, including foreign affairs and the economy.

He is, however, a likely candidate to win the leadership according to recent polls.

He is the eldest son of former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, whose legacy includes strengthening Canadian nationalism and also the country's ideas of multiculturalism.  

He has previously expressed that he is in favour of oil sands development including the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Often in Canada's media spotlight, Justin Trudeau says that it is the middle class which must unify the country in order to build "a better Canada". 

In a speech to announce his candidacy in October, Trudeau said he was running because he believed the country "wants and needs new leadership". His campaign for "change", echoing Barack Obama's rhetoric, has become popular among Canadian youth.

 

Follow Rahul Radhakrishnan on Twitter: @RahulRadhakris

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Al Jazeera
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