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article imageOp-Ed: Canada's Liberal Party Leader race - Wealth of candidates

By Karl Gotthardt     Feb 25, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - During the second Liberal Party Leadership debate, candidates took aim at Justin Trudeau's privileged upbringing and his affluence. Yet Trudeau is not the only affluent candidate. Regardless of their wealth, where is the substance in their platform?
As previously reported in Digital Journal, liberal leadership candidates questioned Trudeau's ability to relate to average Canadians in view of his privileged upbringing and affluence.
Marc Garneau demanded that JustinTrudeau states where he stands. During a carefully orchestrated news conference Marc Garneau said that the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) would be repeating the mistakes of the past if it crowned a leader without challenging him on policy matters. The debate did not disappoint, Marc Garneau and Martha Hall Findlay the other perceived front runners too off the gloves, while the other six candidates also took aim at Trudeau.
Trudeau's reply was well prepared and he pointed to his website to point out some of his policy statements. He also told Garneau that leadership is about involving Canadians in the conversations and to connect with them.
"Leadership is about drawing people in, and about involving Canadians in the kinds of conversations we have, and you can't lead from a podium in a press conference, you can't win over Canadians with a five-point plan, you have to connect with them. And we have to make room for Canadians in the debate that we have coming forward."
Martha Hall Findlay's attack was more pointed, appeared personal and drew boos from the audience.
You keep referring to the middle class but you yourself have admitted you don't belong to the middle class. I find it a little challenging to understand how you would understand the challenges facing real Canadians.
When did Canada become a society of class?"
"Your campaign has brought a concept into this conversation that I think we need to get beyond … it is equality of opportunity that we should be looking for.
Trudeau, the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, acknowledged that he had been lucky in life and that he wanted to do something with it.
I've been lucky in my life to have been given an opportunity to go to great schools, to travel around the world, and what is important for me is to put everything that I have received in service of my community. And that is what my identity is all about.
Martha Hall Findlay later said that her questions were not meant to be personal and she offered an apology to Justin and his family and any others she may have offended.
There are some who believe that I overstepped a line in the leadership debate. To Justin, his family and to those who were offended, I apologize. My comments were not meant to be personal, in the sense of being in anyway a comment on Justin's character — indeed, I have the greatest respect for Justin's passion, enthusiasm and commitment."
How affluent are Liberal Leadership candidates?
While it is difficult to obtain information of a Canadian politicians wealth, suffice to say that the majority of party leaders and cabinet ministers are not suffering. The Million Dollar Journey lists the salaries of Canadian politicians, which is well above what the average Canadian makes.
Backbench Member of Parliament (MP): $157,731
MP with odd job appointments (ie. caucus chair, committee chairman etc): $163,415 – $196,910
Leader of Federal Party: $211,425
Junior Cabinet Minister (ie. ministers/secretaries of state): $214,368
Senior Cabinet Minister/Opposition Leader/Speaker of the House: $233,247 + car allowances
Prime Minister: $315,462 + large house budget + car allowances
Taking a shot at the so called fat cats has become sport in modern society. Party leaders and successful cabinet ministers have, for the most part, had a lucrative career prior to entering politics and as such have accumulated wealth. Therefore the discussion of their wealth is irrelevant.
This is no different for the current leadership candidates in the Liberal Party of Canada. According to the Winnipeg Free Press Joyce Murray and her husband have a net worth of $5 million, Martha Hall Findlay has admitted that she had an affluent upbringing, but would not disclose her net worth.
By the time she was 26, Hall Findlay said she had two degrees, three kids under five, a big student debt and had "learned a great deal about struggling to make ends meet."
She went on to become a "successful lawyer, executive and entrepreneur" who now works part-time at the chief legal office of EnStream LP while serving as part-time executive fellow at the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.
However, in an interview, Hall Findlay was not willing to disclose details of her current financial status.
Marc Garneau's campaign spokesperson disclosed that Garneau's net worth was $1 million, but that most of that was tied up in his house. He collects two pension, in addition to his salary as a Member of Parliament, one from the navy and another from the federal government from his time as an astronaut and his regular MP pay. Suffice to say he is not hurting.
Takach, a Bay Street technology lawyer, according to a campaign spokesperson is probably a millionaire.
Affluence of leadership candidates should not be an issue, but their policy if they were to be chosen as a leader is the relevant issue.
The prospects of candidates
Much of the platform of all candidates is thin on substance, but Justin Trudeau continues to impress. He has been relentless on connecting with Canadians and has a calm nature and never seems to panic despite the attacks from the other candidates.
Trudeau's upbringing is an asset. He appears to have a much bigger understanding of the country and its regions than most want to give him credit for. Whether or not he could make inroads to move ahead of the NDP or defeat Stephen Harper is a discussion for another day, but one can assume that he remains the forerunner in the race.
Marc Garneau has a vast background both as a Captain in the navy and as the head of the Canadian Space Agency. While Garneau has a platform, he has not put a cost on it. In order to convince voters that he is a viable candidate he needs to show them where the beef is, refrain from attacks on the affluence of others and generally act as a statesman.
Joyce Murray is the third candidate with potential. She is a successful business woman, and a serious candidate with some sound ideas..
Martha Hall Findlay, according to the Huffington Post, despite her attacks on fellow candidates accusing them of being afraid to present substance, has only highlighted one, that of the elimination of the Supply Management System. Her personal attack on Justin Trudeau was not helpful. Whether or not this will have diminished her chances remains to be seen.
The remaining candidates don't appear to have a chance of succeeding. With nine candidates on the stage a debate is virtually impossible. For voters to get a clear picture of the candidates they have to rely on their websites and personal campaign appearances. With a federal election still two years away, there may also be a lack of interest in this race.
A new liberal leader will be chosen on April 14th and all indications are that Justin Trudeau will be the winner. If that will be the case depends on the performance of the remainder of the field. Marc Garneau, Martha Hall Findlay and Joyce Murray have an outside chance. The remainder of the field should step aside.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about liberal party of canada, leadership race, Justin trudeau, Martha Hall Findlay, marc garneau
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