Monday, May 01, 2006

The Race for Stornoway: Carolyn Bennett

“If you want something said, ask a man; If you want something done, ask a woman.”
-Margaret Thatcher

Age: 55

Background: There may be a few Doctors in the race, but Carolyn Bennett is the only one who got that title from medical school, graduating from U of T in 1976. Bennett has twenty years as a family physician in Toronto, so one presumes she’s well qualified to diagnose what ails the Liberal Party.

Political History: Bennett ran provincially for the Ontario Liberals in 1995 and it is interesting to note that she supported Gerard Kennedy for provincial Liberal leadership in 1996. In 1997, she ran in St. Paul’s and, as virtually every Liberal candidate in Toronto has done for the past decade, won. Bennett criticized Jean Chretien for not appointing enough females to Cabinet and in 2004 she became 11% of the female representation in Paul Martin’s first Cabinet, as Secretary of State of Public Health. She is currently the opposition critic for social development.

Rejected Campaign Slogan: “Finally! A voice for Toronto Liberals!”

Rejected Campaign Slogan II: “I am not Carolyn Parrish”

Rejected Platform Policy: No compensation for Hep C victims.

Pros: Female. Relatively experienced in politics and the Liberal Party.

Cons: Not a lot of name recognition. Not a great speaker.

In Person: I got a chance to meet Carolyn Bennett at the LPCA convention and we chatted briefly. Much like Ken Dryden, you certainly get the sense that she’s very sincere and genuine, even if it doesn’t translate well to the media. She also seemed to have a good idea of where she wanted to take the Liberal Party and the country.

My Take: As I mentioned above, Carolyn Bennett is a very comparable candidate to Ken Dryden…minus the Stanley Cups. And, at this point, lack of name recognition is really the biggest obstacle for her to overcome. She also has difficulty stringing her thoughts together when taking questions so it will be hard for her to “wow” a lot of delegates over to her side.

That said, when it comes to substance, she can certainly compete with the big boys. She’s adamant about reforming the Liberal Party, and she’s certainly the type of leader who would help to rebuild the party and reach out to the grass roots. She’s also championing a very progressive vision of Liberalism and seems to have a good grasp on most policy issues, especially democratic reform.

Chances: Bennett won’t win, but it’s really important that she stay in this race. She’s an accomplished female candidate with crucial issues she wants to raise and this contest will be a lot better by having her in it as a candidate.


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