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'Expect the unexpected': Women on the art of campaigning

A combination photograph of New Democrat Megan Leslie, Liberal Ruby Dhalla and Conservative Kellie Leitch.

The Canadian Press

At the halfway mark in this five-week election campaign, we checked in with our election panel - Kellie Leitch, Ruby Dhalla and Megan Leslie - to see what they are up to and how they are faring in this long race full of ups and downs.

Their answers and observations are thoughtful - and not without surprises.

The three women all seem to love canvassing and meeting regular Canadians. And then there are those memorable exchanges at the door: One of our candidates was asked to do a medical assessment of a voter's son.

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But they have their dislikes, too, about this job. For one - and you can probably guess who - it's those red running shoes, which after four elections and walking up to thousands of doorsteps need to be replaced.

Ruby Dhalla has learned much during this campaign - including how to play cricket. Asked about her most memorable exchange or constituent, the Liberal incumbent in Brampton-Springdale mentioned trying her hand at the bat and the wicket "as we celebrated the World Cup Cricket Cup match between India and Pakistan."

As for the rest of the campaign, she said, she loves the "adrenalin rush" from working around the clock. "The energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers is an inspiration." But there is little enthusiasm now for her Liberal-red running shoes, which she has worn every day for door-knocking during every campaign. "They are getting close to extinction after four campaigns in seven years," she said.

Her political hero? Flora Macdonald, the former Progressive Conservative MP and cabinet minister. "She shattered the glass ceiling by being the first woman to become the secretary of state for external affairs in Canadian history," Ms. Dhalla said. "Her courage and passion are an inspiration to all women."

Megan Leslie is struck by the "parent after parent after parent" who is home during the day taking care of preschool age children because they can't afford child care. The NDP incumbent in Halifax says this is what has been most memorable for her at the door.

"It's absolutely amazing how many times during a weekday that I have this conversation, mostly but not exclusively with women," she said of child care. "And for most of these parents, it is not a choice in the true sense of the word - it's a necessity."

Like Ms. Dhalla, the best part about campaigning for her is meeting voters at the door and talking about issues, values and concerns.

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"Everyone should have the chance to run," she says. "It's wonderful to immerse yourself in your community like this."

As for the downside, Ms. Leslie said it's the "misinformation campaigns."

"Last election, there were some videos circulating about how 'radical' I was. This year, there have been suggestions that I don't live in the riding, but of course I do."

Her political hero? Dalhousie legal-aid lawyer Claire McNeil, whom Ms. Leslie worked with. She said Ms. McNeil has "an incredible ability to use laws while working with the community to help those in need" and is someone who is making "real political change."

Kellie Leitch has made a house call, already. The Conservative candidate in Simcoe-Grey is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and was recently recognized at the door by a mom - who asked her to do an orthopedic assessment of her six-year-old son. That qualifies as memorable: "As a candidate, first for the Conservative nomination and now the general election, knocking on about 3,500 doors over the past several months, you quickly learn to expect the unexpected."

Again, like the other two candidates, Ms. Leitch said she enjoys door-knocking because it gives her the chance to meet with seniors, students, parents, businesspeople and farmers. They all want to discuss the future, she said. "This has been nothing short of an amazing experience." No downside for her.

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Her political hero? Former Ontario premier Bill Davis. She said his "strong leadership and commitment to public service" has inspired her. She also cited Winston Churchill as another of her heroes - an "articulate and truly remarkable leader."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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