High-profile political rookies try their hand

At every election, political parties attempt to win ridings by using high-profile candidates who have strong name recognition. Some come armed with political experience at the municipal, provincial or territorial levels, while others are complete political neophytes.

At every election, political parties attempt to win ridings by using high-profile candidates who have strong name recognition. Some come armed with political experience at the municipal, provincial or territorial levels, while others are complete political neophytes.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion himself was one. He was brought into cabinet in 1996 with no political experience by Jean Chrétien just months after the squeaker 1995 Quebec referendum victory for the No side. Dion, and fellow hotshot recruit Pierre Pettigrew, won byelections to secure their places in Parliament.

The 2008 campaign is no different than previous, with a host of "star" candidates running for federal office for the first time.


Leona Aglukkaq. ((Canadian Press))
Leona Aglukkaq (Nunavut)

Born in the North and raised in Thom Bay, Taloyoak and Gjoa Haven, Aglukkaq says she had her first inclination to get into politics at the tender age of 14.  

Aglukkaq spent six years as hamlet councillor in Cambridge Bay. She served as MLA for Nattilik from 2004 until she stepped down on Sept. 10, 2008.

She was Nunavut's health minister when she resigned to run for the Conservatives.

The biggest of Canada's ridings — spanning three time zones — Nunavut is without an incumbent candidate this election. Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell is retiring after four terms in the House of Commons beginning in 1997.


Thomas Steen (Elmwood-Transcona)

The retired Swedish-born hockey star played with the Winnipeg Jets from 1981 to 1995. During his NHL career, he played 950 regular season games, netting 264 goals and adding 553 assists. In 1995, Winnipeg retired his number, making Steen the first European player to have his jersey hoisted to the rafters of an NHL arena.

He left his new job as a scout for the Phoenix Coyotes to try to stick-handle his way to the House of Commons. Steen, 48, also has former Jet superstars Bobby Hull and Dale Hawerchuk acting as his campaign co-chairs in the northeastern Winnipeg riding.

Trevor Kennerd (Winnipeg South Centre)

Kennard was the placekicker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team from 1980 to 1992.

He was on three Grey Cup-winning teams and kicked the winning field goal in the 1988 championship. He went on to work in marketing.

A 52-year-old married father of three sons, Kennard is trying to take a riding that has sent only Liberals to Ottawa since 1970, and is currently held by Anita Neville.


Justin Trudeau. ((Canadian Press))
Justin Trudeau (Papineau)

If one rookie candidate probably needs no introduction, it is Trudeau. The family name carries a massive weight, be that good or bad for the candidate.

The 36-year-old will try to take the riding in the central part of the Island of Montreal from Bloc Québécois incumbent Vivian Barbot, who defeated Pettigrew in 2006.

Trudeau has worked as a teacher in Vancouver and served as the chairman of the Katimavik national youth service.

Although he grew up in the spotlight, the oldest of Pierre Trudeau's sons came in the national spotlight with his eulogy at his father's funeral in October 2000.

He is married to Quebec television personality Sophie Grégoire. They have one son, and recently announced they are expecting their second child.

Sébastien Dhavernas (Outremont)

The 58-year-old actor will try to reclaim Outremont, another riding on the Island of Montreal, for the Liberals. The NDP's Thomas Mulcair took the riding from the Grits in a byelection last year.

A 30-year veteran of the arts community, Dhavernas starred in the popular television show called Le temps d'une paix,

He was recently appointed by the Conservative government to a high-level arts post as chairman of the Canadian Artists and Producers Relations Tribunal. But Dhavernas said he decided to leave the post and run for the Liberals after witnessing cuts by the Conservative government to arts organizations and Heritage Canada.

In 1995, he was head of the Yes campaign for the referendum on sovereignty-association in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Dhavernas said he left the Parti Québécois a year later.

Gerard Kennedy. ((Canadian Press))

Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park)

Kennedy headed up the Daily Bread Food Bank in Toronto before venturing into provincial politics.

He was elected three times to the Ontario legislature beginning in 1996 and served as minister of education. He made an unsuccessful run at the Ontario Liberal leadership in 1996.

Since his unsuccessful campaign in the 2006 federal Liberal leadership race, Kennedy has served as a special adviser to Dion and a visiting professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

He will try to win the Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park from NDP incumbent Peggy Nash, who took the seat from the Liberals in 2006.

Kennedy is married with two children.


Tom King (Guelph)

The 65-year-old is a writer and two-time nominee for the Governor General's Award for his books A Coyote Columbus Story and Green Grass, Running Water. He also wrote and performed in CBC Radio's Dead Dog Café.

King is an English professor at the University of Guelph and senior fellow of Massey College at the University of Toronto.

The southern Ontario riding has no incumbent as Liberal MP Brenda Chamberlain retired in April 2008.

Michael Byers (Vancouver Centre)

A University of British Columbia political science professor since 2004, Byers has also taught in the United States, Israel, South Africa and Germany.

He is the author of six books, writing extensively on international law.

Byers, 42, a married father of two children, is running for the NDP. He will try to unseat Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who has held this riding in Vancouver's downtown business core since 1993.