Diane Finley on the Conservative Party: 'Softer image might not hurt'

The woman who wants to temporarily lead the bruised Conservative Party says an inclusive approach would benefit the party by giving it a "softer image." Ontario MP Diane Finley, a veteran politician and the outgoing public works minister, has launched her bid to become interim leader.

Veteran cabinet minister hopes to lead party as it moves from government to opposition

Veteran cabinet minister Diane Finley hopes to lead party as it moves from government to opposition 9:18

The woman who wants to temporarily lead the bruised Conservatives says the party needs a more inclusive approach — and believes a "softer image might not hurt."

Ontario MP Diane Finley, a veteran politician and the outgoing public works minister, has launched her bid to become interim leader of the Conservatives, promising to bridge the transition from a "centralized" Prime Minister's Office to a collaborative Opposition Leader's Office.

Speaking Friday on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Finley said she has the experience in opposition and "special set of skills" to be a caretaker until a permanent leader is chosen.

"You have to work collaboratively and through persuasion with people," she told host Rosemary Barton. "The authoritarian approach never works in a collaborative organization, none that I've ever worked in. I've always had success reaching out to people and supporting them."

While outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a reputation for an iron-fisted, top-down style, Finley said he actually consulted openly with caucus behind closed doors and often changed his mind as a result.

Asked if the Conservative Party might benefit from having a female at the helm, Finley said women have the same priorities as men: financial and physical security for their families. The Conservative record is strong in those areas, she said.

'Make sure we're inclusive'

"Our direction is generally fine. We've got the policies people respect. I think a softer image might not hurt. That's a possibility," she said. "But I think what we really need to do is make sure we're inclusive, whether it's within the party, reaching out to the conservative community for more and better ideas, or whether it's [to] Canadians right across the country."

The Conservative caucus will likely meet in the coming weeks to choose a new interim leader, and the party will soon begin the process of mapping out a formal leadership selection. In the meantime, Finley said the 99-member caucus must begin work to be an effective Official Opposition.

"People need to be more self-sufficient, but they also need to have a different kind of central authority or central resource, better still," Finley said. "That's what I'd like to help create."

Finley said the party has already started a "complete review" to the tactics and techniques that did and didn't work in the campaign.

She said that post-mortem must also celebrate the accomplishments of the party while in office and throughout the 78-day campaign that saw it present a family-focused platform focused on the economy, safety and a responsible position in the world.

"I know what I was hearing at the doors was, 'We really like what you're doing. We like your policies,'" she said. "But there were some different 'buts.'"

Finley, a 58-year-old former businesswoman, was married to the late Doug Finley, a Conservative senator who was the chief architect of several successful federal campaigns.

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