Former CBC journalist to run for NDP in Westmount

Veteran journalist Anne Lagacé Dowson has confirmed she will be the New Democratic Party's federal candidate in Montreal's Westmount-Ville-Marie riding.

Veteran journalist Anne Lagacé Dowson has confirmed she will be the New Democratic Party's federal candidate in Montreal's Westmount-Ville-Marie riding.

Lagacé Dowson made the announcement in Westmount Park on Monday morning, accompanied by NDP Leader Jack Layton.

Lagacé Dowson was granted a leave of absence without pay from her position as host of the CBC's provincewide call-in show, Radio Noon, to run for federal office in a byelection, the national broadcaster announced last week.

Lagacé Dowson, 49, admitted she is a political neophyte, but told CBC she has been taking calls from concerned radio listeners for years – and felt it was time to make the leap into politics.

"Journalists are human beings too," she said. "They have to do what they think is right, and at a certain point, as a spectator, you can only do so much, and at some point, you have to decide if you want to become part of the solution, and not part of the problem."

Westmount-Ville-Marie is widely considered to be one of Montreal's strongest Liberal bastions, but Lagacé Dowson argued that voters are ready for change.

The byelection is "a chance to send a clear message to Ottawa that it's time to reconsider, and that even Westmount-Ville-Marie is not in the bag for the Liberal Party," she said, pointing to the NDP's byelection victory in Outremont last fall with former provincial environment minister Thomas Mulcair.

Lagacé Dowson will confront Liberal candidate and former astronaut Marc Garneau, who said Westmount can't be compared to Outremont.

"I wouldn't draw any parallels between Westmount and Outremont," Garneau said on Monday. "I have been on the ground here for the past eight months. I have been working very hard in the riding and I believe that the [Liberal] Party has been receiving some very favourable support."

"The fact that I live in Westmount, and am integrated in the community here – my wife and two children were very present in the community – and that has allowed me to get to know Westmount in a very intimate way."

"I'm looking forward for this election, and I hope that Mr. Harper will announce that election very soon," Garneau added.

Conservative candidate Guy Dufour – a Montreal labour lawyer – said voters in Westmount have two options in the byelection: "Either Conservatives, or the quote unquote, the real opposition, the NDP," he told CBC News.

"I have to admit the NDP has shown to be the real opposition [in the House of Commons], they stand on their views, and they're ready to vote, accordingly. The Liberals don't do that," Dufour said. 

Voters in the riding are worried about a wide variety of issues, from the economy to family support, and the Conservatives offer a "practical approach to solving problems people face," he said.

Claude Genest is running for the Green Party, while the Bloc Québécois named Charles Larivée is its candidate.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has until July 25th to call the byelection.

Lagacé Dowson upholds her past journalism career

Lagacé Dowson's decision to jump into politics raised questions about journalistic objectivity, which she addressed on Monday.

Journalists "live in an environment [and] they're affected by the issues that are being debated," she told CBC. "The best thing you can do as a journalist is attempt to be fair-minded, even-handed, dispassionate about these questions."

"I think in my journalism I made an effort to ask the questions that I thought the listeners were thinking. I tried to put myself in that position, and I worked  very hard at keeping my own opinions out of it as much as possible. But there is no such thing as neutrality, really. We are all human beings with our ideas.

"We live in Quebec, we're Anglophones, a linguistic minority inside a linguistic minority. So we are all affected by those issues," she said.

The riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie has been vacant since long-serving Liberal MP Lucienne Robillard retired from politics earlier this year.