Candidates inspired by philosophers, personal experience — and Harry Potter

More than 100 people are running to represent eastern Ontario and western Quebec in Parliament in this month’s federal election. CBC Ottawa reached out to the candidates and invited them to respond to questions about themselves, as well as their political ideas and influences.

CBC Ottawa asked local candidates about the people, books and events that influenced their political thinking

Tommy Douglas receives a standing ovation as he arrives at an NDP rally in Hamilton, Ont., on June 11, 1968. Local candidates from across the political spectrum named Douglas as an influence on their political thinking. (The Canadian Press)

More than 100 people are running to represent eastern Ontario and western Quebec in Parliament in this month's federal election.

CBC Ottawa reached out to candidates in the 20 ridings in our region and invited them to respond to questions about themselves, as well as their political ideas and influences. Almost two-thirds of those running responded.

Some of those candidates were surprisingly candid. 

When asked which politician — alive or dead, but not currently in Parliament — was a role model for them, eight candidates selected former premier and NDP leader Tommy Douglas for his role in creating universal health care. They weren't all NDP candidates, either: three Greens, an Independent and Kingston Liberal Mark Gerretsen also named Douglas as their top choice. 

Former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, right, points an accusing finger at Liberal rival John Turner during a 1988 leaders' debate. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Mulroney, Mandela, Princess Diana

Many did stick within their party lines, though: Four Conservative or PPC candidates named Brian Mulroney as their role model, while three Liberals and one PPC candidate chose Jean Chrétien. Lester B. Pearson, Sir John A. Macdonald, Nelson Mandela and Jack Layton also got multiple mentions. 

Princess Diana is a role model for Hastings–Lennox and Addington Green candidate Sari Watson. She wrote that Diana showed her "even Princesses, who are supposed to be tightly suppressed into a compacted box of conformity, can cast off the shackles, break open the mold and follow the calling in their heart."

Perhaps the most candid reply came from Nepean Liberal candidate Chandra Arya, who, asked which previous politician was a role model, replied: "none."

Diana, Princess of Wales, enjoys a ride on the Maid of Mist in Niagara Falls, Ont., in this Oct., 1991, photo, with her sons Prince Harry, then 7, and Prince William, then 9. (Hans Deryk/Canadian Press)

Early influences

Candidates were also asked what event, book, speech, song or even TV show had the biggest impact on their political thinking. 

Orléans Conservative David Bertschi said the event that had the single biggest impact on his life happened when he was eight years old.

"My father had left, and my mother was working long hours, I had to answer the door and tell the bill collectors my mother was working and we had no money," Bertschi wrote.

Similarly, NDP candidate for Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, Konstantine Malakos, said growing up listening to factory workers talking about trade deals in his parents' pizzeria is what most shaped his political ideas. 

In this Aug. 28, 1963, file photo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his 'I Have a Dream' speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. (The Associated Press)

'I have a dream' speech

Others said their approach to politics is influenced by theoretical books. Carleton Conservative Pierre Poilievre cited Milton Friedman's classic Capitalism and Freedom, while Ottawa South Liberal David McGuinty chose the environmental rebuttal Natural Capitalism. The works of Alexis de Toqueville, Henry David Thoreau and David Suzuki also made the syllabus.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech inspires Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes Green candidate Lorraine Rekmans, among others. Greta Thunberg and Gandhi's oratory were also mentioned by candidates.

Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry's NDP candidate Kelsey Schmitz admitted that as "funny as it may seem," her political thinking has been shaped by the Harry Potter series.

"It's a classic story about good conquering evil, accepting people no matter their differences, and fighting for an inclusive society," Schmitz wrote.

She did not mention who she considers her political Voldemort.

To read the full candidate surveys, click on the links below: