Stronach will sit out Liberal race

Millionaire MP Belinda Stronach announced Thursday that she won't join the federal Liberal leadership race.

Millionaire MP Belinda Stronach announced Thursday that she won't join the federal Liberal leadership race because she doesn't like the party's delegate-based selection process.

"I could have raised the money, I was working on my French, but I realized that I was not going to be free to speak my mind on party renewal," said the member of Parliament for the Toronto-area riding of Newmarket-Aurora.

Stronach, 39, said that renewal would involve giving all party members a direct vote on its direction and leadership, among other things.

"If there was a one-member, one-vote system, I would run," she said.

Currently, she added, "It's about the politics of winning, not winning with ideas."

Stronach said she will continue to be a committed member of the party, and signalled that she is open to approaches from Liberal leadership candidates looking for her support in the competition to replace former prime minister Paul Martin at the helm of the party.

"I would work for anyone who would want to work with me," said the former executive at Magna. "We'll see if there's a meeting of the minds."

Asked by a francophone reporter whether her shaky grasp of French was an important consideration in her decision, Stronach replied in French: "My French is better than you think, and improving the quality of my French is a priority for me."

She then switched to English for the rest of the 30-minute news conference.

Just over two years ago, Stronach was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, a competition that Stephen Harper eventually won.

She crossed the floor to join the Liberals in May of 2005, saying she was unhappy about the direction of the Conservatives under Harper.

Montreal doctor joins race to focus on health care

Meanwhile, a doctor in Montreal said he is jumping into the Liberal leadership race.

Dr. Clifford Blais said he wants to spark a debate within the party over what he calls the taboo subject of major health-care reform.

Blais believes the private sector should be allowed a greater role in delivering medical services to Canadians. It could be accomplished by allowing either health co-ops or non-profit foundations to fund the system, he said.

Blais pointed to an unusual health-care news story that emerged from Nova Scotia in February.

"They had a lottery for patients to be picked up by a family physician because there's a shortage of family physicians. We have 35 per cent of the population in Quebec who don't have a family physician.

"So, if they cannot address this issue, somebody must."

Blais intends to participate in a candidates' forum on the weekend in Edmonton.

Three other candidates have publicly declared their intentions so far:

  • Toronto lawyer Martha Hall Findlay, who was the Liberal candidate in the Newmarket-Aurora riding in the 2004 federal election, when Stronach was still a Conservative.
  • Former federal infrastructure minister John Godfrey, an MP from Toronto.
  • Former Ontario education minister Gerard Kennedy, who resigned his portfolio Wednesday in order to free up time to organize his bid.

By the end of the week, there could be two more high-profile candidates to watch: Toronto-area MP Michael Ignatieff and former federal environment minister Stephane Dion, the Quebec politician who is viewed as the architect of the federal Clarity Act. The act sets out rules regarding any referendum on Québec sovereignty. .