Former Liberal minister Martin Cauchon is not fretting about his late entry into the party’s leadership race, feeling he can catch up to the rest of the field with the help of the open voting system on April 14.
Mr. Cauchon added he is not worried about the fact he does not have a seat in the House of Commons, pointing out that former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien both became party leaders in similar circumstances.
Mr. Cauchon filed his paperwork this week just ahead of the entry deadline, joining eight other candidates already in the race.
The former Liberal justice minister is aware he faces an uphill battle, with two of the strongest candidacies in the race coming from current Liberal MPs Marc Garneau and Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Cauchon said he is he optimistic that he will benefit from the convention system, which expands voting rights beyond the holders of paid party memberships. There is a new category of voters called “supporters,” who will be able to help select the successor to Michael Ignatieff without buying a party card.
“This is a non-traditional campaign, it’s an open campaign,” Mr. Cauchon said. “I have as much of an opportunity as anyone to attract supporters, and I have a lot of time to sign up members.”
Mr. Cauchon said that contrary to sitting MPs, he will be able to “spend 100-per cent of my time on the ground” between now and the day of the convention in Ottawa.
A Liberal MP in the 1990s and early 2000s, Mr. Cauchon quit politics in 2004. He attempted a comeback in 2011, but failed to unseat NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in the riding of Outremont in Montreal. He said that he will run in the next election in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, east of Quebec City, where he was born.
Mr. Cauchon borrowed the $75,000 entry fee to enter the leadership race, but said that he has a fundraising team and a social media team already at work. He will officially launching his campaign with an event on Friday evening at the Old Port in Montreal.
Mr. Cauchon said that his job as a lawyer kept him abroad for much of last year, and that he decided to jump into the ring over the holidays. Late last year, he came out publicly in defence of the long-gun registry that was abolished by the Harper government, and which was criticized by candidates such as Mr. Trudeau.
Mr. Cauchon said it will be up to the Liberal Party of Canada to offer an alternative to the Conservative Party in the next federal election, feeling the Official Opposition NDP is not up to the task.
“The NDP will not stay at its current level, it was Jack Layton’s NDP and that is for whom people voted,” he said.
While he fell in 2011 at the hands of the “Orange Wave,” Mr. Cauchon said it was an one-off event that will not be replicated.
“When a candidate can win even after spending the campaign on holidays and without ever having been in the riding, it’s an exceptional event,” he said.
He wants to focus his campaign on a number of themes, including regional development and scaling back the Harper government’s law-and-order agenda, which he criticized for its over-reliance on mandatory minimum sentences.
He added that in his view, Canada’s image abroad has been completely distorted during the Conservative regime, something that the Liberal Party can fix.