With debt from a six-year-old Liberal leadership bid nearly behind her, Martha Hall Findlay is thinking about making another run to lead the federal party.
Ms. Hall Findlay, a Toronto lawyer and former MP who was first to enter the race for leadership of the Liberals in 2006, announced Wednesday that she has raised enough money to pay off the remainder of what she borrowed to finance that campaign.
“I have been clear for months that I would not consider a run for the Liberal leadership with an outstanding debt,” said Ms. Hall Findlay, who lost on the first ballot of the contest that was won by Quebec MP Stéphane Dion.
“With that done,” she said in a statement, “I will now take some time to thank all those who have shown such tremendous support and to contemplate next steps.”
If she does take part in the race which officially starts next month and wraps up in April, she would be joining frontrunner Justin Trudeau, a Quebec MP, and three other declared candidates who do not hold seats in Parliament.
In September, Ms. Hall Findlay still owed more than $20,000 from the 2006 campaign – all of it to herself.
Rules introduced by the Conservative government a few weeks into the 2006 race prevented any donor from ever giving more than $1,100, in total, to candidates in a single leadership contest. That meant any donor who had already given $1,100 to any other candidate could never donate to Ms. Hall Findlay.
With the party’s popularity waning and the pool of card-carrying Liberal donors practically exhausted, it has not been easy for her to raise funds, one donor at a time, to pay for a contest she lost six years ago.
The government has recently introduced a bill to change the law and make it less onerous. But there is no telling how long it will take to work its way through Parliament.
A judge ruled earlier this year that she and two other candidates from the same race – Hedy Fry and Joe Volpe – had broken the Canada Elections Act by failing to repay their loans within the required amount of time. Ken Dryden, another contender, also has leadership debts but received an extension.
Because she exhausted two extensions of the original deadline for returning the money she borrowed to finance her campaigns, Ms. Hall Findlay will not be able to simply hand over the cash and clear her name. Instead, Elections Canada officials said Wednesday, she will have to go to court and ask to make a payment.
But she is clearly happy that the major hurdle has been crossed.
“There is no question, raising the funds required was a challenge due to the very difficult finance rules,” Ms. Hall Findlay said in the statement. “But, we did it, and we did it with the support of hundreds of Canadians from all across the country – we’ve received an incredible amount of support.”