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The Globe and Mail

Women weigh in: Family, friends and butter chicken fuel final push on hustings

A combination photograph of New Democrat Megan Leslie, Liberal Ruby Dhalla and Conservative Kellie Leitch.

The Canadian Press

As the days tick down to the crucial poll on May 2, we assembled our election panel - Megan Leslie, Kellie Leitch and Ruby Dhalla - to check in on their progress. We asked what issues voters are talking about at the doors in their communities, how the three women balance real life with campaigning and what their big push leading into this last week will be.

You'll find about how one of the candidate's partners has stepped up on the domestic front, how "Aunt Sid" motivates the troops for another and, for yet another, how butter chicken is the ultimate campaign comfort food.

At the door, Megan Leslie is hearing three main concerns, depending on the neighborhood she is canvassing. "Halifax is a student town, so post secondary education is huge," the incumbent NDP incumbent candidatesays. "Affordability and the inability to make ends meet is also a big one. And Nova Scotia is one big coastline, exposed to the elements, so climate change is a pretty big issue here."

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In this final week, Ms. Leslie says her campaign will be building on the momentum of NDP Leader Jack Layton "by encouraging people to learn more about the NDP's platform." It's a sharp contrast, she adds, to the other parties, who "are engaged in campaigns of despair and trying to tell Canadians who is going to be government before we vote."

As for her support system, it's her family. Her father and stepmother, Ross and Nancy Leslie, are taking a week's vacation and flying in from Ontario to help out in this last week. Her in-laws are canvassing on foot and by phone. And then there's her partner, Brendan Haley: "Brendan has taken on the domestic role completely, from shopping to cooking to cleaning the tub."

On the doorsteps of Collingwood, Creemore, Alliston and Elmvale, Kellie Leitch, the Conservative candidate for the Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey, is hearing concerns over job creation, the economic recovery and the shortage of family doctors in rural areas.

Although Ms. Leitch has been on the campaign trail for nearly a year - first as a candidate for the Tory nomination after Helena Guergis was turfed from caucus - she says her big push in this last week will be "to meet as many potential voters as I can between now and election-day to earn their vote." She says she has already knocked on over 4,000 doors.

And she's able to do all this, in part, because of her support system: her dad Kit, sister Melanie, and brother Michael, who are her closest friends, advisers and "unconditional supporters." Her mother, Lynne, died in 1989, losing her battle with breast cancer. And then there is her Aunt Sid. "She keeps the mood in our campaign office light-hearted and fun," Ms. Leitch says. There are also cousins and uncles involved - some who have flown in from Western Canada to help. "I am running on their encouragement. ... I was taught early in life the importance of giving back to the community through public service, and that's what I am hoping to do."

Ruby Dhalla is also hearing about health care at the front doors in her suburban Ontario community. "There is great frustration that the Conservative government has wasted $30-billion of Canadians' hard-earned money on fighter jets when Brampton could use more doctors, nurses and reduced wait times," the Liberal incumbent for Brampton-Springdale says.

In addition, residents in her neighborhoods are raising issues around jobs and retirement security. "In Brampton we have workers without jobs and jobs without workers," she adds while taking a dig at the Harper government for failing to have a plan to revive the manufacturing sector.

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Her big push for the final week of the campaign is to highlight the choices that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has outlined: spending on jails and fighter jets or investing in youth, health care and retirement.

How does she do it? Well, Ms. Dhalla also credits a close family, which she refers to as her pillar of strength. "Nothing soothes better than my mom's homemade butter chicken after a 12-hour day of door-knocking."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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