Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Caroline Mulroney met supporters and shared a little bit about herself last night at her first campaign event, held Monday evening in North York.
About 250 people gathered at the Logos Fellowship Centre to hear Mulroney answer questions posed to her by MP Lisa Raitt, who cut off speculation that she herself might enter leadership race only about a week ago.
Mulroney has been collecting high-profile endorsements, and many of those people were among the crowd, including MPP John Yakabuski, MPP Jeff Yurek, PC candidate Rod Phillips, PC candidate Paul Calandra, and city councillor and PC candidate Denzil Minnan-Wong.
With relaxed humour and camaraderie, Raitt asked Mulroney questions about her life and her politics — some of which would be expected from the press, albeit delivered in a warmer, more supportive manner. She did not take questions from the press afterwards.
Why did she enter politics?
“I got angry. I was working and raising my family and I got angry at the Wynne Liberal government,” Mulroney said.
The interview didn’t stray far from any area Mulroney hadn’t already covered in a round of interviews over the weekend, but gave her a chance to open up about herself in front of a friendly crowd and deal with some issues that some voters might see as knocks against her.
For example, Raitt said that for her as a woman, it’s hard to be referred to as someone’s wife or daughter — and asked what she says to people who believe the only reason she has a place in this race is because she’s the daughter of a prime minister.
Mulroney answered that as a teenager that had bothered her a lot, but she got some advice early on that she’ll always be the daughter of Brian Mulroney, and will have to deal with it. She was 19 when he resigned as prime minister, and for the past 25 years, she’s been working hard.
“My name’s Caroline and I put my name forward because of what I bring to it,” she said.
Raitt pointed out that all three candidates in the PC are “legacy political families.” Christine Elliott first ran for the legislation in the Whitby seat of her husband, Jim Flaherty, had held and Doug Ford has followed in the footsteps of his brother Rob and father Doug Sr.
Caroline added that if you grow up with a mother or father who is a doctor you’re talk about medicine, so her family talked about politics.
“I don’t think it’s surprising that people end up following in their family footsteps,” she said.
She also offered a couple of personal anecdotes about her life: Like by the time she left 24 Sussex Drive at 19, she was happy to — she was a teenager who wanted to date and it hadn’t been easy with Mounties following her everywhere.
She got the chance to be anonymous for the first time at Harvard because there were people there more important than her, like Al Gore’s daughter Karenna.
The conversation turned to sexual misconduct or harassment — the reason the PCs are having a leadership race in the first place — and Raitt asked Mulroney if she’d experienced anything like that herself.
While, Mulroney said she experienced sexism in her first job and has certainly seen sexism and harassment, she’s fortunate she has never experienced it herself.
Raitt asked if the problems the PC party has experienced necessarily mean the PC party needs a female leader.
“The Progressive Conservative Party needs the right leader,” Mulroney said. “I’m putting my name forward because I believe that I am the right leader.”
On policy, Mulroney didn’t make any definitive promises.
When asked if she’ll keep the People’s Guarantee, Mulroney responded that it’s the result of a grassroots process that members were all consulted on, but she wants to go out and meet members, and then move forward, but noted that people like it when she had talked about it when she went out door knocking.
When asked about the carbon tax, Mulroney said she’s a conservative who doesn’t like taxes, but pointed out carbon pricing is federally mandated and it would be better for the province to keep the revenue it collects and give it back to people than let the federal government have it — but, again, she wants to go out and talk to people on the issue.
Her view on the minimum wage echoed that Patrick Brown before her — everyone deserves to earn a living wage, but she objects to how quickly the Liberals implemented. “It’s not lost on people that they decided to do it six months before an election,” she said.
Mulroney also explained her slogan: “Let’s get it done means we’ve still got work to do, but we can do it and we’re going to do it together.”
(Photo by Rick Madonik/Toronto Star)