Bill Blaikie’s daughter and Ignatieff’s rival

The next generation of politicians is stepping up
Capital diary
Mitchel Raphael

All in the family

The next generation of politicians is stepping up. Rebecca Blaikie, the daughter of former NDP MP Bill Blaikie (now Manitoba’s minister of conservation), is running for election in Winnipeg North. Mark Strahl, the son of Transport Minister Chuck Strahl, who is not running again, is contesting his B.C. riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon. Maureen Comuzzi-Stehmann, running as a Conservative in the Ontario riding of Thunder Bay-Rainy River, is the niece of former MP Joe Comuzzi, who was elected as a Liberal and crossed the floor to the Conservatives in 2007. Ryan Keon is running for the Liberals in the Ottawa riding of Nepean-Carlton against Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre.

The Liberal candidate’s father is retired Conservative senator Wilbert Keon, a renowned heart surgeon who founded the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. It was a conversation with former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley that made him switch parties from the Conservatives to the Liberals. His father, he says, has been extremely supportive. Ryan has never discussed Senate reform with his father, but says his dad fought hard for health care, believing that “keeping the car out of the repair shop is the real solution for health care.” Ryan says his father provides him with no inside information on the Tories. “My father takes caucus confidentiality very seriously.”

Meanwhile, Bill Blaikie gives his daughter advice “when it is sought. I try not to be a meddling father.” He is out knocking on doors for her, though. This is not Rebecca Blaikie’s first run for office. In 2004, while she was studying in Montreal, she ran against Paul Martin. Bill Blaikie admits “it was a long shot.” This time Rebecca is running in the riding of Winnipeg North, which was won recently by the Liberals in a by-election after former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis stepped down for an unsuccessful bid to be Winnipeg’s mayor.

Bill Blaikie sat as an MP for 30 years and worked with many MP fathers and then their MP sons: Pierre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau, Elmer MacKay and Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Roméo LeBlanc and Dominic LeBlanc, and of course Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Robert Layton and NDP Leader Jack Layton. If his daughter wins, Bill Blaikie says she will already know her way around, because Rebecca used to be a Parliament Hill guide, and was even head of the guide program: “She won’t have to figure out where the washrooms are.”

Harvard vs. Harbord

Michael Erickson, a 36-year-old left-wing Toronto activist, has one thing in common with Stephen Harper. Both want to see Michael Ignatieff lose. Erickson is running for the NDP against the Liberal leader in the Toronto riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Erickson, who recently lost in Toronto’s municipal elections, just joined the NDP in January. The candidate has some things in common with Iggy. Erickson is a teacher at Harbord Collegiate Institute; Iggy taught at Harvard University. Both live outside the riding. While Ignatieff is several ridings over, Erickson is just one, or as he describes it, a “bike ride,” away. Ignatieff has many books under his belt tackling issues such as ethnic warfare and ancestry; Erickson’s writings include a university essay on washroom-stall graffiti.

Location, location, location

One party volunteer says Green Leader Elizabeth May has a lot more campaign help this time around: a Green “army” is descending on the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. One reason is many feel she can win there against Conservative cabinet minister Gary Lunn (who has held the riding since 1997), as opposed to her run against Peter MacKay in Nova Scotia. The other factor is location. Greens say they have way more support in B.C., so it helps that May is running on the West Coast.