Two feet in the door

Last night I met Lisa Raitt, candidate for leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Raitt is impressive, down-to-earth, and good on her feet. The event was a reception at the home of my son Mark and his wife Andrea. Mark has been political since he was accredited as an observer at age ten to the 1976 convention that selected Joe Clark. At Western University he was president of the 600-member Progressive Conservative Club, the largest on any campus in the country. He worked in the PMO during the Brian Mulroney era.

About 40 guests heard Raitt speak; she has an excellent narrative. Raised in Sydney, Nova Scotia, by her grandparents, there was so little money she worked at the Dairy Queen at eleven and learned early the importance of customer service, a useful part of a listening/serving political life. Justin Trudeau, she said, doesn’t understand the middle class like she does.

On life’s path Raitt was offered opportunities and seized them. Hired by the Toronto Port Authority as an administrative assistant, she was CEO five years later at thirty-three. In the Stephen Harper cabinet Raitt was handed tough roles: Natural Resources when an atomic reactor broke down; Labour through five national strikes; and Transport during the Lac Megantic derailment.

The questions were vigorous. One man wanted to know if she intended to punch Justin Trudeau in the face. Raitt said she’d be tough but stopped short of promising fisticuffs. Good ideas included: Part of the money going to infrastructure projects should provide jobs for under-thirties to help launch careers. Civil service roles should be moved out of Ottawa into smaller communities that needed a boost. Most important, Raitt is a woman comfortable in her own skin. After the last question was asked and answered, she took off her Ron White All Day Heels. Just like she was sitting at the kitchen table in Sydney.

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