Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Back to future for Liberals?

Leadership hopeful resurrects key planks of campaigns past

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MONTREAL -- Federal Liberals feeling nostalgic for the party's last stint in power might find a few things to like about Martin Cauchon's leadership platform.

In launching his campaign Friday to an audience of about 100 people, Cauchon paid tribute to the now-defunct long-gun registry and proposed a more active federal role in shaping medicare.

The former Jean Chrétien cabinet minister lauded the old government's record, which included rejecting bank mergers and accepting same-sex marriage, the latter being a policy Cauchon personally advanced when he was justice minister.

He spoke of restoring Canada's peacemaking image abroad and, closer to home, suggested the federal government should re-engage itself in shaping medicare policy.

"(Health care) is at the heart of Canadians' preoccupations. However, politicians avoid the issue like the plague," Cauchon said in his speech in Montreal.

"The Canadian government must act as a catalyst to spark a discussion aimed at improving and strengthening our public health system."

Cauchon offered a broader message aimed at all left-leaning voters: he called the Liberal party the "true progressive alternative" to the Harper government.

Some of his chief opponents have been casting themselves as centrist pragmatists.

The 50-year-old lawyer said he expects to win a race that also includes presumed front-runner Justin Trudeau and Montreal MP Marc Garneau.

Cauchon, who entered the contest just hours before Sunday's midnight deadline, intends to reach out to Canadians by campaigning full time over the coming months.

He team also has plans to have bigger presence on social media, including Twitter. One reporter pointed out to Cauchon that he has just more than 1,100 Twitter followers, compared to Trudeau's 180,000.

"It doesn't mean that those who are following Justin Trudeau, Marc Garneau or any other people in the race -- that those people would necessarily vote for that person," Cauchon replied in a post-speech scrum with journalists.

When asked about whether he has support of his former boss -- Chrétien -- he let out a nervous laugh and said he expected he would have to field that question.

"The best guy to talk to is Jean Chrétien, ask him," he said.

Cauchon was the final candidate to join the contest, which features a total of nine hopefuls. He retired from politics in 2004 and lost a 2011 attempt to win back his old Montreal riding from Tom Mulcair, now NDP leader.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 A23

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