Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Manitoban's move shows Grit

Oakbank paramedic plans Liberal leadership run

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OTTAWA -- Shane Geschiere has never run for office.

He's only been a member of the Liberal Party of Canada for a few weeks.

But the 32-year-old paramedic from Oakbank is the first in Canada to say he is officially running to be the next Liberal leader.

"Just because one hasn't been in politics for 30 years doesn't make them any less able to lead," Geschiere said. "In fact, my lack of political experience is something I see as my greatest asset."

He knows most will see him as an extreme long shot but he thinks he represents the average Canadian more than any current leader of any political party. He said he has a mortgage to pay, daycare to find and fund and student loans.

"I'm just like everybody else."

He's been a paramedic for seven years and is finishing a psychology degree at the University of Manitoba.

Most political leaders are not as immersed in the day-to-day concerns of Canadians as he is, he said.

"I stood on the sidelines in the last election and I looked at the leaders and, well, they all had grey hair," he said. "I don't think it has to be that way."

Geschiere wants the party to ensure the entry fee to run isn't as high as the $100,000 marker in 2006. The NDP leadership race set an entry fee of $15,000, which he said is more reasonable and makes it easier for people outside the political elite to get into the race.

The Liberal leadership won't be decided until 2013 and nobody else has committed yet to running. Bob Rae is the interim leader and while he agreed not to run for the permanent job, many feel the party will let him do so anyway.

MPs Marc Garneau and David McGuinty have expressed the most interest so far, but neither has officially jumped into the race.

Last month, the party decided at a convention to elect the next leader using a new category of voters called supporters. These are people who will express a commitment to the party, won't be members of any other party, but won't have to be card-carrying Liberals to vote for the leader.

Geschiere said he likes that plan because a lot of young people he knows don't want to become a member of a party, but they might want to have a say in who could be the next prime minister.

Geschiere wrote to Liberal president Mike Crawley recently to let him know he planned to run. He said he's been considering it for a while but a recent trip to the movies convinced him. He saw The Iron Lady, about former Conservative British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. It included a line delivered by campaign manager Airey Neave.

"If you want to change this party, lead it. If you want to change the country, lead it."

The line tapped into how Geschiere was feeling.

"I was inspired," he said. "You can complain but unless you get up and do something about it, nothing changes."

He said he debated which party was the best fit and "ultimately, I decided it was the Liberals."

The party platform's emphasis on education in the last election helped him decide, he said.

Geschiere grew up in Winnipeg and East St. Paul and lives with his wife in Oakbank. They have a two-year-old daughter and a one-month-old son.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2012 A9

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