Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton has taken a beating since announcing her intentions to run for the NDP leadership. People commenting on websites of this newspaper and others have spared Ashton few barbs with criticism she is too young and too inexperienced for the job. No doubt my mentioning her in this blog will result in another whack of such comments.
Ashton is young. She’s not even 30. But one thing anyone who has ever met her will tell you, she is not afraid of much -- including entering a leadership race almost nobody thinks she can win.
Ashton has a lot of chutzpah, and whether she can win or not, she will certainly emerge from this contest with a lot more cachet than she had before.
Whether Ashton herself sees herself as a true contender, or she is in this for the increase it will bring to her national profile, she should be commended for at least having the guts to run.
Manitoba Tory MLA Myrna Driedger acknowledged as much in a classy tweet congratulating Ashton for her decision to run.
"Takes guts to do it," Driedger tweeted. "I wish her well."
It was nice to see someone from an opposing party giving Ashton some support amid so many dissenting opinions from people both within and without Ashton’s own party.
I have to wonder whether Joe Clark faced similar criticism when he ran for the leadership of the federal Tories in 1976. He was just 36. Maybe a little older than Ashton’s 29 years but not exactly by a huge margin. Was his age a big factor?
It seems Ashton is not letting any of the criticism slow her pace. She was already onto her first campaign event Tuesday, unveiling a western theme to her campaign that rightly points out the NDP can’t defeat the Conservatives in Ottawa without defeating Conservative MPs on the prairies. The NDP only have three of the 56 seats up for grabs in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
In an era when we so desperately need young Canadians to get more engaged and involved in our government, we should never discourage someone from running for any office because they aren’t old enough. Anyone courageous enough to put their name on a ballot should be commended.