Karen McCrimmon launched her bid for the federal Liberal leadership at a Kanata hotel on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
“I do understand I’m a dark horse,” said McCrimmon during a media scrum following her speech before more than 100 people.
McCrimmon said she felt compelled to offer her service as the Liberal party leader.
“I just felt something had to be done,” she said. “I think Canadians are looking for hope.”
The 54-year-old Constance Bay woman said she delayed announcing her run for the leadership until she had a chance to talk with fellow candidate Justin Trudeau when he spoke at a Carleton-Mississippi Mills riding dinner on Nov. 7.
“I did want him to get it from me first,” said McCrimmon.
In these depressed economic times, Canadians are looking for leadership, she said.
“Yesterday’s announcement that we are $5 billion in debt more than expected is a wake-up call for all of us,” she said in her speech, later adding that if she were prime minister her government would balance the budget.
The economic downturn has hit nations across the world, she said.
“The world is afraid,” she said. “Canada must lead the way out of this fear.”
She said Canadians need to work together to fix problems with health care, climate change and unemployment.
The country needs a leader with strategic planning skills to tackle these problems, she said.
Decision-making powers need to be decentralized from the Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet to the legislature and the public service, said McCrimmon, who also promised more transparency in government.
“I’m not pleased with the path Canada is currently on,” she said. “From where I sit I can see that we are going slowly off course.”
She said the party needs to work together.
“As leader of the Liberal party I will strengthen the teamwork within the party,” she said. “We need all Canadians to be part of that team to build a better country.”
McCrimmon is a retired lieutenant-colonel, known as the first woman to command a Canadian Forces Air Force squadron: 429 Squadron Trenton. She lost to Carleton-Mississippi Mills MP Gordon O’Connor in the 2011 federal election. O’Connor, also a veteran, won with 57 per cent of the vote to McCrimmon’s 24 per cent.
Her campaign slogan is Karen for Canada, with the website address karenforcanada.ca.
As commanding officer of 429 Squadron, which flew C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, McCrimmon and her crews carried out many humanitarian and military operations around the globe. She served in the first Gulf War, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and was also a senior staff officer at NATO air headquarters in Germany.
In 1995, she was awarded the Order of Military Merit, one of the highest peacetime military awards. She is the mother of two grown children.
Among those vying with McCrimmon for the top job are Trudeau, David Merner, David Bertschi, Alex Burton, Deborah Coyne and Jonathan Mousley.
The new Liberal leader will be elected in Ottawa on April 14.
McCrimmon’s campaign team is still collecting the 300 signatures needed and the $75,000 entry fee – $50,000 is due by Dec. 15 – to stay in the race.
With files from Derek Dunn