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(Posted 1:30 a.m., April 16)
It's official: Retired general Andrew Leslie to seek Ottawa-Orléans Liberal nomination

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Retired general Andrew Leslie addresses supporters during the kickoff to his federal Liberal nomination campaign in Orléans Wednesday night. Fred Sherwin/Photo

The race to see who will run against Ottawa-Orléans MP Royal Galipeau in the next election is officially on after retired general Andrew Leslie announced his intention to seek the local Liberal nomination Wednesday night.

Speaking in front of more than 200 supporters at the MIFO cultural centre in Orléans, Leslie explained why he's decided to enter the political arena after a successful military career, and what he'll do should he win the nomination and go on to become the riding's next member of parliament.

"Over the past couple of years I have become increasingly worried about the trends and direction that the current Government of Canada is taking and I want to help make a positive difference," Leslie told the crowd. "I believe government should be open, transparent and respectful (and) that government have a vision for Canada that's inclusive and that not only welcones but encourages different points of view."

Leslie made his candidacy for the nomination official after recently getting the mandatory green light from the Liberal Party of Canada. Every candidate who wants to run for the Liberals must first get clearance from the party. It's common practice among all three parties at both the federal and provincial levels.

While Leslie is the first candidate to get green-lighted for the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orléans he won't be the last. Former Liberal nominee David Bertschi has already declared his candidacy, and former Liberal MP Gar Knutson, who represented Elgin-Middlesex-London from 1993 to 2004, is expected to follow suit.

Leslie has been in the news ever since his name first surfaced as a possible candidate in February. He came under attack from the Conservative Party almost immediately. most notably for incurring $72,000 in relocation costs when he and his wife moved into a new home after he retired from the armed forces. He had barely finished his nomination speech before the president of the Ottawa-Orléans Conservative Riding Association issued a press release accusing him of lacking judgement.

“Andrew Leslie, just like Justin Trudeau, demonstrates a lack of judgment and a lack of understanding of the middle class," wrote riding association president Steve Outhouse, citing the relocation costs.

There is no question that the Conservatives are concerned about Leslie's potential candidacy, and for good reason. He is an extremely well-respected former Lieutenant-General seeking the nomination in a riding that has long held the nickname CFB Orleans. He would also be a potentaial candidate for Minister of Defence should the Liberals form the next government.

Both of his grandfathers were former Ministers of Defence. Brooke Claxton served under former Louis St. Laurent as Minister of Defence from 1946-54, and his paternal grandfather was none other than Andrew McNaughton, commander of the Canadian Army during the Second World War, who served as Minister of Defence from 1944-46.

You could say Leslie was born to lead. Besides being the grandson of the father of the modern Canadian Army, his own father was a Brigadier-General during the Korean War.

A graduate of the University of Ottawa, Leslie rose up through the ranks of the Canadian military. In 1995 he was promoted to Colonel and sent to the former Yugoslavia as Chief of Staff for the south sector.

He was appointed area Chief of Staff during the Manitoba floods in 1997 and later the same year became commander of the 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group which was sent to the south shore of Montreal to help with disaster relief operations there.

He became deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003 and was named Assistant Chief of the Land Staff in 2004. Two years later he was appointed Chief of the Land Staff.

Leslie retired from the military in 2011 and was subsequently hired by the CGI Group to lead their new defence, public safety and intelligence unit in Ottawa.

After leaving the military and entering pubic life, Leslie became increasingly disillusioned with the Conservative government's treatment of the military and veterans in particular. He started exploring the possibility of working with the Liberal Party after Justin Trudeau became leader. The relationship became offcial in September when he was named co-chair of the party's International Affairs Council of Advisors.

"I still miss that aspect of public service, of that narional vision of trying to help people, so I took a look around and I didn't like some of the things I was seeing at the federal level," Leslie said in an interview with OrleansOnline in March.

While his main motivation to enter politics is to change the way Canada's military is being treated, Leslie also wants to help change Orléans reputation as a bedroom community.

"I'd like to see jobs retained in Ottawa-Orléans. I want to help create jobs and work with other local representatives to try and improve our future prospects," said Leslie. "I want to help transform Ottawa-Orléans, over time, from just a bedroom community to a place where especially young peple can have access to well-meanng. well paying jobs."

Born and raised in Montreal, Leslie is fluently bilingual. He also has a wealth of experiece in working with people at all levels across Canada and around the world, and his leadership skills are impressive to say the least.

"I love public service. It's in the blood. It's a calling and I want to continue representing Canadians and trying to solve their problems."

(Over the next several days OrleansOnline will be publishing stories on the other candidates for the Liberal nomination.)

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