2 min

Who is Karen McCrimmon?

Former lieutenant-colonel is a veteran of the Canadian Forces

Karen McCrimmon
She may not have been to space, but she has visited the stratosphere.
With astronaut Marc Garneau out of the race to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Karen McCrimmon is ahead — at least in terms of highest altitude reached.
McCrimmon is a former lieutenant-colonel of the Canadian Forces air squadron. And while the race may have become, with Garneau’s dropping out, dominated by female leadership hopefuls, McCrimmon boasts what is probably the most impressive resumé.
A 31-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, she was the first woman in the country to command an air squadron. She has served tours in Germany and Afghanistan, flown countless humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, and won an Order of Military Merit award for her service.
After changing back into civilian clothes, she turned her sights on politics, taking on long-time Conservative MP Gordon O’Connor in his Ottawa-area riding. Despite a thorough defeat — she came second, more than 30 percent behind O’Connor — she dusted herself off and made a go for the party’s top job.
Though she is considered to be running near the back of the pack — when Garneau dropped out, he released his internal polling data, which didn’t even mention her — she has stuck with it, even as similarly long-shot competitors George Takach and David Bertschi withdrew.
When McCrimmon spoke with Xtra, she sounded nearly out of breath, on her way to a leadership event. Despite Justin Trudeau dominating the race as the unquestioned frontrunner, McCrimmon says, at a certain point, that’s all just gravy.
“It’s going really well,” she said, adding that she has no remorse about seeking the top job. “My only regret is when I didn’t trust my heart or my gut.”
McCrimmon is hoping to focus the race more on the big-picture economy and to chart a course for Canada that is very different from Stephen Harper’s.
Illustrating how stressful a leadership race can be — especially for small campaigns — she did most of our interview from a Via Rail platform before apologizing, then dashing off to get to her next event.
McCrimmon and the five other candidates are in Toronto on April 6 for a national showcase, ahead of the naming of the new leader in Ottawa the following Sunday.
McCrimmon in her own words:
On harm reduction: “[Regulating sex work] is about protecting people. When you’re talking about addictions: you need better programs . . . Europe has done some things right and some things wrong.”
On women’s issues: “I’m one of those people who believes what Hillary Clinton says: ‘Women’s rights are human rights.'”

On the Harper government: “They’re very dismissive of science and evidence.” 

This is the fifth in a series on the Liberal Party leadership candidates. For more, see: 

Meet policy wonk Deborah Coyne

Martha Hall Findlay’s realism

Joyce Murray’s appeal

Wrong race, wrong time?