Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

BRACEBRIDGE — Trisha Cowie is positively giddy about the coming election — expected to be called in a week’s time.

“It’s a wide open race,” says the federal Liberal candidate who has already knocked on “thousands of doors” — and the writ hasn’t even been dropped.

Yet, here she was Thursday night in her freshly-painted red and white campaign headquarters, at the north end of Manitoba Street (#368) in Bracebridge, just past the intersection with Hwy. 118.

Close to one of the town’s two high schools, where she can watch Canada’s next generation come and grow.

What those students will see is a sea of red signs — with her smiling face — lining local streets and back roads across the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka, where Cowie hopes to represent residents as the next member of Parliament after the Oct. 21 vote.

Cowie, a lawyer with a practice in Bala, is running a second time, after finishing second in 2015 to Tony Clement, the disgraced independent MP and former Tory member who is not seeking re-election after 13 years (but who is helping Conservative candidate Scott Aitchison).

And she’s more comfortable running now.

She took a few minutes between bites of pizza for a Q & A with MuskokaTODAY.com

Here’s our conversation:

MT: You seem more at ease, this time.

“Don’t get me wrong, it was very exciting the first time as well, and it’s just as exciting — or more so this time around.

“Because  we have a very unique opportunity here.

“One of the reasons why, is because the last election — 39 per cent of the vote. So we already have a great base to catapult off of. But on top of that we no longer have incumbent.

“It’s a wide open race. And we are working real hard.”

But Cowie knows she’s in for an equally tough race against Aitchison, Gord Miller (Greens), Tom Young (NDP) and Michelle Smith (People’s Party).

MT: So, how does she feel about her opponents?

“I always have so much respect for anyone who is stepping into politics. You’re laying yourself bare, you’re really out there for the community.”

MT: What is the No. 1 issue for Canada?

“That’s a big question, Mark.

“At a national level, I’d say fighting the populist wave that seems to be expanding, even beyond our borders. You have to be careful, we need responsible leadership.”

MT: What do you think is the big local issue?

“For myself, I’ve identified four key areas where I want people to people to hold me accountable, should I be lucky enough to be MP.

“The environment, No. 1. That’s one of the reasons we all live up here, right.

“And this is in no particular order.

“No. 2, reconciliation. We need to continue to push that envelope, and build bridges between communities.

“Small business. That is the backbone of our economy. And one of the best ways we can help small businesses right now is broadband internet,” Cowie says, slowly emphasizing each word.

MT: They’ve been saying that for years, even back when Andy Mitchell promised it.

“We’re the first government to put it down in a strategy, and say, everybody in Canada is gonna have internet by 2030. That’s the deadline. We’re going to be able to quantify it. You’re going to be able to hold me accountable. You’re going to be able to say ‘Trisha, what has been done in the four years you have been there? You need to show me now.’”

MT: What is your personal strength, that distinguishes you and will make you more electable than the others running? Why are you running?

“Why I got into it? Community. It’s 100 per cent about what Parry Sound-Muskoka needs and wants. It’s about them, No. 1. I focus on that. I’m a community advocate. A small business owner, a parent, I volunteer as much as I work. And I fight for people in this riding.”

MT: What drives you to help the country, when you could as easily go about helping your community by doing what you do? Have you always been politically active and involved?

“I have a fantastic life, I’m very lucky. I knew getting into law school — and getting my law degree — that could be a stepping stone one day for something in the political field. But community has always been a centrepiece in my life, and I try and teach my son (Ronan, 12) the value of community and the value in building community. And how we can do that and we can contribute.”

MT: But you can do that in other ways.

“I can do that in other ways. And that’s what I have been doing. But I want to make a positive difference for the people in this riding. That’s what drives me. And the legacy that we’re leaving for our children is really important. So, I want to make sure that the world I am leaving behind for Ronan is a better one. It’s not just about ourselves. We need to be thinking about the next seven generations. We have to be. So we need that plan for now and for the future.”

MT: What’s the one thing the government has done or that Justin Trudeau has made you most proud of? What really stands out?

“Change of tone — from what happened. If you remember before 2015, I don’t need to tell the ghost story of the (Stephen) Harper years, people remember that. And you think back to that — to how we were and how we are now. He has made a transformative impact on Canada — and for the better.

“If you look back at the past four years, because underneath that transformative umbrella we’re talking about renegotiating NAFTA, we’re talking about new agreements with First Nations, Métis and Inuit. We’re talking about actually investing in getting rid of poverty. Actually putting the money in there and seeing the results.”

MT: You think we really are any further ahead with poverty?

“We are. We have the stats to prove it. Over 900,000 people in Canada lifted out of poverty. So it is making a difference.

MT: What about housing? Are poverty and housing related?

“I don’t want to conflate those two issues. You can be middle class and still have housing issues. And still be trying to get by paycheque to paycheque.

“Another thing that made a big impact here — the Canada Child Benefit. More money to families that need it the most. And basically the way they did that is say, ‘Look millionaires don’t need this $50 cheque. Let’s make sure that those families with lower income are getting it to help with their kids.’ So there were a lot of really progressive polices that they were able to implement in the last four years. And a lot of progress has been made in that direction.

“I’m not saying there’s nothing more to do. We have so much more to do and we’ve got to continue on that path.”

MT: On the international front, you were talking about Donald Trump.

“I never said his name.”

MT: What are you hearing at the door?

“I’ve been knocking on thousands of doors. The environment is always a No. 1 issue here. It was last time; it was this time. What is different is that in 2015 people were talking about not only the environment, but the economy. I’m not hearing that now, because people are finally more at ease with the direction we’re going. Even at a local level. ”

MT: So, are you saying people here are more comfortable now?

“You’re always going to be concerned about the economy to a level, because that’s how you feed your family. But I’m not hearing it. People are recognizing how well Canada is doing, how well Parry Sound-Muskoka is doing. I think one of our biggest problems in the riding is we have the jobs — now we need to fill them. That’s where we need to work on things like transportation and affordable housing.”

MT: But aren’t the environment and climate change the bailiwick of the Green Party?

“They have a credible plan. The nod needs to be given to them for sure. But we need to be serious if we look at who’s going to have a seat at the table and influence change for Parry Sound-Muskoka. The Liberals have a strong plan, we’ve already started to implementing it. Putting a price on pollution. It seems to be controversial, but only till ….

MT: What do you say to people who want fight climate change, but they want to be able to have jobs pay and don’t think they can afford it?

“That’s the great thing about putting a price on pollution. There’s a rebate and 80 per cent of Canadians are going to get more back than they’re paying with a carbon tax. That was confirmed by the parliamentary budget officer. So a third party has looked at this, a budget watchdog, and said ‘yep, that’s true.’

“Importantly it drives the economy in the sense that now business owners are looking for new ways to innovate, so they don’t have to pay the tax. So it actually makes people more innovative and puts more money in people’s pockets. So it’s not bad, it’s good all around. It’s actually one of the best ways to lower our emissions. Which is what we need to do. It makes all around sense.”

MT: How about the Trans Mountain pipeline? There’s mixed reaction to Ottawa’s ownership and how some say they are trying force it through to the West Coast. Not from Alberta, but from some First Nations and others.

“First Nations people who are concerned, but you can’t just paint the brush There are people for it. This is an opportunity for economic sustainability (for First Nations). And one thing that has to be understood is that a pipeline is a way for things to get from A to B. It doesn’t actually do anything to lower emissions. But part of the plan was we worked out a plan with Alberta to say we need to lower our emissions. You’re going to get rid of your coal plants five years earlier than planned. And they’ve started on that. They’re going to stop the expansion on oil sands. So they’re going to put a cap on what they’re taking out. That’s really important. That’s how you lower emissions. And that’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to be able to get that bitumen from A to B one way or another, pipeline or no. They’re going through really important consultations with all the different stakeholders.

“It’s a controversial issue, there’s not an easy answer to it.”

MT: And you’re working both sides of the riding? Are the issues the same in Parry Sound and Muskoka?

“We’ve been out in Parry Sound a number of times and got great responses, but I wouldn’t say that. There’s generalities.

“I’ve heard a lot about day care at the door.”

MT: What’s the government doing about that?

“What I can tell you is I know there was a $7.5 billion into child care — I think that was the 2017 budget — for child care and to open new spots. I know families in the area who they send their girls to a different day care five times a week. Private ones. It’s not acceptable.

“We have a federal government that’s making investments but we see what’s happening provincially.”

MT: “What do you hear about jobs? Is there too much reliance on tourism? Is the government doing anything.

“They already have they. There’s more to do. When they lowered the tax rate, that’s good for small businesses that lets them hire another clerk or buy another bigger, better photocopier. That makes a difference in everybody’s lives.”

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Liberal candidate Trisha Cowie wants to leave the world a better place for her son Ronan, 12.