Q&A: Marco Mendicino, who beat Eve Adams to the nomination, on staying in Justin Trudeau’s good books

Q&A: Marco Mendicino, who beat Eve Adams to the nomination, on staying in Justin Trudeau’s good books

Marco Mendicino (Image: Erin Leydon)

You trounced Eve Adams, whom Justin Trudeau parachuted into Eglinton-Lawrence, to win the Liberal nomination. How’d that go over with the new boss?
I think I’m in Mr. Trudeau’s good books—all along he said that anybody who wanted to be the candidate would have to participate in an open and fair nomination.

When Adams announced her candidacy, you’d already been campaigning in Eglinton-Lawrence for months. Any rational person would have been annoyed. Are you a rational person?
Haha—well, I like to think so. Sure, I was surprised, and I reflected on my decision to run for a few days. But then I turned my mind to winning.

How long did it take for Trudeau to call with his congratulations?
I won on Sunday night, and he called the next morning.

How awkward was that conversation?
Not awkward at all. It was great to hear from him, and it will be a privilege to work for him.

Well played, sir. Did you address the elephant in the room?
We both acknowledged that Ms. Adams is a tough competitor. She knows how to campaign. And that pushed me.

How did you celebrate your big win?
We went back to our campaign office and we revelled as revellers do. There was definitely some singing.

Do you have a good voice?
Depends who you ask. As a boy I attended St. Michael’s Choir School, and we sang for Pope John Paul II in 1980.

You’re a former federal prosecutor. Why switch to politics?
My career has always bent toward public service. I’ve served federally; I’ve volunteered locally. And as the descendant of Italian immigrants who came here with very little, I want to contribute in the greatest way I can.

What was your most riveting case as a prosecutor?
I worked on the Toronto 18 case, which involved a group of radicalized individuals who were plotting to blow up the Toronto Stock Exchange and storm the CBC, CSIS and the Parliament Buildings.

What are your thoughts on Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism bill that was passed in the wake of the attack on Parliament?
I support Mr. Trudeau’s decision to have voted for the bill.

Yet he now says he wants to tinker with it.
Tinker is not the right word. He has admitted that it’s imperfect but doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Where do you stand on the following: gay marriage, abortion, income splitting?
I support gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose; I’m opposed to income splitting because it disproportionately favours the richest parts of society.

In your victory speech, you called out Joe Oliver, saying “We’re coming after you.” Defeating a sitting finance minister is rare. What’s your plan?
To hold him to account for a woeful economic record: 1.7 million Canadians out of work, a federal debt of more than $600 billion, eight straight years of deficit budgets. And he’s got no answers.

And, with respect, you do?
I can listen, understand ideas and articulate them. When it comes to the economy, Mr. Harper and Mr. Oliver are just not listening.

You’ve got two young daughters. Have you spent your Universal Child Care Benefit yet?
Um, it came recently. I believe we deposited it.

What would you say if Trudeau asked you to fall in line with his position on a certain issue?
There are some topics that he has said are non-starters for debate. Luckily, we’re aligned on those. For others, he’s open and willing to listen to his party and to his constituents, and I think that’s a refreshing quality in a leader.

Savvy answer. You may well be cut out for this politics business.
Let’s hope so.