Won’t let anything break her stride
By Candice G. Ball
Almost two years after Rana Bokhari won the votes to lead the Manitoba Liberal Party, she has come into her own as a leader. Bokhari is the first visibly ethnic female to lead a provincial party in Canada and she did have to overcome some challenges along the way as she rebuilt the beleaguered Manitoba Liberal Party. Now she has set her sights on running in Fort Rouge against New Democrat Jennifer Howard to win a seat in the Manitoba Legislature in the 2016 election.
Bokhari is up for the challenge. With her boundless energy and her commitment to making Manitoba a better place to live, she is one Winnipegger to watch for in the years to come.
Q: What compelled you to get involved with politics and run for leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party?
I come from a really grateful-to-be Manitoban family. That sense of pride and responsibility to our community came from my family. Every door was opened to me because I was born in Manitoba and I take that responsibility very seriously.
I have always been drawn to public service. That’s one of the reasons I went to law school. There are a lot of similarities between law and politics. There’s an ethical umbrella you work under and your goal is to do the best you can for your client, or for the people of the province, with the most efficiency and with the absolute belief to advocate for something. It was a natural transition from law to politics.
Q: You came onto the scene as a political neophyte. What can you offer the people of Manitoba?
We’ve had the experienced politicians. We’ve seen the products of this political system. We see it in other parties and other leaders. The typical political tactics used by these politicians turn Manitobans off—I am not that. What I am is an advocate and activist for the people of this province.
I bring a different kind of experience. I’ve led other organizations. I know how to activate and motivate people. If we want actual change—not just rhetoric —then we need to elect people, who are fresh, who are new and who are passionate to move our province forward. We need people whose ultimate goal is to work towards the betterment of the province.
Q: Men still outnumber women in government. As a woman in politics, did you come up against many challenges?
I will write a book one day and I will talk about the kind of very unfortunate issues I have had to deal with. From sexism all the way down to ageism to stature (I’m 4’11 without heels) and everything else in between.
At the same time, I would never discourage anyone from taking on such a role. Every female leader—scientist, lawyer, nurse, teacher or CEO—we all work together and we all break down those barriers. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go.
Q: What women’s issues are on your radar?
I have been advocating for an inquiry into the deaths of Aboriginal women. It’s not about politics when you’re talking about girls and women going missing—families are losing daughters and mothers. Take the politics out of it and make a decision for the people of the province. I don’t think we can put a dollar amount on it. It is disrespectful to those families. It’s not about money; it’s about the correct thing to do for humanity.
Q: What do you want for the women of Manitoba?
I want to get to the basics. Childcare is an extremely important issue for women, especially for women of my generation. We cannot truly progress as a province or a nation until we allow 50 per cent of the population to have a true opportunity to be able to have children and believe their jobs are secure and they’re able to go back into the workforce knowing their children are being looked after in the best possible and affordable way.
Our party will fight and advocate for all women. I will continue to be that voice and I encourage other women to join me. This isn’t a one-woman show. We need to all be on board and advocate for what’s right for the people of the province, for their kids, their grandparents, for seniors and young, and everyone in between.
Q: What’s on the horizon?
We have momentum. I’m very confident that all the pieces I put in place are now functioning as a well-oiled machine. They are doing what they need to do to let Manitobans know who we are and what we are about and that we are listening to them. Things are looking really bright. We’ve built a phenomenal team.