Anna Gainey

President of the Liberal Party of Canada and Co-Founder, Executive Director of the Gainey Foundation

Foundation Year Program, 1997

Running a party is about mobilizing and motivating across the country.

Anna Gainey will tell you this: “I don’t think I ever woke up one day and thought - I want to be in politics.” But as President of the Liberal Party of Canada she is in the upper echelon of the Canadian political scene. She goes on to say this: “I wouldn’t have recognized as a student that a job like this even existed. It’s a gradual journey in life and learning and walking through doors where things look interesting.”

Anna’s “gradual journey” began at King’s with the Foundation Year Program (FYP).

She says she was introduced to “early political science” through the books and lectures, and when the year was over she hit the road, travelling through Europe, North Africa and Turkey.

“The experience of the Foundation Year Program and travelling and experiencing some of that history and philosophy that I had learned at King’s translated into a desire to explore political science further,” she says. She finished her degree in political science and Middle Eastern Studies at McGill University in her home town of Montreal. It was there, in 1999, that she made her first steps into the political world. She joined the Young Liberals of Canada.

After doing graduate studies at the London School of Economics Anna went to work as special assistant to Minister John McCallum and then NATO policy advisor to Minister Bill Graham. The political bug must have bitten her hard, like a blackfly in spring, because Anna kept at it, leading party committees, taking on the role of riding president in Montreal’s Westmount-Ville-Marie, helping Marc Garneau win elections in 2008 and 2011. When her friend Justin Trudeau decided to run for the Liberal leadership Anna took on the role as a senior advisor on his campaign. In 2014 Anna was elected as president of the Liberal Party. It is a volunteer gig.

“This is a role that sometimes requires me stepping into the foreground on occasion. But running a party is about mobilizing and motivating our volunteers across the country to help elect as many Liberals as we can. It’s a team effort.”

Team effort is part of Anna’s DNA. Her dad is Bob Gainey, a star when he played with the Montreal Canadiens and a former Habs’ general manager. And if talking with Anna gives you the impression she is always gentle and easy going, she told the delegates at the convention where she won the leadership that, “like my dad, I know how to get my elbows up in the corner.” A useful attribute in the world of politics.

But that world isn’t her only focus. Anna’s mother Cathy died of brain cancer in 1995. In 2006 her sister Laura died when she was swept off the tall ship Picton Castle during rough seas. The family created the Gainey Foundation in their memory and Anna took the lead role. The Foundation provides grants for arts and environmental organizations. One she is particularly proud of is the Camp Kawartha Environmental Centre near Peterborough, Ontario.

But even with the Foundation and her work as Liberal Party president, Anna has what she considers a real “full time job” - caring for her three children. And for her, at this stage of her “gradual journey”, that’s what matters most.

Posted: Feb. 2017

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