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Belinda speaks French

Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopeful Belinda Stronach was in North Bay this morning and spoke to about 100 people. She was in the city as part of a whirlwind Northern Ontario tour.

Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopeful Belinda Stronach was in North Bay this morning and spoke to about 100 people. She was in the city as part of a whirlwind Northern Ontario tour.

Belinda Stronach spoke French in North Bay, although she could use a bit of help with her accent.

The Conservative Party of Canada leadership hopeful, whose lack French left her shut out at times during a recent leadership debate with competitors Tony Clement and Stephen Harper, was at the Clarion Resort-Pinewood Park this morning to make her pitch for support.

While her speech to about 100 people was entirely in English, Stronach told reporters she believes prime ministers should be bilingual and that she's been working hard to learn the language.

“I’m very much looking forward to improving my French and I made that commitment to Canadians and I very much look forward to it,” Stronach said.

She then mentioned she’ll be going to the Quebec village of Jonquiere to study French.

“Maybe I’ll even say in French...."

With that Stronach uttered a sentence en francais which roughly translates to 'I say it's very important for the Conservative Party of Canada to be able to speak with the francophones of this country and on behalf of the Conservative Party I promise to perfect my French.'

A little business experience
Stronach spent part of her speech attacking Prime Minister Paul Martin and defending the fact that she’s a political neophyte.

“A lot of people have suggested I lack political experience,” Stronach said.

“But isn’t it funny when politicians are elected to office in Ottawa and they’re in charge of billions of dollars of budget, nobody ever asks them if they ever had any business experience, and I think many of you would agree that Ottawa could use a little business experience.”

Would have been fired
As the former CEO of Magna International, the auto parts company her father Frank started, Stronach said she’s been held to the “highest governance standards.”

“I was accountable to 72, 000 employees, the shareholders and I also had to make a profit,” Stronach said.

“If I had run the company the way that Paul Martin ran the finances of this country I would have been fired.”

Paul Martin, Stronach said, “wants us to believe that he was a stowaway on the good ship Chretien when in fact he was the first mate.”

The proper equipment
During the media scrum Stronach was asked about the funding crises facing Canada’s armed forces and the possibility CFB North Bay could be closed down as a budget cutting measure.

Stronach said military funding has to be increased “to make sure our military can properly carry out the foreign affairs policies that we ask them to carry out.”

If elected Prime Minister, Stronach said, she would step up funding to the military, saying her party estimates the armed forces are suffering from “about a $10 billion funding shortfall.”

“We’ve made the commitment to at least at a minimum $1 billion a year to catch up on that funding shortfall so that we can meet our commitments, and provide the proper equipment that our people deserve to have,” Stronach said, adding that the military budget should include at least two per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

“That spending has to take place to make sure we continue to upgrade consistent with NATO standards,” Stronach said.

While she didn’t have anything specific to say about the North Bay situation, “I’m aware of the concern, aware of the job loss and we must address it.”

Magna spice
The national media has been tagging Stronach with a number of handles other than her name.

“I’ve had Magna Spice, Bionic Stronach, and Blonde Ambition Tour and all that,” she said.

“But you know what, I’m excited by the fact many Canadians are coming out who have never come out before. Everyday I meet people who say ‘I’ve never been interested in politics before but I’m signing up for the party because we need a change and a fresh approach.’”

And she’s not worried about her standing in political polls.

“I feel momentum building,” Stronach said, “and I’m excited about that, so I’m not worried.”