That's the number of votes which separated Conservative Belinda Stronach and Liberal Martha Hall Findlay on election night 2004. Oh what might have been... Findlay would almost certainly have been placed in the Liberal cabinet had she taken down a Stronach in Aurora and Newmarket. What would her 2006 leadership campaign have brought her if she could also claim cabinet experience on her resume?
Then again, it's just as likely likely that she wouldn't have run that first-mocked but eventually lauded leadership campaign - lauded as it was for focusing on the grassroots as opposed to the party machine - had she not been so slighted by that party machine. The party machine which unceremoniously shoved her aside in the Spring of 2005, replacing her, the duly nominated candidate for Newmarket--Aurora and up until then gearing up for a rematch against Stronach, with Stronach herself. That's gotta hurt.
Just on a whimsical note, it's funny to imagine a future date: Liberal Leadership, 20XX (I don't want to try to predict that one...) Martha Hall Findlay emerges as the first female leader of the Liberal Party, leaving Belinda Stronach - who returned to politics to give her leadership ambitions one last shot - in the dust. It would be one of the most perfectly sublime moments in Canadian political history - and thus, will probably never, ever happen. Still, one can dream.
I don't mean I dream of seeing Belinda humiliated, that's just a consequence of the life she chose to dabble in, inexperienced, unready. I don't blame her for wanting to leave that world - it clearly wasn't for her - but the fact that she is deliberately leaving the door open for a future return to politics is to be a bit silly. Because let's be clear - if she gets out now, she's out for good. Oh she could probably return as an MP if she wanted - she has shown she can win Newmarket--Aurora as a candidate for either major party - or maybe even a cabinet minister. But that's it. The Conservatives will never take her back, and the Liberals from this point on are going to see very little use for her, besides her money - and the new fundraising laws make it very hard for the party to use her money as an asset. She could return and try to run for leader, but the party will never buy it now.
The party may have bought it. Had she stuck around, day in and day out, doing the difficult but rewarding work of being a Member of Parliament, and then maybe done her time in a new Liberal cabinet led by Stephane Dion, the party may have said, "Well, she's really proven herself." But ultimately, may have wasn't good enough for her - and that's alright. If she didn't see the outcome she desired at the end of the line, she had no reason to keep on going, subjecting herself to public humiliation (some of it her own making, much of it not) and gossip about her love life (which, admittedly, is pretty juicy). Maybe that's it - this thing with Tie Domi's apparently still going; if that's true, I certainly wouldn't blame her for wanting to be out of the spotlight. I wouldn't particularly want to be in a relationship chronicled by the media.
So she deserves no ill will (well, maybe from Peter MacKay), but in my opinion, she should not return to politics. Because the only reason she'd want to return would be to be leader, and she's shown by getting out that she's just not up to that job.