Ran a good race, Kennedy says

[attach]4325[/attach]His daughter’s drawing, the one that says “Daddy I love you” in purple marker, is still hanging by his desk.

A Christmas card with a family photo sits next to it. Papers are still strewn about, and staff are still in the office.

Take a closer look, though, and the boxes and files lying around start to seem like they don’t belong. Same with the garbage bag on the floor marked “SHRED”.

Gerard Kennedy is moving out.

The Parkdale-High Park Liberal incumbent lost his seat to former MP Peggy Nash of the NDP by 7,000 votes in the federal election.

Despite the loss, Kennedy feels he and his team ran a good race. He describes the campaign as clean and engaging, noting that about 500 volunteers were involved.

“I’m quite proud about that effort, and usually that’s enough to win,” he says.

[attach]4326[/attach]While he takes responsibility for defeat at the local level, Kennedy says the party’s poor showing nationally was a definite factor.

“People should have seen the Liberals as a much stronger alternative,” he says.

Kennedy says he felt his party needed to renew itself all the way back in 2006, when he left his position as Ontario’s education minister to run for the Liberal leadership.

Having foreseen that need, Kennedy’s only regret now is not having spent more energy trying to reshape the Liberal Party leading up to the election.

“You hate to have a little bit of an insight into something and then not be able to make it happen,” he says. “But I don’t live backwards.”

He also said it was disconcerting that Nash attacked his parliamentary voting record.

While it was orchestrated by the central NDP campaign, Nash is responsible, he says.

Nash had accused Kennedy of disrespecting voters because he allegedly missed 122 of 363 votes while he was MP. Kennedy defended his record, saying he had only missed 59 votes.

He called the attack dirty politics, saying, “It was not true; it was a deliberate distortion.”

Although Kennedy says he will be fixing eaves troughs and helping with his kids’ homework for now, he isn’t disappointed.

“You can’t win and not be prepared to lose,” he says.

While his kids helped with the campaign, they weren’t very keen on their dad potentially spending almost half his time away in Ottawa.

“I had to lay down the law for my kids; I said ‘If you’re going to help with the campaign you have to tell people to vote for me,’” he jokes.

Since the election, he’s been appreciating the return to a more normal lifestyle, glad to be home with his wife, daughter and son.

“I’m luxuriating in a few weeks off, where I don’t have to carry a responsibility,” he says.

That doesn’t mean he’s not thinking about what he wants to do next. But he doesn’t want to predict his political future, pointing out that voters have retired him for now.

“I don’t run for personal reasons,” he says. “I run based on my best guess of whether that’s what will enable me to contribute more than I could anywhere else.”

He’s gotten suggestions to enter the private sector, but isn’t likely to take that route because he is drawn to public service.

And, despite his attraction to not-for-profit work — he was director of Toronto’s Daily Bread Food Bank for 10 years — he says there’s a limit to what it can accomplish.

“You still have to drive a consensus, you still have to make decisions, and public policy is still the way to impact the largest number of people.”