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Stronach always a liberal Conservative

Globe and Mail Update

Belinda Stronach, the most liberal of Conservatives, often found herself at odds with her own party's policies.

Coming on board with the Conservatives — ultimately taking the Ontario riding of Newmarket-Aurora in last June's election — she was the something of a poster woman for the party's efforts to present itself as a more moderate option for voters.

But the differences, in the end, proved to great.

Ms. Stronach — a one-time contender for the Conservative leadership — was one of her party's few supporters of the legalization of same-sex marriage, calling it an issue of equality.

"I respect deeply the moral positions that some of you may have, but I cannot bring myself to support a status quo that says to another citizen that he or she cannot enjoy the same civil rights I already have," she says in a statement posted prominently on her web site.

"This is just not fair."

She was just one of four Conservatives to support the government's bill during the last vote in the House of Commons.

Earlier this month, she caused further political waves by question the Conservatives' headlong push into a snap federal election, calling it a risky strategy that could backfire on the Conservatives.

“I do have a concern that voting against the entire budget will impact negatively in my riding,” she said.

Ms. Stronach, however, is no stranger to headlines.

Her long-time friendship with former U.S. president Bill Clinton has been the subject of international speculation, occasionally earning her space in the supermarket tabloids along Hollywood celebrities.

Ms. Stronach, 39, moved into politics from an already high-profile position as the head of one of the country's biggest and best known companies.

Until her move into the federal arena, she was president and chief executive officer of her father's auto parts company Magna International Inc. She was named CEO in 2001 and added president to the title the following year.

She left the post on Jan. 20, 2004, to pursue the leadership of the Conservatives. She ultimately lost the race to Stephen Harper, but her efforts dramatically raised her profile among both members of the party and a broader audience.

Ms. Stronach is a member of the Dean's Council at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and the Dean's Advisory Council at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

In 2003, she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the Michael G. DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University.

The World Economic Forum named her a global leader of Tomorrow in 2001. In 2002, Fortune magazine ranked her as number two on its list of the world's most powerful women in business.

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