THUNDER BAY – Many people have asked me “Why are you running for political office?” The answer is not simple and the complexity is modified by 42 years of public sector service in universities across North America. As a faculty member, administrator and once even a member of a government bureaucracy I have learned that ultimately those in such positions are answerable to the broader public.
And that incontrovertible fact is often missed as the daily demands of the various positions generate their own sense of importance. What we do should be oriented to doing the best for others, be they students, employees or tax-payers. The key responsibility is to make things better for all, not for oneself.
Having spent 12 years as President of Lakehead University and watching it and the City of Thunder Bay grow together, even as the economic crunch of the downturn in the forest sector and the massive personal impacts in the city and region that it created occurred, I indeed had a chance to influence things for the better.
Interacting with community members, different federal and provincial governments and their ministers, deputy ministers and many civil servants I received an education in how government works and what is necessary to get favourable decisions made.
The pressure, time and personal commitments, and the need for persistence were part of the process. While I found it intriguing, it was incredibly wearing and seldom immediately fruitful.
But I learned a great deal and like to think that I also accomplished a lot wherever I was.
Nowhere else was the opportunity as great to make meaningful contributions as it was in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario. Others have to judge my contributions but the bottom line is that I was engaged and committed personally to the city and region. With the advent of retirement, I was initially fooled into thinking that the removal of the pressure, more personal time and fewer personal commitments would make life relaxing and self-indulgent.
It did not take long to realize that was not what I wanted. I still have oodles of energy, a continuing desire to make a difference and a dis-enchantment with provincial politics that many others share.
So I decided to see if Tim Hudak’s and my values and expectations for the future of the province were compatible. I met with him last January. I was not disappointed and as a result made the commitment to seriously pursue the Progressive Conservative nomination for Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
And now I am embroiled in something “completely different”.
I am discovering the people of the Riding in a way not possible as President of the University. I am getting an understanding of the personal travails that many individuals and families face on a daily basis and my resolve to make a difference for them has strengthened.
We have a current government that seems to have lost touch with, and lost empathy for, the people of Ontario. How else to explain policies that so egregiously impact them, such as continued escalating taxes, disregard for the wishes of the North, and creation of a lack of transparency in government decision-making all while running up a massive debt. “Spend and tax” appears to be the axiom.
There will be ample time during the campaign to differentiate the PC policies from the NDP and Liberal ones.
This article is not the place to do that. Rather it is my attempt to explain what many would consider to be an irrational decision on my part.
But remember I am not, nor will I ever be, a career politician. I have had experience in not only dealing with governments but also in building visions, meeting expectations, and working in the private and public sectors. I have overseen budgets >$100M that had economic impact 2.5 times that.
I have given up opportunities for personal wealth and advancement to do things for others and complete the tasks at hand. In essence, I care about people and ultimately it was that one dominant factor that persuaded me to enter the political arena.
Having done so, it is my hope I will be given the opportunity to demonstrate the sincerity of that commitment.
If elected this October, “I will make a difference”.