Chartered professional accountant Gabrielle Loren, is not a natural politician, she says, yet she finds herself running for the Conservative Party of Canada to represent the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding as a Member of Parliament in the federal election scheduled for fall.
Reached in her car between events, Loren told The Chief though she previously ran unsuccessfully for a seat on West Vancouver council, running to be a member of parliament is a whole other unfamiliar level of politics.
The Chief spoke at length with Loren about how she found herself in the hot seat and what makes her a Conservative.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: You have said that you aren't naturally drawn to politics and that the Conservatives came to you to see if you would run federally. What is it about you then that you think they see that makes them want you to be their candidate?
A: They said they want something fresh, they want something new. "You are well known. You obviously have no problem voicing your opinion," they said.
The fact that I am known for common sense, too, they liked. I was president of the West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce twice, I sit on the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation. I have done a lot of community and volunteer work and usually in the capacity of president or treasurer of various organizations.
I am also a people person. I am not your typical accountant who sits at the back of the room. I like to meet people and I have no problem going into a room with 500 people I don't know and saying, "Hi, what do you do?"
They said I have all the raw qualities and now they have to see if I am a politician. I told them I never will be, so don't try to change me!
Q: Why the Conservative Party?
A: I did some research looking into all the different things I have done in the media, what I have done for articles I have written, how I have written them. I watched a Global TV interview of myself and it was me giving my opinion on the federal budget of 2016, which was the first Liberal Party budget. In it, I am saying "I can understand what the government is saying, but they really lost it on this and they shouldn't have done that." I was really against that budget. As I researched the economic and tax policies, it was very evident I was leaning toward the Conservatives. The very final straw that broke the camel's back was the change in income splitting rules.
Q: Why is that?
A: A lot of my clients over the years have been the incorporated ditch digger or the incorporated guy who works in the film industry. I have mostly small business people as clients, and myself being a small business person, I took advantage of the tax income splitting rules myself. So, all those rules that were in place since the 1970s, all of a sudden this was taken away from small business people.
These are not the rich. These are small business people.
At the time I said to someone "If I had to do it all over again, I would not have grown my business as much as I did." The client I was talking to said, "It is a pretty sad state of affairs when your own accountant wouldn't do it all over again."
That really was it for me. When the Liberals put in those new rules that came into effect January of 2018. Why take something away from the people who are generating jobs, creating success? The government could have achieved the exact same thing if they had just given the employees the right to income split.
That is where I align more with the Conservatives. We need some changes and the only people I see that would put together changes that are aligned with common sense, are the Conservatives.
Q: The West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country riding is really vast, with so many different communities and interests. What do you see as some of the things matter to Squamish voters?
A: When I first started my practice, I worked with a bookkeeper who was in Britannia Beach. I worked a lot with some businesses in Squamish that are no longer there, they have all moved away. People in Squamish are not that different [from the rest of the riding]. They have small businesses and work in the various industries around the district. They work in the mill or on the trains. I don't see us as being that much different. House prices are still a pain in the butt in Squamish, as they are in West Van. There are houses in Pemberton that just sold for $3 million. Are we that different? No.
Q: Environment is huge for people in Squamish and that may be where some are concerned about voting Conservative. Do you want to say anything about your environmental policy?
A: We moved here in 1965. We are coming up to being here 54 years. The environment is our community. This riding, more so than I think any other in Vancouver, the North Shore, up the Sea to Sky all the way to the Sunshine Coast — I dare you to find one person that doesn't care about this environment. That is why we live here. No matter which party gets in, they have to acknowledge that the environment has an impact. The environment is going to be a very important political issue for a lot of people in this riding and you cannot ignore that.
And I think people are looking at candidates that have their own ethics and values. That is going to be something fresh this election. In the past, the election has been a lot about the party and the leader, but I think we are going to have more emphasis on candidates. If I am elected in this riding, I will do my damndest to never lose who I am and what I stand for — my values and ethics.
Q: Another stereotype of Conservatives is that they don't have a great relationship with First Nations. Can you speak to the issue of governments' relationships with First Nations?
A: You cannot run anything through any part of Canada without consulting all of the stakeholders. That is the bottom line. You can't bulldoze through things. We have to acknowledge where you are from and who you represent, you have the right to be heard. That is what our democracy is all about. We have to be very careful about making decisions without adequate input from all parties.
Q: People will get to know you and your platform better as we go along, but what else would you like Squamish voters to know about you at this point?
A: They will get to see me more and I will get to hang out at all these wonderful places that I just enjoy on the weekends. I am actually looking forward to getting to know more of the little quirky areas and meeting people, finding out what their concerns are and figuring out what I can do for them.
Find out more about Loren at gabrielleloren.ca/.