Les is an active swimmer, runner, and all-weather cyclist. He has proposed that the interview be combined with a hike up the Grouse Grind—something he does weekly. I begin the hike, and therefore the interview, by asking him why he wants to run for office ?
He explains that concerns about his son’s generation who will be saddled with enormous debt and discontent with the Liberal government’s response to the pandemic moved him to action.
It didn’t happen immediately—he would work for Internet start-ups and later as a healthcare executive, paddle the Blue Nile from source to sea and even lead an expedition into the hills of Iceland.
“Running for office is never an easy decision, it takes tremendous courage, you only do it if you feel compelled.”
So, what compels Les and what do his priorities tell us about who he is? To find out, I asked him about his burning issues and why he thinks they are important.
To begin with, Les notes that the pandemic robbed Canadians of a million jobs, many that have never been recovered.
“The first priority has to be jobs. By recovering jobs lost during the pandemic we can help gets Canadians back on their feet.”
He also notes that by adding jobs we increase national revenue without adding any new taxes. That can help the country address the massive deficits and burgeoning debt.
“It all starts with getting Canadians back to work. The first three priorities must be jobs, jobs and jobs.”
Beyond jobs, Les rattles off a list of scandals with more than a hint of annoyance. The SNC-Lavalin affair, the Trudeau-Aga-Khan private island holiday, the WE Charity scandal, sexual misconduct in the military, security breaches at Canada’s National Microbiology Lab. He feverishly stumps for several minutes before taking a moment of personal reflection.
“I’ve tried to live my life through a lens of honesty, integrity, commitment and follow-through. I understand that elected officials are faced with difficult decisions, but c’mon, we can do better.”
He points to one of the planks in the Conservative platform that would enact a new anti-corruption law to clean up the mess in Ottawa.
When pressed on what Conservatives can do better in a post-pandemic world, Les draws on his decade-long career in healthcare innovation to suggest new tests, treatments and vaccines. He suggests we need to produce critical medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients right here in Canada and strengthen North American supply chains to reduce reliance on imports.
“The COVID response was not handled well. The Federal government bungled the effort and Canadians have a right to be angry. We must never be unprepared again.”
In the wake of the current pandemic, a Conservative government will introduce a mental health action plan to address the silent pandemic following the pandemic. A Conservative government will partner with employers to provide staff with mental health supports. Les suggests this is a key strategic priority.
“In pre-COVID times, we might expect 20% of employees to be battling a mental health issue, now with months of isolation, depression and anxiety, those numbers are now 50% or higher.”
He notes that leader, Erin O’Toole, is uniquely positioned to introduce a mental health program having done so before for soldiers battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Our leader understands the need and is committed to a Canada Mental Health Action Plan.”
As we reach the top of what has been an invigorating climb, he gazes over North Vancouver and continues a train of thought that began several hundred feet below.
“I’ve had a lot of constituents ask me why staying active is important—the answer to that, is that politics requires the same energy, commitment and follow-through that is required for exercise. Nobody ever called it walking for public office.”
Catching my breath, I note that he must be serious about running for office.
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