This is the version of my interview with Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach that was published in Thursday's Echo. If it seems shorter than the others, it's because it is. I only had 15 minutes with Ms. Kovach on the phone versus 30-40 minutes in person interviews with the other candidates. But there were a few good extra details that I wanted to publish, so here they are.
Gloria Kovach is no stranger to tough races or Federal politics. The stalwart city councillor has represented the people in her ward for 18 years now, as well as representing the interests of Canadian urbanites nationwide for a times as President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Now it’s her desire to take things to the next level and be elected as the city’s first Conservative Member of Parliament since 1993.
“Certainly I’ve had a lot of exposure in representing cities and communities across Canada at the national and international level,” says Kovach during our phone interview last week. “I’m dedicated to building a better and stronger Canada and I think that my experience in Guelph, both as an elected official and in my other capacities, will help me fully represent Guelph’s interests in Ottawa.”
Aside from her high–profile work on behalf of Guelph residents and other Canadians, Kovach highlights working in Uganda with women’s and children’s groups, dealing with emergency planning and waste management issues in the Czech Republic, and working with people in El Salvador, Columbia, and Vietnam as examples of her qualifications. Back home on council though, she’s most proud of her work on creating the youth council as a way to bring the needs and concerns of young people to the floor. “Also being a nurse and working directly with the people in a healthcare field, understanding the challenges they face, their needs, and just directly working with people on the ground is good experience,” she says.
On a national level, Kovach says that her experience is extensive here as well. "Also as, President of FCM, it gave me the opportunity to talk with people from coast to coast to coast and hear what issues are affecting them, what are their needs, and being able to get a good appreciation for that, being able to dialogue with our Federal government and to articulate the needs of cities and communities across Canada."
As for making the shift to federal politics now, Kovach says she was asked to consider running eight or nine years ago, but like a lot of women with young families, she didn’t like the idea of being away from home and doing all that traveling. “I’m a roll–up–your–sleeves kind of person; wanting to get things done and always willing to pitch in,” she explains. “It’s a huge dedication. For me it was important for my children to be grown before I entered into the federal field.” She adds that, “This is the best time for me and given my experience this is the time for me to run federally.”
I asked Kovach about the fact that she was the only female candidate of the major parties. “Women are underrepresented in the Federal government so its important to have a voice there," she says. “I’ve been involved in campaigns to encourage women to participate in all orders of government, talking to women about what some of their barriers are and what they would need to empower them to become interested in politics and willing to serve."
Kovach says that those years working and living in Guelph have given her an appreciation for the diversity of the city as well as its needs as outlined by the people. Getting out and meeting the people has been key to her campaign, says Kovach. “Our focus is still getting out with the people of Guelph and door–knocking and seeing what issues are most important to them. So I’ve continued to do that and I’ve continued to go out to events and really connect with the people of Guelph.”
The big issue and challenge that people are concerned about, Kovach says, is taxation, and whether the Liberals’ proposed Green Shift plan will have negative impact on their pocket book. “People are concerned generally about how they’re going to be able to afford to continue to live in their homes, or perhaps purchase a home, or how their children are actually going to be able to afford to live with the increased cost of living,” she says. “They’re concerned with the overall picture, they don’t necessarily differentiate between federal, provincial and municipal.”
Kovach says that she’s concerned about the Liberals’ assurance that the Carbon Tax, as outlined in the Green Shift, will be revenue neutral, saying that, “If you look at the Gun Registry, that cost us billions of dollars and that was supposed to be neutral as well.” She believes that under the plan, families will have to struggle, and writes off the plan as simply “a way for rich people to not have to reduce their greenhouse gases and be able to buy their way out.”
Kovach says that she's hearing from constituents the following questions: “'How am I going to be able to afford an $8 head of iceberg lettuce for my family? How will I ever be able to make ends meet?' Mr. Dion is saying it won’t impact the cost of fuel, but we all know that it’s diesel transports that brings gas to the pumps. It’s going to be quite damaging.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of hope amongst the Conservatives to make a breakthrough in Guelph, which could hopefully lead to an increase in the Tories’ fortunes throughout Ontario. A number of high–profile members have come to the Royal City to offer support; from Defense Minister Peter MacKay to Environment Minister John Baird to the Prime Minister himself. “There’s been a lot of support coming in from my colleagues and I’m very appreciative to them,” says Kovach. “[They] are very understanding of meeting with everyday Canadians and finding out what their issues are and what they’d like to see.”
As for saying goodbye to her days on city council, Kovach says she's anxiously looking towards the future. “When I’m elected it will allow me the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Guelph in a different capacity and take their needs and be that strong voice in Ottawa and I have had the opportunity to work grassroots for 18 years now, and I think I’d be the best choice for Guelph to represent those needs."