Along with the rest of Canada, Vancouver Centre elected their Member of Parliament Monday night, but unlike most places across the country, their leader has been around the block now eight times.
Liberal MP Hedy Fry was just elected for the eighth consecutive time since winning her first federal election for the riding in 1993. At the time, she was one out of only five people to ever kick a sitting Prime Minister, then Kim Campbell, out of their seat, and was the first woman to do so. Twenty-two years later, Hedy Fry is still kicking butts.
The 74-year-old Trinidadian-Canadian is the seventh longest-running MP currently in the House of Commons, and nothing seems to be slowing her down, especially a long 78-day election campaign.
“I love campaigning. I love getting out and meeting people, knocking on doors,” she told Vancity Buzz Tuesday afternoon during a jam-packed day of press meetings.
While she says it feels great to be re-elected again, on a national level, she had her doubts about whether the party could pull off a win early on in the campaign.
“At the time we went into the race we were not at the top of the heap,” said Fry. “My expectations were mostly from 2011 and hoping to improve upon that. Moving through the election campaign it looked like we might get some more seats and then it was looking like we might be the official opposition, with a slim minority. Then it was a majority and we were all taken off guard.”
She’s referencing the incredible red tide that swept westward from the Maritimes as election results trickled in Monday night. Numerous polls leading up to the day were calling for a Liberal win, but only with a minority government.
Now with a majority, parliament will have a lot of power to quickly pass legislation. As to what legislation Fry thinks is important to her Vancouver Centre riding, she pinpoints housing and transit as the two biggest issues.
“Not just social housing but affordable rental housing and the ability for young families to be able to own something and put a roof over their heads. I also think transit has become a huge issue in the city, not only in the city but in the suburban areas. It’s been taking people too long to get to work and back home, and that’s not helping people’s quality of life.”
Fry also stated that creating a National Housing Strategy and reinstating the long-form census would provide some much-needed data on home ownership in Metro Vancouver.
“[With the long-form census] we can get a scan of who is buying houses, whether they’re flipping houses , or investing, or using them as a home. Depending on what we find in Vancouver, we can look at what kind of regulations we can put in place here.”
One of the biggest issues the country is talking about in the wake of Justin Trudeau’s election is his promise to legalize marijuana at a federal level. In a city where marijuana is already being sold under regulations, Fry says he’ll have to work very closely with the provinces and municipalities to build regulations under good relationships and partnerships.
“What it would look like, however, would be legalization and regulations. Our youth shouldn’t be able to buy marijuana off the streets and inadvertently support organized crime.”
The marijuana issue was a sore spot between Mr. Trudeau and Stephen Harper during the election campaign, with the latter taking out attack ads telling voters that the Liberals wanted to make marijuana more accessible to children. As for that kind of sentiment, Fry says there is without-a-doubt one major change coming to Canada:
“We won’t have Stephen Harper’s brand of government anymore,” she said.
“People used to have respect for each other in Parliament, regardless of party, and I think that will change now. Hopefully openness and transparency in government as well. Another change will be the way people view politicians, such as knowing who we are and what we are doing. If there is public research done, then government scientists will be able to post it on their website.”
She’s also hoping that Trudeau will be taking away a lot of the control the Prime Minister’s office has had on Parliament under Harper. Fry used a sad anecdote of requesting a document and receiving a completely redacted page, except for a few words, in return to perfectly describe what has been happening in Parliament over the last decade.
But she credits Canadians for doing the leg-work needed for change just by showing up to the polls on Monday.
“Canadians made the first difference when they went out and voted in the polls. It meant that Canadians became engaged again. That’s the first big change. Now we can form better partnerships and Canadians can be listened to again.”
With a 68.5 per cent voter turnout this year, the country greatly improved from the meager 61 per cent who came out to vote in 2011, largely thanks to the inspired youth vote and stiff anti-Harper sentiment. It was the highest turnout rate since 1993.
“It was remarkable what Canadians did in this election to take back their country. Voting can change a nation,” said Fry at the end of our conversation.
Indeed it can.