Gary Oosterhof grew up working on his family’s dairy farm in Athens, Ont., and has spent most of his life here in Kingston, raising his four children with his wife, Corina. He is a huge hockey fan, dedicating some of his time to coaching and playing Canada’s sport, and he currently serves on Kingston City Council representing the Countryside District.
What made you decide to run in this election/decide to run again in this election?
“The reason I’m here, really, is it an evolution of the journey of my life… eight days ago I don’t think I knew I was going to be a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada, though I’ve always had been involved in the years past.
As the city councillor now, it’s given me a lot of training to be here, a lot of awareness of federal issues… whether it’s the Inner Harbour, or homelessness and housing, that’s a big thing… so many things that I now look and say, ‘well I guess I do know a little bit about that,’ and also ‘how I can try to make a difference?’
I tell people, at one time I was solving electrical issues and now I solve electoral issues. It’s a play on words, but it’s really true because in electrical, it’s all about problem-solving and troubleshooting and it was my how I cut my teeth. And then I ended up going to Toronto for years and years representing contractors… it has sort of shaped me and honed my skills.
And so, I hope that it’s going to let me rise to the next level and be the kind of representation we need locally… and I think is missing, and I think it’s missing in Ottawa, as well.”
What is it about the Conservative Party that made it a party you wanted to be a part of and represent at the federal level?
“Our job is rebuilding the economy for businesses, so businesses have strength behind them and know that their government is making the right choices instead of draining money away, that they’re supported, then everything works better, that grease is the engine or wheels, and so that to me speaks.
And also, I really think about our freedoms, our country, and I feel the erosion that we have… I truly believe… that we will have greater freedoms under a Conservative government, they will return to that.
And so, our economy is what really drives me. But you know, the renewed focus on our health, our mental health, our homeless, these things have impacted me, and I think all of us in Kingston, heavily. And it is something that I hope, if I ever had a position, I would like to make a difference in the housing.”
In your opinion, what are the top three most critical issues needing to be addressed at the federal level?
“Well, for me, it’s the economy, and housing, and lots to do with health care and our mental health – how we can manage that better and our mental health?”
In your opinion, what are the top three most critical issues for Kingston and the Islands?
“As a local, I really want to be involved with housing… but also, the military is on my mind, I think it’s really important to me, I feel disappointment with the election and the Afghanistan thing, and we have lots of people who are feeling blue about that, and how we can address that? And also, the Inner Harbour. They will not wonder where I am on the inner harbour, okay? I’m passionate about water, and we need to get that one right. And I really feel that some of the ball might have been dropped a bit federally, and I will be at the table, they will never wonder, ‘Where’s Gary?’ That’s my commitment to the city, and on a variety of issues. And also, tourism is a really important thing… a really important part of Kingston.”
How do you plan to provide better representation for Kingston and the Islands?
“For me, it’s using the experience I have as a councillor, where I don’t miss meetings, I know all the issues really closely. I intend to be very close to City Council and be listening in on that, and be connected to economic development, who has done a fantastic job… But I hope to be really watching closely and involved in our housing. Kingston has a unique burden, I think, and I think it needs more help and I would like to be involved with that. So, it is something that I feel is really important. But there’s really not too many areas I don’t.
I’d like to see the development of our federal lands. And it’s very difficult.”
How well do your views align with those views of the party leader? And how well do you think you will be able to work with him, should you be elected?
“Well, I’m really, really pleased with what I’m hearing the last two weeks. I really believe I can be quite aligned. [Erin O’Toole] and I, we’re very similar kind of guys, and we’re family men, but we’re hard workers. And I really, really like his message. It’s very steady and stable, and it’s reasonable all the time, you know, and it’s very reasonable and very doable, and I think that we really need it.
And so, that excites me because now other MPs in the areas have called me, and welcoming me and encouraging me, and I’m really, really encouraged by that.”
What is the number one issue raised so far by the constituents you’ve spoken with, and how do you plan to address it?
“The number one issue probably is the economy. We’re in a pandemic, there are many people that have struggled, everyone has struggled. And so I’m glad to see that [the Conservatives] are willing to spend the funds… there’s enough movement in position for the federal conservatives to know that they are going to still be responsible, but be socially responsible.
I think that it’s really important when the economy does better, and then taxes will get paid, we have an economy that… we’re filling the trunk instead of funds always going out. [The economy] has to be healthy, and then we’ll be able to take care of our health care, and our housing… jobs, and secure and these things. That’s the key word: Security. That’s what [the Conservatives] want, and I want to be part of that.”
With files from Cris Vilela.