EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of six federal election candidate profiles, appearing daily in alphabetical order.
Growing up, Marilyn Gladu always knew she wanted to do big things.
“I wanted to have a job where, you could always get a job and make a lot of money,” she said with a laugh, recalling a high school guidance councillor who told her, ‘You can’t be an engineer if you’re a woman.’
“I’m the kind of person who — when you say there’s something I cannot do — that’s exactly the thing I want to do,” she said.
The St. Catherine’s native said it was an influential chemistry teacher — who took the class for a tour of Queen’s University’s engineering department — that helped set her on the right path.
“That’s when I decided, ‘I can see myself doing this,’” she said.
Her chemical engineering degree sent Gladu straight to Sarnia where, in 1984, few women were climbing the ranks in the petrochemical industry.
“I always tell people I built a women’s washroom every place I worked, for the first few years,” she said, noting a 21-year career at Dow Chemical, where she was part of a research team that developed artificial kidneys for dialysis.
She took on Suncor’s director of engineering role before moving into consulting, and, in 2015, threw her hat in the political ring following then MP Pat Davidson’s retirement.
In winning that election, Gladu broke Sarnia-Lambton’s 52-year bellwether riding streak, marking the first time the winning party’s candidate was not elected since 1963.
She also became the first female engineer elected to the House of Commons, was twice voted the ‘most collegial Parliamentarian’ by her peers, and served in a number of roles including the Official Opposition Science Critic, Chair for the Status of Women, and was most recently named Shadow Minister for FedDev Southern Ontario and Privy Council Critic.
Her work to pass Bill C-277 — to develop a national framework for palliative care in Canada — earned her the 2019 Sharon Carstairs, P.C. Award of Excellence in Advocacy.
“I’ve brought nearly $300 million to Sarnia-Lambton,” said Gladu. “And there’s great things that we’ve done in terms of broadband Internet, affordable housing, jobs, shoreline erosion… all kinds of good infrastructure projects and support there.”
But there’s more work ahead, said Gladu, noting residents are concerned about the “infringement of their freedoms by the current government,” in the wake of the pandemic.
The mother of two, singer, longtime youth leader, black-belt tae-kwon doe athlete and triathlon runner recently added ‘author’ to her resume with her book ‘Tales of the Globe Trot,’ which recounts her solo world travels.
She’s also preparing for her daughter’s September wedding — right in the middle of an election.
And there’s no plan to slow down.
“This is the best country in the world,” Gladu said. “Seeing the thousands of people I have been able to help and watching my ideas make it into government policy and law keeps me working to make a better Canada.”