Editor’s note: This is the 2nd in a series profiling the five Sarnia-Lambton candidates in the Oct. 21 federal election. Each was drawn from a get-to-know-you meeting with the Sarnia-Lambton Golden K Kiwanis Club, and appears in alphabetical order.
Marilyn Gladu was told early on that women should not become engineers.
She didn’t listen.
“Any time I’m told I can’t do something that’s the thing I want to do,” said the incumbent Conservative MP for Sarnia-Lambton.
It was that can-do spirit that’s fuelled a 35-year career in the Chemical Valley and helped catapult Gladu to a successful first term in Parliament.
Born to a working-class family in St. Catharines, Ont., Gladu attended Queen’s University and earned a degree in engineering and chemistry. Her first job, with Dow Chemical Canada, brought her to Sarnia in the 1980s.
At the age of 26 she became chairperson of the Canadian Society of Chemical Engineers, which was a first for a woman and for someone of such a young age, she said.
At Dow she worked on the development of synthetic kidneys and biodegradable plastics, and then moved on to neighbouring Suncor Energy. She eventually became the company’s director of engineering and construction, overseeing the $1-billion Genesis project.
“It certainly made me mindful of the world-class workforce we have here and the great technology we have,” said Gladu, 57.
“We’ve got a very educated population and a very great workforce.”
Later, she became a consultant and business director at Worley-Parsons Limited, the Australian engineering giant with interests around the world.
Gladu said with a laugh that throughout her career in the male-dominated petrochemical industry she became very good at ensuring the installation of women’s bathrooms.
On the side, she also became a businesswoman, owning a welding equipment company and a French fry truck under the Blue Water Bridge.
She was already involved in the Sarnia-Lambton Electoral District Association of the Conservative Party when three-term MP Pat Davidson decided to retire.
Gladu threw her hat in the ring, and in 2015 won the riding with 22,565 votes. Jason McMichael of the NDP had 18,102 votes, Liberal Dave McPhail took 15,853 and Green candidate Peter Smith had 1,605.
During her first term in office the rookie MP quickly became a familiar face in Ottawa.
“There’s always one kid that decides what game you’re playing and reminds everybody of the rules,” she said.
“Whenever there’s chaos and anarchy I tend to rise to the podium to try and sort it out.”
Gladu was named Canada’s “most collegial” MP by Macleans magazine, has made frequent appearances on CBC and CTV political programs, and managed to push through a private member’s bill on palliative care.
She also claims to have had $200 million in federal funding flowed into the region.
“It’s really money that’s gone into things that we need, and I’m really pleased as a rookie in opposition I did all of that.”
Heading into the election, Gladu said some priority issues in Sarnia-Lambton are housing availability, drug addiction, and climate change.