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Q&A: Marilyn Gladu on death, dogma and smoky toaster ovens

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Cathy Dobson

Marilyn Gladu moved to the front row in the House of Commons recently, a move that could indication a cabinet seat is within reach should the Conservatives form the next government.

As 2018 winds down and an election year looms, The Sarnia Journal sat down with Sarnia-Lambton’s MP to discuss a wide range of topics.  Gladu is the first female engineer elected to the House and was named most collegial parliamentarian by Maclean’s magazine.

This conversation was edited for brevity.

JOURNAL: What’s it like being an MP?

GLADU: Well obviously, it’s a real culture shift from being in private industry to being in the political realm. You’re under a magnifying glass, essentially all the time. That said, I think I’ve figured out how to get things done in the political world using some of the skills I have from private industry.

I’m proud to say, I did get my private member’s bill on palliative care passed unanimously. That’s one of 278 in 150 years…We need better training about palliative care, more hospice beds and homecare, obviously, to keep people at home. Beyond that we need to care for caregivers.

JOURNAL: Of all the issues you might have chosen, why palliative care?

GLADU: Originally, my private members bill was going to be about ensuring (companies) can’t walk away and leave people without pensions.  But then, my seatmate (in the House) at the time and I were talking about palliative care and I said, it’s a good thing we have good palliative care in Canada.  And he (Mark Warawa) said, ‘What?’  And I said, yes in my riding we have a hospice, a bunch of beds in the hospital, homecare and it’s reasonably good. He said, ‘Nobody has that. Seventy percent of Canadians have nothing.’  So I said, we should bring a bill to at least shame the government to do something about it. I took it to my party and they panned the idea. … and I said it’s my private members bill so I can do whatever I want, right?

By the time it got to Jane Philpott, who was then the health minister, she said, you know Marilyn, you should give lessons on private members bills.

JOURNAL: What don’t you like about the job?

GLADU: I don’t like the negative personal attacks that come daily. It doesn’t matter what issue you talk about, there is always going to be people who don’t agree. But beyond that, there are people that will get on Twitter and Facebook… it used to be at the beginning there were people who would get in my face when I was out in public here in Sarnia. That I really didn’t enjoy.

JOURNAL: You’re the vice-chair of the standing committee on health and the shadow health minister. Is there anything the government could do to improve organ donor rates?

GLADU: Everybody on the standing committee is on the same page. We want to see more organ and tissue donation.  A recommendation from (Conservative MP) Len Webber’s private bill is to put it on the income tax form so people have the opportunity to opt in every year. It got supported and is on its way to the Senate.

JOURNAL: You weren’t supportive of marijuana legalization. What would you say about the rollout since Oct. 17?

GLADU: That was a difficult topic for me because as the lead for the health critic role, I had to take the Conservative party position, which was strongly opposed. Here in the riding, 61% of the people who voted, voted for a party that would decriminalize or legalize.

Where I think the government really failed was in delivering education about the harms to youth. This was something that every other jurisdiction said to make sure you do that education at least a year in advance.

There are many young people today that still think it’s no worse for me than alcohol, when in fact one third of them are going to have permanent mental health conditions. So that was disappointing.

Locally, I’m hearing people complaining about the smell of marijuana smoke in public places and odour complaints from High Park (Farms in Enniskillen Township). I think the bigger difficulty is lack of enforcement. Health Canada says, ‘Call the police” and the police say, ‘We’re not going to enforce Health Canada regulations.’

JOURNAL: You took some ribbing about a comment you made in the House. What did you mean when you said legalization would encourage ‘Little Johnny to put some (marijuana) in the toaster oven and smoke it up?’

GLADU: The reference to the toaster oven comes from my university days when I didn’t partake myself but I hung around with a bunch of engineers who used to grow marijuana with hydroponics in their closet and then dry the stuff in their toaster oven…then roll it up and smoke it. So I thought that’s how everybody still did it, but apparently…technology has marched on. I did get mocked across the country.  You have to get a sense of humour in this business.

JOURNAL: Do you regret saying it?

GLADU: At the beginning I was sort of sensitive because I wanted everyone to like me, but when you get into it you realize not everyone is going to like everything you say. Honestly, there was nothing wrong with the point I was making, which was that with four plants in every house it will make it more convenient for children to get access.

JOURNAL: Let’s talk about your work for your riding. What are you focusing on?

GLADU: I’ve brought about $160 million to the community through various funds, so I’d say for someone in opposition that’s pretty good. There’s been money for the NOVA announcement, money for the Bio Innovation Centre, for Lambton College, infrastructure for Sarnia, Petrolia, Wyoming, Enniskillen, St. Clair Township, and some accessibility funding.

I am disappointed the Sombra ferry is still closed 11 months after the federal government had the opportunity to do the right thing. Now it’s in litigation and I have no hope that the federal government will intervene. That being said, I’m working provincially and with St. Clair Township to see what we can do to get that thing reinstated.

JOURNAL: You supported Andrew Scheer in the leadership race. What’s he bring to the table as the election nears?

GLADU: Andrew has a very positive style. He unifies the party and focuses on things we can agree on and move forward on.  He’s put a strong team in place. I don’t know if you knew I was moved to the front bench.

JOURNAL: What does that indicate to you?

GLADU: For those in the Ottawa bubble, if you’re moved to the front bench, those are the people expected to be cabinet ministers. So I’m feeling very, very flattered that they’d move me to the front bench. Now I am in Tony Clement’s old seat, so as long as I don’t send any inappropriate pictures, I should be good. (laughs)

JOURNAL: What are your thoughts on the election’s timing?

GLADU: We don’t think Justin will want to wait until Jason Kenney is potentially premier of Alberta, because then he’d have a huge number of provinces that have turned Conservative. So there’s talk he may call early, maybe in March. If not, it will likely be October. We’re certainly ready any time.








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