The morning after voters elected Conservative Marilyn Gladu as Sarnia-Lambton’s next MP, the 52-year-old chemical engineer sat down with The Journal to discuss the rigors of the campaign, the next four years and the pitfalls of opening up on Facebook.
JOURNAL: Let’s talk about your opposition role. What do you bring personally that is going to serve our riding well in Ottawa?
MG: I’m a very strong voice. I tend to be fact-based but can be hard-nosed, I would say. I’ve been in a very adversarial kind of environment in engineering for over 30 years so I think I have the ability to speak up, to bring forward the facts, and I think I have the skill to influence.
JOURNAL: Are you talking about networking?
MG: It’s about being that persuasive voice when you know who is holding the control or the purse strings. It’s about networking to get to that right person and working hard to influence a decision before it comes to a vote.
JOURNAL: Outgoing MP Pat Davidson has a style that could be called a little low key. What’s your style?
MG: Pat and I are definitely different styles and both can be successful. She was successful in her way. I’m much more aggressive than Pat is. I’ve been used to working in an environment where people don’t always play nicely in the sandbox, and so sometimes you have to take the gloves off. I know how to do that. I also know how to survive conflict and I’m very persistent and dogged. I think I’ve always been a little bit louder than Pat. If anyone were to compare the two of us, I think they’d say I’m more gregarious. Having said that, I think I’m positive, outgoing, humorous.
JOURNAL: There is a lot of discussion about whether there will be reinvestment in Chemical Valley with a Liberal government. You’ve said job creation is your number one priority, so won’t that be a bigger challenge now?
MG: Absolutely. You look at what the Liberals have done in Ontario. We’ve lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs and we haven’t seen growth. That’s not a good, friendly business environment.
There’s no getting around the fact it’s more difficult to be the opposition than it is to be the governing party. That’s not to say I’m not tenacious enough to persist until we get what we need.
JOURNAL: When you say you are tenacious, give me an example.
MG: When I took over the business director role at WorleyParsons our office had gone down from 350 to 180 people. We needed to drum up work. So I knocked on the doors at Nova. I was told at the time, it was hopeless, that Nova would never do business with us. I continued to build relationships and knock on doors and now we are doing ethylene and the polyethylene engineering for the new facilities here. That’s the kind of persistence that pays off. I grew the office back up to 350.
JOURNAL: This campaign was long. It had to be difficult for you with the medical issues that sidelined you at times. [Editor’s note: Gladu stepped aside for a time following minor surgery]
MG: The team worked hard, but, wow, 11 weeks is long and I think the public gets tired of it. At the beginning when we were canvassing, nobody was paying attention, then they were engaged, then they got sick of it. I think the next time around they should stick to the 37-day idea.
JOURNAL: I think it’s fair to say you had a number of bumps on the campaign trail, when you had to defend some of your old posts on social media. [Editor’s note: Comments Gladu made on her Facebook and Twitter accounts about her Christian faith and Muslims were published in an unsigned story by Pressprogress.ca, a political blog of the left-leaning Broadbent Institute.]
MG: They were from my personal page from dates before I even ran for the nomination, and they were reflections of my Christian values and my pride in the spiritual foundation of my country. People twisted that and posted really hateful things. I always believed in open and transparent communications so I allowed anyone who wanted to join my Facebook page, to join.
JOURNAL: So you would do it differently now?
MG: For sure. The first thing is I probably wouldn’t do Twitter again. Not only were most of the Tweets from outside the riding, but many of them said heinous things that are not helpful.
JOURNAL: You said you learned from this. What was that?
MG: I will never open up my personal Facebook page to everyone again. I don’t know who trolled through four years of my Facebook page and came up with five things that they could make a story out of, but you know … I’ll keep my MP’s page open and people can feel free to engage there but I’ve deleted everybody that joined my personal page from the nomination.
I want to have open and transparent communication on issues, but I don’t want to open myself up to personal attack. I learned that everything you do and say is under a microscope so I shall be shinier in the future.
Until Gladu is sworn in as Sarnia-Lambton’s MP she can’t open an office to work with constituents. The swearing in isn’t likely until at least early November.
Meanwhile, she has called on local MPP Bob Bailey and Middlesex-Essex MP Bev Shipley to assist Sarnia-Lambton residents.