KELOWNA - Ron Cannan has shown a flair for winning campaigns when he needs to, something he ties to his extensive background in marketing and sales.
The three-term member of Parliament, who’s hoping to add a fourth term after the Oct. 19 election, first put his skills to the test in 1995 with a run at Kelowna city council, just five years after moving here from Edmonton, Alta.
“I’d just taken a buyout from the Daily Courier. Some folks wanted me to run for council. I asked Coun. Joe Leask what it took to get elected and he said alot of it was marketing.”
So Cannan put together a team, did lots of door knocking and came in fifth place. He was re-elected in 1999 and again in 2003.
Shortly after his re-election, Cannan again got a call, this time from the Conservative Party who said Werner Schmidt was retiring and would he be interested in putting his name forward for the nomination. Cannan beat out his friend and current provincial MLA Norm Letnick for the nomination and went on to win the riding during the federal election of January 2006, when Harper and the Conservatives first formed a minority government.
The former candy salesman went on to win the riding again in 2008 and 2011 by wide margins, although critics have grumbled you could nominate a fire hydrant in the staunchly Conservative riding of Kelowna-Lake Country and it would win. No one could argue with his numbers though, capturing almost 60 per cent of the vote during the last election.
LIFE BEFORE POLITICS
Cannan was born in Edmonton 1961, the youngest of four boys, to a meat-packing plant worker and a part-time Kindergarten teacher, both active in the United Church. He graduated high school and went on to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology where he studied business adminstation, graduating with honours in marketing.
For the next few years, he worked jobs with various consumer wholesalers as a sales rep, ran a large convenience store in Jasper, Alta., and another convenience store and gas station in Edmonton. He married wife Cindy in 1984 and had the first of three giris in 1985, continuing on in several wholesale sales and marketing positions.
Life changed dramatically in 1989 when his mother and father were both diagnosed with AIDS, his mother dying soon after the diagnosis and his father a short time after that.
“It was a real eye-opener. The whole family had to get tested, the four boys, everyone. We had to go through all the questions about washing clothes in the same washing machine or eating off the same plate. I mean, that’s how naive we were.”
It was just after New Years in 1990 when Cannan and his wife, looking for a change, decided to check out Kelowna.
“There was no snow on the ground and it was January. I was thinking ‘this is Canada’? We got a realtor the next day.”
TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED
His political values, Cannan says, are informed by his parents and career in business.
“I believe in smaller, more efficient government. I try not to be extravagant. Live within your means. I’m a fiscal conservative with a social conscience. We are blessed in so many ways, it’s our responsibility to help others as well.”
Cannan has never made it to Stephen Harper’s cabinet but he has made the jump off the back benches with his appointed to the Treasury Board sub-committee on government administration.
If there is a shadow over Cannan’s time in office, it’s his involvement in the so-called In-And-Out Scandal in the wake of the 2006 election. He was one of 65 federal MPs involved in hiding illegal campaign spending.
Even after winning every seat he has gone after, Cannan professes to taking nothing for granted.
“I’m humbled and honoured to serve as the voice of Kelowna in Ottawa. I’ve been able to build some good relationships with local politicians and their priorities become my priorities. I hope to be able to continue to do that and get as much federal dollars back into the riding as possible.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at email@example.com or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.