VERNON - For North Okanagan-Shuswap NDP candidate Jacqui Gingras, running in the 2015 federal election has been four years in the making.
The longtime Okanagan resident committed herself to the task shortly after NDP leader Jack Layton died in 2011. Inspired by his call for all Canadians to consider serving their communities, Gingras stepped up. She remembers phoning NDP headquarters in Ottawa and being reminded the next election was still four years away.
“The North-Okanagan Shuswap has been a Conservative stronghold, so I said, why not start as soon as possible,” Gingras says.
She dedicated herself immediately to connecting with the community, learning its issues and hearing what locals want out of their MP. Having grown up on a hobby farm in Oyama, and currently living off the grid in a solar-powered home just north of Falkland, Gingras is no stranger to the region, and is deeply passionate about keeping it clean and beautiful, as well as ensuring employment opportunities exist to support people living here.
The mother of two school-aged children has a PhD in Education and a Masters in Nutrition. She’s worked as a consultant on developing educational materials for B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Services, operated a counselling company for people struggling with eating disorders, and has taught at Ryerson University.
Taking a fresh look at how things are done is essential to Gingras’ philosophy. She believes strongly in finding effective solutions at the root of the problem, not bandaid treatments. With the economy, for example, Gingras believes it’s important to invest in things like small business and alternative energies, and says we can do that right here in the North Okanagan-Shuswap.
“There’s a lot of job loss in the non-renewable energy sector. People are really struggling, and a lot of those people live here. I’m committed to building an industry here so families can stay together, earn money here and spend it here to make our community strong,” she says.
She’s also passionate about the NDP’s childcare plan, which would promote gender equality by giving women more opportunity to pursue careers, and in turn, help strengthen the local economy.
Having grown up on a farm, another of her passions is supporting local agriculture and farmers. She believes in fostering a resilient community of farmers, including supporting training for young people looking to enter the field.
Another of her passions is strengthening relations with First Nations and building partnerships, something she's already set in motion with a strategic planning session with the Splatsin First Nation.
She's also connected with local organizations like the Upper Room Mission soup kitchen, which are seeing massive increases in the number of people accessing food services. One of her focuses if elected would be representing the most disadvantaged in the community and working collaboratively on community solutions. As part of her campaign, she’s been networking with local agencies to register members of the homeless population for voting and ensure everyone in the community has a voice in the election.
Another group known for low voter turnout that she’s working hard to engage with is young people.
“We’ve created a youth advisory group,” she says. “Young people have come in and taken off with it.”
She’s also reached out to Okanagan College in both Vernon and Salmon Arm to make sure students know how and where to vote.
If elected, she says residents can expect her to keep her promises, and fairly represent everyone in her riding.
“People ask, are you toeing the party line, or representing the people? My first priority is everyone who voted, and not just those who voted for me. Within the context of that, I will also stay consistent to the election platform I’m running on, because people voted for me on that basis,” she says. “But on issues I know our constituents have differing views on, it is my pledge to everyone in this riding, I will seek their viewpoints through various ways — social media, town hall meetings, phone calls — to decide how to vote on things in Ottawa.”
You can find out more about Gingras or get in touch with her here.
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