In­ter­view with Carla Qual­trough MP Delta

Ev­ery­body feels like it’s their win!

Asian Journal - - Front Page - Ray Hud­son

Carla Qual­trough, in her first foray into pol­i­tics has hit the big time. The new Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Delta is a highly ac­com­plished in­di­vid­ual. She’s a hu­man rights lawyer, with a fo­cus on peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, be­cause she’s had to cope with her own vis­ual im­pair­ment since birth. This bilin­gual mother of four, is also a three time Par­a­lympics medal­ist in swim­ming and so much more.

Ray Hud­son of the Asian Jour­nal in­ter­viewed her as she and her con­stituency team are rac­ing to get or­ga­nized, and she left no doubt that she em­bod­ies an amaz­ing drive to make a dif­fer­ence in the many things she’ll en­counter at the cab­i­net ta­ble and in her con­stituency in Delta.

Ray Hud­son (RH): I’ve de­scribed you in the in­tro­duc­tion of the ar­ti­cle, but I’d like to know how you see your­self. How about in­tro­duc­ing Carla Qual­trough to our read­ers?

Carla Qual­trough (CQ): I see my­self as some­one who has made some­what risky and un­con­ven­tional choices in her life and in her ca­reer pro­fes­sion­ally, and as a vol­un­teer. For the most part those choices have served me very well. I con­sider the path I’ve taken from be­ing an ath­lete, from swim­ming eleven times a week at age eleven, to where I am as a sports min­is­ter as be­ing for­tu­itous in terms of it be­ing a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity. I’m very lucky to have had the op­por­tu­ni­ties I did, but I’ve also worked re­ally hard. When I’ve been given an op­por­tu­nity or a chance I’ve taken it. I’m very com­pet­i­tive, but I’m more of a win-win per­son than in the past. My ca­reer has not been the typ­i­cal go to law school, join a firm down­town and stay in that firm un­til you reach part­ner. In­stead it was go to law school, have an op­por­tu­nity to work in Ottawa, have an op­por­tu­nity to work in sport, go back to law, be an ad­ju­di­ca­tor, be a me­di­a­tor. It’s been to fol­low what­ever path is pre­sented to me, and it’s been this pro­gres­sion of skill de­vel­op­ment and trans­fer­able skills that cul­mi­nated in the op­por­tu­nity to be­come a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment. You know I worked on the Hill (par­lia­ment) for over six years for a cou­ple of MP’s in­clud­ing a Min­is­ter of Sports from 1999 to 2006, but that was the se­cond time. I went to the Univer­sity of Ottawa the first time, to do my un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree, in Political Sci­ence, in French. As a re­sult, my French is the best out of the seven­teen MPs from BC so I’m called upon to do all the French re­gional me­dia. So it’s like all th­ese choices that I’ve made along the way have led me to this mo­ment. And all along the way I didn’t see it. The one les­son I learned at a young age, through swim­ming, is that you just have to do the laps. It’s not ex­cit­ing and you can’t cut cor­ners, right? But you gotta do the laps! In the cam­paign, I told my work­ers, guys we just have to knock on doors - we just gotta do the laps. We’ve got to do to be the best politi­cian in the cam­paign and for me the cam­paign was not my com­fort zone. It was also de­pen­dent on so many other things be­yond my con­trol. Justin Trudeau had to do well as a leader, the Cana­dian peo­ple had to like our pol­icy and our plat­form, other par­ties had to fal­ter and we had to not fal­ter. But no mat­ter what else, we knew we had to do the best we could in Delta. I was al­ways telling my staff it’s not sexy, you just have to do the laps.

RH: How did you be­come a can­di­date? CQ: I was ap­proached last Jan­uary by a cou­ple of peo­ple who had worked on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ottawa with me, in the past, or had seen me de­velop as a leader through sport or what­ever, and they said they’d re­ally like me to run. My son had just turned two and it just seemed over­whelm­ing. A year ago, I ran un­suc­cess­fully for school board. It was very safe, and I got a taste for it which put me on the radar of the peo­ple who are in­volved in the fed­eral Lib­eral Party here in Delta. They very softly said they weren’t sure I was go­ing to win school board, but said they felt I was much bet­ter suited for fed­eral pol­i­tics.

Elec­tion 2015:

RH: You won in a land­slide. Share with us how it felt at that point.

CQ: In July and Au­gust we were the long shot, but about a week or two be­fore the vote, we could see that I had a strong chance of win­ning. It was go­ing to be tight, a nail-biter. Then on elec­tion night it was hum­bling, the win was so sig­nif­i­cant. I got 49% of the vote. Ev­ery se­cond per­son in Delta voted for me. We hadn’t had a Lib­eral MP in Delta for fifty years. I’m not one to get speech­less but I was, and hon­oured at the same time. It was pretty ex­cit­ing! I was called to Ottawa, very con­fi­den­tially, and the Prime Min­is­ter des­ig­nate said he was think­ing Min­is­ter of Sport and Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties. He said th­ese are the two things that mat­ter most to you in the world, so go out and make a dif­fer­ence.

Min­is­ter of Sport: I’ve been in­volved in sport all my life and what­ever I do for sport, I can’t give back enough com­pared to what it’s done for me.

But I rec­og­nize that I know the sport world in Canada very well and there are huge ex­pec­ta­tions on me be­cause of that. We’ve got the Olympics and Par­a­lympics this year, and we’re do­ing a re­view of our tar­geted ex­cel­lence ap­proach. Six or seven years af­ter Van­cou­ver, we need to know if this is the same di­rec­tion we should be go­ing to get the re­sults we want. Do Cana­di­ans still want us to fo­cus on medal wins or do they want us to get back to the busi­ness of sport par­tic­i­pa­tion and grass roots de­vel­op­ment?

Min­is­ter of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties: I’ve been tasked with cre­at­ing leg­is­la­tion, ‘The Cana­di­ans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act,’ which will leg­is­late ac­cess and in­clu­sion stan­dards. I don’t know if that’s what we’ll call it but as some­one who prac­ticed Hu­man Rights and has been an ad­vo­cate for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties it’s of­ten quite frus­trat­ing that in our sys­tem we have to wait un­til peo­ple are dis­crim­i­nated against be­fore we can re­spond. I have to wait un­til you’re de­nied a job or you’re de­nied hous­ing or a ser­vice be­cause you have a dis­abil­ity. It will be nice to have some law in place that pre­empts that and tells em­ploy­ers what’s ex­pected of them, tells busi­ness or ser­vice providers what’s ex­pected of them on the is­sue of ac­cess and in­clu­sion. They did it in the U.S. twenty-five years ago, and it’s a great model. They’ve done it in On­tario for the last ten years, and we can learn from them. Ob­vi­ously, there are things we’ll do dif­fer­ently but it will be his­tory-mak­ing.

RH: When you were cam­paign­ing, what did the Delta con­stituents say they wanted from you as their MP?

CQ: I have ab­so­lutely fallen in love with be­ing the MP in Delta. Al­ready as the MP, I en­joy hav­ing some­one walk into our of­fice with a prob­lem, solve it and see them walk out happy, whether I write a let­ter or point them in the right di­rec­tion. One of the things I heard was that Delta didn’t feel that its MP was present in the last cou­ple of cy­cles. My com­mit­ment, no mat­ter how busy I am, is for peo­ple to feel as if I’m here. I’m putting Delta first. I also hap­pen to have this other job that might take me away from that, but we’re go­ing to fig­ure out how to make sure you still feel that I’m serv­ing you as your MP. Hav­ing me at the cab­i­net ta­ble gives Delta a ton of ad­van­tage. Mr. Trudeau ex­pects us to weigh in on ev­ery is­sue re­gard­less of our port­fo­lios. ‘Carla given your back­ground as a hu­man rights lawyer, what do you think of our refugee plan?’ But fore­most, I want peo­ple to feel that I’m putting Delta first be­cause I sin­cerely am.

RH: Fi­nally, what are you hear­ing con­cern­ing the econ­omy?

CQ: Yes­ter­day I had a pre-bud­get con­sul­ta­tion round-ta­ble with some stake­hold­ers from Delta. Mayor Jack­son was there, her CAO was there, Delta Cham­ber of Com­merce, Tsawwassen BIA, Lad­ner BIA, Tourism Delta, real es­tate peo­ple, and they ex­pressed the con­cern of how we are go­ing to de­liver all the things promised. Are you still go­ing to go into deficit, are you still go­ing to bal­ance the bud­get in four years? I said yes, that’s the plan. Fi­nance is not my back­ground but the Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Bill Morneau, is re­ally bril­liant and he re­ally has a han­dle on the minu­tia, the global and Cana­dian per­spec­tives of fi­nance and the econ­omy. I have ev­ery con­fi­dence that within the four years we’ll be able to do what we say we’ll do. I have em­braced this deficit to stim­u­late the econ­omy phi­los­o­phy and I’m get­ting our ducks in a row in Delta to take ad­van­tage of that. It’s an in­cred­i­bly com­pli­cated rid­ing fed­er­ally. An­other one of my per­sonal mis­sions is to get peo­ple to un­der­stand the value added that Delta has as a driver in our lo­cal and re­gional econ­omy as well as for the Cana­dian econ­omy. We have a port, we have a bor­der, we have an air­port, we have a river, we have high­ways, we have farm­land, we have a bog, we have all this stuff, we have a huge im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion. A rid­ing some­where else might have one of those is­sues or at­tributes, but here, we have all of them. What has im­pressed me is the sup­port of the com­mu­nity in this tran­si­tion. It’s been a huge learn­ing curve, but what I’m hum­bled by is that ev­ery­body feels like it is their win, that Delta won. We all won, and it feels re­ally good right now.

Photo: Ray Hud­son

Qual­trough points to the re­uni­fied Delta Rid­ing.

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