Deborah Grey’s Roadmap to Victory
By Erin Knutson
The Kootenay-Columbia Conservative Association and Rob Morrison, candidate for Kootenay-Columbia, hosted an evening with former Leader of the Opposition, Deborah Grey, Saturday evening at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort and Conference Centre in Cranbrook.
Morrison touted the Conservative Party during his speech before Grey’s introduction, citing his campaign to take back the Kootenay-Columbia region in the 2019 federal election.
Grey was introduced by Morrison who noted that she had the distinction of being the first female leader of the opposition in Canada.
“Deb Grey was elected as a Member of Parliament four times,” he said. “And Deb Grey rode her Harley Davidson in Parliament.”
The no-nonsense, says-it-like-it-is Grey took centre stage and announced that she was having fun in Kootenay-Columbia. The Qualicum Beach resident acknowledged that she and her husband Lewis have ridden all the roads out here on their matching Honda motorcycles.
“I’ve been riding so long, and I like a nice soft motorcycle to ride, so I’ve been on a Honda for decades. This is year number 52 for me on my motorcycle,” she said.
Highway 3 is a favourite for the biker who in December 2007 was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for Public Service. She has received the Queen Elizabeth II 50th and 60th Jubilee Medals and been awarded the Alberta Centennial Medal. Grey holds a Honourary Doctorate of Laws from Trinity Western University. She also joked that she’s been around so long she’s happy to be anywhere.
“Because I’m a biker and because I love roads and I give speeches on strategic thinking I’ve realized that it’s always about the people and the detours. You always have to have a plan, and you always have to have a road map, but there are always detours in life, and that is what it all boils down to is people—and that’s basically what politics is all about—people and making sure their lives are better in Canada.”
Grey entitled her speech ‘A Roadmap to Victory.’ Telling real stories about the Canadian people was the platform for her latest public speaking tour with Morrison in Kootenay-Columbia.
As an English teacher who ran for office based on a dare back in 1988, not thinking that she would ever get in, she made Canadian history when she was elected as the first female leader of the opposition party.
She has been involved in politics ever since, rubbing shoulders with other heavyweights like Preston Manning, Stephen Harper, Andrew Scheer, and Jason Kenney. She emphasized the importance of character and principles in leadership.
Known for her razor tongue and sharp wit, the retired MP opened up about women in politics and called the current climate hostile and vicious at times. Grey often went toe-to-toe against personal attacks.
“It’s about how you carry yourself—there were times when I would cry in my truck on the way home, but you just keep moving forward,” she said. “To all women thinking of getting into politics, if you have that drive and that passion, go for it!”
The Vancouver native has often been confused for an Albertan because she spent the majority of her elected life in Alberta. Her personal road map to success involved hard work and paying her way through school.
“I always wanted to pay my own way—my father was a drunk, and my mom raised five kids single-handedly in Vancouver, and I think how did she do that? But, she taught us that we had to live within our means.”
Tuition isn’t a right, according to Grey, who spoke on personal responsibility and the importance of a government less involved with the individual, less taxation, and less spending as a solution to the current federal budget deficit.
“I had to learn as a little kid that if you run out of money that’s the way it is—that’s not the way it is when a Liberal is in place—if you keep coming back to the well for more and more…,” she said.
The July 1 baby considers herself a proud and passionate Canadian. She published a book in 2004 entitled ‘Never Retreat, Never Explain, Never Apologize: My Life, My Politics.’
Grey won a by-election on March 13, 1989 and became the Reform Party’s first Member of Parliament when her rival died of cancer five days after he won the November 1988 election.
“My life turned upside down in one night, it was just amazing—never to be the same again,” she said.
Lead image: Deborah Grey speaks at the Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort and Conference Centre in Cranbrook B.C. for an evening hosted by the Kootenay-Columbia Conservative Association and Rob Morrison on Saturday, April 27. Photos by Erin Knutson