Skip to main content

Throwing their hats into the ring

Five Concordia alumni vie to become first-time MPs
May 4, 2015
|
By Isaac Olson

Voters across the country will be hitting the polls for Canada’s 42nd general election on October 19, 2015, unless the Governor General of Canada makes the call for a federal election in the coming months, which is highly unlikely, or the current Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper opts for an early election.

Concordia alumni have long been active in politics at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. There are currently four Concordia alumni who are Members of Parliament: Gordon O’Connor, BSc 65, Costas Menegakis, BComm 82, Massimo Pacetti, BComm 84, and Francis Scarpaleggia, MBA 84.

As of early April, the leading political parties haven’t yet chosen candidates in all of Canada’s 338 federal electoral districts (30 more than the 2011 election). Those that have been nominated are already gearing up for what will likely be another hardfought, closely matched battle for the House of Commons.

The candidates include five Concordia graduates making their first run for a parliamentary seat in Ottawa. Concordia University Magazine asked each rookie candidate five questions about their initial foray into federal politics.

Brenda Shanahan, MBA 88 Brenda Shanahan is the Liberal Party candidate in the Quebec riding of Châteauguay–Lacolle.

Brenda Shanahan, MBA 88

Brenda Shanahan has been nominated by the Liberal Party to run in the Châteauguay–Lacolle riding south of Montreal. She earned an MBA in 1988 from what is now the John Molson School of Business (JMSB). She is now a financial educator, investment advisor and columnist for a variety of Montreal-based publications, including the Montreal Gazette. Shanahan is also a renowned public speaker who hosts conferences on financial literacy while continuing to counsel individuals and families in personal finance management.

Why are you running for federal office?

BS: “Because it is an opportunity to get my ideas out on the national stage — my ideas about financial education, income security and wealth distribution. I would like to see every Canadian have access to the kind of independent, financial education that fosters economic opportunity and, at the same time, I would like to see a fairer ‘leveling of the playing field’ so that more Canadians can enjoy a measure of income security and a share of our nation’s wealth.”

What steps should the government take to improve the national economy?

BS: “My particular concern is at the individual, personal level. To help people do better, we need people to be better educated with financial and economic skills. I would start with a national financial education program. That’s on my wish list. It would help people to have the knowledge, the skills and the confidence to better manage their own finances and to take advantage of programs and benefits that are offered by the different levels of government. At the same time, the federal government, in conjunction with the provinces, has a duty to ensure that the playing field is level for everyone. That’s where we need to look at the consumer protection laws and ensure ordinary Canadians are getting a fair deal.”

Is Canada doing enough to address global climate change?

BS: “No. Absolutely not. Nowhere near enough. It’s been well reported that the current government has neglected to address climate change and that is something that the Liberal Party will address in collaboration with the provinces so that we can once again be a leader in this area.”

How do you plan to address national security concerns?

BS: “National security in Canada is a concern of each and every one of us and I would like to foster more awareness amongst citizens about how we can mutually improve our public security. Public security is not just about laws and police and armed personnel. It’s about each and every one of us looking out for our neighbours and being vigilant about our mutual security.”

How did your Concordia experience prepare you for political leadership?

BS: “I was an inadvertent MBA. I was a free spirit doing non-profit work with Amnesty International. Life was great and then I became a single parent. Life got very serious all of a sudden. I went to Concordia, to one of the counsellors, and asked what certificate I could get to get a better job. It was that counsellor who gave me a competency test and told me I could do an MBA. Nobody had ever said that to me — said that I could do better than what I was doing. That’s what got me into the MBA program. It showed me that anything is possible in Canada and, while I never thought I’d get into politics, it gave me the confidence to say, ‘I can do this. I can use my skills and make a difference for other people.’ I was given that opportunity. I can make that happen for other people.”


Jennifer Hollett, BA 97 Jennifer Hollett will represent the NDP in the Ontario riding of University–Rosedale.

Jennifer Hollett, BA 97

A long-time television personality, journalist and political activist, Jennifer Hollett is representing the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the Ontario-based University–Rosedale riding. Back in 1997, Hollett earned her bachelor’s degree from Concordia in journalism and communication studies. She is now a digital strategist, showing businesses and organizations how to use digital tools like social media to create engagement, share stories and take their work online.

Why are you running for federal office?

JH: “I am worried about Canada. Working as a journalist for the last 15 years, my job has been to cover the world around me and ask questions. I discovered issues like climate change, political apathy, human rights and rising inequality. One of the challenges, working as a TV reporter, is that you get, at best, a minute and a half to cover a story and then you move on. I got into journalism to make a difference and realized I wasn’t making enough of an impact, so I decided to move from asking questions to finding answers.”

What steps should the government take to improve the national economy?

JH: “The NDP believes a strong economy depends on strategic investments in both physical and social infrastructure as well as proper regulation with a sustainable, long-term economic-growth strategy. Along with investing in cities, we are also proposing tax cuts for small businesses as well as a plan to support precarious workers, which is becoming the new normal for Canadians.”

Is Canada doing enough to address global climate change?

JH: “No. Canada is moving backwards. Climate change is a defining issue of our time. I think, around the world, when people think of Canada, they think of our environment. Stephen Harper has really damaged our international reputation on this issue. The NDP’s Climate Change Accountability Act, which is supported by all the opposition parties, is a law that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hold the government accountable. We need to be reducing our emissions by a third over the next decade. We also need to be investing in renewable energy projects and clean technology. This is a top priority for our country.”

How do you plan to address national security concerns?

JH: “Canadians know that Bill C-51 [the government’s proposed anti-terror legislation] is campaigning on fear and it goes far beyond security. It’s threatening our privacy, our freedom, our human rights, and these are things that we’re very proud of as Canadians. We do have real terror threats right now, but we don’t have to choose between security and our rights. Right now we have to protect both. Existing measures are already sufficient to address suspected threats. More resources can be provided to support police and security agencies in their work, but we need to protect our civil liberties.”

How did your Concordia experience prepare you for political leadership?

JH: “Concordia really provided me with a hands-on education and student experience and that’s the style of politics we need more of. Hands on, getting involved, direct face-to-face, going out there and doing it. The biggest thing that Concordia taught me was to get out there, and that’s the biggest job as a politician — to get out there, knock on doors and connect with voters. We work for voters.”


Anthony Housefather, MBA 02 Liberal Party delegates from Montreal’s Mount Royal riding chose Anthony Housefather as its candidate for the upcoming federal election.

Anthony Housefather, MBA 02

Now representing the Liberal Party in the west-end Montreal riding of Mount Royal, Anthony Housefather earned his MBA from the JMSB in 2002. He is executive vice-president corporate affairs and general counsel for Dialogic Corporation in Montreal. Housefather has been active in municipal politics for more than 20 years in a variety of roles. Since 2005 he’s been mayor of the City of Côte Saint-Luc, Que., a Montreal suburb of 32,000 people.

Why are you running for federal office?

AH: “After 20 years in office at the municipal level, I think that, because of my experience and background, there’s a lot I can contribute at the federal level. There have been a number of issues at the municipal level related to infrastructure and transport that I would like to see resolved at the federal level. I have developed a very keen sense of and appreciation for the needs of Mount Royal riding residents and I would like to work on addressing those needs at the federal level.”

What steps should the government take to improve the national economy?

AH: “Given the recent fall in the price of oil, we’ve again seen the perils of not having a diversified economy and ignoring our manufacturing sector. While we’re very lucky as a country to have natural resources such as oil and timber, we need to ensure that we have a diversified economy with a strong manufacturing sector that can give reliable jobs to people outside of the natural resource areas so we don’t have a budgetary crisis when oil prices go down. We want to have economic policies tailored towards the average Canadian.”

Is Canada doing enough to address global climate change?

AH: “I think most environmental experts are saying that Canada, under the Harper government, has not done very much in regards to climate change and has not been a leader when it comes to environmental issues. In fact, we have been almost nonexistent in terms of trying to protect the environment and this is certainly something, if we want to protect our globe, that we need to focus on. I would say the answer to that is ‘no.’”

How do you plan to address national security concerns?

AH: “We support Bill C-51. We think one of the most sacred duties of a country is to protect its citizens and residents against terror attacks. We disagree on Bill C-51 where there is a lack of parliamentary oversight and some of the definitions are too broad. There has to be some sort of sunset clause where there is a commitment to review the law within a certain period. There has to be coordination between all the different agencies, municipal, provincial, RCMP and CSIS.”

How did your Concordia experience prepare you for political leadership?

AH: “The multifaceted education I received in areas such as finance, marketing and organization has assisted me in running a city as mayor because, essentially, the job of mayor is like that of a company’s CEO. You have to budget, spend your resources in the most efficient way possible and deliver the greatest possible return to your residents who are essentially your shareholders. I believe the education that I received at Concordia was a great assistance not only in my work for my company, but in my political role as well.”


Benjamin Woodman, BA 10 Benjamin Woodman is running for the Conservative Party in Quebec ’s Pontiac riding.

Benjamin Woodman, BA 10

Benjamin Woodman, a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces, is flying the Conservative Party banner in western Quebec’s Pontiac riding. He earned a Concordia BA in political science in 2010. He has since held a variety of roles in federal politics ranging from his earlier days as an intern to his more recent work in the Ministry of Veterans Affairs, where he earned the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.

Why are you running for federal office?

BW: “Well, I spent most of my life in my riding. I grew up in Pontiac. I was supported very well and I want to support it right now. I wanted to use the skillset that I have now to do my best for the region that helped raise me.”

What steps should the government take to improve the national economy?

BW: “The economy is my biggest priority and the Conservative Party is the only party that is committed to keeping federal taxes low. I think people are much better at managing their money than governments are. More money in the pockets of the population is always a good thing. Politicians can do a lot to stimulate local economies by communicating to their constituents about federal funding opportunities that are available to them. For example, there’s Canada Summer Jobs and the government recently announced a new Canada Apprentice Loan program [esdc. gc.ca/en/esdc/initiatives/apprenticeship]. Programs like that can have a big impact on local communities.”

Is Canada doing enough to address global climate change?

BW: “I think we are because one of the strongest areas of the Conservative platform is one that you don’t necessarily hear of all the time. Since 2005, Canadian greenhouse gases have decreased by about 5.1 per cent and, at the same time, the economy has grown by 10.6 per cent [as reported on the Government of Canada website, Canada’s Action on Climate Change]. We see the reduction of emissions while the economy has actually grown. The sector- by-sector approach the government has taken towards greenhouse gas emissions has proven to be very effective.”

How do you plan to address national security concerns?

BW: “The priority of any government should be to protect its people and that is exactly what the government is doing with Bill C-51. It proposes measures which stop terrorist activities before they’re acted upon. Bill C-51 doesn’t give new powers to police or intelligence agencies, but rather to judges and courts who can order the detention of a suspected terrorist for up to seven days. I’m certainly on board with that.”

How did your Concordia experience prepare you for political leadership?

BW: “I was VP of the Conservative Concordia club right when we were getting it off the ground around 2008 and, through that club, it was nice to debate and converse with people that shared an interest in politics. For me, I was a poli-sci major and I had some really exceptional professors like Marvin Hershorn and Marcel Danis, a former member of parliament. The club and professors certainly helped cultivate my love for politics.”


Sherry Romanado, EMBA 11 Sherry Romanado is the Liberal Party candidate for the Montreal south shore riding of Longueil–Charles-Lemoyne.

Sherry Romanado, EMBA 11

Currently the assistant director of continuing education at Champlain College in Saint-Lambert, Que., and a lecturer at McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies, Sherry Romanado is the Liberal Party candidate vying for the Longueuil–Charles- LeMoyne riding south of Montreal. She completed Concordia’s Executive MBA program in 2011. Along with her busy career and work as a community volunteer, Romanado is the vice-president of the Laporte Provincial Liberal Association and the Longueuil Charles-LeMoyne Federal Liberal Association.

Why are you running for federal office?

SR: “My family has a long history of service. My father was a firefighter for the local community and my husband was a firefighter for the local community. My two sons both serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. So I thought it was my turn.”

What steps should the government take to improve the national economy?

SR: “I think we need to be looking at our economy in a very different way. In Canada, we need to work in a collaborative way — to look at a holistic approach to our economy while keeping in mind that, if you’re going to make one initiative in one area, you need to have the system and infrastructure in place to support it. If you’re going to be, for example, focusing on a manufacturing strategy, you need to have the education system working with you to make sure there is enough manpower to go into that area. It seems to be, because of the disconnect between federal, provincial and municipal governments that ideas are not being executed because all the partners aren’t around the table to bring it to fruition.”

Is Canada doing enough to address global climate change?

SR: “No. In a recent article in The Globe and Mail (March 18), a group of academics were saying that Canada can really shift to renewable sources of technology by 2025 and eliminate 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. It was quite an interesting article and I think that is something we should be looking at. We should be looking at alternative energy sources and we should be looking at sustainable ways of bringing our resources to market.”

How do you plan to address national security concerns?

SR: “I think we need to be working lockstep not only with our Canadian forces, but also our local forces and the RCMP to identify and mitigate risks while keeping in mind the rights of Canadians.”

How did your Concordia experience prepare you for political leadership?

SR: “Completing an Executive MBA with 24 brilliant, Type-A personalities, you have to find your space and make sure you have a voice. Teamwork was one of the most important lessons I learned in the program. It’s a very intensive, full-time program, and while most people are working full time, as I was, while raising a family and so on, you learn you cannot do it on your own. You learn that you have to trust your colleagues. You bring others to the table in areas that you might not be as strong at so, in working together, you’re able to achieve a lot more than you would on your own. The program really did drive that home.”



Back to top Back to top

© Concordia University