It was a sold-out event for Chilliwack-Hope federal Liberal Candidate Louis De Jaeger Sunday night featuring special guest, Dr. Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre.
Organizers raised more than $15,000 at the glitzy, red-themed Diner en Rouge, a $225-per-plate fundraiser at Bravo Restaurant, with proceeds going to De Jaeger for the Chilliwack-Hope Liberal war chest.
Dr. Fry spoke to The Progress before her speech about the battle for the newly created Chilliwack-Hope seat, keenly aware it has been held by some form of Conservative party since the late 1960s.
“We know the demographics are changing here, with more people coming from Vancouver, and that might move us forward,” said the Liberal MP.
Dr. Fry was in Chilliwack to speak at De Jaeger’s fundraiser, drumming up support for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s ‘Hope and Hard Work’ campaign for the 2015 election.
“We hope we will win government, and know it’s only done with hard work. There’s no way to wave a magic wand or use a leader’s charm.”
The date of the election is supposed to be in October, but some have predicted the writ will drop this spring, so many candidates have been getting into gear.
Fry, a physician, was first elected to Parliament for Vancouver Centre in 1993 becoming the first rookie to defeat an incumbent prime minister. She was re-elected in 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011.
The country has gone under a radical transformation as a result of the Harper government, moving away from being the envy of many with a diversified economy, to one with more unemployment, deficit budgets, tendency to deny climate change and major threats to democracy.
“Before Harper we had a $13 billion surplus and ten balanced budgets. We moved from number seven in the G7 in terms of research and development to number one.”
Recognized “pillars” of democracy have been slowly eroded, from free and fair election challenges, to the need for an independent judiciary, and respect for rule of law and a free and fair press, and active citizen participation.
“We’re no longer a democracy. Our country is going to the dogs,” she said.
The often repeated quote by Prime Minister Harper that when he was “finished with Canada, no one would recognize it.”
“And we don’t,” she added.
On the world stage, where she is the federal government’s Special Representative on Gender Issues of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly (PA), people often whisper to her: “What has happened with Canada?”
These are not progressive changes, she noted.
“We used to be the world’s negotiator. We knew how to find common ground. We used to be called the ‘boy scouts of the world,’ and we could do a lot worse. Today we can no longer play that role.”
Perhaps the changing face of Liberal candidacy under leader Justin Trudeau will make a difference, she concluded.
“We have a record number of aboriginal and Métis people running for us,” she said. “I think the penny has dropped.”
She spent from 1996-2002 in Cabinet serving as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Minister for the Status of Women, and sat on a number of Cabinet Committees on health, social policy, volunteerism, homelessness and same-sex benefits. Fry was also the Minister responsible for the Vancouver agreement. Now she serves as BC Federal Liberal Caucus Chair and the Federal Liberal Health Critic.
Louis De Jaeger was acclaimed in October in Chilliwack as the federal Liberal candidate for the new Chilliwack-Hope riding, which will replace the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon seat name, currently held by sitting MP Mark Strahl.
De Jaeger is a long-time business owner with proud Métis ancestry, operating Bravo Restaurant and Lounge in Downtown Chilliwack, with more than 30 years in the hospitality industry.
De Jaeger’s platform includes restoring Canada to be an “inclusive” society that cares about seniors, youth, veterans, as well one that cares about the thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women.
In his speech, he spoke about the importance of a collaborative approach.
“We are done with division, Parliament should be about working together with our party colleagues for Canadians in a productive and transparent way,” he said. “We are here because we want change.”
The upshot of a sold-out fundraiser like De Jaeger’s Diner En Rouge on March 1 was not lost on a veteran Parliamentarian, like Fry.
“I understand this event sold out, which is pretty significant in a city this size,” she said.
“The fact that the cost of a ticket was not cheap also means he has people supporting him who are influencers; who are decision makers in this community.”
Fry described De Jaeger as a “fighter who doesn’t give up,” which will be fitting for what is shaping up to be the “most significant” election in years, she underlined.