Federal Election 2015 Question #1 for the North Okanagan – Shuswap candidates …

… is a composite of several submissions related to Getting to know the candidates.

  • What has been your biggest career success?
  • Who is a role model in your life and why?
  • How would this relate to you being our MP?

Readers’ questions have been coming in but there’s still room for more. Your questions should be geared to all of the candidates and not just for one of them. Click here for the criteria and how to submit that burning question for the candidates to Aim High.

Candidate Responses – in the order received: Cindy Derkaz, Chris George, Mel Arnold,  Jacqui Gingras 

Cindy Derkaz (Liberal Party):

What has been your biggest career success?

There are several career successes that come to mind, all involving my training as a lawyer:

– graduated from UBC with a law degree at the age of 22 and returned to Salmon Arm as an articled student;

– three years later I opened my own law office in the (then) new SASCU building and, with hope and a great deal of hard work, built a successful small town solicitor’s practice (real estate, corporate/commercial, estate planning etc.); and

– after selling my practice, I was appointed to the provincial Environmental Appeal Board and Forests Appeals Commission, hearing appeals around the province. It was an honour to serve as the vice-chair of the Environmental Appeal Board of BC from 2000 to 2007. (I have taken a leave of absence from the tribunals in order to run as the Federal Liberal candidate in North Okanagan Shuswap.)

While not a “career success” because it was volunteer work, I am most proud of being part of the wonderful group of business people, professionals and community organizers who formed the steering committee to establish Shuswap Community Foundation. The Foundation launched in January 1995 with the grand sum of $200 in a SASCU savings account. Thanks to a great deal of hope and hard work on the part of the volunteer board (and now staff), the Foundation currently has approx $7.5 million in endowment funds and gives out $300,000+ in grants to charitable organizations in the Shuswap each year. I am passionate about the foundation and was honoured to serve as the President for many years. I stepped down in 2011 knowing that it was time to let other very capable volunteers take the helm.

I was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 in recognition of community service.

Who is a role model in your life and why?

My father, Walter Derkaz, has been the most important role model in my life.

Walter was born on a farm in Sheho SK in 1919, the eldest child of immigrant parents (Ukrainian father/Polish mother). It was a hard scrabble existence and Walter learned the value of hard work as a kid. He was an excellent student with dreams of becoming a lawyer. But the Great Depression hit the Derkaz family hard, like thousands of Canadian families. At age 13, having finished Grade 10, Walter left home to find work. He “rode the rails” and survived in the “hobo” camps in Winnipeg.

Determined to succeed, Walter started working in the co-operative movement and quickly moved up the ladder to management. When Salmon Arm Farmers’ Exchange sold to the newly incorporated Shuswap Consumers Co-op in 1959, Walter was hired to be the manager and our family moved to Salmon Arm. However a few years later, Walter and the Co-op “parted ways”. With $400 and a great deal of determination (combined with years of retail experience) Walter and Betty-Jean opened Derkaz Shoes in Salmon Arm and 10 years later a second store in Vernon.

Walter was known for fairness, integrity, hard work, optimism, humour, resilience, good service, kindness, open-mindedness and business smarts. He was a leader who could be counted on.

How would this relate to you being our MP?

The values I have been brought up with are the values by which I live my life. They will serve me well as an MP.

My education and nearly 40 years of advocating for people and community in the region have prepared me for the task.

As my mother, Betty-Jean, said ruefully, “Walter will never be dead as long as you are around”. I chose to take that as a compliment.

Chris George (Green Party):

What has been your biggest career success?

My biggest career success was in my mid twenties when I worked my way into an equity position with the Kelly O’Bryan’s Restaurant in Kamloops. As operating partner I was able to persuade my partners to allow me to change the management structure of the operation (50 employees, $1.5 million annual sales) to reflect democratic principles, share the benefits of success with “staff” and improve the return on capital for myself and my partners. My “experiment” was successful and many of the ideas continue to this day in that organization. Giving people a stake in the day to day decision making in their workplace was proven to better engage them and lead to positive outcomes for everyone involved.

Who is a role model in your life and why?

R. Buckminster Fuller, because he never spent much time sitting around and talking about things, he just went ahead and did them.

How would this relate to you being our MP?

Actions speak louder than words and people are best judged not by what they say, but by what they do. As an MP, the best I could ever hope to do for the people of the riding would be to act intelligently on their behalf while in Ottawa. Acting in the best interests of the constituents is something every candidate of every mainstream party can pay lip service to. The evidence tells us that words are all that we can really expect when the interests of the party or the leader come in conflict with the interests of the people an MP is supposed to represent. Acting in accordance with the best interests of the constituents is something that simply isn’t available to MPs from the mainstream parties, at least not if they hope to remain members of their party and retain access to the electoral machine that got them their position. MPs and MLAs who go against party and leader and act for their constituents instead have a pretty short shelf life, something that keeps the rank and file representatives in line. Being able to act without fear of losing one’s party membership would be liberating for both the MP and the people who should be the #1 priority.

Mel Arnold (Conservative Party):

What has been your biggest career success?

Regarding career success, it’s hard to choose just one, which will be a prevailing theme in these answers.

– Twenty five years ago, I opened my own business in marine repair, which I operate out of the industrial park in Salmon Arm. Since then the reputation of Complete Marine has grown across several provinces as a result, I am told, of the quality work and dependable service that is provided to all customers regardless of the size or age of the vessel needing our attention. Word of mouth has been our best advertising, and has resulted in repeat business, and business growth, all these years.

– In addition to my business, my passion has been hunting and fishing. A big part of what has helped me grow as a person and as a business person is the responsibility of being a member, a member of the executive, and finally a president of a provincial organization that advocates for the right of hunters, anglers, and firearms owners. I would consider this opportunity in volunteerism to be of equal significance.

Who is a role model in your life and why?

Rather than one role model, I would suggest that I have had a few people who have provided the inspiration to follow their example. I consider myself a very fortunate man to have had the parents, and parents-in-law that I have been privileged to have had in my life. These wonderful men and women demonstrated through deed that a strong work ethic, respect for others, and advocacy for those less able were really what mattered. Their community spirit, their volunteer efforts, and their encouragement really made me who I am today. I owe them much gratitude.

How would this relate to you being our MP?

That work ethic of which I spoke, that dependability, and the lack of differentiation between one individual and another, I think, provides the basis for what I will bring to the people of the North Okanagan Shuswap. As MP, advocacy is the key, whether it is improving our transportation corridor, helping our job base grow so that we can keep our children closer to home with family sustaining jobs, or respecting our seniors by providing the quality of life they deserve, I will be that person that takes these important messages to Ottawa.

I am proud of the legacy of solid economic footing and fiscal responsibility we Conservatives have put in place. We emerged less scarred after the 2008 global economic meltdown than any other nation in the world. We have continued to attract business, and respect, on an international basis. Our health care transfers continue to grow, as do the bottom lines of every individual in Canada by paying the lowest taxation rate in 50 years. It all comes down to keeping more of your money in your pocket, and as your MP, I will advocate for more of the same.

Jacqui Gingras (New Democratic Party): 

What has been your biggest career success?

Becoming a university professor has been my biggest career success. My doctorate is in education, health, and sociology. As a university professor, I have the tremendous honour to work with students who are preparing to be future health care professionals. 

I think it’s so important to help them understand their role as advocates for their future patients/clients. These students have the power to change the way health and community care is provided. In my approach, I emphasize the big picture, which includes how individual choices and societal factors influence health. Our health care system is in desperate need of modernization and I’m really excited to be helping move the next generation of health practictioners in that direction.

Who is a role model in your life and why?

My role models are artists and poets including Emily Carr, Audre Lorde, and Muriel Rukeyser. These women used their creativity and courage to shine a light on injustices in their lives and through their art they were able to bring about social change. They committed their entire lives to helping others and they never gave up. I am deeply inspired by their work, their tenacity, and their sense of purpose. As well, they were able to see the beauty in the world even though they were confronting very dark issues such as environmental degradation, discrimination, and abuse of human rights. I am strengthened in my own purpose through their contributions.

How would this relate to you being our MP?

I think the Canada we live in today is very different from the Canada that we all learned to be proud of. 

We need to role up our sleeves and work in a very determined way to build a nation that is compassionate, has integrity, possesses a generosity of spirit, and is future-looking. The solutions of the past may no longer work and we need to be creative about how we solve our national problems in an economically realistic way.  I am certain it can be done and we can build a country that we are proud to hand down to our children.

Canada’s most revered MPs are not afraid to take a stand and to use their voices in support of those who are disadvantaged by hunger, poverty, discrimination, or violence. MPs such as Libby Davies who defends human rights, Niki Ashton who demands justice for Indigenous People, and Nathan Cullen who stands up for our environment are inspirations to me and many other Canadians. Their service to Canada is exemplified by integrity, ethics, and perseverance. These are personal qualities that I have brought to my professional life and what I would bring as a Member of Parliament in this riding.


That’s a wrap for round one folks. A big thanks once again to the candidates for their commitment to dialogue. Stay tuned for responses to Question #2 and #3  next Thursday evening. The candidates will be receiving those questions shortly.

Don’t forget to send in your questions! We all will benefit!

All comments in this series are moderated. If you don’t see your comment show up right away please be patient.  I don’t spend my whole day in front of a CPU.

Complete information on Aim High’s Commenting Policy is here.


Author: Tim Lavery

Aim High Salmon Arm It matters

3 thoughts on “Federal Election 2015 Question #1 for the North Okanagan – Shuswap candidates …”

  1. Please pass this link on to anyone who is interested in researching the candidates. By the Oct 19 election date, there should be a wide range of responses to numerous reader-submitted questions. There’ll also be an easy way to review previous Q&A’s once they start to accumulate. Stay tuned!

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