Candidate profile: Jennifer Clarke, Vancouver Centre, Conservative Party
The first time Jennifer Clarke ran for office, people told her not to be disappointed; nobody wins the first time out. Much to her surprise, she won.
That’s how she became one of Vancouver’s city councillors in 1993.
“And it was great,” she says. “I was a working parent, working on behalf of my neighbors.”
I was able to catch federal Conservative Party candidate Clarke for a phone interview between meetings, toward the end of another long day of campaigning.
Clarke started her professional life as a journalist and made her way into activism through a prickly issue in her community — a rezoning that pitted newer immigrants against long time residents. It was so controversial and confusing that Clarke decided it was better to get a group together to meet quietly and negotiate a solution that everyone could understand and that would meet most everyone’s needs.
When the group presented their idea to then-mayor Gordon Campbell, he said something like: “What happened to you people? This was a contentious issue, and now it’s a love-in.”
Clarke says she’s “inspired by the capacity of people to set aside differences and work together, the resilience of the human spirit, striving for community in the broadest and best sense of that word.”
She establishes the ground for “civil dialogue about issues” and not personalities. “People are sick of elections,” she says. “They’d rather see parliamentarians doing the work of government than fighting with each other. It’s more important for voters to know what you’re going to do for them than the rhetoric.”
And what does Clarke think are the issues that most concern Vancouverites?
Homelessness is a top priority — the plight of those who not only need housing but also mental-health support.
The economy, jobs, lower taxes.
Fair immigration. “We need immigrants,” she says. “We need their skills. And they want to come to Canada to enjoy the freedom and opportunities. Last year, we took in more immigrants than we have since the end of World War II. We need to keep clearing up the backlog of unprocessed immigrants.”
Community safety. While Clarke says we need to keep prosecuting criminals, it’s not enough. “Early prevention programs and after-school programs for youth at risk are really important,” she says.
And continued improvement of public transit, a subject of particular interest to her as a past member of the TransLink Board.
What is she proudest of?
The Canada Line, for one. And the rezoning of False Creek and Coal Harbour — “creating new communities,” she says. “We worked hard on that.”
When I mention her absence at the West End Community Centre All Candidates Meeting on April 17, she explains she was already scheduled for the Sun Run. “I’m not sure what happened,” she says.
Not that she’s afraid of public debate. Clearly she can hold her own in the company of her opponents, as evidenced by the All Candidates Meeting broadcast by CBC Radio earlier this month.
Nevertheless, she seems to prefer smaller gatherings, “meeting voters personally, knocking on doors, and in small group meetings.”
“Some people are shy,” she explains. “They don’t feel they can ask their question in a large group.”
She cites an example from her time as a city councillor. One day, she got a phone message from a woman who asked why we were putting grass clippings into the garbage. Wasn’t there something else we could do with them? Clarke didn’t know. It seemed like a good question, so she asked the facilities people what it would cost to separate the grass from the general waste. The answer came back that not only could the city save money and reduce what went into landfill, it could make money by composting and selling the compost.
“I’m not sure (that woman) would have shown up at a public meeting,” says Clarke. Community meetings are not always the best way to find out what constituents are thinking.
“More important than particular meetings (during the campaign) is to show up in parliament — and vote,” she continues, citing Liberal MP Hedy Fry’s poor attendance record.
Anything else she’d like us to know about her?
“I’m passionate about public service. I have a good track record. I work hard. I can take a tough decision and stand by it, and still be open to constituents. I’ll be a strong voice for Vancouver on the government side of the table.”
For more information about Jennifer Clarke and her views, visit: http://vancouverconservative.com/