Feature Story                                                                                                       Friday, April 12, 2013                      

Home Is Where The Heart Is

Kicking back with MLA O'Mahony

Staff/Voice photos


Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony invited a few close friends to a dinner in support of her campaign last Saturday. Above, Fin Donnelly talks about his experiences in federal politics.


ome is where the heart is. That’s where incumbent Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O’Mahony found all the heart she’ll ever need to win the riding May 14 and keep her seat in Victoria.


O’Mahony is ready to release the hounds. The writ drops Tuesday. On Saturday she’s opening her campaign office at the Chilliwack Mall.


Seizing upon a rare opportunity to unwind and relax with friends, O’Mahony held a fundraiser dinner Saturday at her newly purchased home in Chilliwack.


It was a laid back and relaxing and affair. The small, close-knit group of supporters laughed, clicked glasses and wore silly things on their heads. Even O’Mahony joked about the $100 hamburgers.


But those campaign signs cost money. The advertising costs money. With the provincial election closing in at breakneck speed, candidates are scrambling for cash.


At one point in the evening New Westminster-Coquitlam & Port Moody MP Fin Donnelly, who was also elected in a by-election, offered guests some insights into his run for office.


But first he lauded O’Mahony saying he thought she was “spectacular” and they want to keep her as the MLA.


Donnelly said he was impressed right off the bat with O’Mahony after reading her campaign pamphlet that said she had a “better chance of pole vaulting Mt. Cheam than getting elected” in the Chilliwack-Hope riding.


“What does that tell you about this person?” he asked.


“It says that she has some humility, but she also wants to take on big challenges and Chilliwack is better off to have Gwen as an MLA. She is grounded in the community, and she's real and authentic. That's why I certainly can relate to Gwen, and I think that's why others relate to her as she pulls a great team around her.”


Donnelly’s twin riding has seen wild vote swings between the NDP and Conservatives in the past. He calls his 2009 by-election win a “narrow victory” despite getting 2300 (50 per cent) more votes than the opposition.


Donnelly acknowledged that like his own riding, Chilliwack-Hope will also be a tough one to win in a general election.


He also spoke about party leader Adrian Dix having “great energy” and approaching the election wisely.


“He's really being calm, and calculating, and focused. And the thing that really impresses me is that he's being very positive.”


Donnelly added that Dix reminds him of former federal NDP party leader Jack Layton, who urged him to run in the New Westminster-Coquitlam riding.


“It was Jack's call. He phoned me after I'd been running as a city councilor and I eventually accepted his offer to go for it and I ran in the by-elections in 2009."


Donnelly said he has always been seen as someone who's passionate about the environment. He twice swam the length of the Fraser River to draw attention to issues threatening the health of the river.


His platform in the 2009 by-election was run on the HST, and the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run when approximately only a million retuned.  In the following years the return improved.


“They were expecting 10 million, and when you look at it historically, it's a low run, but much better, obviously, than one million.”




“So, we were calling for a judicial inquiry to the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye and to Harper's credit, he did call for one,” Donnelly said referring to the Cohen Commission.


He says proper management of the environment is critical in maintaining the health of the community, but also cites jobs and the economy as contributing factors as well.


“It’s really important that we focus on a healthy environment and that we build an economy that respects our environment, and that we build the community around those principles.”


Donnelly says the federal NDP went from 37 MPs to over 100 since he took his seat.


He talks candidly about his experience in the House of Commons in Ottawa.


“I used to sit, when I first came in, on the very backrow way off in the corner on the opposition side. Now, I get to sit in the second row almost across from Harper.”



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