Disclaimer: Ashley Teixeira is a Director for the VP Internal for the University of Calgary Campus Conservative Club, and is a volunteer for her local candidate.
As the Conservative candidate in the Northern B.C. riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, Claire decided to run for federal office after a successful term as a Kitimat councillor, having escaped the clutches of homelessness and poverty eight years prior.
Delving into the topics of resource development, women in politics, as well as the adversity she has faced, Claire provides her take on the Conservative movement in Canada.
TPM: Claire, having moved from Vancouver to Kitimat as a 19-year-old, you went on to serve as a Kitimat municipal councillor as well as own and operate a tattoo shop. Can you delve a little into what shaped/influenced your political values today?
CR: Yeah. I think that being a small business owner and understanding the value of fiscal responsibility [where I made] sacrifices to ensure that my employees were paid on time and paid well – all of those factors, while also running a household, helped to shape my views. That was one of the key things that I carried forward into my work as a school councillor, I paid a lot of attention to where we were spending money, where we were getting the most effective use for it, [and that] we were operating not only within our means but within what would be best for the community.
TPM: How has this journey been for you, as a CPC candidate, compared to your term as a councillor in Kitimat?
CR: Well, I think there are distinct differences. I mean, the sheer size of the riding, the number of people that you could potentially be representing, the number of contacts that you have to make, and that’s why I put so much time and effort into my door knocking.
I’ve been on the doors every day, thousands of doors. We’re getting closer and closer to 10,000 doors, which in a riding of this size, and this type of geography is monumental. It’s not an easy task by any means. I think that that is one of the biggest differences, and then also coupling that with the fact that you’re not just looking at one community issue, you’re looking at issues from a very, very wide variety of communities that are facing unique struggles, and finding ways to find solutions for all.
TPM: The importance of the $40 billion investment into the BC LNG project was crucial for your riding. What discussions are you having at the doors regarding the importance of resource development?
CR: I would say that the majority of residents in this riding are in favour of the energy industry. That’s been made pretty evident by the amount of community support the project has had among First Nations that have signed on to agreements with them. The fact is, this project has unprecedented levels of community support. And I think that there’s a couple of reasons for that.
I mean, one is the LNG Canada has been a fantastic partner to work with. They have invested in the community, and [are] good corporate citizens. They spend the time to educate people on what the realities of liquefied natural gas are and ensure that they mitigate as much of the possible negative impacts as they can. So by and large, the majority, the vast majority of people in this riding, are very much in favour of the LNG project.
I’ve also had a few conversations with people that weren’t so in favour or were sitting on the fence. And the majority of those people don’t understand the differences between liquefied natural gas and oil [and their subsequent impacts]. So they assume that it’s very similar to oil being put in a pipeline. With just a little bit of that education in this area, people realize that some of their fears were unfounded.
TPM: For the past few years, conflicts between B.C. and Alberta have persisted regarding TMX. Given private investment has helped rejuvenate Haisla First Nation in the past decade, is there any hope for constructive dialogue on the environment and resource development, moving forward?
CR: I’ll be honest. I very rarely hear about it. It rarely comes up at the doors. It did come up in one of the debates we’ve had so far, just very briefly, and it was only centred around how do the candidates feel about the federal Liberals and the pipeline. So that’s not a big topic in my riding; people are much more focused on LNG. I think the [uncertainty felt] was simply because of the Enbridge project. And people believed that this LNG project is very similar to the Northern Gateway pipeline, which of course it isn’t.
When it comes to that environmental piece, I think that again, it just comes down to education and helping people to understand the significant positive impact that a project like this will have on our environment. When you look at things from a global scale, which we should be doing when it comes to our environment because the environment and climate change don’t know boundaries of countries and continents.
We, in Canada, only produce about 1.6 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the world. When we look at countries, specifically China, for example, where they’re burning a lot of coal, projects like liquefied natural gas can help them transition away from coal-burning and do more good for the environment overall. At the same time, we have the economic benefit that comes along with having a project like this, because we get more educational opportunities, more employment opportunities, there’s more money being invested back into our local economy here. So it’s a win-win on both sides.
TPM: How important is it for the CPC to continue attracting more women to run for office in a profession once dominated by men?
CR: In my experience, my party has in no way been trying to specifically recruit within that environment for something that is a requirement for some of the other parties. We’re looking at people that are qualified to do the job, and that want to step forward. So I wasn’t in any way recruited. I came forward and said, this is something I want to do. And I’m very grateful that the party has accepted me so well, mainly because I’m not just a woman. I’m also young and a little “alternative looking” because I’m covered in tattoos and piercings. The response I’ve received has been so warm and so welcoming.
I believe we’re seeing more women stepping forward, because we [elected] a fake feminist Prime Minister, who espouses his views of gender equality and gender parity in his cabinet. He was all about what builds women up, and yet, he didn’t attract women that were, for the most part, qualified for their positions. That is why we’re in some of the situations that we are now in Canada, because people were elected to positions that they weren’t ready to take on.
Something that I’ve always really admired about my party is that the women that we have in this party are more than capable. They’re absolute powerhouses. They have proven time and time again that women are capable of doing these things, bringing their A-game. They know what they’re talking about, do their research, and have great role models.
For me, that’s been Michelle Rempel, who I’m so grateful to call my friend and my mentor. Watching her give speeches is what motivated me to get involved and realize that I can be taken seriously. That I can do these things. People shouldn’t vote for somebody simply because they’re a woman. You should vote for the person if they’re the best for the job. I’m the only woman running in this riding, if that were a valid argument, I would be using it, but I’m not.
TPM: The leader of your party was quoted, saying, “Diversity is the result of our strength, and our strength is and has always been our freedom.” How crucial is this sort of messaging, moving forward, during and after the election?
CR: Yeah, I think it is important that people realize that – and it’s one of the biggest stigmas that I like breaking about my party because I think there’s been there’s been this stigma that we are a party of middle-aged white men and that there’s no diversity. But there truly is, and I have an excellent little anecdote to share with you, that kind of sums that up for me.
During my time as a municipal councillor, I’m sure most people already recognize that, for the most part, municipal politics is dominated by more left-leaning politicians. I attended many different conventions, UBCM, FCM, and CLGA and had the opportunity to speak with many other municipal councillors and mayors and connect. So at every single one of those that I went to, at least once during the event, I would have somebody say something just absolutely awful to me.
People have mistaken me for a waitress quite often and tried to get me to bring them drinks. I had people tell me that there’s no way I could have been elected, I must have been acclaimed. People that didn’t believe me and tried to get me removed from events because they thought I was lying about being a municipal councillor. There was a lot of verbal abuse from people in those settings.
I remember one specific time that I was at FCM, so all across Canada, we’ve got municipal councillors, and the mayor’s at this event. And I’m going up an escalator, and there was a well-known mayor from another community coming down the escalator with a friend of his, and he looked me up and down and looked at my tattoos and said that I was “everything that’s wrong with this country.”
And so I went into politics, thinking that I would struggle to have anyone take me seriously and give me the chance to speak before they made a judgment based on my appearance. And so again, that’s why somebody like Michelle Rempel, stood out to me, and I realized that I am capable.
The biggest thing for me that opened my eyes up to this is I attended the Conservative convention last year in Halifax. This was the first convention of a political nature that I did not have a single rude comment from anyone. People that I didn’t know were coming up to me and told me how excited they were that I was there. And that it made them very proud to see this younger generation getting involved and that they understand our values. The amount of positive reinforcement I received, if my mind wasn’t already made up, it was then.
I think that quite often we hear left-leaning politicians speaking loudly about how they are so tolerant, and yet, their tolerance only goes so far as you agree with them. If you disagree with them, they’ll pick on you for anything, whether it’s your gender, your age, you know, the way you look, it doesn’t seem to matter. They are only tolerant to a certain point, and that’s about as far as it goes if you agree with what they think.
So the irony to me is that I’ve had a lot of abuse throughout this. It’s been from people making fun of the way I look or saying that I’m too young or inexperienced, or I’m a woman and picking on me for that. So I think it was a stark parallel between what people have come to believe, just from what they hear in the media and things of that nature and my actual lived experience with that.