Conservative Party of Canada
Occupation: President of the University of Victoria-owned Vancouver Island Technology Park and the Marine Technology Centre
Previous elected experience: None
Community involvement: Saanich transportation planning and development committee member 2005-2008; co-founder of Power to Play for autistic children; founder of Canadian Association of University Research Parks
High-tech industry leader Dale Gann set out as a boy wanting to be a firefighter like his grandfather, Alf Adamson, or a sailor like his great-grandfather, Daddy Gann.
He joined the sea cadets in the footsteps of Jack Gann, whom he calls "the father of Swiftsure," and Daddy Gann, a naval architect who, he said, created the junior program for sailing at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. By age 20, he and a friend navigated a 30-foot sailboat to Hawaii.
But his firefighting and sailing dreams changed after walking into the Vancouver Island Technology Park in May 2002. Three years later, he was president of the University of Victoria-owned enterprise.
It's a success story that doesn't always impress voters on the doorsteps in poorer neighbourhoods of Victoria. They ask what the seemingly well-off fourth-generation Victorian could possibly know of their struggles.
"They wonder who opened doors for me; I tell them I walked through them all myself," Gann said. "I grew up here. I had tough times here. I understand."
But he doesn't elaborate about his life that took him from Fairfield in Victoria to Colville Street in Esquimalt. He says his grandparents taught him: "Shoulders back, young fellow and look proud; walk forward." And so he goes to the next doorstep.
Gann was just 12 when his mother was murdered, shot to death.
By age 17, his father had committed suicide. Both deaths were drug-related.
Gann was born to high-school age parents Peter and Carol Gann, 17 and 16, respectively. Within years, his parents separated and shared parenting of Dale and his brother, Ryan. The boys were fed three square meals a day, taught good manners and were dressed properly.
Their parents were home in the morning and night and supervised their homework. "They were good parents."
But Dale grew aware of the increasingly bad element hanging around his mother. He tried to shield his brother.
"We went to Wilkinson Road jail to visit people," Gann said, of their regular outings to visit his mother's friends. "I'd tell my brother Ryan we were going to the castle and that's where they guard the gold.
"It's all hard to put into words, but it was what it was," Gann said.
On Oct. 18, 1980, Gann came home from school to find the house empty. By 9: 30 p.m. he went to the corner store - the family didn't have a phone - to call his grandparents. The next day, he began to canvass the neighbourhood.
"I knocked on people's doors and asked if they saw my mom because she didn't come home." On the road, he talked to a man in a car, an acquaintance of his mother. "I asked him, 'Do you know where my mom is,' and he said 'No,'" Gann recalls. "But he had already killed her, I learned later."
The day after Christmas, he was told his mother's body had been found.
The local man was caught, convicted and later killed himself.
The next few years, Gann's father worked hard as a carpenter to give his boys a stable life. And he did. But life was hard for him. One day he was introduced to cocaine and instantly hooked, Gann said. "I saw him go from strong to weak."
In 1985 Peter Gann killed himself, leaving Dale, 17, and Ryan, 13.
"Life has given me a great perspective," Gann said. "The way I enjoy my life is to contribute and help others and to try to be an example, I guess."
Gann took firefighter training and he was enrolled in criminology at Camosun College. Then he met venture capitalist Donald Flynn, who sold him on the future of the "knowledge-based economy."
He gave Gann a job reviewing business plans for Flynn Ventures, based in San Francisco. Gann entered the field at the height of the dot-com bubble in 2000 - just prior to the bust in 2001.
It was May 2002 when he walked into Vancouver Island's new technology park trying to sell a piece of online scheduling software called Book King. He says he walked out with a vision of the park as an economic driver for the community - more than just real estate to be rented out.
Gann became president of the technology park in 2005.
A working parent, he has three children: Connor, 17; Marina, 15; and Asia, 9. His partner is Connie Ahern.
"There was no job posting," Gann said. And "there was a lot of skepticism around the role of this 200,000-squarefoot park really becoming something.
"But I really stuck to the principles that we have to help companies ... how many kids and people can we create jobs for."
The technology park and the Marine Technology Centre generate an annual regional economic impact of approximately $380 million.
The facilities employ 1,300 people and rent space to 36 companies, he said. "I've shown Victoria that within the role I was given that I was able to create a vision and work together with people and get things done," Gann said.
"I care about Victoria. I am from Victoria. I have been a champion for Victoria and I've demonstrated that together we can get things done." Gann regularly admits at all-candidates' meetings he doesn't have all the answers and he's learning. He said he's a constituency man more than a party man, and his role as an MP is less about what he thinks and more about taking to Ottawa what Victoria thinks.
To that end, in an all-candidates meeting, Gann was asked if he was going to take the message about the lack of child care, especially for financially struggling parents, back to the Conservatives.
"You're damn right I'll take that to Ottawa," Gann said.
Q&A: DALE GANN
Top three issues:
1) The key to our economy here is growing our knowledge-based economy and supporting small businesses. To me the most needed conversation is where we are going as a community and what economy are we building and how are we all working together on that.
2) I support a phased-in long-term regional transportation strategy that includes consideration of all modes of transport, from light rail to the E&N railway. We need a cohesive short-term and long-term plan. We have to step back and create that regional master plan for transportation.
3) Job creation - champion entrepreneurship, build more companies that offer jobs for youth, attract investment into research and into small companies and finally the retention of local talent and attraction of seasoned management from abroad.
Proposed $783-million secondary sewage plant which has received tripartite funding commitments from the federal, provincial and regional governments:
We don't want to lose the funding; however, we want to spend taxpayer dollars appropriately. That's the problem with the current plan. You don't want to build something because you have the money; you want to build it because it solves the problem. That's what scientists and citizens are saying - they are not convinced the current plan is solving the greatest problem [contaminants getting into the ocean through faulty storm sewers]. We have to pause and we have to do our full due diligence before we proceed. As your member of Parliament, I want to take that message to Ottawa.
E&N: We've got to step back and create a regional master plan for transportation.
Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta oilsands to Kitimat: I'm happy to see a government saying they've chosen to have an independent group [the Joint Review Panel mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board] to go out and listen to Canadians and listen to First Nations and listen to citizens and that there's a process in place to be heard. I hope everyone looks through a lens of environmental, scientific, financial and social responsibility. ... I am not an environmental scientist, so I want to see this process come to conclusion and I want to read and hear from those members on the panel. Let's wait and review the outcome.
Canada is blessed with natural resources and we have to find a way to bring them to market and into our homes. We can't continue to pay for crumbling infrastructure, health care, and education by increasing taxes or passing on debt to the next generation, so we need to support the development of a stronger economy and manage our resources.
Homelessness: I grew up [for a period of time] in Esquimalt and went to Blan-shard Elementary and Vic West Elementary. I recognize the need for help set out by the Coalition to End Homelessness.... We need to help get the chronic homeless - constantly drawing resources from police, fire, ambulance and caregivers - [off the street] so we can spend more time and energy on the at-risk.
Victoria has a need and has identified a way to help and I'm going to bring that message to Ottawa.
Canada-China Investment Treaty: When I hear a government trying to develop - our Harper government - an arrangement where our companies can have some comfort in doing business in China, I think it's a good thing. I believe that any step that will allow our companies to do business in Asia and protect their corporate rights and intellectual property is a good thing because we can't not do business with Asia.
- Answers are based on interviews with the Times Colonist and have been edited for clarity.
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