August 21, 2009
Greenfeld off to races
There was no snowstorm to walk through, but that didn't stop Rachel Greenfeld from meandering down the roads of Ottawa last month in deep contemplation.
Having just participated in a two-day "candidate training boot camp," she needed to decide whether to run for the Conservative party.
Greenfeld has been a well-known community figure since opening her social club, Campoverde, on Cypress Street, eight years ago. She has built and attracted a social network of hundreds of individuals, including various politicos in the neighborhood. Recently, several people have asked her to consider becoming a nominee in the Vancouver Centre riding, currently held by Liberal MP Hedy Fry.
"Over the course of two days [in Ottawa] I met about 700 candidates from all across Canada, including our ministers, and MPs who had run once or twice and who had not made it and people who were thinking of running for the first time," Greenfeld told a gathering at her parents' house earlier this month. "After hearing their stories, listening to their causes, finding out why they had left the private sector to go into public service and [after] walking through ... the roads of Ottawa, spending time thinking about what it's taken to make our country one of the greatest countries to live in in the world, I really felt strongly that I had something to contribute and that I would really feel proud if I could contribute on any level on a grander scheme."
Though she has never entered the political sphere before, Greenfeld is no stranger to galvanizing the community. Her club has served as a focal point for dozens of activities over the years, from birthdays to book readings to social causes.
In 2005, she took on an Adopt-a-Village Tsunami Relief project. She held meetings at her club and raised funds and resources to adopt a Thai village that had been destroyed in the disaster, enabling Vancouverites to travel to Thailand and participate in the rebuilding.
This past July, she moved the salon chairs out into the street to attract visitors and raise funds for Covenant House.
One of the reasons Greenfeld decided to make the leap to politics was because of what she saw as a lack of representation for the Vancouver Centre riding.
"I really feel if we had had proper representation in Vancouver Centre, we wouldn't have had the Cambie catastrophe [because of the Canada Line], the Granville Street catastrophe, the Yaletown issues; it's unspeakable that that was allowed to happen.
"I think now is as good a time as any [to run], especially since we are going through this monumental shift in our global economy. I think it's a great time to discuss how we can raise the bar ourselves and be more a part of what's going on across the country. Vancouver Centre is not being looked on as being a part of anything going on in Ottawa."
While she was clear on wanting more representation in Ottawa, joining the Conservatives might have been the last way she would have gone about it. The liberal-minded Greenfeld immediately got flack from those who were concerned about her moving to the "dark side."
"I think what Stephen Harper is doing, as far as keeping a steady ship going and staying fiscally responsible, is very impressive and people that he's got in place are doing a great job and are making sure that we're being responsible and we're being accountable, and that's something that's very much in line with my values as a small-business owner," said Greenfeld, who still had to be absolutely sure that she was aligned with the party's views of abortion and gay marriage.
"I am very centrist on that," she said. "I made sure I read the platforms to make sure that what they said would be supported.... As long as those things aren't coming up, I feel very comfortable being a member of the Conservative party."
At this point, being a member of the party is just a starting point. Greenfeld has to have at least 300 supporters sign up to the party as well, and then come out on Sept. 26 to put her name down as the nominee they prefer for the riding.
"It's not a vote for the Conservative part, yet," she explained. In fact, those putting her name down don't even have to stay members or even vote for her or the Conservative party during an election. "It's just a vote for the nominee for the Conservative party. And that's a very specific message."
Once she gets the 300 names, whether she becomes the official candidate to run against Fry will be determined at the next election. Most of her supporters have no doubt in her.
"Anything Rachel sets her mind to do, she does, no matter what the odds," said longtime friend Noel Golden. "Even in the context of her business – being able to obtain the space and liquor licences and get it off the ground, is a testament to her ability to get things done.... Think about how many restaurants open and close in a year. She has done this beating the odds."
Golden, a partner with Borden Ladner Gervais, is a Campoverde member who helped her set up her business. He believes Greenfeld can give a voice to a lot of people in the riding who have not been well represented.
"She brings a breath of fresh air and a slant that favors a fiscally conservative yet liberal approach to policy," he said. "With some new eyes and a different perspective on what's important to the community of Vancouver Centre, you'll have a setting of different priorities and that will be good for a lot of the business people in that riding that may not have had particular attention paid [to their concerns] with the other representation."
Vancouver Centre extends from Main Street to Arbutus and from 16th Avenue north, including all of downtown. Lorne Mayencourt, the previous Conservative representative, has not said yet whether he will throw his hat in the ring again to be a nominee. In the last election, he lost to Fry by 10,000 votes.
For more information on Greenfeld's campaign, visit rachelgreenfeld.ca.
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.