- Name: Stephanie Cadieux
- Party: B.C. Liberal Party
- Age: 40
- Hometown: Lillooet, B.C.
- Marital status: Married for almost 16 years.
- Previous occupation: Director of Marketing for the B.C. Paraplegic Association
- You might not know: Cadieux was board president of Realwheels Society, a theatre company that works to deepen the audience’s understanding of the disability experience. She has also appeared in two commercials.
- Cabinet positions: Minister of Children and Family Development, formerly Minister of Social Development, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister of Labour, Citizens Services and Open Government.
Most recently employed as B.C.’s Minister of Children and Family Development and a veteran of three previous cabinet positions, it’s easy to forget Liberal Stephanie Cadieux was first elected in 2009, making her a relative newcomer to provincial politics.
The race in Surrey-Cloverdale is only her second election campaign, and, like her NDP opponent, she’s not the incumbent in this riding. She’s currently MLA for Surrey-Panorama.
Cadieux may be running here for the first time, but she’s not unknown; she’s co-helmed long-running Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon’s entry at the ever-popular Cloverdale Chili Cook-off during Rodeo Week, and has several times addressed the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce luncheons – often on short notice, showcasing her considerable (and seemingly effortless) public speaking skills.
Before entering politics, Cadieux worked in the non-profit sector, most recently for the B.C. Paraplegic Association, in addition to other volunteer groups, where she brought her skills in marketing and finance to the table, working to raise the profile of issues and needs on behalf of people with disabilities.
“I ended up, somewhat by default, doing advocacy on behalf of these organizations and the people that they serve,” she told The Reporter in a recent interview. “I thought my skills might be better served or used on the other side of the table. I’m a very pragmatic person, which made me a not terribly good advocate.”
She realized her calling lay on the other side of the table, in government, to help set priorities.
Some politicians have a personal desire to run for public office and seek it out, she says. Others get approached.
When the call came for Cadieux (and she doesn’t volunteer from whom or where it came) in 2009, she had been thinking about being more involved and engaged in politics, but she hadn’t considered running for office.
After talking it over with her husband, she decided to go for it, running in the nearby riding of Surrey-Panorama.
She set out to win, and she did, garnering 54.3 per cent of the vote. Still, she admits it was a bit of a shock on election night. But if she experienced any misgivings or doubts, they quickly vanished, and she flourished under the mentorship and friendship of veteran Liberal caucus members such as Kevin Falcon and Langley’s Mary Polak.
“It has been an absolutely tremendous experience,” says Cadieux, who suffered a spinal cord injury at 18, and is only the second B.C. MLA to use a wheelchair.
“I am thoroughly engaged in running again, and this time it’s in Surrey-Cloverdale, where I live, which is even better. It has really been an honour.”
Cadieux finds it rewarding to take people’s concerns and have them heard at the table, and have a meaningful impact.
As an MLA, she’s found the biggest challenge is hearing from enough of her constituents, which explains why she was quick to embrace social media, particularly Twitter, to converse with voters and residents. The posts from her twitter account @MLACadieux are frequent, friendly and informative.
She agrees social media has been an important mechanism for keeping in touch with what’s going on at home when she’s busy in Victoria. She says the travel schedule for MLAs means they’re not in their home ridings every day, and when the legislature is in session, MLAs only have the weekends to connect with constituents in person.
Now that the writ has dropped, and the 28-day campaign period has begun, Cadieux’s ministerial duties will take a backseat so she can concentrate on the election.
She will be door-knocking, and she and her campaign volunteers will be manning the phones. She promises to be available to meet and talk with people, whether it’s one-on-one or at coffee parties, or events. “I will be places, and let people know to come and find me.”
Cadieux, who studied marketing and personal finance, sees the economy as a key issue, and even though most people might put it further down on their list of concerns, it’s her top priority for Surrey-Cloverdale.
“It is something people think about every day, whether they have a job, their job is putting food on the table and supporting their family, whether they’re able to have a successful small business, and I think that’s important in Cloverdale, because we have so many small businesses. Really, our economy is highly driven by small business. The overall health of the B.C. economy, and the tax structure, they matter to people.”
Growth in Surrey is also a key issue.
“In many respects this is a municipal issue, however it impacts things that we provincially regulate or manage, like schools. So, the question around Surrey schools in terms of enrolment and the need for new schools is super high on the list. It’s high on my list. It’s high on my cabinet’s list,” she says. “We have been talking about it every chance we get over there [in Victoria] to make sure people understand that Surrey’s different.”
Cadieux says she and fellow Surrey MLAs Kevin Falcon and Dave Hayer have worked hard to bring up the issue of Surrey’s population growth up regularly with their political colleagues.
In February, the government announced that it would build a new high school in Surrey’s Clayton North area. The $34 million facility would only be completed in September 2016, according to school district officials.
“The investments are great but we need more,” she says. “It’s a similar issue throughout Surrey, however, Panorama, Cloverdale, are two of the biggest areas of growth, with the biggest pressures. We’ve seen a good number of investments of the last 10 years, and that’s where I expect we’ll see the next ones as well, as those are the top priorities of the [Surrey School] District, too.”
Looking beyond the riding, Cadieux stresses that a strong economy is critical for the province, and unless the B.C. economy grows, there will be difficult decisions ahead.
“Having held two of the social ministries and a service industry, I know how important those services are and what we do there,” she says. “We would always like to do more. In order to do that, we need to raise more revenues and most of us, personally, don’t want to do that through taxes. So we have to then find a way of growing the economy, growing salaries, so, proportionally, we’re not taking that money.”