As Conservative candidate Sharon Vokey prepared to hit the road in what she calls her ‘mobile headquarters,’ she took a few moments to share her vision for this place she calls home
Sharon Vokey knows she’s in for a few bumps in the road – literally and figuratively – as she heads out to meet voters in the rural and rambling district of Bonavista-Burin-Trinity. With the sour taste still lingering in some mouths from the ABC (Anything But Conservative) campaign launched by then premier Danny Williams during the 2008 federal election, Vokey says all she can really do is campaign on her word and take the high road.
“I live in Trinity – in historic, beautiful Trinity – and I married a local boy, a boat builder from the area,” she begins. She’s proud of her husband’s boat building roots, she continues. In 2007 her father-in-law, Henry Vokey, received the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador for his legacy and contribution to cultural traditions like boat building.
“My father-in-law raised a family of 13 and came from a resettled community. So there’s lots of history in the family, and that gives me a heightened sense of passion about this province of ours, I believe,” she shares.
When asked why she is running for the Conservatives, Vokey doesn’t hesitate.
“Conservative values have always been my values. I have been, for close to 30 years, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, now the Conservative Party.”
As much as she embraced and continues to embrace rural Newfoundland and its traditions, she herself hasn’t always lived a stereotypical traditional life. “I’ve been married almost 30 years, and I’ve always had a very supportive husband, but where many have husbands working away, for many years it was me who left for employment, so my husband has been the one, at times, who stayed home and raised the children while I was working and only came home on the weekends.” With her family’s experiences with a one-parent household at times, Vokey offered she has a firm grasp on the issues facing so many rural families. Being a mom and a grandmother provides insight as well. Vokey is a mom of two grown children and has been blessed with three grandchildren.
“I’m delighted they live close by so I can visit them all the time. That’s not the case for everyone, as so many have had to move away for employment. Raising a family in a rural area, you understand the plight of the seasonal worker. You see the impacts; the positives of raising a family in a beautiful, safe setting, balanced with the stresses of limited employment opportunities.”
When asked about the legacy of the ABC campaign, Vokey says she takes such things in stride. “That was a point in our history from many perspectives,’’ she says.
“We were all upset with the position of the federal government at the time, over a particular issue. I honestly have not heard much about it while I’ve been on the campaign trail at all.”
Vokey knows she has much ground to cover.
“Oh! My heart! This district is vast. But, it’s always been a dream of mine to run, so I just jumped in with both feet. I’ve put a sign on my mobile home and I’m calling it mobile headquarters and I’m doing every community in the district, so I’m coming to a town near you,” she laughs.
Vokey is well aware of the Liberal stronghold in this province with seven out of seven federal seats going red in the last election.
“People are keeping their decisions a little closer to their chest these days. I also think people are educating themselves more instead of just substantially going with the old stance of, well, I was always Tory so I’ll vote Tory or I was always Liberal.”
On her party’s leader, Andrew Scheer, Vokey says this; “Like myself and what I expect, I have to take him on his word also.” Meaning?
“A well-liked leader can help a candidate, and Andrew Scheer has been in politics for a while, but he isn’t well known on the east coast of the country, and that’s a bit of a challenge,” she says.
Truth be told, what is known perhaps hasn’t necessarily endeared him to all NL voters either, she admits. “We’d all like to have a Danny (Williams) as a leader who helps popularity numbers go through the roof, but the reality is, party leaders are people too, and sometimes they grow on you as they grow in their roles. (Scheer) has had some challenging, for me, past positions on certain topics like abortion and the rights of those in the LGBTQ community, there’s no doubt about it. But, I take him at his word that those days are gone. We need and have people from all stripes and all backgrounds running as candidates for our party. We are very diverse. And I think (Scheer) certainly realizes that now and any polarizing issues hopefully are a thing of the past.”
The Conservative Leader paid a short visit to the province on Sept. 21st, knocking on doors in St. John’s and knocking the federal Liberals while also acknowledging his party didn’t do well in Atlantic Canada last time around.
Is it time for a change? Vokey hopes so. “I think in Newfoundland it’s more a candidate as opposed to a leader that earns the mark on a ballot.”
Anything else she’d like to share?
“I’m approachable. I don’t care what party you support, I’m reachable. I always return phone calls. I talk to people directly and I’ll do whatever I can to help anybody looking for help and I’ll certainly support policies and ideas that are best for the province. In my mind, I put the province first. And we do need strong provinces to make this country strong.”