• By: Dan Donovan

Goldie Ghamari is the smart choice for the new riding of Carleton

Goldie Ghamari is Authentic, Intelligent and Impressive

Doug Ford and the Ontario Provincial Conservatives have some impressive candidates running in the national capital region in the June Election. Golsa (Goldie) Ghamari is at the top of that list. She is campaigning for the seat in the newly created provincial riding of Carleton which encompasses the outer suburbs and rural areas in the east, south and west of Ottawa, including Stittsville, and closely matches the boundaries of the riding that Pierre Poilievre won for the Conservatives in the 2015 federal election. Ghamari is a 33-year-old international trade and business lawyer, community volunteer and small business owner. She is thoughtful, bright, articulate and feisty and is a compelling choice for residents of Carleton who are fed up with the scandals, corruption and misspending of the Wynne Liberal government.

Ghamari’s narrative is the story of Canada. Her parents emigrated from Iran in 1986 and worked hard to build a successful new life and raise a family in Canada. Her father had a career as an electrician and her mother works at a not-for-profit. They taught Goldie and her sister (an aerospace engineer) that the road to success comes through hard work, determination, responsibility and sacrifice and they always stressed the importance of giving something back to your community. Ghamari completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto and then attended law school at the University of Ottawa. After graduating she worked at Hazlolaw Business Lawyers specializing in international trade law and dispute resolution. In 2013, she became a legal counsel to CEO Peter Clark at Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates and started her own boutique international trade and commercial litigation law firm, Golsa Ghamari Professional Corporation (GGPC). She remained an active vice president at the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization and as a board member and sponsorship chair at Women’s Business Network of Ottawa. Her spouse Wayne is a professor of statistics at Carleton University.

Ghamari says she enjoys her work as a lawyer but at times finds the constraints of the law frustrating. “When you work on a case the best part is when it is finally settled and you can see what’s been achieved. A frustrating part of the law or litigation or being in court is that judges are often constrained by what they can do. They empathize with you and your client but their hands can be tied because they must make decisions within the parameters of the law and sometimes the law doesn’t provide the necessary conditions for a particular decision or for change. Sometimes laws need to be changed or updated and that’s the role of legislators,” says Ghamari.

Ghamari says she never thought of the possibility of putting her name forward to run for public office. However, in late 2014 and early 2015 she had many conversations with Manny Montenegrino, a respected lawyer, mentor and longtime Conservative party activist who had represented former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They talked about the law and courts and cases and the frustrations that go with it. He had encouraged Ghamari to think about using her skills as a lawyer and business person in a different arena-politics. He convinced her that she could make a positive difference on a whole series of issues if she was a legislator. “It was a shift in thinking for me to get my head around being a candidate – up to that point I never saw myself running for elected office,” says Ghamari. She then spoke to her friend Chris Froggatt, who had also served as the former chief of staff to John Baird. Baird was one of the most successful and popular Tory politicians in the region in the past half century and was respected by friends and foes alike. Frogget also encouraged Ghamari to run which gave her a real boost of confidence. After more reflection and discussions with her spouse and family she took the plunge and ran for the Conservative nomination in the new provincial riding of Carleton, in November 2016. She won a rather cantankerous nomination race by bringing a positive “can do” message that tested her political skills and seemed to resonate well with local Conservative party members.

When asked why provincial politics, Ghamari says that, “I’m a lawyer but I’m also a small business person and the biggest threat to small business in Ontario is the Wynne government. Their policies are literally driving people out of business. It’s very frustrating. I'm thirty-three. I was eighteen when the Liberals became the government. I don’t see what they have done over the past fifteen years to help my generation. I have friends and colleagues who can’t get full time jobs, they don’t have the ability to purchase homes, and they can’t afford to start a family because things are so unaffordable. Ghamari pauses and adds, “I believe the Wynne Liberal government is out of touch with the challenges that everyday families face. I talk to people in this riding everyday-small business owners, farmers and families are stressed out from excessively high hydro rates and provincial government red-tape and taxes that continue to drive people into debt and literally out of business. Mom and pop enterprises and farmers and other businesses in Carleton are shutting down because of the price of hydro.” She cited one farmer whose energy bill is at over 100k per month. “For energy”, she exclaims. “It’s crazy, but it is happening because of bad government and misguided policy”. She says the distinctly different rates charged by Ottawa Hydro and Hydro One are "very problematic and something that needs to be addressed. I talk to seniors and pensioners who are very stressed because they are on fixed monthly incomes and are having trouble paying their hydro bills. I know one widower who pays $300 a month in hydro bills for his small home.” Ghamari believes that the Wynne government interference in the economy has “sapped the strength and ability of people to operate businesses”.

When asked about the Wynne government propensity over the past few years to attack Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, an independent and nonpartisan officer of the legislature who has revealed corruption and waste in road-building and highway contracts, eHealth excesses, hospital horror stories, and cap and trade troubles, Ghamari says that the Conservatives will respect the findings and work of the Auditor General, and not attack her for those findings. “Her job is to point out problems”, says Ghamari, adding “that this is what she is paid to do as an officer of the legislature.” Ghamari says that people in Carleton “are tired of the waste and mismanagement of the past 15 years and want change". She hopes that if elected she can encourage government to encourage programs for young people that teach financial literacy and how businesses work. She says another area of opportunity for young people today is with apprenticeships and the trades. “There is a skills shortage in Ontario and the trades are an excellent career choice for young people today, whether it’s in construction, manufacturing, environmental technologies or healthcare,” says Ghamari. She says she is opposed to government giving handouts. “I’ve always believed smaller government is better and that the government is there to help people out, not to get in their way or to tell them what to do or how to run their business.” She believes government is there to provide “hand ups, not hand-outs.”

If elected Ghamari says there are immediate things a Conservative government would do to start to provide relief. This includes repealing the controversial Green Energy Act and reviewing all energy contracts the Liberals signed to see if there are exit clauses or legal options to get out of them. “It’s incredible that we have these hidden contracts negotiated by the Wynne Liberals that taxpayers can’t see”, says Ghamari.

Last October, Ghamari started a series with her constituents called Carleton Conversations. She invited residents to attend six forums between October 2017 and April 5, 2018 and provide feedback on six key topics. To date she has a forum on Agriculture, Seniors and Long Term Care, Healthcare, Small Business and Hydro. The final forum on Education takes place April 5, 2018.

Ghamari says a common theme emerging from all the first five forums is frustration with the government. She says that residents of Carleton are all very hard working people and they are telling her that no one in government is paying attention to their needs or concerns and many feel that the Wynne government is not doing what is in their best interests. Another worry residents have is the lack of infrastructure for public services and public transit. Ghamari cites the Rural Ottawa Seniors Services (ROSS www.rosss.ca ) who work diligently for seniors "but can only do so much because demand is so high and there is a lack of long-term care facilities and front line workers in the riding". She says she got the same message when she visited the Osgoode Care Centre (www.osgoodecare.ca), 100-bed charitable long term care home, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. It is home to 99 permanent residents with one short-stay bed. Ghamari's outreach to various groups across the riding seems to be paying dividends. In addition to her involvement and volunteer work several community organizations including the Ottawa-Carleton Plowmen’s Association and the Kiwanis Club of Manotick, she volunteers at local church suppers, and attends community fundraisers. She has visited the Youth of Manotick Association, (www.yoma.ca), the Osgoode Youth Association(www.o-ya.ca), the Osgoode Ward Business Association (owba.ca) and the West Ottawa Board of Trade (westottawabot.com) to get their input on local matters and listen to their concerns. "I think one of the most important things for me to do when interacting with constituents is to be a good listener," says Ghamari. "If you listen to what people are saying, it becomes pretty clear what their priorities are and what needs to be done for our community", she says. Her support and popularity in the riding was evident on Saturday March 24, 2018 when over 150 local residents stopped by to say hello and wish her well at what was billed as the grand opening of her campaign office.

Ghamari’s brochures all say “It’s Time for Change in Ontario.” As the Progressive Conservative candidate for the Provincial Riding of Carleton, she is committed to lowering rates by canceling the Green Energy Act and reducing Hydro Once CEO´s $4.4 million salary and bonuses. She says the Conservatives will focus on increasing healthcare services and improving health care access for families, seniors, and people with disabilities. They will also ensure Ontario is focused on creating a skilled workforce through meaningful vocational education and college training, and she is committed to maintaining and strengthening the rights to the private property.

Ghamari represents positive generational change. She has never forgotten her roots and the values she was taught regarding the importance of working hard and giving back. For Goldie and her family, Canada and more specifically, Ottawa-Carleton was the land of opportunity. Her parents worked hard to ensure Goldie and her sister had the education, discipline and work ethic to succeed. She is smart and genuine. The Carleton riding would be well served in sending her to the Ontario legislature in June.