Recently TPM had the chance to sit down with Hannah Dawson-Murphy, a 22-year-old Acadia University student who has been preparing to seek the Conservative Party of Canada’s nomination for the riding of West Nova, Nova Scotia.
She has gotten attention both at home and across Canada for defying the common perception of both conservatives and young people in this country.
Hannah has a significant presence online, a campaign team, and the attitude of a serious candidate.
During her time back home in her native Prince Edward Island between her family and political business, she gave me the opportunity to talk to her about how she feels as a young candidate and what brought her to this decision.
TPM: So, Hannah, what’s your story?
HDM: Well, I grew up in Prince Edward Island and when I was 10 years old my father joined the RCMP and was posted to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. We moved there, and not long after my parents separated.
It was very difficult on me.
Through that adversity, I focused on extracurriculars in my teenage years: Air Cadets, debate team, Model United Nations team, and Students Council to name a few.
I did a lot to distract myself from my developing mental illness too. But I credit the cadet program to who I am today. It showed me responsibility and taught me lessons about serving and leadership.
During my adolescence was also the time I got interested in politics.
I started getting interested around the first time Stephen Harper was elected, I was around 10 years old at that time.
I watched Question Period everyday, I read books about politics, I was very interested in it all.
After graduating high school I went to St. Thomas University for a year before deciding I wanted to study politics. While I was figuring out which school to continue my education at, I joined the Canadian Forces as a Combat Engineer.
Shortly after being enrolled I was rear-ended and sustained an injury that made me unfit to do my job. I suffer from PTSD and chronic spinal pain, and suffering from mental illness while serving made me realize how desperately the system in the Canadian Forces needs overhauling, so I created policies that will change this system, and have worked with hundreds of our current and former service members to ensure that these policies will meet their needs.
Policy has always interested me, and it’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in politics, because policy truly makes a difference in the lives of Canadians.
TPM: You’re running to be the federal Conservative candidate for the riding of West Nova, what motivated you to start this path?
HDM: Well, when I was injured it was just as the last election was happening and the day after the last election I sat down and looked at the results and said to myself “in West Nova, in four years, we’re going to need someone strong running for the Conservatives.” I knew we needed someone fresh with a new perspective, and then I had that “why not me” moment.
Since that day I’ve been working hard to know the issues, meet people, and get the votes. It’s been a long time, but I’m doing it for the people.
Often when you’re young and running, people say that you still have “lots of time” to run. But I don’t see the point in waiting. A lot of our country is under 25, and we don’t see them represented in Parliament.
I have the life experience and the hard work ethic to represent the people of my riding now, and for a long time. I’m not here for the pension or because I’m trying to climb the ladder, I’m here to make a real difference in my riding. I grew up in a low-income household, we struggled to make ends meet a lot.
I realized at a very young age the reality that most families face, that low taxes and good jobs create prosperity and opportunities for everyone. That’s what I stand for, and that’s how I want to help my riding.
TPM: Many people would think that you as a young conservative woman would be in the minority among your peer group, how does that viewpoint make you feel?
HDM: Well, I may be a minority, but I don’t really feel like one. Sometimes it can be a harsh reality when you look at the fact that we’ve never nominated a female conservative candidate in my riding, and my province has never elected a female conservative to parliament.
I don’t see these as problems, I just see them as obstacles we need to overcome with the right person.
Young women have such a strong voice in our conservative movement: Michaela Glasgo in Alberta, Shanna Schulhauser in Saskatchewan, Rachel Willson, Sarah Honey & Sarah Fischer in Ontario, Raquel Dancho in Manitoba, Megan Veck in British Columbia, and those are only a few other young women that I know of who have or are seeking nominations for our federal party or provincial counterparts across the country.
Groups like Story of a Tory and Conservative Women Club of Canada are all strong voices who contribute to this group. And at the end of the day, I don’t feel like as a party we’re divided by our age or our gender, it’s about policies, and I feel just as valued as anyone else.
TPM: You’re also a full-time student, how you feel about the state of the political environment on campuses in Canada today?
HDM: It’s a really tricky environment.
Some days it’s fine some days and people are so understanding. You can have a conversation with them about politics and there’s no big brawl that happens but then there’s some days where you just want to scream because you feel like you’re being beat on so much for having different views.
Sometimes my campus can be very toxic for conservatives, just as past year and I got spat on for being pro-life and, you know, that was a really big wake up call for me.
Some people won’t always agree with your views, especially on campus, but ignoring it and respecting others’ views will not only make you the bigger person but is just the right thing to do, no matter how hard it is sometimes.
TPM: What are your three biggest priorities if elected?
HDM: My number one priority is representation. For too long we’ve had MLA’s and MP’s in that riding who have not taken their jobs seriously. I think it’s it’s really concerning when you go up to a door for a nomination campaign and you hear that their door hasn’t been knocked on in over 10 years. I want to hold a town halls once every two months, I want to extend my office hours and open my office door so people can come in and they can sit face to face with me when I’m not in Ottawa.
My next priority is the economy, whether that we create jobs or lower taxes, it’s really important that we have a healthy economic environment.
It’s getting to the point where businesses are wanting to go elsewhere or businesses aren’t able to set up shop because we live in very tough times, especially with high taxes from the Trudeau government but also because it’s just where we are in Nova Scotia. As a rural part of Nova Scotia, it’s hard for our economy sometimes.
But I do want to work with the federal government to create a healthier economy in West Nova and I know that I personally can’t dictate the economy but I can try to help in the best way that I can. I hope to try to lower taxes for people in that riding, coming from a single parent household where we struggle to put food on our table I know that a healthier economy would help.
The third is smarter infrastructure spending. The liberals seem to throw money at anything that moves, and there’s still critical infrastructure that needs to be addressed that but has not been even looked at by this federal government. We need funding for better highways, we need money for Internet connection in many areas, we need money for wharves, and we aren’t seeing any of that. Social and infrastructure spending that we do get in our riding has been very wasteful and I would like to see that amount go towards more necessary projects.
TPM: What would you say if you were to meet another young person considering a run for office?
HDM: I would be excited for them, though in all fairness I’ve several met young people who are running for office and came to me for advice. My first reaction is that I am so excited for them, it’s such an exciting opportunity, but it’s also really scary.
I know what they’re going through, I know the anxiety of the first little while especially when you’re young. I tell them to work until you drop, show people you’re a hard worker.
That’s what I’m doing, and that is the best thing that you can do. The best things I ever did when I was even considering running for politics was taking a trip to Ottawa months after the 2015 election. Going to Ottawa, sitting down face-to-face with MPs who you’ve seen on TV, and learning what it takes.
Learning what it takes from those who do it might be your best advice. And, although I hate hearing this sometimes, if you’re young and you lose, you have lots of time to try it again.