The president of UVic’s Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP), Dale Gann, was acclaimed as the Conservative MP candidate on Oct. 20 for Victoria’s upcoming byelection.
One day later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the byelection for Nov. 26 for Victoria, Calgary-Centre, AB, and Durham, ON, ridings. In Victoria, this by-election will fill the seat left vacant by NDP representative Denise Savoie, who stepped down in August for health reasons.
Gann joins three other candidates with connections to UVic: Victoria Liberal candidate Paul Summerville, who is an adjunct professor at UVic; NDP candidate Murray Rankin, who is co-chair of UVic’s environmental law centre; and UVic law professor Donald Galloway, the Green Party candidate.
Gann says education is a priority for him.
“We need to increase our education achievement levels always,” says Gann. “That’s K to 12 through post-secondary. We need to ensure our colleges and universities are leaders in disciplines in this country.”
In October, Gann joined a start-up formed by recent UVic business school graduates. The company, called Educated Talent, aims to bridge the gap between businesses and students through internships. He acts as executive chair, a mentorship role.
“He always talks about brain drain — even if you graduate, you don’t have work in Victoria. Then you leave Victoria or B.C. to go work in industries elsewhere, and it really hurts the economy,” says Dylan Chernick, one of the UVic grads who started the company.
“His focus is, and will be as an MP, to solve this overarching problem of students not having jobs. He’s basically voicing that this is a huge problem, and people need to understand it,” adds Chernick.
Gann has 18 years’ experience in the high-tech sector and 10 years’ as the president of VITP, which provides physical infrastructure for technology start-up companies and acts as a centre for technology activity.
“One of the principles we’ve always applied there, which I think has helped prepare me for what I’m doing in changing my role, is to focus on the development of companies and find them money, market and talent,” says Gann, who in 2009 became the president of UVic Properties Investments Inc., which manages both VITP and the Marine Technology Centre, a facility for research and education in North Saanich.
Gann, who has never held an official position in politics, says working with different Canadian universities, government agencies, public and private companies, international delegates and researchers has prepared him for the role of MP. He likens his work in a technology park to being the mayor of a little town, calling technology parks “interesting environments.”
“You end up becoming, sometimes, a mediator. You become really active in engaging two ideas, two people, or [being] the voice of what somebody’s done well.”
When asked about his platform, he says, “I’m an individual that always looks at the issues and opportunities via the lens of the economy, the environment and social and financial sustainability. I’m not one that has a single platform issue or single vision.”
Gann says Victoria needs to build on its successes, including a strong knowledge-based economy. He says the key to a better economy is helping small businesses and encouraging entrepreneurship.
“What we’re good at, we need to become better [at]. We need to attract investment — continue to do that for research and development of higher education,” he says.
“We really need to champion entrepreneurship. Don’t think, as a student, ‘We should just look at job posts’; we should be thinking . . . ‘How do we come together as three or five individuals and build a company?’ ”
Gann includes immigration as a topic that affects education.
“For example, in the post-secondary system, we’re always searching for great professors. If we find that great professor that’s from abroad, we want to make sure our immigration system allows that spouse to come and work in our community,” he says.
VITP provides co-operative education opportunities for students at UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, and Gann is involved with the school as a mentor.
“Students are the magic that make those small businesses,” says Gann.