Mike Coates seeking Conservative nomination
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Businessman and Conservative nomination candidate Mike Coates (right) speaks with (left to right) Mark Reilander, John Escott and Romeo Levasseur during a meet-and-greet held at Jana's Cafe in downtown Pembroke Sunday. Coates is challenging incumbent MP Cheryl Gallant, who has represented the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke for the past 18 years.
Mike Coates, the businessman who recently chaired Kevin O'Leary's leadership campaign, is seeking to lead Conservatives in the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke into the 2019 federal election.
Unseating incumbent MP Cheryl Gallant, who has never been challenged since winning the seat in 2000, will be an uphill battle, Coates concedes. However, the candidate, who met with party faithful at Jana's Cafe in downtown Pembroke Sunday, feels his proven track record in business will reverse what he feels has been 18 years of lost jobs and opportunities.
“I can demonstrate to people that I can get things done,” said Coates, who is pledging to use his political network to bring investors to the riding and create jobs. “That's the kind of thing where I think I can make a difference.”
As an example, Coates managed to secure improved cellular service for the Bonnechere Valley area as a member of the Eganville and District Community Development Group. Born in the Maritimes, Coates and his wife, Maureen, make their home in Griffith where they've raised three daughters, Michelle, Lianne and Danielle. A graduate of York University and Queen's University, he held several high-profile positions with lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton, including president of the Americas, before retiring last year. He has been involved in conservative politics since 1980, when he worked on Parliament Hill for then minister of state for the Treasury Board Perrin Beatty and Senator Lowell Murray.
Reinforcing his conservative credentials, Coates was secretary and treasurer for the federal Progressive Conservatives and helped former prime minister Stephen Harper in his debate preparation for three elections. He previously fundraised for former prime minister Brian Mulroney and worked on national campaigns between 1988 and 2008.
Over the next three weeks, Coates needs to sell enough party memberships to support his bid. With a $15 membership, local Conservatives will have the ability to vote in any upcoming nomination. The deadline is Feb. 1. He admits the incumbent MP is in a favourable position at the moment.
“She is very strong,” said Coates. “They have the organization and I am building mine. She's clearly come to the view that it is better to get this over with. That's the way the process is played.”
Although Gallant has made controversial remarks that have attracted national headlines in the past, Coates wants this debate to be about the future of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke. He said any nomination challenge is healthy for the party. The Conservative Party has opened up nominations in the ridings of 92 MPs across the country, all of whom held their seats since the last election.
“She's got a head start,” he noted. “I am hoping this is new for her to. There can be some complacency. These jobs were not meant to be careers.”
Coates also believes the ruling Liberal government is vulnerable, especially Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has attracted controversy and questions about his judgment by hosting a meeting with Joshua Boyle, who had been held hostage in Afghanistan for five years. Not only has his period of captivity raised questions but Boyle now faces multiple criminal charges.
“The selfie prime ministership is going to wear thin and I think it's starting to,” said Coates.
Trudeau has also become the first prime minister in Canadian history to have been found guilty of breaking federal ethics laws. His government continues to run up deficits, however, Coates is equally troubled by Trudeau's policy towards the treatment of ISIS terrorists who are returning to Canada from the Middle East.
“Imagine letting those ISIS fighters back in here,” he said. “Our (troops) are over there trying to kill them and then they decide to come back and we say we'll welcome them back and try to re-integrate them.”
The Conservative nomination election is anticipated to be held on either Friday, Feb. 23 or Saturday, Feb. 24. Mike Coates will be meeting with members at the Santa Fe in Renfrew on Monday, Jan. 22 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and at the Whitewater Brewary in Cobden on Tuesday, Jan. 23 again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. He is scheduled to visit Deep River on Thursday, Jan. 25 and Petawawa at a later date.