Rob Morrison and Deborah Grey outside the Himalayan Spice Bistro in Cranbrook on Saturday, Sept. 11. Trevor Crawley photo.

Rob Morrison and Deborah Grey outside the Himalayan Spice Bistro in Cranbrook on Saturday, Sept. 11. Trevor Crawley photo.

Morrison lands endorsement from former Reform stalwart

Kootenay-Columbia candidate Rob Morrison has secured the endorsement of a former Tory leader who made history as Canada’s first female Leader of the Opposition.

Deborah Grey, who served public office for well over a decade in the House of Commons, threw her support behind Morrison while visiting relatives in Cranbrook last week.

Grey, first elected out of Alberta in 1989 as a member of the now-defunct Reform Party, was reelected four times and was involved with the Reform’s merge into the Canadian Alliance — the precursor to the modern Conservative Party.

Grey said she was impressed with Morrison’s service as a diplomat and representative for the Canadian government, particularly singling out a two-year tenure in Afghanistan.

“This is a guy who had literally his boots on the ground,” Grey said.

Grey and Morrison first met three years ago when she also gave her support to the Conservative campaign in the Kootenays.

“I came here and helped him last time so I was driving with him lots around in the truck because it’s a big riding, we went over to Creston and had great conversations,” she added.

Given her elected service in Alberta-based ridings, as well as her current retirement life in rural Vancouver Island, Grey says she understands the political challenges of advocating for issues through the rural lens.

“Do I understand how people feel displaced, un-listened to, undervalued? I think I have a pretty good sense of that,” Grey said. “So I think people need to listen, people in Ottawa, people in Ontario and Quebec. Not that we don’t love them — they’re part of our family — but they have these enormous populations and so I understand, especially in Western Canada…that the west felt alienated.”

Grey became the first female Leader of the Opposition in March 2000, being promoted from deputy leader after Preston Manning, the former leader of the Reform Party, stepped down to run for leadership of the Canadian Alliance following the merge of the two parties.

Grey likens recent changes in party leadership, from Stephen Harper to Andrew Scheer to Erin O’Tool — and internal politics as the party tries to define itself — to a “family discussion.”

“That’s exactly how I look at some of those issues,” she said. “They continue to wrangle things out, but they’re a family, they’re committed to each other and families stay strong.”