People of Influence
Trudy Schroeder
Random Notes

I have had the good fortune to encounter and work with many fine and dedicated Canadian politicians of all political parties in the course of my working life. These people clearly had a great love and concern for their communities, their nation, and their neighbours. While the political approaches of the parties they represented were different, their concerns for the welfare of their community members were very similar. 

For some of my friends and acquaintances, my decision to become involved in the political process as a political candidate is quite surprising. Those who have known me since high school just laugh and say, “Well, of course this is what you would do.” They had expected this much earlier in my life. I was active in school student leadership, debating clubs, writing clubs, and music performance. At some point when I was in grade twelve, a newly elected MP invited a group of student leaders from different high schools to his home for a casual dinner and to talk about current political issues. I can remember being a bit puzzled by the invitation at first, but I attended with several friends. I found the conversation and topics of discussion just fascinating, and I can remember thinking that I could really enjoy being involved in politics. So, if I become more involved in Manitoba’s political life, you can either thank or blame Bill Blaikie.

As a young adult, I spent many hours at political and community events in the role of the “O Canada” singer. While I certainly did not play a leading role in those events, I had the opportunity to observe the interesting interplay between the municipal, provincial, and federal politicians. Even when the political parties were very different, there was definitely evidence of much collegiality and respect between the politicians who attended events, celebrations, and major announcements in their communities.

While I lived in Ottawa, I worked for the municipal governments of the City of Gloucester and the City of Ottawa. Working with the politicians and other municipal employees to develop programs and initiatives to improve the community was passionately interesting to me. I quickly learned which of the other employees and which municipal politicians were most interested in the kinds of projects that were my responsibility. The process of working with community groups to bring programs, facilities, and festivals to fruition was fascinating. Starting with ideas and needs of the community, the many steps, reports, meetings, models, and budget processes needed to bring a project to completion is quite a puzzle. However, the satisfaction of seeing a finished facility, or the success of a much-needed program is tremendously motivating.

When my husband and I moved to Winnipeg in 1995, I expected that I would continue working within the public sector. When my children were very young, I found working as a project consultant both interesting and suitably flexible. After a few years the opportunity arose to lead the Winnipeg Folk Festival and ten years later the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I found working at both of these beloved Manitoba institutions fascinating and rewarding. I loved working with the volunteers, staff members, community members, and all of the other partners needed to make these organizations work.

Last summer, after thirteen years at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, I found myself thinking about the things that I might be involved with in this next phase of my life. I found that I had a lot of enthusiasm for an interesting mix of projects that could use my expertise, and I also found that I was interested in engaging in the democratic process in a more engaged way. So many of the Manitoba politicians I had encountered, from all political parties, were inspiring people whose examples were worth emulating.

I find many parts of the nomination and election process quite fascinating. The people in all parties are passionate and engaged. The level of personal commitment and volunteer time required of candidates is truly remarkable. As a society, we should thank every person who steps up and is willing to participate in our democratic system in this way. The time, resources, and personal sacrifices that people make to participate in the political process is greater than I had expected. The people I have encountered throughout the process so far have been energetic, smart, and thoughtful.

Regardless of the outcome of the Fort Whyte by-election, I find that I am glad to have the experience of engaging in our community in this way.

Trudy Schroeder provides project planning and management services to the community through Arts and Heritage Solutions.