Bob Gale doesn’t back down from a fight when he believes he’s in the right.
He has decided he wants to fight for his corner of Niagara at the provincial level, as a Conservative MPP.
Currently serving his second term as regional councillor for Niagara Falls, Gale has been handed the nomination from the Niagara Falls riding, which includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie, to represent the Tories in the next provincial election.
The nomination meeting to officially select a representative is being held this Thursday, but as the only candidate, Gale will be acclaimed.
In the next provincial election, which must be held on or before June 2, he will be facing off against incumbent NDP MPP Wayne Gates, a former Niagara Falls city councillor, who won the riding in a byelection in 2014. Gates replaced Kim Craitor, the Liberal MPP for the riding from 2003 to 2013, who had resigned that fall.
Gale knows he will have a run for his money against Gates, but says he has never shied away from competition. “I was in business for a long time, sat on many high profile boards, and now have a term and a half of experience with regional council. I have thick skin, and I understand that this will be a challenging election. The fact is that Niagara needs a strong Conservative voice in a strong Conservative government to make sure that our unique needs are taken care of. I am ready to take that task head on.”
With his wife Vera, the Niagara businessman who has owned Gale’s Gas Bars since 1980 raised his family in Niagara-on-the-Lake. He now lives in St. Catharines, and owns several properties in Niagara Falls. His daughter Jessica, who lives in St. Davids, has taken over control of the company.
Gale says he wants to represent the riding at the provincial level to ensure Niagara isn’t left behind during the economic recovery from the pandemic, which has crippled small businesses and the tourism industry.
“I want to be there to help make business decisions on costs and services to the people. Niagara deserves someone who is a strong advocate for the region, and can bring their concerns directly to the Premier,” he says.
“I think Doug Ford has done a great job during this pandemic, and I like that he talks like the everyday person. He is relatable, and is working tirelessly to keep us safe.”
Economic recovery will be tough, and tourism is the industry hardest hit, says Gale.
“We need a representative at Queen’s Park that has tourism experience, and I believe my tenure on the board of the Niagara Parks Commission and what I was able to accomplish there speaks to my experience.”
He says he is also running for his children and grandchildren, and what the future holds for them. “I want to make sure that I do everything I can to make Niagara a better place for not only them, but everyone’s grandchildren.”
Gale says he has spent his life working for Niagara, first in public service as a police officer, then as an entrepreneur for 35 years, with businesses covering NOTL, Niagara Falls and Fort Erie, and most recently as a regional councillor.
“I have ownership in many properties throughout our riding, and I truly care that our taxes are controlled. I should, because I pay a lot of them.”
Niagara has the best people in the world, he adds, “and I care very deeply about what happens here.”
Gale lived in Niagara-on-the-Lake for 38 years, “and I have a ton of respect for everyone there. It is a beautiful, quaint town with some of the best hospitality in the world. I have both family and friends living in all three areas, NOTL, Niagara Falls, and Fort Erie. I care about what happens to them, and all the people of these areas,” he says.
“I want to make sure that the hospitality, wine, construction and small business sectors are heard and supported by the province. When we are able to open up again. there is going to be a heavy lift to get people back to work, and I want to be part of the team ensuring Niagara-on-the-Lake is on the right path.”
Asked about whether he expects an early election, Gale says the focus of the Conservative government at the moment is getting people vaccinated. But whenever the election is called, he says, he will be prepared.
“I have a spectacular team assisting me, and we are preparing for every possibility. There is no doubt that campaigning during a pandemic would pose difficulties, but I hope that by the time an election is called most people will have had the chance to receive vaccines.”
There are so many other ways to connect with people these days, he adds, “whether it’s over Zoom or old-fashioned phone calls. I want to hear everyone’s concerns and priorities.”
His priorities, he says, are Niagara’s priorities: making sure the region is ready for a strong economic recovery. Working in politics at the local level, “I am well aware of the anger and fear people are experiencing. I want Niagara to have certainty, support and the path forward.”
His daughter Jessica has a mantra that drives her, he says, and that suits him perfectly as well. “When I leave this earth, I want to ensure that it’s a better place because I was here.”
He wants to make a positive difference to the people of Niagara, he adds, “and I believe that serving as MPP would be the most effective way of doing this.”
He also wants to be “part of the conversation” to ensure Niagara’s aging population gets the quality of care it deserves.
“The situation in long-term care was tragic. COVID exposed the systemic issues that existed after decades of neglect. The Liberals, propped up every step of the way by the NDP, built 611 net new beds over their entire time in power. Under Doug Ford, there are over 22,000 beds being built, and just this week I heard that Niagara College has a waitlist for the free Personal Support Worker programs.
Gale says he believes he has shown he’s not afraid to fight for what he believes is right. He digs for facts, and when the facts are on his side, he doesn’t back down, he says, pointing to his time on the Niagara Parks Commission board, when he brought to light the board’s procurement policies, which, more than a decade ago, included a long history of renewing the lease of the Maid of the Mist without considering competing proposals. The attention on the issue forced the commission to call for bids for the ferry service in the Niagara River, which led to Hornblower Canada replacing the Maid of the Mist as the boat-tour operator on the Canadian side of the river, saving provincial taxpayers up to $300 million, says Gale.
He’s also faced some battles when the facts didn’t support his position, he says, and when that happens, “I move on. But I’ve been right more often than not.”
Over the years he has been a baseball and hockey coach, a Big Brother, and spearheaded the Gale family’s involvement in many volunteer and philanthropic endeavours to benefit the community, including the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls.
He formed and funded the Bob Gale Recreation Fund, organized Ten Men in a Tent in 2009 and 2010 to benefit Project SHARE, and was president of the Boys and Girls Club, where he was made an honorary board member.