If there’s one thing Dan Ruimy is good at, it’s getting people together and promoting dialogue.
Ruimy is the new Liberal MP for the riding of Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge in British Columbia, a suburban-rural district a half hour from Vancouver. He won the riding last fall with 34 per cent of the vote, beating his Tory and NDP rivals in a tight three-way race. Its predecessor riding had been held by the Conservatives since 2004 and before that was a Reform/Canadian Alliance stronghold. The Liberals ran a distant third in the district in 2011.
Ruimy is also the 53-year-old son of Jewish Moroccan immigrants to Canada.
In the mid-1950s, Ruimy’s parents Andre and Jacqueline moved to Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood, where they raised their five sons and ran Cantor’s Bakery in Côte-des-Neiges, as well as a grocery store in Habitat 67. Dan attended synagogue with his family on the High Holidays. Later, a 27-year career in the food and beverage industry led the unmarried Ruimy all over the country as he filled positions at McDonald’s, A&W and Quiznos.
All that traveling took its toll, and by 2011, he was ready to settle down, get grounded in one community and find a place to call home. He chose Maple Ridge and purchased a second-hand bookstore that sold loose-leaf tea. Today, he’s still the owner of Bean Around Books & Tea, and credits the tea and coffee shop as having played a pivotal role in his decision to enter politics.
“At Bean Around, I saw what happens when you include people in your community,” he reflected. “Having spent my life in the hospitality industry, my personality is all about social contact. At the tea shop, I saw there was a craving for that, so I’d introduce people to each other and help make connections. It’s quite an amazing thing to watch a 15-year-old engaging an 86-year-old in dialogue. When I started thinking about running for public office, I realized that this is what I could do for my community: create dialogue, bring people together and help people find solutions for the challenges they encounter every day.”
Ruimy feels strongly about community and what comprises it.
“The Syrian refugees are a perfect example,” he said. “By including them we become a stronger community. Isn’t that what Canada is all about? We’re a nation built on immigration. We shouldn’t shun people. We should welcome them with open arms, because that’s our future as well.”
“I hope to be an agent of change and bring those opportunities to young people”
Since being sworn in as a member of Parliament in November, Ruimy has hired extra staff for his shop to accommodate a busy schedule commuting to and from Ottawa.
But while he’s no stranger to traveling for work, it’s different this time, he said.
“This is my home base now. I have a community to come back to. In the past, I’d come back to an empty place where I didn’t know my neighbours and wasn’t involved, but for the first time in my life, I can actually say I’m coming home.”
He plans to open a constituency office in his riding by next month. It’s “tough” to be Jewishly affiliated in Maple Ridge, he said, given that there are few Jews living there. But in Ottawa, he’s joined the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group.
“Having those roots is important to me, and I think we lose sight when we’re not involved in that part of our community,” he said.
Ruimy said the key issues he’ll be working on are homelessness, affordable housing, helping struggling seniors, and providing assistance to youth trying to find jobs.
“There’s lots of opportunity in Canada, but for some reason people have difficulty finding the programs,” he said. “I hope to be an agent of change and help bring those opportunities to young people.”
The most exciting moment of his parliamentary career to date was attending the first sitting of the new House earlier this month. “For the first time, you’re seeing the 334 people who got elected, and at that moment it sunk in how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity. It’s a privilege, really, and I feel proud that people sent me here to represent them, that they put their trust and confidence in me.”