A passion for politics motivates Frank Klees to reach for the top.
The 58-year-old MPP for the riding of Newmarket-Aurora, known for his calm and collected demeanour, has championed issues like semi-privatized health care, school choice for parents and foreign-trained doctors applying for jobs.
He just recently lost a tight race for the leadership of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party on a platform of opposition to the Harmonized Sales Tax and desire to reform the Ontario Human Rights Commission to curtail its power in policy-making. He lost to Tim Hudak of Niagara West-Glanbrook.
Running for the leadership of the party he loves was a natural step for the West-German born Klees, who has always wanted to effect change in the province and country.
“My reason (for entering politics) was to make a difference and I’ve found in order to really make fundamental change in our system of government, you need to be at the top. I’m convinced that most people who enter public life do so with that very sincere sense of calling,” Klees said.
Klees learned the hard way that politics is not for the faint of heart when he entered his first campaign race in the 1975 Ontario general election.
“The toughest day since I’ve been in politics was when I lost my first election in 1975. I was 24 years old, I had a passionate commitment, and I actually believed I could win that election — I think I was the only one in the province who did. I will never forget, when the votes were counted that night and I was watching the returns, I felt devastated. I never, ever forgot that feeling,” Klees said.
Twenty years later, almost to the day of that first loss, Klees defeated former Liberal leadership candidate Charles Beer to be elected to the Ontario legislature.
Klees says what motivates him most is the encouragement he gets from constituents.
“By the end of the day what you tend to have are the memories of people encouraging you. The fact that you are actually giving people hope in terms of what the future holds — that’s invigorating,” he said.
Klees has managed to keep his mischievous spirit despite the serious challenges of political life — for April Fools’ Day this year he sent out a very official-sounding letter announcing his resignation from the leadership race. The prank shows Klees is not afraid to poke fun at himself, something he says keeps him grounded in the long run.
“You have to have a sense of humour to survive politics and if you don’t, all this is a real grind. You have to be able to look at the light side and just take it all in stride,” Klees said.
Check tomorrow and Wednesday’s Workology sections for feature pieces on both Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Ontario minister of health with the Liberal government, David Caplan.