Kathy Dunderdale wants to lead a healthier province, although the Tory leader doesn’t necessarily see herself as an inspiration.
“That worries me a little bit,” she joked to journalists during a campaign stop at the Ches Penney YMCA Friday. “I never started off wanting to be an inspiration for anybody. I just wanted to be healthier myself and to feel better about myself.”
Dunderdale’s dramatic weight loss is well-known. A year ago she changed her lifestyle, with a committment to becoming active and losing weight. In July, a few days before running The Tely 10, she told The Telegram she had lost nearly 100 pounds.
She said yesterday the journey has taken her further than she ever thought.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels. It just feels wonderful to have energy left at 10 o’clock at night after a long day ... and to have your recall improved. And just that connection with my body. In the middle of the day, if I’m in a hurry and I’m bounding up over a set of stairs, almost half way up, I’m saying, ‘Wow, this feels wonderful. I haven’t done this in years.’”
There are a lot of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who aren’t experiencing such a feeling.
Statistics Canada data from June indicated 63.9 per cent of the province’s population are overweight or obese.
Dunderdale acknowledged the report card on the state of the province’s health is not good. It’s something she hopes to help change through policy and strategy, if successful in her bid to be elected premier.
“We’ve already started that in the Blue Book. That’s why we would make the $2-million contribution to a facility like this one.”
The Progressive Conservative’s platform suggests the province is ready for a fitness revolution.
Among other measures, it includes introducing a fitness tax credit, a Participaction-like campaign, a healthy living division and phase II of the provincial wellness plan.
Dunderdale said becoming fit and eating well is important for the population, both physically and fiscally.
“Because, at the end of the day, when you have a healthier population, we’re not spending the same amount of money on health care, it’s not the same demand on the system and then we’re able to invest that money elsewhere, in facilities like this.”
Still, Dunderdale said people have to find the motivation from within and they’ve got to do it for themselves.
She added if she can do it, anybody can, because she was in “really bad shape.”
“If I’m an example, I’m prepared to take that on. I’m a little worried about it though because this is a lifelong struggle, keeping weight off and being fit and healthy. ... It’s all fine to say everybody's trying to be fit because you are. I don’t want the reverse of that to be true.”
Health and fitness were not the only topics Dunderdale discussed with reporters at the Y, a facility she appreciates because it accommodates people of all incomes.
She also spoke about the tight election races between PC and New Democratic candidates in St. John’s.
“No, I think we’re in a race in a couple of our seats and I’m really happy about that,” Dunderdale said when asked if she considered the NDP a threat to some Townie Tories.
“As I said before, complacency is your greatest enemy in an election. When it’s hard to motivate people to become engaged to get out and to cast their ballot, then you have a concern about that. To have a race, to have that amount of of adrenalin going, to have that amount of energy going in your election, that’s a good thing.”
Dunderdale admitted those races were in St. John’s Centre and St. John’s North.
“There’s no doubt about, but you know we’re in the lead, and we think we can bring it home. We know we can bring it home.”
Dunderdale was also asked if having St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe campaign with Shawn Skinner in St. John’s Centre Friday was a sign the incumbent was in trouble.
“No,” she said, “Shawn Skinner is not in trouble. Shawn Skinner is a tried and true contender.
“He’s held the seat for eight years and he’s done stellar work on behalf of the people of St. John’s Centre.”