Dan Ruimy

Dan Ruimy

Liberal has ‘Bean’ around politics

Dan Ruimy, from book seller to MP.

Dan Ruimy loves books.

The newly elected Liberal MP for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge gets into science fiction, some Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) or Steven King. He often reaches for business books, and if he’s talking to someone who is a budding entrepreneur, there are two favourites he always recommends.

One is The E Myth.

“It’s a great book for people looking to start a business.”

And the other is Who Moved my Cheese.

“It’s about the fear of change,” he explained.

It’s an easy read, about how people worry about what they have no control over, when they should focus on the things they can control.

Ruimy could have been overwhelmed by the challenge he confronted running against a Conservative machine that had rolled to almost 29,000 votes in the 2011 federal election, putting Randy Kamp back in office. The Liberals garnered only 2,700 votes.

“I couldn’t let myself get caught up in the numbers game,” he said. “I told myself, ‘You don’t need 28,000 votes.’

“I focussed on the things I could impact.”

At his bookstore and coffee shop on the Lougheed Highway, Bean Around Books, regulars are focussed on his shocking election night win.

“Where is your office going to be,” a woman asks.

“What, you’ve got complaints already,” he answers.

“You sound like a politician,” another jibes him.

There’s lots of congratulations.

“Good luck storming the ramparts,” says a young woman.

There’s a real affection for Ruimy there.

“This has been the first community I really settled in,” he said. “Here was the first time I’ve felt part of a community – accepted and able to have an impact.”

Ruimy, who grew up in a Montreal bakery owned by his father, has enjoyed success in business. He was a director of operations with Quiznos for eight years, and helped to oversee an explosion of franchises from 40 to 450. For a time he was their man in Quebec, opening a store or two every weeks for a year and a half.

He’s admittedly proud of that, listing it as one of his great personal successes, alongside Monday night.

It was interesting work, opening franchises. He was an important cog in a large corporation, but also dealt with small business owners, laughing with them and sharing the pain of a new startup.

But he balked at a transfer to Toronto, and the former Coquitlam resident returned to B.C. six years ago. Then, despite having some real chops as a fast food executive, he was shocked to find he couldn’t find work. The economy was in the tank.

He took a self-employment program at Douglas College. Then he wound up teaching the course.

His own love of books led him to his own business – a bookworm’s dream.

“The business has been fun. People come here to talk.”

Sometimes Liberals went there to talk.

The local riding association executive started holding meetings in his coffee shop, and he couldn’t help but overhear their conversations and debate.

“I sat back and watched and listened and laughed, and threw in a couple of wrenches,” he recalls with a smile. “Politics can really get some people upset.”

Out of the blue, the local Liberals asked him to get involved.

“I’m not a politician. Go away,” was his first reaction.

But his girlfriend, Khalida Ali, liked the idea.

“She said one of the best things we can do is serve our community.”

He had his reservations, but admits it all boiled down to the simple fear: “What if I don’t win.”

He talks a lot about how fears hold people back, how he faced his fear of heights with a parachute jump, and the empowering feeling that came with it.

Ruimy started to think maybe being a political neophyte might actually be an advantage.

He and Ali talked it out, and she helped convince him to take a shot at running.

“She believes in me.”

He got daily updates from the party, with the main talking points and details about them.

“From a corporate perspective, they did a phenomenal job,” he said. “But we had to take the reins.”

He needed to establish the party as a viable third alternative to local voters. And he wanted to get his face out there.

“We didn’t have an incumbent, so everyone else is a relative unknown.”

Now, he’s making a fast transition to public figure. He doesn’t think the new role will change him.

“I hope not,” he said. “My focus is on, ‘How do I help the community.’”

Ruimy doesn’t have a lot of hobbies. He and Ali get out hiking when they can, and he’ll do shorter junkets like North Vancouver’s Quarry Rock, which his wonky knee can handle.

Other than that, he’s been busy. He was at the book store seven days a week, from 8:30 a.m. opening until 7 p.m. closing, and had only one employee for three years. It’ll have to survive without him for a while, and he’s ramped up his staffing levels to seven employees.

“I love this place. It’s my home – people come and visit me here.”

He said it will be important to him to maintain a strong presence in the community, whenever he’s not needed in Ottawa.

“The biggest frustration people have is that their governments don’t listen to them,” he said. “You want to be able to reach your MP.”

On his agenda in the short term is an orientation meeting in Vancouver.

And he’s going to Douglas College to speak with their self-employment students at their awards night. He’ll tell them how fast things can turn around for them.

“That’s why I love Justin Trudeau – the message of hope,” he said. “How cool is that – six years ago I couldn’t get a job. Now I’m an MP.”