FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Ron Ghitter
March 4, 2014
The man loves turtles.
I don't mean those chocolate covered delicious candies.
He collects turtles - from all over the world, some he bought and many were gifts. Dozens of them crawl around his office perimiter, up on the desk, next to his trophy wall of diplomas, awards and accolades. Maybe they represent steady, slow, relentless ...
His career(s) have woven tennis, law, real estate, politics, real estate, public service – and some would say statesmanship. He is Principal of Certus Developments and has served as a Director of Bentall Kennedy, the last 9 years as Board Chairman.
When Ron Ghitter was running for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1985 (Don Getty won that race) I was in my ‘Edmonton period’. I was recruited by a friend to work on Ron’s campaign. When I met him then I was impressed by his speaking skill. Someone told me then that he had been a Toastmaster champion. Since I’ve been involved in Toastmasters for quite some time – this was my first question, were you a Toastmasters champion? “In 1965 I won here, went to regional finals in Minneapolis – won there, and advanced to the world championships, in New York, where I finished 3rd."
The first time I voted in a Provincial Election I voted for him. I was playing tennis in those days at the Calgary Tennis Club. Ron was a member there – but I’d never met him. Still, I thought voting for a tennis player was a good idea.
He won that election, defeating Don Luzzi, and subsequent elections - serving 2 terms as MLA representing CalgaryBuffalo. Why not a cabinet position? “I didn’t want to be a full time politician.” His reason for leaving government? “It was time to do other things”.
Premier Lougheed asked him to chair the Committee on Tolerance and Understanding – which toured Alberta investigating issues in the education system, rendering a report in 1984. Ron introduced the legislation – The Individual Rights Protection Act – in large measure to strengthen rights of Albertans based on the committee’s work.
Time spent as a lawyer on the executive team at Trizec had Ron travelling a lot. When he woke up one morning in his Los Angeles hotel, thinking he was in Kansas City – he determined he was travelling way too much and left Trizec soon after that.
In 1993 Prime Minister Mulroney appointed Ron to the Senate of Canada where he served for 10 years.
Born in Calgary in 1935, raised in Edmonton, attended U of A – parents, mom Betty and dad Lou were Edmonton merchants – Betty Lou Ladies Apparel. Ron graduated from law school in 1959. He didn’t immediately go to work on articling, opting to travel the world with his law school buddy Ed Saddy – returning to Edmonton to find few options, so he came to Calgary to article and hasn’t left. Calgarians are grateful.
His high school sports interests were basketball and tennis. Teaching tennis put him through university – and in his early days in Calgary, teaching at the Calgary Tennis club augmented the income of an impoverished articling rookie …
Ron is a member of the Board of Tennis Canada – and among his duties, is leading the charge for construction of an indoor tennis facility. A site (near Acadia recreation centre) is secured, plans are drawn - $3 million raised, $5 million to go.
Ron is on his 3rd marriage (22 yrs.), has 1 daughter and 2 step-daughters.
Not a week goes by that I don’t hear Ron on CBC radio – being quoted on a political question du jour. I asked him for his thoughts on Justin Trudeau’s recent steps – disconnecting his party from Liberal senators? “I totally agree with it. That’s probably the only thing he’s done I do agree with. I don’t think the model of the senate as it is now, works. I think senators should represent regions, not politics.”
I asked Ron how he sees his business, the commercial real estate development industry, is doing – his business outlook over the next quarter?
…. I’m optimistic for a buoyant real estate market in Calgary in the short run particularly for retail and industrial.
And over the next 5 years?
…. Beyond three years it will depend on interest rates. If rates start to accelerate upwards it is anyone’s guess. Calgary is still the best place in Canada for real estate investments.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… reputation, integrity, experience … and price
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Ron Ghitter, why do they do business with you, hire you, over your competitors?
… hopefully for the same reasons - reputation, integrity, experience
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… at my age – I don’t worry or have anything to worry about. ….. I get anxious about our projects …
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… When Peter Lougheed came to see me, asking me to run for office. My present wife Myrna, I finally got it right!
Work life balance?
… I work out a lot and golf. I’m in good health but can’t play tennis (rotator cuff trouble) anymore
What do you read?
… non-fiction mostly. Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (I read all her books), a book on the Prime Ministers of Israel
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