Bruinooge's father originated from Wemeldinge, Netherlands. After moving to Canada, he married an Aboriginal Canadian. Bruinooge himself was born in Thompson, Manitoba, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Manitoba. He attended the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada's 1993 leadership convention as a youth delegate, supporting Kim Campbell. Bruinooge became chief executive and president of Abject Modernity Internet Creations Ltd. in the late 1990s, and worked as a consultant.
Bruinooge has served as a director of the River View Health Centre and the Manitoba Children's Museum, and has done organizational work for the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film and Video Festival and the North American Indigenous Games.
Bruinooge developed an internet game/mystery entitled The Stone in 1995, and launched it as a consumer product in 1997. The game was strongly influenced by the Publius Enigma, a conceptual mystery involving hidden messages in the cover art of Pink Floyd's The Division Bell (1994). The Stone was profiled by Forbes magazine in 1999 and has been featured in other international journals.
In September 2004, Bruinooge and co-director Scott Jaworski released a film entitled Stoners, covering the activities of an internet gaming community that emerged around The Stone. The film features several tracks from The Division Bell in its soundtrack, used with Pink Floyd's permission.
Bruinooge started the Winnipeg International Film Festival in 2005, and was its executive director until February 2006. The festival including a screening of Stoners during its first year. Some in Winnipeg's arts community believed it was inappropriate for Bruinooge to screen his own film, although it was screened out of competition.Candidate
Bruinooge was a frequent candidate for public office before his election in 2006. He first sought the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination for Riel in 2002, but withdrew when it became clear that the nomination date would be in flux for some time.
He later campaigned as the Conservative candidate for Winnipeg South in the 2004 federal election. One of his more creative campaign advertisements was a self-directed, fifteen-second promotional film entitled "Big Tobacco", which compared Paul Martin's efforts at government renewal to misleading tobacco advertising. The spot ran as a preview for Shrek 2 in some Winnipeg theatres.
Bruinooge was one of only three aboriginal candidates to run for the Conservative Party in the 2004 election. The Conservative Party has sometimes been depicted as hostile to aboriginal interests, and at one point in the campaign Bruinooge and party leader Stephen Harper were the targets of a protest by aboriginal activists, including David Chartrand of the Manitoba Métis Federation. Bruinooge finished second in the election against Liberal incumbent Reg Alcock.
Bruinooge sought the Conservative nomination for Winnipeg South for a second time in the spring of 2005, but lost to rival candidate Hugh McFadyen by a narrow margin. A few months later, he was defeated by McFadyen a second time in a contest for the provincial Progressive Conservative nomination in Fort Whyte. Once again, McFadyen won by a very narrow margin.
McFadyen resigned his federal nomination when he chose to run provincially, and Bruinooge was chosen as the Conservative candidate in his place. His candidacy was endorsed on January 18, 2006 by Vote Marriage Canada, a group which opposes same-sex marriage. Although Bruinooge is a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation, that organization endorsed Reg Alcock.
Bruinooge defeated Alcock by 111 votes on election day, in what most political observers described as a significant upset. Bruinooge was aided by a national trend toward his party, as well as by Alcock's decision to spend most of his time canvassing with Liberal candidates in other ridings.Parliamentarian
The Conservatives won a minority government in the 2006 election. In early February 2006, Bruinooge was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians. He was the only Aboriginal member of the Government benches until Rob Clarke was elected on the byelections of March 17, 2008. In January 2007, he represented his government in signing a deal with Siemens that was designed to increase aboriginal employment.
At the Assembly of First Nations General Assembly in Nova Scotia in July 2007, Bruinooge described the Paul Martin government's Kelowna Accord on aboriginal investment as nothing more than an "expensive press release". This statement was strongly criticized by Assembly of First Nations leader Phil Fontaine. In the same month, Bruinooge vocally supported the Harper government's efforts to place Canada's Indian Act under the provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Some native groups have argued that the Human Rights Act's focus on individual rights will undermine the communal rights of aboriginal communities.
In January 2008, Bruinooge said that the Harper government was considering adapting provincial funding models in British Columbia and Alberta to address education and child-welfare programs in Manitoba.
In the minutes after it was announced that the Order of Canada was being presented to abortion provider and pro-choice advocate Henry Morgentaler on Canada Day 2008, Rod Bruinooge called the award "Reprehensible".
He was re-elected over Liberal candidate John Loewen in the 2008 federal election. Immediately after the election, Bruinooge turned down an offer to become Parliamentary Secretary for INAC, citing a desire to focus his attention on the riding and spend more time with his family.
In December 2008, Rod Bruinooge was elected Chair of the Parliamentary Pro Life Caucus and was reported by the Canadian Press as stating that unborn children had less legal value in Canada than a human kidney. In a letter he submitted to National Post, he made this statement: "I have no choice but to advocate for the unborn and seek to have their value restored in my Canada. Our collective future depends on it."
In February 2009, Bruinooge founded the Conservative Post-Secondary Education Caucus to which he was elected chair. In April 2013, Bruinooge led a Post-Secondary Education Caucus Delegation to Washington D.C., to meet with American leaders in Post-Secondary Education, including a visit to Georgetown University. Bruinooge is also vice-chair of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group and the Canada-Holland Friendship Group. He is also a member of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
In May 2011 Bruinooge defeated his Liberal opponent in the spring election with a plurality over 50%. In the fall of 2011 there was some speculation that Bruinooge would seek the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party of Manitoba. On January 4, 2012 the Winnipeg Free Press reported that Bruinooge would remain in Ottawa and not seek the leadership.
Bruinooge held a consultation in Winnipeg with industry and business leaders from across Manitoba to discuss a renewal of the government's Global Commerce Strategy.
Note: Conservative vote is compared to the total of the Canadian Alliance vote and Progressive Conservative vote in 2000 election.
All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available.