Though I love going door to door in my town to gauge our present and future needs, the work of governance and the work of campaigning are two entirely different things. In federal politics, our mainstream media usually focuses on the horse race. Leader vs. leader vs. leader. This distorts our collective vision of politics and public service.
Because our collective view is so distorted by the horse race we tend to confuse the two. Federal leaders employ strategic teams that calculate the political impact of decisions and how that will effect the horse race. Some politicians make promises that they know will be impossible once in the governing seat just to move the polling numbers of their party up.
And oftentimes, the most important work in politics goes on behind the scenes in teams at committees, in caucuses and in the offices of Parliament Hill, and the average citizen remains unaware of the process. Although committees are for the most part transparent in their undertakings, there are in-camera proceedings that are not released to the public for fifty years. Caucuses and the offices of Parliament Hill are shielded from the media. Deliberations that go on there are secret.
Once the campaign was over in 2011, I set to work right away. I went to events to show my support and reach out to people but I took my role as a Parliamentarian seriously.
2012 Budget Consultations with citizens in the riding.
In 2012, because I had been very vocal in caucus on water issues, the leader shifted me to the Energy and Natural Resources portfolio. At our first team strategy session we planned what the government should study for this important sector of our economy. I suggested to the team that we look at innovation in the energy sector. Canada was judged by the world economic forum to be a laggard on this front and it was hurting our economic competitiveness.
I made the pitch to the governing Conservatives. We sat down, negotiated and I convinced them. Not all the parties agreed. The Liberal Vice-Chair wanted to look at a National Energy Strategy. I felt that was too vague and too ripe for the usual partisan tomfoolery that goes on in Parliament. We undertook the study and it was going very well.
Transparency and accountability became an issue at the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. The Chair would routinely go into secret deliberations when it wasn’t really necessary to do so or when things came to light that could potentially embarrass the government. We had a draft report of our study in hand but it ended up getting quashed when the Prime Minister prorogued parliament. Everything on the slate gets wiped clean. The report was not tabled. It was very discouraging to see so much work go down the tubes into oblivion.
I was shifted to the Official Languages portfolio. I suggested to the team that we look at the economic vitality of Official Language Minority Communities (this includes Hudson!). I was interested in promoting the cultural sector as a major economic driver in our community. The Chair this time was Michael Chong, who I had great respect for.
Here is the result of that work. (This also includes Hudson!) I stand by this work. We got things done. The committee recommended to the government that it fund cultural infrastructure and the community sector with re-current multi year funding. By the end of my tenure, I was impressed with the work of our chair. I found Michael Chong to be fair and impartial. We didn’t always agree on everything but respect went both ways.
Municipal governance requires that competing interests be open, reconciled and negotiated. Everyone needs to feel like they have been listened to and that their opinion has been taken into account. I witnessed two very different Chairs and their styles. Michael Chong was a leader who took into account each member’s contribution and was fair in his deliberations. The Chair of Natural Resources was partisan in his deliberations and seemed more interested in furthering his party’s aims at all costs.
I realized in the midpoint of Parliament that the government was acting as though it was in opposition. Many of my colleagues from all parties were engaged in a permanent campaign. It was discouraging, but I learned a lot from it.
After my work in federal politics I continued to work for the benefit of the public as usual. I have always been motivated to work in our region to promote the health and quality of life that our citizens deserve.
In the Spring of 2016, Dr. Martin Lechowicz, the Liber Ero Chair in Conservation Biology at McGill, asked me to join his team. In his last year as chair, Martin wanted to leave a legacy to the people of our area - an offering that would help us better conserve our natural heritage for the sake of future generations. It was a goal I agreed with whole-heartedly. Martin and I are pragmatists, though, we both knew that development was unavoidable. We also knew that smart development was possible - development that protected our natural capital.
I did a study for the chair that consulted with the public concerning Quality of Life indicators in the community of Saint-Lazare. I also completed a history of the cultural landscape that gives us a foundation to see where we’ve been in order to know where we’re going.
It is possible through working with citizens and stakeholders to get to a place of agreement in a responsible, transparent manner. I have the experience to get us there.
I have the inside view. I know how the system works and have experience working with the regional networks and in working with citizens.
I will put the public interest forward in the process of governance. This means getting councilors to hold meetings between the general meetings to explain to their fellow citizens the work that they are doing. It means having a reliable scorecard so that citizens can follow the progress of the town on delivering public value. Lastly, I will open communications with citizens so that we can have actual conversations with each other. These are the foundations of good governance and I’m ready to deliver them.