VIDEO SERIES: MPs school Paul Wells on the work that gets done

Past Parliamentarian of the Year winners talk to our Political Editor about the life of democracy

CP/Adrian Wyld

The sixth annual Parliamentarian of the Year Awards were handed out Wednesday night the Château Laurier in Ottawa.

The awards recognize that away from the antics of Question Period, good and important work gets done on Parliament Hill.

In the days leading to the 2012 awards, Maclean’s Political Editor Paul Wells sat down with past winners to talk about what really happens in Ottawa. Not surprisingly, they had a lot to say about all that being an MP entails.

Ralph Goodale on troubles in the House: (Son of omnibus, come on down)
“There is concern about the House’s inability to perform up to the quality standards that Canadians would expect, but it’s still a place that is the central focus — the central crucible — of Canadian democracy and I think that people hope for the best.”

Michael Chong on thinking local while in Ottawa
“Being a good constituency MP involves two things. The first is that you’ve got to help constituents out with access and government services, with listening to their concerns, with being in touch with them and having a sense of what’s going on on the ground … with being local, with understanding local issues — even if they’re not necessarily federal issues. The second thing a good constituency MP does is that in each and every decision they take up here on Parliament Hill, that they’re always thinking about what the voters back home would think and what they would want you to do.”

Megan Leslie on the importance of flipping burgers and doing groceries
“Flipping burgers, how is that political work? It’s quite amazing. This summer, I fully realized the value of overhearing conversations at home — not in a creepy way. But even just being in a cafe and hearing what people are talking about, or being in the grocery store and hearing a family talk about the next time peanut butter is going to go on sale. That is important political work to understanding what is happening in your riding. And you can’t replicate that unless you’re at home.”

John Baird on playing the bulldog and reaching out 
“What gets media attention is the discord and disagreement. Whenever something is hot, it leads on the news, but there’s a good number of folks you can work across the aisle with … you can work collegially with. There are some people though that are a lot tougher to work with, so sometimes personal and political differences get in the way. But that doesn’t happen as often as you might expect.”

Bob Rae on the evolution of QP (more scripted and partisan)
“The House is much more partisan, scripted place and I don’t think it’s an improvement. I think it’s a deterioration in the quality of parliamentary life. I really do. I think things are getting worse.”

Joe Comartin on QP, rules and decorum (or lack thereof)
“There’s ways of making Parliament function for you if you know how the rules function — what the dynamics are in there, including the personalities that you are dealing with. Building that close relationship with other people is important — whether they’re in your party or others.”




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VIDEO SERIES: MPs school Paul Wells on the work that gets done

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