Parliamentarian of the year, 2011 (best represents constituents): Michael Chong

A principled maveric

(Photography: Peter Bregg/Maclean's)

Michael Chong’s guiding political rule is: always pay attention to your constituents. “The least we can do for people who have disagreements with the government is to relay those concerns to Ottawa,” he says. “They want to know that, at the very least, they’re being listened to.”

VIDEO: MICHAEL CHONG IN CONVERSATION WITH PAUL WELLS

Perhaps best known for resigning from the Harper cabinet after refusing to support a government motion recognizing the Québécois as a nation, the Tory backbencher remains a hometown hero in Wellington-Halton Hills, the riding in which he grew up, and now represents. This past spring, the self-described “Wellington County boy” took nearly 64 per cent of the vote in his fourth straight electoral win; few of his opponents bothered putting up signs, or showing up for all-candidates’ meetings.

While knocking on doors during the campaign, Chong, the son of a Chinese father and a Dutch mother, says he got an earful about the sorry state of our democratic institutions. That inspired him to renew his crusade for decorum in the House. Last year, Chong tabled a motion seeking improvements to question period-capping answers at 35 seconds, setting schedules that would put the prime minister on the hot seat for 45 minutes every Wednesday, as in the U.K., and allotting days to specific ministries, like Finance Fridays. Chong, who turns 40 this week, is hoping to table the motion, which died on the floor after the election call, as soon as he has the opportunity.

As for his birthday plans, he celebrated early, with his wife Carrie, and three young boys; on the day itself, he’ll be in Ottawa, working for his constituents.

 




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