It has been the greatest honour of my life to be serving the citizens of Saanich-Gulf Islands as your Member of Parliament. These last few months have sped by and I have a lot of news to share in this first regular mailing to you.
First things first!
I hope you will make a note of the dates on the back of this newsletter for our regular “Meet your MP” opportunities. I want to be the most accountable and accessible Member of Parliament you have ever had, so while the House of Commons is closed over most of January, I will be having our regular office hours in the Sidney constituency office, as well as getting to every one of the Gulf Islands, and the southern and northern areas of the Saanich Peninsula for public meetings. I will also have MP office hours across the riding in January.
The first task after the historic May 2 election was to find and open the constituency office. We were up and running before the end of June, but we were handling urgent constituency matters from our homes even before the paint was dry in the new office. I am very happy to have recruited an excellent team of constituency advocates. The motto on the front door reads “Caring, conscientious, non-partisan service.” That is our mission statement as a team. You can read about our Sidney team inside.
Then we had to get up and running on Parliament Hill. That was a challenge because with 110 new MPs out of 308 in total, the machinery that runs the House of Commons was in over-drive. They had to clean out offices, clean hard drives, and re-assign new space for far more MPs than is expected following an election. Against this non-partisan backdrop was the jockeying for position as the bigger parties elbowed each other to get the bigger offices and better locations they all wanted. I waited patiently, but kept telling the people working in the system that I really hoped for an office in Confederation Building. Once Parliament was already up and running, that is what we got. I am thrilled to have a big team – mostly young volunteers – in the Parliament Hill office. With the help of the young interns we are able to keep on top of all legislation and committee work.
“What’s it like on Parliament Hill?”
I know a lot of you must be wondering, “What is it like to be the only Green Member of Parliament? Can she do anything for us?”
I hoped during the election that I would be able to do a lot. Now that the House has been working (on and off) since June, I am so pleased to be able to let you know that the experience has been positive.
As the only Green MP I work to make friends and allies across party lines. I am happy to report that (as I thought) most MPs are very decent and hard-working and have been open to a respectful and cordial relationship with the only Green MP. Unlike all the other MPs who are told by their parties how to vote on every Bill or Motion, I have the wonderful opportunity and serious responsibility to decide for myself on every vote. I approach each issue with an open mind. I consider what is in the best interests of Canada (I see that as my top responsibility), and then what is in the best interests of Saanich-Gulf Islands. Lastly I consider Green Party policy.
I try to figure out how you would like me to vote. This is a very difficult thing to assess as on most issues there will be voters on both sides of the question. I am planning to set up a function on the new MP website that will allow concerned Saanich-Gulf Island voters the chance to sign up and vote on issues as they come up. This will not be scientific (unless everyone in the riding signs up!) but it should be helpful guidance just the same.
I have voted with the government on some Bills, and against the government on others. But I will never take a knee-jerk position “for” or “against.” I am working with Conservative MPs on some Private Members Bills, such as: Dan Albas’s Bill to remove the interprovincial trade barriers on the sale of wine; and with Harold Albrecht on his Bill to create a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. I also seconded NDP MP Olivia Chow’s Bill for a National Urban Transit Strategy.
Sometimes I am on my own. I am the only Member of Parliament to have committed to reporting all of my expenses in a public and transparent way. I am the only MP who thought it was time to move to a negotiated round of peace talks rather than continue the bombing of Libya. I was the only MP to raise in the House of Commons that the rebel leadership we support in Libya have ties to Al Qaeda.
I love it when I am not alone. We have formed an all-party Women’s Caucus, and I helped create the Parliament’s first-ever all party Climate Caucus. After meeting with the Saanich Firefighters, who were visiting Ottawa with a reasonable list of priority changes in federal policy, I supported their call in Question Period. Over the following few days, the Liberals and the NDP joined me and the government responses became more favourable.
Overall, I know you are counting on me to strive to improve decorum in the House of Commons. I think my efforts are well received. The Speaker of the House has been supportive of my refusal to heckle and of my refusal to continue speaking when I am being heckled.
Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for giving me the honour of serving you in Parliament.