By Parry-Sound Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison
When I was originally asked by Doppler to submit a regular ‘Member of Parliament Report’, I was excited to participate. I knew that the Huntsville Forester used to publish a regular report from both the MP and the MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, so I looked through the online Forester archives to get a sense of what they shared for inspiration from the likes of Stan Darling and Frank Miller.
That was prior to COVID-19 and the dramatic temporary changes it has caused to all our lives.
Just like so many citizens of Canada, I am physically distancing by working from home and only going out rarely to pick up necessities. My days consist of responding to emails, answering social media direct messages questions, returning phone calls, joining frequent conference calls, and participating in frequent online Zoom meetings with my caucus colleagues.
Although my offices in the riding are not able to accommodate walk-ins right now, my staff are all working full-time too. They have been answering emails, returning phone calls, and working to provide the most up-to-date information we can get from the federal government. My staff have also assisted dozens of people from Parry Sound-Muskoka get home from the far-flung corners of the world. My constituency manager Kirsten Baker quipped, “If this politics thing doesn’t work out, I would be one hell of a travel agent!”
I am immensely proud of my entire team and the work they are doing under these extraordinary circumstances. We may not have all the answers, but we will never stop working for everyone in the riding and I will continue to advocate for the people and businesses of Parry Sound-Muskoka.
While I am no fan of the current federal government, I must admit that under these unique circumstances they have been working endlessly in their efforts to support all Canadians through this health crisis and resulting financial crisis. Their response has not been perfect, and one could hardly expect perfection in such unprecedented times.
There is no question that I am new to this job and I am still learning, but this situation validates why Parliament and the role of MPs and the Official Opposition is so important. I have never been an ardent partisan and I was frequently disappointed in my early days sitting in Question Period witnessing the behaviour of MPs on both sides heckling each other and how quickly dignified debate could dissolve into personal attacks.
The Official Opposition and our Shadow Critics have been working just as hard as Cabinet Ministers to ensure that the government fills the gaps in the program offerings, and to propose new ideas to support all Canadians. When I hear the specific challenges of small businesses in Parry Sound-Muskoka, I share those challenges and their suggested solutions with our team who then share with the Cabinet Ministers and the special Cabinet Committee making decisions.
For the most part, all of this has been occurring behind the scenes without fanfare or nasty partisan jabs. The government, to their credit, have adopted many suggestions from the Conservatives and other parties. They all continue to work together to support as many Canadians as possible.
I am proud of the team I am part of and honoured to play my role in this massive national effort.
Just like everyone else, I am tired of being isolated and working from home. I am eager to get back to Parliament. I am eager to be out meeting in person with people all over Parry Sound-Muskoka to hear their concerns, celebrate their successes and champion their causes.
I frequently remind myself of the old Persian adage made famous in our culture by President Abraham Lincoln that ‘this too shall pass’. We will get past this pandemic and start the rebuilding process.
As that rebuilding process begins, we must ensure that we are better prepared in the likely event that another pandemic sweeps across the globe again. We must ensure that the financial security of Canadians is restored, and the treasuries of the federal, provincial and municipal governments are not just restored, but more resilient than ever before. The Official Opposition will play a crucially important role in that process and I promise to be a vocal part of this nation-building effort.
In search of inspiration I turned to the stirring words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in his address at Massey Hall on October 14, 1904 where he implored the gathered crowd with the words, “…I have no right to speak to you; I am simply a Canadian like yourselves, coming from another province, but trying my best to unite our common people. Men of Toronto I ask you—and this is the prayer I want to convey to you—I simply ask you to forever sink the petty differences which have divided you in the past and unite with us and take your share of the grand future which lies before us. I give that prayer to you.”
I know that when we work together, we can accomplish tremendous results and so I implore all Canadians to imagine a stronger, healthier, more resilient and prosperous Canada.
Laurier’s fervent zeal for Canada in 1904 helped create what we know today as the greatest country in the world. When I am feeling frustrated by the realities of today, I think of Laurier and imagine what together our collective ambition can mean for our future.
I look forward to hearing your ideas. I look forward to impassioned debate of ideas in Parliament once again.
I look forward and I pray you do as well.
(Photo of Parliament Hill by festivio on Pixabay)
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