I have spent many years as an elected representative of both communities I have called home and now the riding of Okanagan Shuswap. I prefer to be called an ‘elected civil servant’ rather than a ‘politician’ because of what the word ‘politician’ brings to mind for many people. I, like any other employee, have responsibilities to my employer which is you, the constituent. One of those responsibilities is to attend Parliament for approximately 132 days of the year. This does not mean I only work 132 days a year, but that I am in Ottawa 132 days a year. My other responsibilities are in the constituency meeting local government Boards and Councils, speaking to various stakeholders, attending events, making funding announcements, meeting constituents in the office, making announcements on behalf of ministers, and communicating with my employers (you) as to what your thoughts are on various policy issues.
From time to time governments “prorogue” Parliament for various reasons. This does not mean the government is shut down. Cabinets still meet and elected representatives are working hard in their constituencies. Our government has been working diligently with the response to the crisis in Haiti as well as continuing to monitor our Economic Action Plan.
The current double standard surrounding this issue is confusing. The former government prorogued 147 days in the time Prime Minister Chretien was in office. The former Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae, prorogued for months at a time, and the Legislature in BC didn’t meet for most of the fall session last year. I do not take issue with folks not supporting the prorogation of Parliament but don’t see the need to finger point at any one party as all parties have used this privilege.
One of the time challenges that Members of Parliament face is time spent travelling. I know the cost is paid by the employer (you), but the actual time spent traveling is significant. Last year I made 30 round trips to Ottawa which each take 9 hours one way. Yes, I spent a little over 500 hours just travelling to and from Ottawa. For most people that is 60 plus work days. Add some of this travel time into my calendar and my time becomes limited in the constituency, so I am happy to be around now for an extra 22 days.
As my employer I wanted you to know these facts. If you read some of the letters to the editor you might not be aware of what my job description is and whether or not I have earned my pay. Well, today for example, I have an 11:00 appointment; a 12:30 meeting with a constituent in Salmon Arm; a 2:00 meeting with three constituents regarding a funding application then off to Vernon to attend a 4:00 Olympic Torch reception, so I better get on my way.
Colin Mayes, MP