Randall Garrison has gone from being the educator to being the one educated.
During the past three weeks the member of Parliament for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca has been in the nation’s capital at a kind of MP school, experiencing his first taste of what is expected of him.
He’s already learning some important lessons from his assigned political mentor, Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder, with whom he is sharing an Ottawa office.
“It’s not a sprint, that serving constituents is a long-term commitment,” he said of her advice, adding that he’s quickly realizing “You can’t possibly get through everything, so you have to make priorities and go at it.”
Like many new MPs heading to Ottawa, Garrison, 60, who worked until recently as Esquimalt councillor and a Camosun College criminal justice and political science instructor, has been on an intensive crash course in Ottawa to learn the administrative and procedural ropes.
That includes learning what it takes to hire staff and open his Ottawa and local constituency offices, which he hopes will be ready by July 1.
“This is a very quick transition for Parliament,” said Garrison, adding there has only been a month to prepare when normally the new government has upwards of three months to settle before Parliament returns. “We’re going at break-neck speed.”
As the political wheels in Ottawa moved at a fever-pitch pace before Parliament opened June 2, the rookie MP says the job has come with several surprises.
Already Garrison has been inundated with at least 40 files from constituents needing information or someone to advocate on their behalf on issues related to pensions, veterans and immigration, among others.
That’s why he is chomping at the bit to begin work.
“It’s the frustration of the transition period,” he said. “I would like to be able to do more than I can do right now.
“You can’t just open an office. My time has got to be devoted to getting it set up and run right. “I’m not disparaging the (administrative) process. It’s just slow.”
But he’s benefited from learning from Crowder and Victoria MP Denise Savoie’s experience, especially as his schedule heats up.
“Pace yourself. You can’t finish everything every day,” he said of their advice. “It helps when you’re faced with a mountain of things to do.”