A year ago this week, Canadians headed to the polls to elect Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first majority government since 2004.
And while Capital Region residents don’t have any of the ruling Conservatives representing them in Ottawa, the politicians who were elected said they’ve still managed to get things done for their ridings.
“It’s obviously been challenging, with a Conservative majority, but we’ve been able to do things like get funding for the E&N (Railway) – so it proves that not everything is impossible,” said NDP MP Randall Garrison, who represents Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.
Garrison, serving his first term in Ottawa, said the year since election day has been “tumultuous” for his party, “with the high of the NDP becoming the official opposition, to the low of losing (leader) Jack Layton.”
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May, who made history one year ago by becoming the first Green party member elected in Canada, said the year has been eye-opening and productive.
“I feel my team here in Sidney has been providing quite excellent levels of service for people dealing with immigration issues and tax issues, and the pension problems. We work very hard, and we have resolved a lot of issues for a lot of people,” she said. “But in some ways it’s harder emotionally than I anticipated. You get so caught up in people’s lives. Quite often they’re going through hell from some level of government and they’re coming to you in desperation.”
In Ottawa, partisan politics is the biggest obstacle to making the kind of progress Canadians expect from their elected officials. “There’s much less scope for individual action than I expected.”
Both May and Garrison have been able to introduce private members bills since being elected.
The region’s most veteran MP, the NDP’s Denise Savoie, has represented Victoria since 2006. For her, the past year hasn’t had much of a silver lining.
“I think our people have a less secure future,” she said. “The direction that (the Conservative government is) taking Canada, I’m clearly uncomfortable with. … I think this year has not been a good year to get the region’s agenda heard in Ottawa.”
Pointing to funding for light-rail transit in the Capital Region, Savoie said the discussion is “not very present in the government’s mind.”
Savoie called the current government makeup a “private-interest government,” where oil and state are “one entity” when there should be just as much separation as between church and state.
“I think what’s been lost by this government is that government represents public interest,” she said.
Garrison said the next year in government will likely be focused on the ramifications of this year’s budget.
“We’re finding out every day, more and more things that have been eliminated that effect the services which are provided to Canadians,” he said. “They said they were eliminating waste, and now the cuts are down to the barebones so much that services are disappearing.”