When first elected to the House of Commons I was, like most shiny new members, driven to improve my country. Getting elected, after all, is a badly flawed process. Few succeed. Those who make it through must have a compelling reason to leave a career or a family in the dust.
Soon it becomes apparent parties and voters have different agendas. Party leaders want MPs to go home and tell the people why the government is smart and competent. Voters want MPs to go to Ottawa and tell the government what needs fixing. In the end, most elected people fuss over this compromise, and end up working for the leader, not the people. To do otherwise is political death.
So the second time I was elected, 13 years after the first, I decided that Canada, as represented by the people in my district, would come first. The party second. That included the prime minister.
My fight was for tax, pension and mortgage reform – goals the middle-class families who elected me wanted. Some things I won, but I also lost my seat. This was guaranteed after the party and the prime minister punted me for not being a team player, for blogging about what should be, and for questioning the wisdom of the political gods. Never underestimate the impact of losing your job, live, on national television. Doing the right thing seems less heroic when your wife is in tears.
Five years on, here I am. No longer an MP (since clearly I don’t fit the mould) my parliament is a pathetic blog where the struggle for common sense continues. Nobody pays me to do this, nor would I want it. For here there’s no agenda save the ongoing struggle to rescue people from their own misadventures, to inform, and lobby for constructive change.
Lately, as I detailed how we’ve lost our way, some posters have accused me of not supporting our country enough, for lacking that boosterism which many think defines nationalism. I’ve seen that quality before. In the eyes of colleagues on the floor of the House of Commons, for example, where principles are traded so easily for a coveted title, a vast office or political advancement. My days have taught me the best way to make anything better is to fix what’s broken. Especially something as acutely valuable as Canada.
Well, I just wanted to set the record straight. I have a lot to apologize for. Loving my country, in my way, ain’t included.
Happy Canada Day.