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Member of Parliament: An often thankless job

One thing is certain now that the rather strange 43rd federal election campaign is behind us: the persons who will take their places as Canada’s newly elected Members of Parliament will be evolving in an environment where the nature of the job can be daunting.

Indeed, parliamentarians are often targeted for a litany of actions and inaction, compounded by the steady rise of political cynicism and apathy. Politicians should shoulder some of the blame:

  • The lack of tangible results being achieved in trying to solve long-standing societal issues have further escalated public discontentment;
  • As notably demonstrated by the pipeline debate, regional particularisms have set our Confederation on edge, pitting certain jurisdictions against others, further polarizing the public discourse;
  • Finally, the feeling of not being able to truly influence daily affairs has led to a sizeable portion of Canadians pondering if the system is not actively working against them.

Through it all, it is easy to forget how evolved our Canadian democracy is. How solid our institutions truly are, grounded in the rule of law. And, finally, how Members of Parliament (MPs) play a central role in our institutions as representatives of their riding.

The life of an MP is not always as glamorous as its stereotype. It can often prove to be a thankless job, in which hard work and key victories aren’t necessarily rewarded by reelection. Mistakes are over-scrutinized and open to ridicule, and can define an MP’s legacy, whether justified or not. The social media hounds can at times be merciless.

Upon election, MPs become de facto team managers of support staff and volunteers, who are their lifeline to things running smoothly. Yet political life being what it is, there’s a high rotation of employees, and holes constantly need to be patched.

Then there’s the sheer amount of travelling involved, whether back and forth from Parliament, but also within their own riding – particularly for MPs in rural and northern areas. They miss hockey games, soccer practices, piano recitals, birthdays. Pressure can lead to frictions with loved ones. Long days, meals on the go and fluctuating schedules make it harder to carve out a healthy lifestyle.

So why do it? Why run? Candidates run for a myriad of reasons, but one would be hard-pressed to find a candidate who doesn’t share the common concern for their community. They have the courage to stand for something, at a time when many people are reluctant to publicly display their views. Through it all, the political arena remains the best platform to confront ideas, shake things up and highlight issues whose outcome will mold the future of our country. The role entails great responsibility but represents tremendous opportunity.

Each of the 338 people who were elected last Monday deserve respect. At a time when people across the globe tend to revel in bitterness, one must take a step back and appreciate the work of the people who have earned the ultimate privilege of representing us. Our democracy, though imperfect, is in good hands.