Here’s something you might not have known about Pierre Lemieux

Tldr: Pierre Lemieux is a pretty good guy

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I’ll begin this short story by pre-emptively stating that I’m not supporting or backing any candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) Leadership Race. My goal is fostering party unity, and I want to ensure that Pontiac residents have ample opportunity to decide whom they want as the next CPC leader. Under the Trudeau Government, Pontiac residents are facing indefinite deficits, and higher taxes. The Conservative Party of Canada is the only party positioned to bring our finances back into order, and our next leader will be the best bet to challenge the Trudeau Liberals in 2019’s election.

Pierre Lemieux is one of many candidates vying for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. For a number of years he represented the riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell (GPR) as its Member of Parliament. I met Pierre in passing over the course of my time spent working on Parliament Hill and saw him frequently in the Government lobby before Question Periods and at functions – usually military in nature. Pierre is one of two CPC leadership candidates with military experience, along with Erin O’Toole.

I was a candidate in the last general election. Pierre’s riding is not that far from the Pontiac, and in pre-writ stages of the campaign I was invited to stop by an event there for a networking and discussion opportunity. It was a well-attended event with live music and good food, with the key-note speaker being then-Minister of Canadian Heritage Shelly Glover.

Over the course of the 2015 election campaign I ran into Pierre a few more times at events with the Prime Minister, and also at media outlets for interviews; it was common to see other candidates at media offices that were interviewing a multitude of regional candidates. Given my status as a Canadian Armed Forces Reservist and Pierre’s military experience, he was easy to relate to.

Of course, the 2015 election came and went, and brought with it a new Government. I didn’t win in Pontiac. Nobody likes losing, and losing in politics makes you feel as if you have let down the people that invested so much into you. I took some time off; we’d been campaigning for a few years by that point and I needed to recharge. I turned off my emails for a bit.

Several weeks after the election Pierre tracked down my phone number and called me up. We commiserated over the campaign and Pierre told me that as he’d been going through a postmortem, he had come across a digital photo of my family and I from the networking event in GPR.

Pierre called because wanted to know what my mailing address was. He had already had the photo printed out so he could send it to me.

The little things matter, and after an election marked by a change in Government the little things can sometimes be put aside as we all adjust. Taking the time to touch base with me personally and provide a nice, hard-copy photo is something that not only meant a lot to me, but said a lot about the character of Pierre Lemieux.

The photo, which is normally hanging on my wall, is pictured above. Many thanks Pierre, and best of luck with your campaign.

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The Ontario PC hospitality notebook

For the second weekend in a row Ottawa has been descended upon by conservative-minded individuals discussing policy and election tactics. This time Ottawa is hosting those who make up the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for their annual general meeting.

Even though the 42nd Ontario election isn’t set to kickoff until 2018, the PC machine is already revving its engine. The amount of candidates vying for elected positions within the party, combined with an impressive member turnout (1500 or so), are clear indicators that the PCs are in a healthy place. This party will be the one to watch in the upcoming campaign, which will feature open nominations for PC candidates starting next year.

At first glance, the party appears to have gotten much younger. Perhaps inspired by the energy of newly minted leader Patrick Brown, a youth movement was on full display yesterday with an impressive amount of event patrons (seemingly) under the age of 30.

As part of a re-branding process, the PC party also unveiled a new logo.

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As the party is openly looking to expand to voting blocks that may not normally vote conservative, the green leaf we see in the center is no accident. Given the difficulties plaguing the Ontario Liberal government, all votes may be on the table in Ontario’s next election if Brown can make even small inroads into traditional Liberal voting demographics. Inclusiveness is going to be necessary for the PCs as they compete with a provincial Liberal government marred by scandal, but well entrenched organizationally.

Political advocacy was also on display last night at the many hospitality events held across the city. A campaign has been launched to encourage the Ontario PC Party to adopt policies in favour of an open retail market for wine, beer and spirits.  The “Free My Booze” campaign ultimately seeks to end retail monopolies on all alcohol in Ontario. In a media release issued prior to the AGM, spokesman Grant Dingwall stated “This isn’t about moving from one special interest group – the big brewers – and moving it to another, like the big grocers or the convenience store association. This is about an open market.” You can check out the campaign at http://www.FreeMyBooze.ca

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On the federal side, (potential) CPC leadership candidate Maxime Bernier was also making round at the events of last night. This marks the second weekend in a row that Bernier has been present at a major gathering of conservative minded voters.

The Ontario PC convention continues today through to Sunday.

 

 

 

The case against shortening the MP work week

I’ve never been a fan of the term “break week” – a term often used on Parliament Hill to describe the time a Member of Parliament spends in their constituency when the House of Commons is not sitting.

“Break weeks” often feature less hustle and bustle on the Hill, but Members of Parliament – the good ones at least – and Ministers normally spend their time running themselves ragged attending to constituency or Government business. I’ve often thought that the manner in which an MP spends their break week often impacts their re-election prospects more so than their time in Ottawa. When the House isn’t in session, MPs are still working, even if it is from the comfort of their home communities.

Being present in the constituency is crucial for an MP, but there are certain unavoidable aspects of the job that require one to be in Ottawa. Voting, debating, hearing from committees and passing legislation – these items can only occur when MPs are doing their job in our nation’s capital, and sometimes being in Ottawa means being away from family.
The PROC committee is currently looking at options to make Parliamentary life for MPs more family friendly, and several Liberal and NDP members are openly musing about the possibility of dropping Friday House of Commons sessions from the MP work week.

Any party that champions this is going to suffer politically because of it.

Ordinary Canadians don’t have the luxury of a 4 day work week and will have little sympathy for Parliamentarians pushing for this change, especially when Friday sessions in the House of Commons are already shorter than other weekdays. Along with a shorter Friday, MPs can have colleagues cover for them in the House or for Committee in the event they need to take care of some personal or constituency business, giving them some flexibility with the House schedule.

Regarding the House schedule, a shorter work week would entail scheduling problems for Committees and House debates. This would not only be a headache for political parties, but for the House of Commons administration. A compressed work week would also present challenges for the 338 Parliamentarians we have with markedly different personal schedules.  Democratic considerations: if Fridays are removed and the work week isn’t compressed, Canadians will have less face time for their government to be held to account for their decisions.

The 2016 House of Commons calendar has MPs sitting for roughly 27 weeks of the year; leaving the rest of the time for constituency work, or the occasional holiday. MPs are well compensated for their efforts, to the tune of $163 700 per year. They also receive a salary increase if they hold a Ministerial portfolio ($78 300), if they are a Parliamentary Secretary ($16 600), or if they hold a multitude of other roles (varying amounts). It’s a very hard sell to convince Canadians that 20 percent less time in the House of Commons is a good way for these folks to be earning their pay, even if they are working in their constituencies.

On the prospect of dropping Fridays from the House session, (potential) Conservative Party leadership candidate Lisa Raitt likely moved forward her campaign by stating “Canadians just don’t like it. I heard very clearly that they didn’t feel that the job is that onerous, that we should be in Ottawa doing our work — that the expectation was that we fulfill all the hours of duty that we said we were going to do.”

There is no question that Members of Parliament from all parties have a difficult job, filled with stress and long hours at the office. Balancing family and work isn’t easy on the Hill. Yet, many ordinary Canadians would truly love to have the opportunity to take on the work/life balance challenge as a Member of Parliament, even if it meant spending 7 days of the week in Ottawa. Ordinary Canadians juggle work and family by working night shifts or by working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Our Canadian Armed Forces members fight terrorism overseas, away from their families for months at a time. There is no question that our MPs work hard in and out of the House, but they need to stay grounded to be in line with the people they represent.

 
Raitt quote obtained here:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/mps-family-friendly-1.3464459

 

Post Manning Hangover

Another year of the Manning Conference in Ottawa has concluded, with the tone of this year’s event understandably different from years past.  In the face of a recent federal defeat and with a new Conservative Party leader to be selected some months from now, curiosity surrounding new opportunities for the federal party radiated from many attendees.

Every year a multitude of workshops and discussion forums await those that pay the (several hundred dollar) Manning entry fee, with some speeches/workshops/forums being more interesting or valuable than others depending on your interests.

I’ve attended the conference for the past several years, and the most valuable takeaway for me is usually the networking that occurs after the events of the day have concluded (it is the Manning NETWORKING Conference, after all).

Any given Manning evening will feature a who’s who of the conservative community mingling with staffers, students and elected officials. The theme of this year’s conference was “Recharge the Right” and the question as to whom will lead the charge federally was front and (right of) center.  In place of keynote speeches, potential leadership candidates were offered the floor to discuss their plans should they decide to officially throw their hats in.

Out of a crowded field of contenders, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier appears to be the most organized (potential) leadership candidate at this stage, and even had volunteers decked out in Bernier swag working the rooms of the Manning conference. Is an announcement imminent?

All federal Conservative leadership campaigns can expect to sweep into higher gear going forward from now, even if none are still “officially”nnounced yet.