My first week in Ottawa was unseasonably warm; we could walk in light sweaters along the Rideau Canal, the last autumn leaves drifting down to the path. It was humbling to walk the halls of the parliament buildings, knowing this was to be my work place for the next four years.
For me it was largely an orientation week: meeting with helpful House of Commons staff who outlined how I could hire staff, when I will get an office, options for accommodations in Ottawa, helped me a bewildering number of passwords for IT access, and more. The House has entered the 21st Century at last, so instead of handing me a gigantic binder which I would have had to wheel around the city, I was given an iPad with access to hundreds of documents, forms, and detailed information on my new role as a Member of Parliament.
Much of the orientation was done one-on-one but I was continually meeting new MPs of all political stripes; it was good to start my Ottawa experience with a sense of collegiality. On one morning all of the new MPs met together to hear a number of presentations. In the middle of one of the talks, the new Prime Minister unexpectedly dropped by and gave a short extemporaneous welcome. In the partisan climate of Ottawa, I appreciated Mr. Trudeau’s gesture and sincerely hope it is a sign of a new way of doing business on Parliament Hill.
The NDP caucus is a strong group of 44 MPs, 14 of them from British Columbia. We will be the progressive opposition in parliament, working with the Liberals to fulfill their long list of promises and holding them to account when they hesitate. Canadians voted for change, and we will ensure that change happens, whether it is for open and transparent government, action on climate issues, environmental protections, a new relationship with First Nations, or protecting our rights and freedoms.
I will also be opening offices in Penticton and Castlegar; when those details are known I will advertise as to how to contact me there.
This is a solemn week for all Canadians, when we remember those men and women who gave their lives for their country. My own grandfather signed up for the army in 1915 even though he was 36 years old and had just opened a grocery store to support his young family in Penticton.
He spent that winter in tents at the Vernon army camp, developed pneumonia, and died before he could go overseas. His name is on the cenotaph in Penticton along with many others. This year I’ll be laying a wreath at the Penticton Remembrance Day ceremony; I hope many of you can attend events in your communities around the riding.
Richard Cannings is the MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding