Thursday, July 23, 2009

A post from the blog of Glen Pearson, London North Centre MP

Adopting a New Attitude
July 19, 2009 by glenpearson | Edit

When Parliament first began to function following Confederation, local MPs
traveled sometimes for months or weeks to attend political sessions in Ottawa.
They came as the extended voices of their ridings and they acted as though the
House of Commons was there to look after the interests of their respective
constituents. They knew there was more to it than that, naturally, and that the
country of Canada couldn't survive without all regions cooperating in the
national interest. But they were there for their communities primarily.

I just came from a meeting with numerous families who have been in the process
of adopting overseas children through the Imagine agency that recently filed for
bankruptcy. They gathered in reflection and pain and confusion as to what to do
next. Some have $30,000 invested in the process and they are hurting. My wife
and I were asked to attend because of our own adoption of three children from
Sudan and we respectfully accepted the invitation. Following an hour of venting
their frustrations and developing plans of action, they asked that I address
them as an MP.

Walking to the front, I felt humbled and just a little incapable. What could you
say to a group of determined and dedicated families such as these? Yet as I
turned to speak to them I saw faces full of longing. They were at sea, slightly
lost, with a sense they might be experiencing the end of a dream. Emotion ran
through me as I comprehended that they were looking to government to make it
happen, to bring about a successful resolution to the difficulties. What
followed was a heart-to-heart, like few times I've experienced in politics, as
we as human beings poured out our hopes and fears.
Parliament, the House of Commons, national government – none of these truly
matter if we get times like these wrong. Like MPs of old, you learn that it is
moments like these that form the substance of any democratic function. Question
Period seems a million miles away and hugely irrelevant, which it truly is.
Constituents, your people, are hoping for understanding … and action. And if
it's handled properly, a fascinating exchange occurs. People burdened by
problems and obstacles aplenty are given a small sense of hope that something
can happen. And the MP? What he or she gets is remarkable and represents one of
the most precious gifts of public service – the trust from their constituents
that you will gather up their hopes and concerns and prompt the great machine of
government to humble itself in the cause of even just a few of its deserving

All I could do was promise them by best, and as I thanked them for the great
honor of just being with them, the respectful applause that followed reminded me
why I got into politics in the first place. The exchange had succeeded and I was
better for it. My wife and I drove back home and reflected on what a fine and
committed group of people we had just encountered. They had looked to us in hope
and given us trust and respect in return. If only Ottawa worked like this.

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