End of Year Reflections

Parliament wrapped up its fall sitting last week and that provides a good opportunity for reflection on the last few months. There were positive stories and negative stories on the federal political scene, but of course your political alignment will often determine whether you view something as good or bad. I will review some of the top takeaways from my standpoint as an opposition MP because I believe the fall sitting set the stage for the election next year.

The fall sitting began with a stunning floor-crossing by a Liberal MP who left the government benches to sit with the Conservative opposition. This was a positive story for me because our team gained a great new MP and because she is a good friend. In an engaging speech in the House of Commons that culminated in the crossing of the floor itself, MP Leona Alleslev spoke about her duty to the country and her loss of confidence in Prime Minister Trudeau. Leona is a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces and a former business consultant, so she brings serious experience to her role as an MP. She was worried the Liberal government did not take security, trade and global disruptions seriously enough. She was tired of being part of a government that was entirely premised upon image and avoiding the tough decisions. Like any crossing of the floor, it raised a series of questions from some observers, but if you listen to her speech, you will see that she made the decision based on her view of the best interests of her community and country. She makes our opposition caucus stronger.

Read: Read the speech MP Leona Alleslev delivered before crossing the floor

Over the course of the fall, I believe that many Canadians experienced the same sort of buyer’s remorse with the government that Leona Alleslev did. The fall sitting was characterized by the Liberal government retreating on a number of issues after intense weeks of criticism. I outlined many of these cases in a previous column. The one issue of public concern where they have not acted is on the issue of asylum claimants illegally crossing the border. The issue appears to paralyze the Liberal government because addressing the issue would force them to admit that the Prime Minister was cavalier with his posturing on the issue. My concern is their inaction and willingness to call people “un-Canadian” when they ask questions about the issue is slowly eroding public confidence in our immigration system. Our fair, compassionate and rules-based system has served Canada very well for decades and contributes to our prosperity. Higher processing times, billions in costs and a sense of unfairness is leading to a loss in public trust in the system that generally works very well.

The biggest issue impacting Durham this fall was also one of the most frustrating at the end of the session in Ottawa. The announcement by General Motors of their intention to close the Oshawa assembly plant next year led to words of support from all sides of the political spectrum at all levels of government. The desire to work together was evident during an emergency debate in Parliament, held on the day the announcement was made. Frustratingly, days after this debate, the Liberals voted down three separate attempts to have a parliamentary committee study the GM closure. This included rejecting a motion I brought before the entire House on the last day the Prime Minister was in the Commons. We owe it to the workers and our community to examine all issues that went into the GM decision. Even if we don’t have the time to have the decision revisited, it will help ensure we address competitiveness issues in Ontario to avoid future closures.

Read: The Cruise Control Prime Minister

Read: Planning over Posturing

Watch: Motion for a Plan for GM (December 12, 2018)

The final week of the fall sitting was also quite emotional. The Centre Block of Parliament is closing for a decade of renovations. In January, MPs will not return to the traditional House of Commons chamber, but will relocate to a temporary chamber constructed next-door in the West Block building. The final days in the Chamber were bittersweet as MPs reflected on the importance of our parliamentary democracy and shared their personal stories in the building. In my relatively short time, I have had a seat in the far corner by the curtains and the front row in cabinet and I can tell you that there is not a bad seat in the Commons. Being there is an absolute privilege that I strive to live up to each day. I have many special memories of my time in Centre Block, but the memory of being sworn in as the Member of Parliament for Durham after my by-election win surrounded by family and friends remains a special memory for me. Looking back now at how young Mollie and Jack were in the photos reminds me of how fortunate I am to have a family that embraces my role. I am blessed to have Rebecca as my rock and constant for our family. I am also lucky that my kids enjoy coming to the odd event with Dad, especially if it involves handing out candy canes. Families are the cornerstone of our lives. On that note, I would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and hope that you get time together over the holidays.