Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Reminder of Ottawa

The Canadian Assoc of Former Parliamentarians sends out a newsletter every quarter. In the Spring 2011 edition in the section "Behind the Curtains" there was an article titled "When MPs Resign"  Along with a picture of an angry disheveled British MP the author noted that "members cross the floor and occasionally ministers are forced to step down, but rarely do MPs resign their seats mid-term". Reading the article brought back so many of the memories of my own experience I submitted the following letter to the editor. I hope they publish it.....

I always enjoy reading the articles and viewpoints of my colleagues in each issue of Beyond the Hill. The article in the Spring 2011 newsletter written by Ada Wasiak on “When MPs resign” caught my eye and my heart in a special way. The question “Why would anyone give up such a secure high paying job?” reminded me of the profound common experience that I shared while in Ottawa as an MP from 1993 to 1997 and how different my life has been since that time because of the choice that I made to resign.

As the article mentions, the process of tendering an MP resignation is not complicated. However both reasons and consequences are difficult and often negative. Allow me to share some of my experience.

In my case, my 51 year old husband was in a coma from a sudden massive brain hemorrhage when the writ was dropped for the June 1993 Federal Election, Consequently, I did not campaign in that election. Thanks to the gifted work of the physicians, my husband survived. Thanks to the hard work of my team, and a supportive electorate, I won my second mandate to represent the people of Port Moody Coquitlam.

That summer, I kept up with the constituency work while juggling the demands of being support and advocate for the care and rehabilitation of my husband. Those first weeks and months are crucial in the determination of the final outcome for brain injury. In September, we became aware that all of Doug's hard work could only take him so far. He was deemed legally blind and it became clear the cognitive deficits would forever prevent him from driving, working, or even participating in his much loved outdoor hobbies like fishing and hiking. Parliament was recalled in late September. Doug plunged into clinical depression about the same time.

I returned to Ottawa and soon realized that a choice would have to be made. I could answer the demands of the trust that my constituents had placed in me, or I could choose to be the support my husband needed to survive.

Party leadership had said that they would cover for me if I needed some time, but I knew this required a long term solution..I will always remember my walk of decision behind Centre Block and a half hour meeting with Gib Parent, Speaker and Chuck Strahl. They reviewed the rules. They encouraged me to measure my decision carefully. There would be no pension. There would be no severance.

It was a long flight home that day. The next day, Wednesday, Oct 2, 1993 I watched QP with Doug by my side when the resignation was announced. Preston Manning explained the situation to the House. Then, much to my surprise, there were spontaneous statements from each party – statements of affirmation and caring from Jean Chretien, Elsie Wayne, and others. Then life changed.

It has been 14 years since that time. Doug remains healthy yet dependent. Life as a caregiver keeps us close to home. Although I have not been politically involved , I have watched national and even international events unfold with deeper understanding. Time has given me new perspective on issues and events of my Ottawa years of change and challenge. My Coquitlam focus remains firmly on family both personally and in my volunteer activity. I may not have the title or resources of so many of my colleagues, but I know I made the right personal choice.

I thank those who now serve in Ottawa for their dedication and a recognition of the importance of the task they perform..I am also grateful for the connection through the CAFP magazine to the continuing involvements and influence of those that have retired..I thank you for allowing me to share this perspective from a long way Beyond the Hill.