If all goes according to plan, there won’t be another general election of any kind in Ontario for nearly four years. That’s worthy of a sigh of relief. Not because we can tune out, but because now we can focus on the real work that our government does.
Media coverage and party press releases would lead you to believe that work will revolve around a small handful of things, debated for months on end. Because they’re newsworthy, those things came up as election issues, and you could say that our votes have given our government, and each of our members of Parliament, a mandate on them.
But when our last Parliament let out in June, there were 575 bills in the hopper. As you can imagine, they weren’t all about niqabs and income splitting. The odds are good that, far from having given your MP a mandate on all the issues they’ll debate between now and 2019, you won’t even know about the vast majority of them.
So stay involved. Check in every once in a while on the Parliament of Canada website (parl.gc.ca) to see what’s coming up in the House of Commons. You can also watch archived videos and read transcripts of debates in Parliament as well as committee meetings, where the guts of a bill often get pulled out and dissected. Watching it happen yourself makes you much less susceptible to the effects of partisan spin or editorial choices.
You should also use the more citizen-friendly OpenParliament.ca, where in addition to tracking all the active bills, you’ll find a profile for your MP that includes news coverage of them, their speeches in the House, and their voting history. Make a point of pulling it up once a month or so. Does it match what you expected from them?
You won’t care about every bill you see come up on the order paper. If you’re like me, you won’t even understand everything, and you won’t have time to. But there will be some decisions you do want to put your two cents in on. The main reason you won’t ever get around to it will be that you don’t have your MP’s contact information handy.
So put it on hand right now. Add it to your email address book, and while you’re at it, why not send them a note? Whether or not the representative you got was the one you wanted, they’re yours for the next four years. And no matter how fervently you tweeted against them over the past two months, you are their constituent for the next four years.
If you voted for someone else, tell them why. Ask to talk with them about your views on a subject you care about where you don’t see eye-to-eye, or tell them about something you think deserves more attention. The best means for you to have influence between now and the next election is through direct conversations with them.
Whether you voted strategically or not, chose the party or the candidate, or didn’t vote at all, what you do for the next four years matters more. We spend one day voting for representatives who’ll spend somewhere around four hundred days debating and making decisions for us. Don’t let them all go by without your voice being heard.
Originally published October 22, 2015 in Our London.